Bring Court to Order

Director John Crowley lead a team of film artists to weave a picture of contemporary London that was as complex and compelling as the real city.

The director John Crowley was well-prepared for the post-production phase, since he would be teaming for a third time with film editor Lucia Zucchetti, following Intermission and Boy A, for which she had received a BAFTA Award.

Other key members of the creative team had perspectives on the material and the genre from past projects. Cinematographer Adriano Goldman had lensed both a legal drama (Conviction) and a personal drama with a domestic terrorism theme (The Company You Keep); production designer Jim Clay and costume designer Natalie Ward had previously teamed on the international suspense thriller THE DEBT.

Ward remarks, “When you get a script through the post and just have to read it in one go, that’s always a good sign. I was excited immediately by CLOSED CIRCUIT and by the diversity in the costumes prospects; the characters were a cross-section of contemporary London, from different classes and different areas.”

All four convened in meetings and outlined their contributions to Crowley’s visualizing of the screenplay. “John spoke eloquently about scenes and characters,” remembers Ward. “We all worked towards what he wanted, which he was able to share with us.”

Clay explains, “Nothing was to distract from the story and the characters. This is a serious movie with an intelligent script, and the audience needed to feel that they were taking part in it so they can concentrate on the narrative.

“For this movie, we wanted to help convey the psychological climate at the locations and in the settings. I made some contemporary additions amidst the legal traditions.”

Before production began, comments Clay, “John and I would discuss the ‘mood boards’ that I came up with, after which I would develop sketches. Each set has multiple visuals attached to it, and the designs develop with the director’s process. More and more, 3D models are being generated on the computer. But John asked for a number of actual physical models so he could put his mind to how the spaces would work out.”

Encouraged by Crowley, Ward went to courts for research. She notes, “People know you need to do research for period films; you have to do just as much for contemporary ones because you cannot assume anything regarding a world you don’t know much about. You’re making less and buying more, but you still have to realize a character.

“I didn’t know that members of the public can walk in and sit in on cases. It became addictive; I went to probably more than I needed to, watching judges and barristers and QCs. I also met with them to discuss what they wear, and why, since there can be a bit of showing off. Then there’s the element of wanting to look like they’re not showing off, as if they don’t care.”

Neither was to be the case with the film’s two lead characters. Ward remarks, “John and I agreed that they should look attractive. Eric had his three-piece suits from the tailor, and Rebecca was already looking the part. But the characters are only slightly stylish; it’s a heightened reality, not a glamorous film world.”

Additional research trips for Ward included one with her assistant to a Turkish-populated Green Lane neighborhood in North London, to take photographs of residents. “We were looking for women, but we got more shots of men because a lot of the women didn’t want their photo taken,” Ward recalls.

It was agreed upon by all concerned early on that the overall color palate for CLOSED CIRCUIT would be muted colors, greys, blacks, and dark blues. “We’re quite sparing with color,” notes Crowley. “I think our tight hold on that works nicely, adding to the atmosphere of chilliness as events unfold and our characters are being watched more.

“I wanted the setting to feel recognizably like London, but with the added tension of it being photographed by someone who is not English. Adriano was not trying to look at London as ‘an outsider,’ but rather as someone who doesn’t carry any baggage. He responds to the city in a fresh sense.”

Exploring the concept of perspective as it relates to the story’s surveillance themes, Crowley had the idea to film the bombing explosion that opens Knight’s script and sets the story in motion “with 12 screens simultaneously, so that the point of view is that of the persons behind the cameras observing what’s going on in the streets.

“That idea began to thread itself through other parts of the film. So, wherever we were shooting, Adriano would carry a couple of small digital cameras and we would often cover the scene from the point of view of at least one surveillance camera. I’d think, ‘We’ll never use this,’ but we wound up leaning on that material because the question of who might be behind which camera would come up during editing the movie with Lucia. That approach developed alongside working in a more classical filmmaking style.”

Goldman comments, “On shoots, I rely very much on a practical, realistic approach. I’m usually trying to light the setting more than the actors.”

