Some may know Carl Hunter as a member of The Farm, a band from very much back in the day (‘Groovy Train’ reached #6 in 1990). Some as a screenwriter, graphic designer, photographer and short filmmaker. Most of our Film, Media and Television students just know him as Carl, one of their lecturers.
But he now has one more string to his bow after debuting as a fully-fledged feature film director in 2020. Sometimes Always Never tells the tale of Alan, a Scrabble-obsessed tailor played by Bill Nighy, whose eldest son stormed out of the family home after a particularly heated game of Scrabble ten years earlier, never to return. Alan must repair the relationship with his youngest son Peter, before they can finally move on.
The film was originally entitled Triple Word Score, but Carl didn’t want the film to be referred to as ‘The Scrabble Film’, because it’s about family, loss and reconciliation. But funny, in a way that echoes Bill Forsyth, director of Gregory’s Girl and Local Hero, and one of Carl’s own heroes: “He saw working class people…as people.” Writers, however, still refer to it as ‘the Scrabble drama’ – “so I got that wrong,” laughs Carl.
And if you’re wondering about the title, Carl explains:
If you’re a mod, and you’ve got a three-button suit, you sometimes fasten the top button, always the second button, but never the bottom. And that will always give you the sometimes, always, never rule. Crucial information for a man who wears a three-button suit and is a bit of a mod.
The film is written by screenwriter, novelist and Edge Hill Honorary Doctor Frank Cottrell Boyce, who Carl regularly collaborates with. They co-wrote the 2007 feature film Grow Your Own, based on the true story of a group of refugees given allotments in Liverpool. Co-produced with fellow Edge Hill film and TV production tutor Clare Heney, the film has been a hit with both critics and audiences around the world, and was screened at the British Film Institute’s film festival.
Lead actor Bill Nighy “really, really, really enjoyed working with [Carl]”, not least because of his knowledge and love of the genre:
“He’s very funny and very bright and sophisticated—and very knowledgeable about films and the general aesthetic. I loved his notions about the style, I loved his juxtaposition between naturalism and very heightened stylistic framing and context. I just thought it was witty. The experience of working with him was nothing but deeply pleasant.”Image source – Sometimes Always Never © Hurricane Films
But Carl’s achievement also represents opportunity for our students. They worked with Carl and the team during filming, and helped to create the soundtrack.
Film students Robert Cox and Faye Darwent were given the opportunity to work on the film. Robert acted as floor runner, and also shadowed an assistant director. He found it was about more than just making tea:
“I had to keep an account of what shots had been filmed, alert the cast and crew when a take was about to be filmed and walk the lead actors from their vehicles onto set, operate the radio headsets, and make sure the location was quiet when a take was in process. I even stood in for one of the lead actors so the crew could set up the lighting and camera for a scene. Basically, making myself as useful as possible and finding a solution for every problem that comes your way on a busy film set. Having the opportunity to work professionally alongside industry experts, an enthusiastic crew and very humble big-name actors was amazing. It’ll play an essential part in my ability to get more film production jobs.”
Faye also jumped at the chance to enhance her CV:
Working on the film gave us an insider perspective into how the film industry operates in the real world, and it helped me decide on which career I’d like to pursue. Hurricane Films and Carl gave us all extra attention by giving us tips and advice on how to develop our skills and progress into the film/media industry. I learnt so much.
Faye and Robert weren’t the only ones, as debutant director Carl acknowledges: “It felt far more collaborative than I ever thought it was going to be.”
It’s these kind of seat-of-your-pants learning opportunities – for everyone – that contribute towards our Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) Gold ranking, one of only three universities in the North West to hold this prestigious rating, and give our students the first-hand experience they will need to succeed.