Filmmaker Jack Spring turns Grimsby Grit into Comedy Gold
Take an underdog story, toss in some British wit, and drop it in a turbulent English port town for a few days – that’s the backdrop for filmmaker Jack Spring’s new black comedy heist film, Three Day Millionaire.
A thrill ride from beginning to end, Three Day Millionaire stars veteran actor Colm Meaney, along with Jonas Armstrong, Robbie Gee and James Burrows. But the true star of the film is the Northern ex-industrial town of Grimsby, which feeds the reality of the situation and desperation of the English fisherman battling the forces fighting against them.
Spring became the UK’s youngest feature film director with his debut comedy, Destinations: Dewsbury. Not only did it have a successful theatrical run, but he was tapped as one of the ‘next big things.’
Now comes Three Day Millionaire, which delivers a stylized feel reminiscent of classics Trainspotting and Snatch. The film enjoyed an 8-week theatrical run in the UK and recently hit #5 on the Netflix UK chart. Spring has high hopes for it in America and Canada, where it recently dropped on VOD and digital services, including Amazon Prime Video.
We caught up with Jack Spring to find out more about Three Day Millionaire:
For those who don’t know, can you explain the term three day millionaire?
JACK SPRING: ‘Three Day Millionaire’ was the term for the common trawler-man that spewed back onto land after a month long stint on the North Sea. They typically had three days on land before going back out to sea. It was trawler-man folklore that if you went back to sea with money left from the last paycheque your ship would sink. Hence the term ‘Three Day Millionaire’. Three days back on land to spunk a month of wages.
What compelled you to tell this underdog story?
JS: My family are from Grimsby and I’m an avid Grimsby Town FC fan, so spent a lot of time in Grimsby as a kid and always had a big affinity toward the town. I got pretty sick of the town’s negative perception on the big and small screen so was keen to change that. Paul Stephenson sent me the script over and it didn’t take me long to say yes.
Why specifically did you set it in Grimsby? And what can you share about your experience filming on location there?
JS: Funnily enough, it was initially set in Hull, which is about 20 miles up the road and is a big port in its own right. Three Day Millionaire is a term there too. It wouldn’t feel right making a movie on the dark side of the Humber Bridge, so it was a pretty easy call with my Grimsby link to bring it down here. We had the most amazing time; I cried my eyes out on wrap day because I’d had the time of my life making it. As I said on premiere night to the audience; ‘This is our town, this is your film, and this is just the beginning’.
What’s your process for working with actors? And any interesting or unique stories about directing this cast you can share with us?
JS: Lots and lots of homework before I get anywhere near the actors. Six months work of director prep by myself in a room and then two weeks rehearsals, no negotiating on either. I’m an actor’s director despite never having been one myself, I pride myself on my homework and being able to speak their language. I watch every single tape — 8,000 for this project — that gets submitted and pick the best. It’s how every director should work really, rather than picking from a shortlist.
The film is very stylized, merging criminal activities with action and dark humor. Tell us about your inspiration for the overall style of the film.
JS: Grimsby gave us the look and feel of the film in terms of the mise-en-scene and the color palette. The industrial browns and maroons are all over the town so that set us up nicely, and then combining that with the style in which the film is written gives us that pretty, stylized intro before it settles down into something a bit more serious. I storyboard the whole film first in my prep process and then hand that to the Director of Photography to make it look pretty.
What do you hope audiences walk away from after watching Three Day Millionaire?
JS: I want an angry mob outside my house demanding Four Day Millionaire. I hope it becomes this cult British thing that shows audiences in the States a different side of the UK, not just the London Royal kind of angle, but this is a side of the UK that has so much character but isn’t usually seen Stateside.
Why did you want to get into movie making?
JS: My Dad used to make these stop-motion animations with us as kids, and then at the age of 13, I must have been well behaved because I got a digital camera for Christmas. From there I was away making short films every weekend and just like any craft, the more you do it the better you’re going to get. I was lucky to have parents that help me find out what I wanted to do in life so young, and then was pretty laser focused on making a career out of it from there.
What types of stories are you interested most in telling?
JS: Hmmm…I’m not really a director that carried a big social change mandate or any bollocks like that. The types of films I make are comedies with heart, which is the sort of films I like to watch. I think directors can get a bit ahead of themselves with this whole self-declaring ‘storyteller’ nonsense. I’m very lucky to do what I do for a living and being only 26, I only know a certain amount about life, right? I know what makes me laugh and I know what makes me feel, so I’ll keep doing that.
How has your entrepreneurial experience influenced your entertainment career?
JS: Definitely. I’m a creative but pretty early in my career, like when I was still a teenager early, I taught myself the money raising side of the industry. I’d ran a company or two before that, so could get my head around how to make money with things. I think it was the ability to get the business side of the industry that separated me that young. I could get my movies financed and I didn’t have a mega-rich family or an uncle in the ‘biz making it happen. Teach a man how to fish and all that…
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
JS: Getting things financed, both this movie and my first one, Destination: Dewsbury. I started what became the UK’s largest inflatable hot tub rental company to prove to investors they could trust me with their cash on Dewsbury, and Three Day Millionaire took 4 years to get financed. Each film has been so much bigger than the last that, so there’s a lot to learn as you take each step up the ladder and the way things get financed changes, so again being a creative at heart, getting over those challenges is always the hardest part. There’s no other job where you have to work so hard just to get the chance to do your job.
Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
JS: I remember someone telling me ‘You’ll interact with thousands and thousands of people every year, and those interactions can make those people’s day a tiny bit better, or a tiny bit worse. It’s your responsibility to make those interactions make every single one of those people’s day that tiny bit better’. I think we should all try and live by this advice.
What inspires you most in your life and career?
JS: Probably my parents. I had the most loving upbringing that the older I get the more aware I become and the more grateful I am for my childhood. They’re the most loving, supportive, wonderful people in the world and I am very grateful.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
JS: My advice to every film maker that gets in touch is to learn the business side of the industry or you’ll be stuck in the short film game forever, or even if you do get out you’ll always be reliant on other folks to get your stuff made. Keep makin’ movies my friends.