The idea for The Attendant was conceived whilst we had breakfast in a greasy spoon opposite a petrol station in North Norfolk.
It was very important to us to base our first short film together, not only around themes we felt an audience could relate to, but also subjects that we both had experience of. The resultant script used the location of an isolated petrol station to deal with themes of loneliness, the longing for love and the maddening boredom of working the night shift; in a manner we hoped would be both poignant and comedic.
The script went through numerous revisions, until we were happy enough with it to try and seek investment. We were incredibly fortunate to secure our budget from the first person we approached. Pre-production on the project then started in earnest. At that stage Jake was working on Downton Abbey and he had approached Robert James-Collier, who played the ‘evil’ butler Thomas Barrow, about starring in the film. We knew Rob was perfect for the lead role of Alex, his talent was obvious, but he was also very funny, incredibly versatile and real – he embodied everything we wanted the character to be. Rob received a copy of the script and shortly after he confirmed his involvement.
In regards to the character Ella, Alex’s foil, we knew we were looking for a very specific type of actress. Comic ability was a must, but she also had to be an unassuming and naturalistic screen presence, as otherwise the dynamic between her and Alex would not work. With those attributes in mind, we approached Isy Suttie, perhaps best known for playing ‘Dobby’ in Peep Show. She was our first choice, and fortunately, our only choice – as she agreed to take the part.
With a budget of £5000, the short was filmed over two nights, 2 weeks apart in the middle of May, in a petrol station in Crouch End. Due to the time of year we were up against time, as the days were getting longer and the nights shorter. As a result we needed to be painfully efficient with our time in relation to shot selection and coverage, luckily we had an incredible crew around us, who made it all possible.
The film was shot on the Arri Alexa PLUS with a selection of Arri/Zeiss Master Prime lenses, with a relatively large lighting and grip package- also supplied by Arri. Having these tools at our disposal, allowed us to create the exact look we wanted. The film was edited after work at Ealing Studios over the course of 3 weeks, graded at The Farm in Soho and a provisional mix, along with a small ADR session, took place at Hackenbaker Post-Production.
James Salmon, the composer, was recommended through a colleague, and he immediately ‘got’ the tone and mood of the film, creating motifs and riffs that reflected and added to the action on screen.
We are well aware of how fortunate we were to secure the cast and crew that we did, and the resulting film is a testament to their hard work and considerable talent. We hope they are as proud of it as we are.
The Cullen Brothers 2017