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Shot entirely on GoPros and set within one claustrophobic location, The Passenger is an intense, hyper-real thriller that warns us of the dangers of judgement and complacency.
— Guildhall Pictures

Synopsis

The morning after a family wedding, Charlotte and Dan Edmunds begin their long journey home. Hungover and arguing, they narrowly avoid hitting a broken down motorist. However, this is no random near miss. The man by the side of the road is Samuel, a colleague of Dan’s. Righteous and determined, he is there to force Charlotte in to admitting her affair. But a confession may not be enough. With Dan naively complicit in Samuel’s appearance, he realises far too late the danger he has invited in to their world.

Logline

A naive young husband must face down his obsessive and psychotic friend when their plan to elicit a confession from his adulterous wife ends in murder.

TAGLINe

Lies and deceit always fail

Characters

Charlotte Edmunds has a secret, but perhaps she's not the only one. Her husband Dan has not been truthful with anyone, least of all himself. And then there's Dan's colleague, Samuel. A man full of integrity. Head and shoulders above us all, or so he believes. When circumstance brings these three together, there is no turning back and their secrets are revealed. No one is entirely innocent.

why this STORY?

“The remit was clear, the film had to be made for under £10,000, with as small a cast as possible, set in one location and shot in under a week” - Brian M Franklin


The decision to make a low budget independent film was borne from frustration. That might not be the answer most were expecting, but it’s an important starting point for this story. Initially, Writer Sinéad Beverland and Director Brian M Franklin were poised and ready to make a different thriller film called Home

The Passenger poster

The Passenger poster

The script was written, the vision complete and funding was gathering pace. With Producers onboard, a deal struck with Barrandov Studios and the lead actress cast, it was just a case of filling the financing gap and the cameras could roll. This is where the story starts to come apart at the seams. Unable to secure the last piece of the puzzle, or the last pot of gold if you prefer and all the best laid plans were shelved temporarily. Now, cue the frustration. It was a big project, perhaps a little too big for a debut feature film. They always say the first script you write is actually your second or third film and let’s face it, old sayings are normally true. 

Undeterred and driven to bring a thriller film to life, Brian and Sinéad realised that to do so would take determination, a low budget and a new story. Wanting to explore betrayal and morality, whilst spinning a new take on the classic hitchhiker story, the seeds of The Passenger started to form. The remit was clear, the film had to be made for under £10,000, with as small a cast as possible, set in one location and shot in under a week. 

As we bounced ideas back and forth and spent a lot of time watching thriller films (I know, how awful), we became intrigued by the idea of a British road movie. With that duly noted and taking inspiration from films such as Spielberg’s Duel, we were drawn towards the idea of setting a story entirely within the confined space of a car. We’ve all been trapped in horrendous car journeys with people we can’t escape. Our intention was to take that recognisable situation and push it to the extreme, to write a story that literally is a journey from hell. 

We knew we wanted to subvert the idea of the couple in jeopardy and to play with the notion that nobody is ever entirely innocent. Life is far from black and white so in creating The Passenger we wanted to portray the truth, not just create stereotypical good guys and bad guys. Our characters needed depth, to depict people with secrets and flaws that we would recognise within ourselves.

On a cold February in Devon, as these ideas formed, notes were made, characters sketched and a treatment was written. This was then tweaked and altered until we were happy with the story as it stood. The bare bones of The Passenger now existed and it was time to cover that skeleton in flesh.

Writing the Script

“There is a certain sense of British politeness that pervades situations and stops people saying what they really think. This was integral to the early part of the story and was immense fun to write” - Sinéad Beverland

As the blank final draft screen pulsated in front of me, I was comforted by the treatment, reams of notes, visual references and music cues I had collated to work with. It felt like the world was already partially built and I now just needed to bring it fully to life. Using the treatment as my blueprint, I was able to chronologically work through the story, knowing what I was writing towards. If my thoughts became distracted with a future scene, I was able to make some quick notes and come back to the moment in question. However, although not a great deal changed between the treatment and the script itself, I did not slavishly follow what I had already written. I had to allow the characters to tell me which direction they should be going in and these guys definitely wanted their voices to be heard.

Work in progress

Work in progress

From the moment they hit the page Charlotte, Dan and Samuel guided me through their story piece by piece. I wanted to create as realistic a story as possible, a hyper reality if you will; something that we can all recognise and imagine ourselves within. There is a certain sense of British politeness that pervades situations and stops people saying what they really think. This was integral to the early part of the story and was immense fun to write.

Knowing that the entire story had to take place within the car imposed certain rules on my writing but rather than finding these restrictive, I embraced them as a challenge to make the story work within its setting. Initially we had a few scenes that took place outside the car (with characters briefly leaving the vehicle) so this gave a little breathing room at points through the script. (Subsequently, Director Brian made the creative choice to keep every single shot contained within the car so these scenes were re-imagined so that we did not leave the vehicle itself).

When the first draft was complete (and with a big intake of breath), we sent the script out for feedback in order to move forward and start working on the second draft. There were moments I myself wasn’t 100% happy with and I incorporated the feedback we received in to the ongoing revisions that the script went through. Whilst the essence of the story remained the same, certain scenes were dropped, minor changes made to the dialogue and the climatic scenes went through much discussion.

Again, the old cliche of the art of writing being in the rewriting is true. With each new draft the story became stronger and the characters more clearly defined. With a whole script in place, I was able to take the time to hone in on specific scenes and ensure they said exactly what I wanted. Surrounded by scene cards, plotted timelines, turning points, act breakdowns and copious amounts of tea, each time I sat down at the computer, I felt I was fine tuning the groundwork I had already laid. By draft five, I had a script I was happy with and armed with that blueprint, we set out in search of collaborators for The Passenger.

The British Thrillogy

“…we started to plan the British Thrillogy; a trilogy of thriller films bound together by a distinct British sensibility” - Guildhall Pictures

When we embarked on creating the story for The Passenger, we always had our other script Home at the back of our minds. Knowing that our goal was to ultimately get Home into production, we wanted the two films to share thematic similarities and knew that they would both be set in one location. With this thought in our minds, the idea of a trilogy came to life. The pun was too good to ignore and we started to plan the British Thrillogy; a trilogy of thriller films bound together by a distinct British sensibility. Independent stories, each set in one claustrophobic location, exploring the dangers we don’t see and the damage our own minds can inflict. With a passion for telling dark, entertaining and hyper real tales, the aim is to challenge what can be achieved and to create memorable thriller stories and stand out characters. 

THE PASSENGER is the first film in the planned trilogy and serves as a warning to us all about the dangers that arise if we choose not to challenge damaging ideas and behaviour. 

The second film will be KIN. Taking place in the 1990’s and set entirely within a British pub, it explores addiction, the lure of money, dark sibling relationships and morality versus survival. Things are set to get extremely dark once the pub doors are locked. 

The final film will be HOME, bringing the Thrillogy back to where it first began. Set within what appears to be a warm, comfortable and affluent home, the pressures of perceived expectations lead a mother to unimaginable actions. Turning the spotlight on the breakdown of a family and the worst crime imaginable, HOME is not the safe haven we are lead to believe.