‘Swede Caroline:’ British Mockumentary Starring Jo Hartley And Aisling Bea Lands : Meet the Directors

We meet the Directors behind ‘Swede Caroline’ Brook Driver and Finn Bruce.

In this British Mockumentary, the competitive giant vegetable growing world is rocked by scandal when up-and-coming prospect Caroline has her prized marrow plants stolen. In our Movie review session we go one on one for an exclusive chat over zoom.

Q. (S) Stephen: Hey guys how’s it going? Thanks so much for joining us, Brooke Driver (BD) and Finn Bruce (FD)- I absolutely loved Swede Caroline by the way.

I got sent a movie screener and I was like, this is magic. I’m a gardener myself so it’s quite interesting to have that twist on the idea of the drama. This group of people who grow huge crops and compete, it hasn’t been done yet, as far as I’m aware. It felt really new, really fresh.

(BD) Brooke : I like it that you’re a gardener. Do you grow, do you grow vegetables?

(S) Stephen : Yeah, I do. So for me the garden is like my quiet space. So I’ve started growing a lot . Believe it or not, I started growing grapes a few years ago and I’ve got a small vineyard now through an off cut from one of my neighbours.

(FD) Finn: Wow.

(S) Stephen: And I’ve started seeding some beet root now, which I started around the beginning of March. I’ve got sweet corn, I have tomatoes, which are quite easy to grow, which is quite good.

(BD) Brooke: I feel like we, what we always think with this as well is like, while it’s a really niche community, that sort of competitive level of gardening. Actually so many people grow, so I feel like theres always this passion and all of this sort of stuff.

(S) Stephen: A lot goes into gardening and it’s a very passionate process and you care for them. When you see them growing it’s quite a moving experience. I can understand why there would be a lot of drama and a lot of emotion in around that subject.

Q. Anyway, so, Moving on to the first question for you guys, how

did the concept of the movie come about?

(BD) Brooke: So often when I’m when I’m writing ideas, I’ll have a few different stories going on in my head and a few different characters that I’m trying to sort of work out how I can create a sort of narrative that works them all together and I’d read an article about competitive big vegetable growers and, you know, seen these amazing pictures of these giant vegetables and these very sort of serious looking photos with growers. And I thought, God, this is a sort of fascinating world, and then Finn approached me, we’d worked on a few projects together and he said that he was looking for a mockumentary and I was like I think I’ve got an idea for that, you know, and then Finn really gelled with the idea because, you know, Finn is a, he sort of really knows the country fairs and this sort of stuff. Okay. I didn’t know that. 

So Finn brought a whole level of sort of understanding of those characters and that world and a lot of it I was sort of reading about in comedy, so it was great.

(FD) Finn: Yeah and as Brooke just said, you know, having grown up in the countryside and attended these sort of country shows, always competed in the arts and crafts section of the horticultural tent and been around the sort of big veg growers and won…

(BD) Brooke: this guy has won some trophies. Don’t Let him undersell himself!

(FD) Finn: I’ve got, I’ve got a couple of my trophies here at my parents house, so I should have just like brought them out. That’s amazing. But yeah, as soon as Brooke pitched the idea, I was like, I’m in, I love this. I had been watching a lot of and I’m obsessed with Christopher Guest films. I think that his style of documentary filmmaking is fantastic in that long form. Yeah. And I’d just been watching American Vandal on Netflix and I just was desperate for a UK film.

(FD) Finn: That really encapsulated the, that that same mockumentary style in long form, but it grounded in a real sort of UK British setup. Yeah and so that’s when I reached out to Brooke with a couple of ideas and yeah, his big veg concept got to top Trumps and I was in from the pitch.

(S) Stephen: The movie felt almost quite immersive and it felt very non-scripted. How much of that was scripted? it’s a mockumentary, but was there a lot of freedom for the actors to give what they wanted to give?

(FD) Finn: That’s great news, <laugh>.

(BD) Brooke: That’s great.

Yeah. Especially with a mockumentary.

Finn It is funny. I had just been going through the process of getting the film subtitled and sent the script off to the people doing the subtitling, and they sent me an email back being like, well, I can’t use this as, as the basis of the subtitling. And it’s funny, but you know what, what our approach was very much that we’ve got this script that we all absolutely love and you know, I know Brooke’s on the call, but he wrote a fantastic script.

(FD) Finn: Yeah- We then obviously used that as our framework and it was fundamental in every scene that we shot that script and we got every single beat, because obviously Yes, it is a mockumentary it needs to feel loose.

But there is quite a complex narrative and who done it storyline within the script. So we had to hit those points. But then outside of that, yes with mockumentary, that cast need to feel like they have that freedom to really explore and make it their own. So yeah, we shot the script, got those beats, and then gave them the flexibility to kind of roll with it.

