After a few short appetizers and a pair of features as a starter, Philip Barantini is hungry for the main course.
The actor-turned-director has spent more than two decades in front of the camera (you might recognize him from the HBO series “Band of Brothers” and “Chernobyl”), but has now developed a serious taste and talent for directing that make him one of the hottest chefs in a crowded kitchen.
His short film “Boiling Point” earned him a British agent, and the purpose of adapting the short film into a feature film, he says, was to attract American representation. Indeed, his expert at the helm of Stephen Graham (a close friend since their “Band of Brothers” days) and a young ensemble landed him a contract with CAA.
“I’m just riding a wave, I’m on top of the world. It’s good, I feel like this is what I’m supposed to do, ”he says.
Set in an upscale London restaurant, “Boiling Point” follows a chef (Graham) who gets out of hand, struggling to keep his culinary cohort, drug addiction, and overcooked personal life under control.
As with the short, Barantini made the bold decision to shoot “Boiling Point” entirely in one take, using the camera as a horrified observer of a fateful night at the restaurant.
“Boiling Point” is about to have its world premiere at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, and Variety caught up with Barantini ahead of the launch for a conversation that covers his personal connection to cooking, his transition to directing, and what the future holds.
The frenetic world of the kitchen comes to life so viscerally in your film, you must have had experience in this environment?
I worked as an actor for 22 years in London. I was doing relatively well at first, going from job to job, then it got to a point where jobs weren’t coming in as fast as I would like, I needed to earn money. I started working in different kitchens and it took over my life. Acting became a side thing just because the job didn’t come in and I worked so much in the kitchen that I didn’t have time to go to auditions. During this time, I had seen, witnessed and personally experienced a lot of things that are in the film. I had seen this world from behind the curtain. I have worked in some very beautiful places, but behind the curtain hides a whole other world. No matter how glamorous the front of the house is, usually the back is pandemonium; there’s a lot of shit going down in terms of alcoholism, drug addiction, stress. I’ve had my hardships myself, I’m not ashamed to say it. I’ve been sober for six years now, for which I’m incredibly grateful.
How did you find the transition from comedy to directing?
Ever since I was maybe 18, I had always had the idea that I would like to achieve something someday. But that was it, it was just a thought in my head. How could I continue this? I’m just a kid from Huyton in Liverpool. The directors, to me, were these gods and goddesses, these people that you admire and think: Wow, I can’t do that. And then my mother passed away suddenly five years ago. A lot of my friends and family thought I was going to go off the rails, start drinking again. In fact, the opposite has happened, and I just thought, I’m going to go, I’m going to jump off the cliff and see what happens. I will follow my dream.
I was one of those actors where if I had a scene in the morning I would always hang out the rest of the day and ask everyone what they were doing. It really helped me that I have so much acting experience and that the short is loosely based on myself.
Speaking of the short film, it was shot in one take, what was it like doing the same for a 90 minute feature film?
It was incredibly intimidating. Shooting an entire movie in one take hasn’t been done much before, but we knew from the short that it was possible on some level. One of the keys was finding the right restaurant space to film it. We settled in this restaurant where I worked as a chef, so I knew the layout of the place like my pocket. It’s all open plan, it’s very different from the short film, but we were able to write the script around that location. There was no dialogue in the script, the way we wrote it was just bullet points that listed what we had to say when. We worked the script with the actors, in order to get the right actors who can not only improvise, but be completely open and vulnerable to any eventuality.
Did you have to repeat it over and over?
We went through it, beat by beat, maybe three or four times, and then gave ourselves four consecutive nights to film it. We were going to do it twice a night, once when we arrived at 6 a.m., then we would take a three hour break, reset the whole restaurant, and then we would do it again. That was the plan, we were ready, everyone was pumped. We thought we had eight hits on it, we will necessarily get it once. All the time that this was happening there was this COVID thing looming above us. People were starting to worry, there were warnings to wash their hands. On Monday we did two takes, there were a few flaws, I had tons of notes, but we got over them. The producers called me that night and told me we were going to have to shut it down after another day. The pressure was on. Everyone knew it might be the last, so everyone brought their A-game, and the first take on the second night was the one we used. A week later, we were confined.
Would you do it again?
People often ask me that. A week after we shot it, I would have said absolutely no, no fucking luck, it was absolutely crazy. But now I really miss that way of working, I would love to shoot something like this again. At the end, everyone was exhausted, and the mirth! I’ll never forget the joy when we finished filming it the first time, the first full take. It was like we had all won the World Cup, it was just euphoric.
We’ve actually shot tons and tons of behind-the-scenes footage, and we’re actually looking to put together a documentary. I want to make sure everyone understands this is a real shot. People are trying to figure out where we could have made a cut, and I’m not going to lie about that. That’s what we decided to do and that’s what we did.
What are you going to work on next?
I signed up with CAA recently, and it’s been going crazy ever since. They shared the movie, and I subscribed to a couple of things. One that I can’t speak to, but another is “The Last Drop,” which is with Sharon Horgan and 21 Laps Entertainment, Shawn Levy’s company. We’re launching this right now, and then James (Cummings) and I have three more projects we’re writing. One of them is written the same way we wrote “Boiling Point”. It won’t be shot in one take, but we’re planning to have really long sets, long takes. It will be a similar process for the actors, however. We want to feel that same energy again.