One-on-one with Neil Mcenery West

Rhys Wilson-Plant sat down with Containment director Neil Mcenery West to talk about the film

Containment tells the story of a failed artist who wakes up to a sinister virus spreading throughout his apartment block, who joins forces with his neighbours to navigate the imminent and deadly threat.

It is the debut feature from award-winning director across short films, Neil Mcenery West, and I caught up with him to talk about his experiences directing his first feature film and how he got into the industry.

With you, Lee Ross (lead) and the producers behind Containment all being Brighton born or based, how did that working relationship come together?
Pure luck to be honest, I met Casey originally in 2009 and she was introduced to me by one of our other producers, Christina Hartland who joined the project three years later. We were still in development at that point and Lee just came on board during the casting process. He was one of those who auditioned for the role and he was the perfect fit for that character.

What was it that inspired you to create a story of this nature?
I’ve always been attracted to thrillers, and I like base under siege kind of films that deal with enclosed spaces, and it also fit well as a feature film because of the financial benefits of such a story with only one location.

_MG_2688The concept for this film is one that we have seen before with films such as REC, Attack the Block and more but what for you makes this film different from the others?
It’s hard to say without giving away anything! We were very aware that it is a well-worn genre and it’s also a well-worn set-up so to speak. People might watch the trailer and think, “It’s going to turn into a zombie movie”. However we wanted to use those expectations and play with the audience, making them go and see the film expecting one thing and twisting the story into something else entirely.

Really what the film boils down to is the people and how they react to the situation. The people and how they react becomes much more of a threat than any other threat that is initially implied, specifically the virus and the hazmat’s. It then becomes an urban playground where everyone is trying to survive, it was really good fun!

The cast for this film is of a high-calibre which is unusual for a super small budget feature such as Containment. How did that come about?
We were very lucky. We had two incredible cast directors who kind of held our hands through the whole process. Once we developed the story and David Lemon wrote it into such a powerful and an enticing script, I think some of the actors/actresses that we were hopeful but also sceptical that we would get read the script, I think the people just jumped on board because they were really attracted to the script and also because it was character led.

What advice would you give for a young filmmaker in Sussex looking to get into directing feature films?
Practise. It’s the most important piece of advice I’d give. Brighton is a beautiful city and it’s incredibly scenic. When I was growing up in Brighton as a teenager, that’s when I started making films and a group of friends and I were making films pretty much every weekend. It was great practise, I learnt how to develop a visual style and practised writing stories and I think it’s that kind of practical experience that is so important early on. From there you can take that onto the NFTS or University to study film.

Being a first time director, can you enlighten readers as to a high point and a low point during the filming process?

I guess the low point comes during the development process because although that’s one of the most fun periods, it’s also fraught with ups and downs where you think the film is going to get financed and then maybe it’s not, and then you’re running on adrenaline thinking it’s going to happen and then it all comes to a stop. In terms of a high point, I think when it’s all finished and you get to show it to people who show genuine reactions to the film, that’s always great.

To watch Containment, just visit iTunes where you can purchase it for £9.99.