Moving from his native Switzerland to the sprawling metropolis of London, director, Ian Bonhôte uses the big smoke as the setting for his first film, ‘Alleycats’. An action thriller, exposing the criminal underbelly of urban cycling. Starring BBC’s very own, Eleanor Tomlinson (Poldark) and John Hannah (The Mummy Trilogy) amongst a selection of other great stars; John Lynch, Sonoya Mizuno, Joelle Koissi, Hera Hilmar and Sam Keeley.
After attaining a-levels infused with the arts and sciences and his emersion into the career of club visuals, he decided he wanted to pursue a life in London, particularly in the eclectic nightlife scene the capital has to offer.
On moving to London, Bonhôte commented “I bought a bike, it was easy for the commute but also a great way to see the city. The tube is fantastic but for newcomers like myself at the time, it was a little disorientating, where you would just pop up from underground often not knowing where you really were. Also, I think the tragic events of the 7/7 bombing in London, encouraged people to divert their energy into utilising bikes rather than public transport.” It also proved to provide an unexpected social dynamic and an unforeseen muse for his directorial debut, “back in the nineties, cycling shops weren’t as readily accessible as they are now. Especially with the exponential growth of online shopping. So, I made friends with bike messengers in and around the city, it started out with asking about recommendations for track frames and fixed gears and evolved into lasting friendships. It’s like a metropolitan tribe.”
It was through these friendships and invites to bike racing events that Bonhôte began to develop ideas for a film, “it’s like this community of urban warriors that nobody treats properly. These people are a life force for the city and yet are often treated with disrespect. I thought it was a very interesting concept for a film.”
Seemingly the plot for the film, penned by Bonhôte and Anthea Ankea was very well received as it attracted an impressive cast, but what made the idea so appealing not only the actors involved but the investors through a crowd fund page, amassing nearly £60k in funds and over 500 donors. Bonhôte believes it to be for an amalgam of reasons, “Every penny was invested into the action scenes, as you can imagine these are the most expensive. The film is similar to Point Break in the fact it was about cycling but not a solely cycling film. There is great character development and a lot of emotion. Emotion is something that I feel needs to be injected more into film, I take inspiration from both, French and Latin American cinema. I think reaching the target for funds served as a real stamp of approval, it kind of validated us and we weren’t just a bunch of people pursuing what some would deem a childish notion, we were making a film that in theory already had a virtual audience that would fill roughly four cinema screens.”
A stronger presence of female leads have begun refreshingly utilised more on both the big and small screen, Bonhôte chooses to indulge in strong female protagonists as the focus for this and his upcoming projects. “I grew up with a single mum who was twice widowed, a strong matriarchal figure has always been in my life and I think especially in Alleycats, Eleanor Tomlinson is the perfect juxtaposition to the environment she has become embroiled in. Plus she’s a fantastic actress and a joy to work with.”
Drawing on his previous work, mostly in contrasting eclectic music videos and high end commercials has served him well in preparation for a feature film. “Yeah, I think I can draw upon both backgrounds for this film, they both offered different aspects of filming. The music videos were often low budget, other than meeting the creative teams vision, it was about producing the best possible visual for a video no longer than three and a half minutes. They were often long and hard days but for no longer than a week, it was really rewarding to see the finished product and the artists reaction. Due to the often limited budgets, this forced you to be more as creative as possible with the limited resources you had. In contrast, commercials were about pleasing the agency. With a more expansive budget, whilst you weren’t as constrained financially, I felt more pressure working in adverts as you had to answer to the agency.”
Whilst, Bonhôte is very apparently ‘one to watch’ and the success of ‘Alleycats’ yet to be formalised in the form of film sales and downloads, we looked to the future. “We are now a year on from when filming stopped and post production began. It’s strange, the range of emotions you traverse whilst filming. From exhaustion to obsession. But, I think it’s always important to maintain a positive attitude throughout, it influences everyone around you. As the director, it’s incredibly important to maintain this persona to get the possible work out of your actors but I think we achieved that. You have to believe in yourself and what you are trying to create. As for what’s next, I lived in Mexico City and I like cities where i’ve lived to serve as an influence for my films. I think my next project can be surmised as a mix of ‘Let the Right One In’ and ‘Leon’, it’s based on an aztec mythology; naturally women were having babies much younger then, those who died in child birth were often believe to come back as vampires and feast on the blood of men. The writing for that has already started so I guess you will have to stay tuned.”