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Making: THE GREAT BRITISH HEIST - Meet The Screenwriter Dan Cardwell

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

We don't have a Vlog update this week, even though some footage was filmed, we felt we were giving too much of the story away. But don't fret, the 3D Vlog will be back for the next update.

Here's a couple of stills from our DAY 3 shoot on Wednesday 27th Sept - put on your red/cyan 3D glasses!

But we have a fun update for you this week.

Here is a Q&A with Dan Cardwell, the writer of The Great British Heist where we dig a bit deeper into how this film came to be.

Dan is a really lovely guy who is multi-talented - we already know he's a screenwriter but he's also a stand-up comic, author, filmmaker.... Enjoy!

Tell us about yourself and how you and Phil know each other?

Since I was about 15, I’ve been interested in creative stuff – terrible word for a writer to use, but writing isn’t right - I like writing, directing, performing, producing and don’t really care what medium – I love film, TV, stand-up, theatre, books and I’m more interested in the story and what suits it rather than the medium.

The screen is my first love, though, and when I was younger, I got close(ish) to success – C4 showed some interest in a sitcom I wrote with a friend and there was a minor amount of interest from Michael Caine in a feature script I wrote. But they soon both fell by the wayside. I continued to write and started to get involved in the local film scene, which is where I met Phil – I think we worked on a few short films together for other people and got chatting.

I’ve never stopped writing scripts (well, starting scripts), but have mainly been doing one man stand-up/performance shows in festivals – Edinburgh Fringe and the like – since about 2011.

How did you get involved with the Great British Heist?

Phil put out a call on Facebook for writers to help him – as a producer and director, the guy has an ambitious production slate, so didn’t have time to write them all himself. So, I got in touch, he went through a few of the ideas/genres he was looking at, and I homed in on one - a heist/hostage thriller that he wanted to have a sort of exploitation feel. It interested me for several reasons – the restrictions of writing for a low budget movie (locations, cast numbers etc), and the challenge of seeing if I could write a hostage exploitation movie fit for modern sensibilities. So, we chatted, I wrote a treatment which Phil liked and the rest, as they say, is history.

What was the writing process for this project?

There were 4 points to the brief I was given – 1. The genre 2. It had to be set in the youth club location Phil had access to. 3. The first draft had to be delivered in a month. Firstly, I love having a deadline. I’m a lazy, easily distracted man, which is why I have so many unfinished scripts sitting on my hard drive. But I hate letting people down, so having the deadline meant I found finishing the script really easy. Secondly, it turned out, I love writing to brief, more than I would have imagined. You often here the phrase ‘writer’s block’ bandied around amongst scribes, but I feel like I suffer from ‘writer’s choice’ – I have all these ideas in my head about different ways the script can go and it often leaves me paralysed about making the wrong choice. With these restrictions, I found it easier to get into the characters, the way they would behave, and it drove me towards making choices quicker.

How long did it take to write the script from start to finish?

Phil works fast, so I had a deadline I couldn’t miss. It took about a week for me to come up with an idea and write the treatment. Once Phil approved, I got to work.

For some reason, I write better late at night, so once my wife and baby were in bed (the wife slightly later than the baby), I would make a cup of tea, stick in my headphones and find an appropriate playlist, then write from 10pm – 1 or 2 am.

I wrote the whole thing in about a month. There were a few discussions, a couple of tweaks, but all in all, I think it took about 6 weeks, something of a record for me.

Have you written anything else for Phil’s other projects?

Shortly after finishing GBH, Phil contacted me about a mysterious chase film set on an island. He had the actors, the locations, ideas for some elements and scenes, but asked if I could spin it into a proper narrative story. It was a different ask, as he wanted to try an improvisational approach to the film, so it was more a detailed treatment with some dialogue pointers, so was a much quicker request.

I get a bit obsessive when a new idea/creative challenge is put to me, so I think I thought of something in a couple of days and wrote a scene-by-scene treatment over a weekend. Luckily, Phil loved it, so I believe it’s now on the LST production slate.

What’s next for you?

I have a memoir I co-wrote with a friend (his memoir), that I’m trying to get a literary agent for. I’m working on a new show next to take to the fringe festivals. But, most excitingly, reconnecting with Phil has inspired me – his can-do, get on with it attitude has inspired me to finally make a feature film. I’ve got together with an old friend, I’m working on a script, and we are looking to co-produce and co-direct the film next year.

You can find out more about Dan at – a website he does update, but far too infrequently. You can also follow him on X/Twitter/whatever the hell it’s called – @mrdancardwell

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