Pivotal scenes of Claudia at home ultimately became more realistic than expected. Clay reveals, “We were going to build Claudia’s apartment, which would have given us more freedom. However, because she is under surveillance there had to be a distinct view from the inside looking out. So we ended up going to a real residence, which was difficult for [supervising location manager] Dan Whitty to pull off. But he did, and that view is fabulous!”

Conversely, the production searched high and low for a location that could serve as Martin’s boathouse sanctuary. When none satisfactory was found, the crew ended up building one on a jetty in Battersea.

Crowley reveals, “Jim finds unusual locations, little hidden corners of London; he has an amazing selection in his back pocket. The location where we wound up for the boathouse was one he spotted years ago and knew that at some point would be of use.”

Clay’s unit was tasked with differentiating Claudia’s milieu from Martin’s: her apartment would be sleek, precise, and organized while his boathouse would be a bit old-fashioned and messy. Goldman reports, “John told us all that from the start. Everything in Claudia’s world would be softer and brighter; on Martin’s side, things are a bit darker.

“As the pace changes during the story, the camera style changes little by little. By the second half, once the suspense is heightened we’re using handheld cameras more.”

Ward adds, “When things go wrong for the two main characters and they are in dark places they never expected to be, I give a surreal edge to what they end up wearing.”

Goldman notes, “John always had in mind the rhythm he wanted to achieve. He also understands our crafts and does not get stressed out by limitations – like when you have to change your plans after you arrive at a location and see just what it’s offering.”

The production was headquartered in the Gillette Building, an art deco office and works development in West London. Chris Clark states, “In reading the script, you knew that it would have to be real locations and you knew that securing them would be a challenge. Dan Whitty and his team were fantastic; they were at it while we were still casting, so we were able to hit the ground running once filming started.”

As a result of the careful preparation and considerable local cooperation, only a few days of the nine weeks of filming had to be spent working in studio confines; three of the nine weeks consisted of nighttime shooting, including some weekend nights.

Among the many locations lensed at in and around London by the production were Wembley Stadium, Borough Market, The Modern Pantry café, St. Mark’s Church, Marylebone Train Station, Chinatown in SoHo, Primrose Hill Park, and the Gillette itself. The prison sequence was filmed at an active one – Wormwood Scrubs Prison. “You can’t create that kind of atmosphere on a set,” says John Crowley.

Denis Moschitto reflects, “Filming inside the prison left a huge impact on me. I would be standing for scenes and prisoners would be standing inside their cells, watching through the windows. It helped me feel like Farroukh was supposed to feel.”

Ciårán Hinds says, “Being at a prison does affect you; the realization is, life is going on both inside and outside the walls. You think, ‘There but for the grace…’

“Then there were the Royal Courts of Justice, where you feel the weight of history and the power of the decisions being made in the big hallowed courts and corridors.”

To venture into the deep core of the British legal system, the filmmakers were given permission to film in the public areas of Britain’s famed Old Bailey, London’s central criminal court complex; and in some areas of the iconic Inns of Court buildings. The interior shots of the courtroom where the case unfolds were filmed at Southern Crown Court in South London, with a touch of re-dressing by Jim Clay’s unit.

Jim Broadbent marvels, “Being in the buildings and walking through the marble halls, even riding in the elevators, does a lot of work towards putting us into our characters.”

Eric Bana agrees that “the legal precinct is so distinct with its visual presence; it’s very intimidating walking into any Old Bailey courtroom, or just the inner areas’ grounds.


“We couldn’t shut down whole blocks or stop traffic, so there was always the element of life going on around us. It was good to stay aware of that.”

Riz Ahmed adds, “Our film represents all the different faces of London that I know the city has, everything from the kabob shops to Dalston to the corridors of power, and that haven’t all been on film. It added to the whole of the atmosphere and made the characters feel as real as possible.”

Rebecca Hall muses, “I’m entirely a Londoner. I was born in London and have always loved the city. It was thrilling to shoot there, whether at iconic spots or where I hang out.


“Our movie is about how exciting and vibrant the city can be, and also about how it can be claustrophobic with paranoia and surveillance.”

Steve Knight states, “In my opinion, London is the best city in the world. It’s always worth taking a look at; hopefully, in CLOSED CIRCUIT, we’ve done so in a different way.”