Pippa Cross is Head of Granada Film. Among her screen credits as producer or executive producer are Charles Sturridge's millennium epic Longitude, Heart, Rogue Trader, Girls' Night, August, Jack and Sarah as well as the Oscar winning My Left Foot and the widely acclaimed The Field. It was her decision to "green-light" ESSEX BOYS and she oversaw and contributed to all stages of production.
In ESSEX BOYS she saw a gem: "One of the parts of the job that I enjoy most is discovering genuine feature material. It makes it an even bigger joy when it grows out of people working within your own company, and both Jeff and Terry have long established relationships with Granada. Saying that, we are in the business of making movies for the big screen. If I had thought the project was more suited to television I would, and have regularly in the past, passed the script on to the relevant department.
"I'm glad to say that my considerable enthusiasm for the project was quickly mirrored by significant others - enabling us to ensure sufficient pre-sales to fully finance it ourselves, and giving us the confidence that we have a film with real theatrical potential.
"What I enjoyed most about ESSEX BOYS was the very fresh angle on a genre that has existed for over 60 years. The storyline, which takes an innocent into the company of hardened villains and gives him his rites of passage into gangland, was beautifully executed I think. It gave the film a real story and an emotional involvement that you don't traditionally get with gangster films. This also gives it a shot at not just being a film for the boys.
"I love the Essex world that it portrays. In my view the more specific you can be about your location, and the more you can bring it to live, I think the better chance you have of really standing out. The shots we got of Essex, and the range of locations it gave us, are staggeringly fresh. I don't think that we have ever seen a lot of these locations on the screen before. It provides a great backdrop and really puts the characters in context, so you are completely absorbed by this world - it almost becomes a fable.
"The final product has altered little from the original draft, because it was so well written. I think the biggest change was to the character of Lisa, which grew in the writing. Basically she is so wonderfully enigmatic, and her story so good, that we just had to give her more screen time. She is in amongst a hardened, tough group of men. Watching her find her feet and take them on is great, and we did a lot of work to make that part really zing. The main incident in the film is earlier if you like than the traditional climax would be. We had a lot of fun working out how to position it and how to get up to it, and then how to make the stuff that follows it really work. But broadly speaking this is the film that Jeff and Terry pitched. It's rare that this happens, and a huge compliment to the work they put into the story before coming to see me.
"I think ESSEX BOYS is a film that sits absolutely in the commercial mainstream. It is a gritty and violent movie. But I think that to try and tackle that subject matter, and do justice to it, without putting a realistic amount of violence in would just have been sanitising the whole thing. We have a strong story with tough things going on, but running through it is a very clear moral viewpoint. The relationship between Billy and Dyke (his mentor if you like) is very clearly signposted. If Billy is the everyman, then Dyke is the Oracle. He is saying to the young guy, 'Are you sure you know what you're getting into? Do you really want to see how far it will take you?' This is not the sort of violence that people encounter every day, or are likely to be influenced by. I think it helps to illustrate a tale about a specific area of society that most of the audience will be unused to.
"I like to think that ESSEX BOYS is a film with a broad appeal - it's young and fresh, and tells its story with real conviction. If there is a certain stamp that marks out a Granada Film, I think this is it. We are always very open minded as to the storylines and topics, but in the end it has to be a story that works - and, of course, it has to have a shot at returning its investment."
Terry Winsor (Director & Co-Writer)
Jeff Pope (Producer & Co-Writer)
Pippa Cross (Executive Producer)
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