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Rene Pannevis on Authentic Storytelling in JACKED

Rene Pannevis on Authentic Storytelling in JACKED

We talk short films and spark plugs with Rene Pannevis, the director of BIFA award-winning crime short Jacked! Starring famed actors Thomas Turgoose and Charley Palmer Rothwell, Rene tells us how he was able to create a hyper-stylised, high-quality film whilst still remaining authentic.


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We understand it that Jacked is based on true events, can you tell us a bit about it? Do you think it is important to ‘direct what you know’?

When I grew up in Holland I saw friends stealing cars for joyriding. The way they broke into cars with flicking a small piece of a spark plug against the car window might be old-fashioned but I wanted to show it that way. It’s original and also very visual. One time they couldn’t steal the car cause the steering wheel was locked so they start trashing the car and stole audio cassettes.
I always wanted to make a film about car thieves but I wanted to show the victim side as well and therefore I thought, what if something really valuable was recorded on those audio tapes? That lead into another story about the dying man who leaves an audio diary for his unborn child. This story is dedicated to my father who suffered from asbestos and he was not going to make it through to see his first grandson born.

To me, it’s very important to direct what you know cause I like my films to feel real and reality in films comes through insights and details you only know by experience. As a director, I think you need to own the material and that’s easier if you know it. Also, real life is most of the time much more original than written words so use that!


Jacked - Interviews


Jacked really does centre around the main characters, Waylan and Russell! What can you tell us about those characters, and how you were able to get such great chemistry from actors Thomas Turgoose and Charley Palmer Rothwell?

Waylen and Russell are both semi-professional car thieves cause you can tell there is a clear routine and easiness in how they steal cars. Waylen usually picks the car, then rocks it to see if it has a car alarm and if the car is right then Russell smashes the car window and opens the door. Small but important detail is that they always break the passenger’s side window so the driver doesn’t have to sit on any glass.
Waylen, played by Thomas Turgoose (This Is England), is very close to Thomas’ own character regarding his tough growing up in Grimsby. Knowing that Thomas lost his mum to cancer I knew he would very relate to the tapes. I was expecting an angry Thomas I had not seen before in his other films but his performance blew my mind!
Russell’s character, played by Charley Palmer Rothwell (Legend), has less of a moral compass than Waylen and you can tell he’s a troubled kid. Looking at his hands with the scruffy knuckles and band-aid you can tell he’s a fighter. He talks with his fists instead of his mouth. Charley came up with the squeezing of the hand and I liked that cause it gives the notion that he’s nervous (he has a tic a lot of junkies have).

Jacked is about two good friends and therefore it was very important to me that in the short amount of time Charley and Thomas would connect. The best way to do that in England is to drink pints so we first had pre-drinks. Then they figured out they had similar friends so they quickly connected. I was happy to see them laugh so easily and they had a lot of mutual respect. Then it was important to me that would have nicknames for each other so they start thinking about that. During shooting, I think the chemistry only grew cause I gave them space to improvise but more important to play off each other. Don’t just do your own thing but listen to the other.


What was the experience like filming Jacked? How were you able to make the most out of your London locations?
Shooting seven pages/day only in daylight is quite a lot but the three-day shoot didn’t feel stressed at all! It’s nice to have Thomas running around on set making jokes all the time cause that makes everybody forget they’re working. It was overall a fun experience and I was really happy with my cast and crew.


We had to jump-start the hero car (The Tata), we got pulled over by the police, I had to run to QuickFit close to Brick Lane to get a spark plug and they didn’t want to give me at once cause they were afraid I was going to steal a car!


Mainly because of the expensive street permits, I wanted East London locations that were connected to each other. So one street could function for two to save costs, and when I was location scouting in Hackney I found the ideal place. I really wanted a gas holder in the background and that location had a dirty ally, a great parking lot (The Oval) and the gas holder in one. From there we could drive through the Rotherhithe Tunnel in which we went a couple of times back and forth to shoot the scene and then we ended at the street of the Battersea power plant where I wanted the fight to happen in front of that big brutal brick building. Tim Sidell (director of cinematography) was very keen on not showing the chimneys to reveal the iconic location.


Director Rene Pannevis on the set of Jacked


We try to teach lessons about filmmaking and storytelling through both film theory and practical advice. Are there any lessons you learned along the way that could help budding directors?

My advice for directors would be to know everything about your script by heart cause from the moment you arrive on set you are behind schedule and there’s no time to go through all your notes and script. Most of the time you left them at the coffee machine or in the toilet. Cast and crew want answers all the time and it’s only when you know your script really well that you can discover the mistakes.

I studied four years of film theory at the University of Utrecht and analysed form, narrative, structure, semantics, characters, and it definitely shaped my understanding about cinema but it also made me realise that film is still such a mystery, and therefore it’s an art form.

Auteur - Tim Burton - So The Theory Goes

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