(S) Stephen: Okay. That makes sense, the script felt so naturalistic! I felt like we

need to get that question in to find out what the premise of that is -you did such a great, great job with that!

(FD) Finn: Also just to add to that- shout out to the cast, they are such phenomenal

Naturalistic actors Yeah, that they’re able to take what is scripted and make it feel to you and the viewers that it is real.

(BD) Brooke: And also what is fundamentally quite a wacky, you know, they’re pretty out there characters and yet I think that they play all play them so believably, you know. We tried as hard as we could to keep it as real as possible.

(S) Stephen: Yeah. I mean, it felt very grounded to me. Like I’ve done theater in the past, off west end primarily so I’ve worked a lot with character, the characters in this film felt so real and it feels like they were almost in character, but as themselves which is quite impressive given the subject topic.

I dont know how passionate, you know, the cast were about like, growing crops themselves, but it felt like that really cared.

(FD) Finn: I mean, it’s all absolute music to our ears hearing all of this. So thank you very much, first and foremost. Course. But it, you, you know, it’s so key to have that time before we start shooting with the cast to rehearse to, really kind of explore and actually Brooke did an amazing amount of work with actors like going through the background of the characters and really developing who they were off the page so that when it came to those talking heads, we would place a camera in front of them and riff with them and they, and they were able to make it a 3D character rather than this 2D caricature.

(BD) Brooke: And actually, even to the point where you say that they were just playing their own, you know, sometimes like Joe Hartley just said something to me cause I was talking about the backstory of our lead, Caroline and I was like, you know, in my mind she used to be an air hostess, like all of this stuff that wasn’t in the script at all and Joe goes, I used to be an air hostess <laugh>, she’s like, ‘I was an air hostess’, I was an air hostess on Japanese Airlines and then she came out with this line of like, what she used to say and I was like, that’s brilliant. Oh yeah that goes in, you know, that has to go in and that made the final cut, you know so yeah.

(BD) Brooke: It is such a collaborative process. It’s an amazing process working with working with actors like that.

(S) Stephen: Yeah, it felt like that… and just moving into casting, how did you go about putting the cast together?

(FD) Finn: Again, massive shout out to our casting directors, Emily Tilelli and Zita, you know, without a casting team that you can call up every single hour, day and night to support you in, you know, executing it, you don’t get very far. Yeah. So, you know we were incredibly lucky to have such a passionate casting team. But yeah, I mean, Brooke and I have discussed Joe from the second that we started. Yeah, I love developing it because she is the queen of natural like realism and authenticity.

(FD) Finn: Yeah. You know, speaking for myself, but I’m sure same with Brooke, like, I grew up watching Joe and think she is just the most phenomenal actor. Yeah. And so, yeah, so blessed, we reached out to her through her agent and she was willing to meet with Brooke and I, and we went for a coffee and she decided whether or not to take a leap of faith with two unknown directors and then she came on to exec it with us to help with casting and support Brooke and I and Emily in that process.

 (BD) Brooke: also props to her for doing that. You know, ’cause it is, it’s a punt. Obviously you know yourself, but like taking projects on as an actor, you know, we could have made, you know, her look awesome.

 (BD) Brooke: She took a leap of faith with two directors who are making their debut feature films and she obviously saw something in the script and thought, you know what, this, this could be something and I mean, what would it be without her? I know. You know, it would be such a different film if there’s someone else in that role.

(S) Stephen: She clearly put a lot of trust in you, which is amazing. I love Jo!

(BD) Brooke: And hopefully, we repaid that trust <laugh>, you know.

(S) Stephen: It was really good. I really enjoyed it! At what point did you realise it was comedy gold having this subject? Did you know from the beginning or were you worried at any point that it wouldn’t cross over and be a bit too niche?

 (BD) Brooke: I quite like niche, I think sort of niche are the better, you know and I knew that there’s a lot of comedy in this world, just like implicitly, it just felt like such a great space and such a like, sort of very quintessentially British country sidey kind of thing, and then this idea that me and Finn sort of talked about from the very beginning in liking films is taking big stories and telling them, you know, putting little people in the middle of them.

You know, like putting regular people in the middle of stories that are about spies and corruption and all these sorts of things. And that was very much a good starting point for us. We talked a lot about like burn after reading and you know, characters being in these situations where there’s private investigators and there’s all this sort of stuff happening, but fundamentally at the middle of it, there’s just a regular person working a regular job and living a regular life. I just think when you get that, there’s always a chance for comedy.

(FD) Finn: putting on my producing hat as well, like obviously from a creative standpoint, all of those things that Brooke said about, it is a perfect setup for comedy but then, you know, when you’re producing it’s the meeting of art and commerce and the commercial side of it is, you know, across the country there are so many growing communities allotment and, and like we discussed at the beginning of the call, that the community is vast.

