Interview: ‘Son of Rambow’ Director Garth Jennings Unleashes Power of Childhood Imagination

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CHICAGO – A preacher delivering a sidewalk sermon followed by a boy’s inventive doodles and drawings are the opening images that launch “Son of Rambow”. This sets the tone for the unyielding power of childhood imagination that the filmmakers unleash upon moviegoers. Oscarman rating: 4/5Set in the 1980s, two boys obsessed with the Rambo film “First Blood” are on a mission to make their own home video for a BBC screen test titled “Son of Rambow”. A hilarious and touching story ensues about cultural differences, friendship and boyhood dreams.

Will Poulter (left) and Bill Milner in Son of Rambow
Will Poulter (left) and Bill Milner in “Son of Rambow”.
Photo credit: Paramount Vantage

In the interview with “Son of Rambow” director Garth Jennings (director of 2005’s “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”) and producer Nick Goldsmith, these two have exposed not only their heart and soul in creating this feature but they have also touched on experiences from their own childhood adventures.

After learning that Jennings based some of its story after his own boyhood filmmaking and both Jennings and Goldsmith have been great friends for many years, the intimacy and spirit of this film became the focus of our interview with them.

Not only is this film absolutely enjoyable from every angle but it’s also refreshing to find two filmmakers both on screen and behind the scenes who have so much passion and boyhood spirit involved in their filmmaking processes.

This is a must-see film that will not only touch your heart but also your funny bone. It’s a heartwarming and familiar tale of adventure and imagination that will bring you back to your childhood and send you down your own memory lane. Because this film is so close to your heart, did you take a different stance with it on distribution?
Star Director Garth Jennings: Because “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” was a much different experience and it was sort of sucked out into the abyss of Hollywood and we had nothing to do with the distribution, this was all new for us.

Initially we had a delay because of the name of the film. (The “w” was added for legal reasons.) We took that time to go to lots of film festivals with it. We didn’t have a full marketing plan at that point and got to show the film raw to audiences.

It made for genuine experiences and responses from the audience. Since we did want to protect the film because it was so close to our hearts, we designed our own posters and we were involved with all the making of the trailers.

Bill Milner (left) and Will Poulter in Son of Rambow
Bill Milner (left) and Will Poulter in “Son of Rambow”.
Photo credit: Paramount Vantage Did the production design and the fantastical scenes come out the way you had both visualized?
Star Director Garth Jennings: The special effects and animation came out better than we could have ever imagined. Basically it was all spot on and exactly how we wanted. In many senses, it came out much better.

Star Producer Nick Goldsmith: As far as production design, they bought lots of props off eBay that made the film even more hilarious.

When the brother talks on the giant cell phone, it came off as hilarious. While it wasn’t planned to be that way, the 1980s really had enormous phones. We seem to have forgotten that.

Son of Rambow director Garth Jennings on Jan. 22, 2007
“Son of Rambow” director Garth Jennings on Jan. 22, 2007.
Photo credit: Fred Hayes, What was the most difficult aspect of making this film?
Star Director Garth Jennings: It took five months to find the right kids. We went to regular schools to find them. Also, financing was probably the most difficult aspect. Getting people to invest in our idea was tough, but as a whole, it was an absolute joy to film. Everything went smoothly.

Star Producer Nick Goldsmith: We had one issue with a location where we had signed a release to use an area that ended up not being owned by the person we signed with. They ended up holding our lights at ransom, but it was all part of the process and just a little snag. How was it working with such young and inexperienced actors?
Star Director Garth Jennings: They actually had no experience at all – well, one of them was a munchkin in a play – but basically this was an after-school program for them.

The two main actors were both very instinctive. We gave them very specific instructions and it worked out great. They were all economical. We would say ‘do this and say this very fast and stand on the blue line’ and they would follow very well. They had a great time.

They rode around in cranes and in jeeps and loved it every day.

It became infectious for them and the two became great friends. They still hang out all the time. It was really the easiest thing in the world. We were very careful to have no monitors or playback so we didn’t make them self-conscious on the set. It was awesome. How much of the filmmaking styles in “Son of Rambow” were like you as a kid?
Star Director Garth Jennings: That’s the easiest question in the world: none whatsoever. I mean, I did lots of dangerous stunts that could have killed me as a kid, but we heightened the drama aspect for the audience involvement.

StarView our full “Son of Rambow” image gallery.

StarRead our “Son of Rambow” news.

StarMore film reviews from critic Allison Pitaccio. Will your childhood Rambo footage be on the DVD extras?
Star Director Garth Jennings: Absolutely. We plan on having some. What was the best part of making this film?
Star Director Garth Jennings: We were a small unit. We were hands on in all aspects just like they are in the jeep making the film. That was pretty much how our crew was. We became one big gang.

Star Producer Nick Goldsmith: The actual filmmaking was great. Our film crew was a huge mob. We enjoyed the shoot so much. The best part for me was about three or four weeks after we wrapped when I was able to see the footage and realize what we had. I was really proud of it. That feeling was amazing.

Along with other cities, “Son of Rambow” from Paramount Vantage opened on May 9, 2008 at AMC Loews Pipers Alley in Chicago and the Cinemark CinéArts 6 in Evanston, Ill. staff writer Allison Pitaccio

Staff Writer

© 2008 Allison Pitaccio,

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