Monique Needham’s debut short film, Cashpoint, tells the story of a dream first date that takes an unexpected turn for the worse.
Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge chatted to Monique to learn more about this tale of dating disaster ahead of the film’s screening at the London Independent Film Festival (12 April).
Q: Was ‘Cashpoint’ inspired by your own experiences of dating apps?
A: A few years ago, a friend of mine told me a story about a date she had with a really good-looking guy. When the bill arrived he said he needed to go to the cashpoint and got up and left. He returned saying he couldn’t find one so she ended up paying for the whole bill.
I remember asking her: ‘do you think he really went to the cashpoint?’ It made me think, what happened when he left? I had so many different theories and landed on this one. Probably a very elaborated theory but not impossible.
Q: What do you feel the film says about the culture surrounding online dating apps and the social mirages they can help create?
A: I think it says less about the apps and more about the people using them. With or without these apps people can create a version of themselves they want others to see – to impress or take advantage of someone. People do it on Instagram all the time.
For me, the film brings to light the creative ways and the lengths people are willing to go to get what they want. Often people have an agenda, and in the case of dating apps, most people are there to meet someone and just like in the real world people can easily fool you.
Q: ‘Cashpoint’ is your directorial debut. How exciting and/or daunting was it to take control your first project?
A: It was nerve-wracking at first. I had worked on a project previously called Housemates, which was a web series about young women who lived together, but this was different. This time I had a full crew. Even though it was a small crew, I was blown away at the team of people who came on board to bring my vision to light.
Weirdly that felt like a lot of pressure, I had to articulate the pictures in my head to someone else and allow them to bring their creativity to the table also. Shoot days always make me nervous regardless as to whether it’s a shoot for someone else or myself. It’s like a final countdown and all your efforts build up to THAT day.
I was saying just the other day that sometimes fear takes over and I start questioning myself. I think about all the things that could go wrong, but fortunately I have the best pokerface when I am under pressure so I am able to convince everyone, including myself, that everything will be ok.
Q: I believe you filmed in the summer. How was the shoot? Any fun or interesting stories to share?
A: We did, and the summer of 2018 was GREAT.
We shot this film in one day. Looking back now I ask myself why did we do that because it was one of the longest days of my 2018, but it was one of my most enjoyable days too. My adrenaline was pumping and the exhaustion did not hit me until the following day. I absolutely crashed but I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
We were filming in Carnaby Street on a Friday night. It required absolute silence. What were we thinking…we had a drunk passerby wanting to be in various shots, those tuk-tuk bicycles blaring music through their stereos as they passed us.
In the scene at the end where Camille and Craig are walking down the street, one of the tuk-tuk drivers stopped right next to them asking them if they needed a lift. I wish I used that shot in the edit somehow when I think about it now. It was the last shot of the day, we all just wanted to go home, but we just had to laugh.
Q: Ani Nelson (Camille) and Kadeem Pearse (Craig) play their roles to perfection. How much did you enjoy working with them and the rest of this talented crew?
A: I love working with Ani, we worked together on Housemates which made this collaboration feel smooth. Ani read the very first draft of the script (there were seven in total) and I had asked her whether she wanted to play Camille, she loved the idea and immediately said yes.
Once I confirmed Ani and finalised the script, the search for Craig began. I came across a few actors but none of them worked for me. Maybe I was being picky but in the end, I just asked Ani if she knew anyone and she introduced me to Kadeem. Ani and Kadeem just made sense, it was the picture I had in my head. Kadeem just got it; be the charmer and let Camille buy into you – he nailed it.
They were both a dream to work with.
Q: Can you tell us about your background working on TV shows such as ‘Big Brother’ and ‘Come Dine With Me’?
A: I worked in television production for a few years straight after university. I went from runner to researcher to assistant producer. In the end I lost the love for it because I was beginning to pigeon-holed into reality/non-factual entertainment, which is not what I wanted.
This one memory still makes me laugh at myself, so when I worked on my first Big Brother show I was a Runner for the eviction night. Obviously, it was the busiest night for the show. My job was to look after the families of the evictees, the presenters and the talent.
Being committed to the role of being a runner, I was running around helping people and silly me decides to run down the stairs. I trip and fall all the way to bottom, falling onto someone’s feet. The person looks down and says to me: ‘are you ok?’ I look up and it’s a familiar face. That’s how I met Dermot O’Leary for the first time.
Q: Can you name a few filmmakers of the moment that you admire?
A: Spike Lee, Ava Duvernay, Rick Famuyiwa, Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, Edgar Wright.
Q: ‘Cashpoint’ will screen at the London Independent Film Festival (12 April). How excited are you for London audiences to see the film?
A: I was really nervous at first, so much so I only told a few people and was super scared to post about it on social media. For me, the idea of creating something and sharing it with the world is so scary. What if people don’t like it? What if they think it is rubbish? I just remind myself, I like it and so does my team – that’s the main thing.
Now, after everyone has told me how much of a big deal it is, I am finally really excited to see the audience’s reactions – especially to the ending.
Q: What are your hopes for the future?
A: I am planning my second short as we speak, but the dream is to make features. I have a few concepts for TV shows too, so hopefully I will end up in the right rooms with the right people to try and make that happen.