(FD) Finn: So, you know, have, didn’t have a doubt that there was an audience for this film. The doubt comes though when you’re talking about an independent film competing against massive 10 pole marvel pictures that are hitting the cinema. And it’s about can we get this film into, you know, the laps of that audience. And so its an exciting time releasing a film, but also incredibly nerve wracking Yeah when you don’t have the studio level marketing budgets and yeah you know it’s an independent release.

(S) Stephen: Were there struggles you come up against in the pre-production phase or

actually making the movie itself?

(BD)Brooke: I mean, as, as you know, working in film and being an actor every single day on set is, you know constantly navigating everything going wrong and everything not working and it’s how you navigate that and I mean there were some challenges, but every single filmmaker faces those.

(BD) Brooke: There was one quite good one when we we needed extras, we needed supporting artists for for one scene for the mornings at the funeral and they, they all came down and one of them needed for the script to be a woman and there just wasn’t a woman who was sent down as the supporting artists. Right and so we were just there like …it’s fundamentally crucial and so Finn <laugh> Finn had to call up his sister-in-Law who’d sort of, she’d just given birth or something ..she had to come down, get into costume and oh She’s in the film yeah, it’s great.

(S) Stephen: Yes. Oh my God. Wow. That’s quite impressive. That commitment for you. Wow.

Thanks for taking time out to speak to us

what advice would you have for up and coming film makers, if any?

(BD) Brooke*: My key piece of advice I always say to anyone is just keep going because you just get so many people telling you that your idea’s bad or it’s not gonna happen or, you know, just no, literally just, there are so many no’s that you receive as a filmmaker and it’s about keep going. I, so I just produced a film called Sumothahood and Adam Deacon and Jazzy and Michael had written it and they took it took them eight years of everybody saying no.

(FB) Finn: And you know, we made it and sold it to one of the biggest film studios so it is just about keep on going even if it’s an eight year journey, keep on going because your story is valuable, your story needs to be told, so yeah keep trying to tell it.

(S) Stephen: That’s definitely good advice!

Q. What are the movies out there that you wish you were a part of or you wish

you’d made?

(BD) Brooke: I actually always think about the first time I watched Sight seers Ben Wheatley Sight Seers and genuinely it was the film that I watched where I was like, I loved The humour was totally up my street. It was just amazing and I thought, I always thought that’s a film I could make, you know, I could sort of write a similar script like that and then obviously we then had Alice Lowe and Richard Lumsden in our film sort of, however, when did se sees come out it must be like sort of 10 years on and they both were on set with us, like in our film and I was thinking this is, you know, surreal especially Alice Lowe when she came to Set, ’cause obviously that, like, I just remember her so clearly from that film …

(FB) Finn: so we have Steve Brody playing the MP in the film. Yeah and Steve plays in Alan Partridge, the South African in the scene where they turn on the car headlights and they say Go Nuclear. I mean it is one of my most favourite quoted scenes of TV and film history and every time I see Steve, I just revert back to the little 10-year-old Kid in me…it’s just so good. Yeah but I think the film I most would love to have been involved in is Good Time directed by Safdie Brothers. It’s just, no matter how many times I watch it, I just get more and more excited about rewatching it again.

(S) Stephen: just before we go, it’s been lovely speaking to you both, very quick one, what’s next in the pipeline? Have you’ve got anything exclusive that you can tell us about? Or are you going keep it under wraps for the moment?

(BD) Brook: I mean for me, as Finn was sort of saying on his advice section of just like, just keeping going, you know, it’s straight back into the fight to get anything made. You know, like I have so many scripts, stages of development with different people and you know, just trying to work out ways that you can get finance and get the right team around those projects. So yeah, so many, and and most of them, some of them I have, I’ve been on that eight year journey, you know, and it doesn’t seem to be getting any closer.

(S) Stephen: 8 Years is a long time, you know, That’s really , really good information to have.

 (FB) Finn: Yeah, yeah. and yes, from my side, you know what’s to come, we’ve got lots of films that we’ve got in development and Belstone Pictures my production company are pivoting more into the distribution market as well. So talking to some great filmmakers about bringing some other films to the screen so exciting times and keep watching.

(S) Stephen: Thank you so much and just before we go, what’s your socials, where can people find out a bit more about you two and about, about your projects and what you’re doing.

(FB) Finn: My Instagram is Finn Bruce. 1,2,3 follow me on there and then from a film Swede perspective, the film’s Instagram is at Swede, Caroline film and the film is out April the 19th. And so the fundamental, as we said support.

(BD) Brooke: Just find me at Brooke Driver

Just Brooke. Just search Brooke <laugh>

Easy to find!

Thanks so much for having us great film

and congratulations on producing such a masterpiece. Loved it.

Swede Caroline  Is out April 19th