Stop/Eject is a magical and moving fantasy drama starring Georgina Sherrington (The Worst Witch) and directed by Neil Oseman, dubbed "The Spielberg of Hereford" by The Guardian. It premiered at Raindance in 2014 and was long-listed for a Bafta.
Kate (Sherrington) is devastated when her husband Dan (Oliver Park) is killed crossing the road outside a charity shop. But inside the shop is a mysterious old tape recorder, which Kate discovers has the power to stop and rewind time itself. Meeting the enigmatic shopkeeper Alice (Therese Collins), Kate is introduced to a vast underground library of cassettes – the whole of time, divided into 90 minute segments. Which tape will she choose? And can she save her husband?
Stop/Eject was born out of a 2011 new year's resolution that required the director to come up with a different idea for a film every day. On April 2nd Oseman jotted down two lines about a tape recorder that could control time. That summer, with co-writer Tommy Draper, he developed this concept into a twenty page script called Stop/Eject.
“This was after the abolition of the UK Film Council but before Creative England, the replacement body, was really up and running,” Oseman notes, “so there was no public funding available for short films at the time.”
It was Sophie Black, the film’s producer and production designer, who suggested crowd-funding. “Neil was sceptical, particularly because we were planning to run the campaign over Christmas,” she says, “but we surpassed our target and we also built up a loyal group of supporters.”
With the finance secured, shooting was scheduled for April 2012 in north Derbyshire, on the edge of the Peak District. Born and bred in the area, Black was delighted that Oseman had chosen it, with the director even adapting the script to make full use of the Derwent Valley’s industrial heritage, dramatic weirs and natural beauty. “I was especially excited to film in the basement of Belper’s East Mill,” the producer enthuses. “It had unique, Egyptian-style pillars which made it the perfect setting for the huge archive of tape cassettes.”
It fell to Black to provide those cassettes, around 400 of them, each one painstakingly calligraphed with a different date and time. “I also had to build the alcove set myself after someone dropped out, so the tapes got neglected in the run-up to the shoot,” Black reveals. “In the end I had to pull an all-nighter to get the tapes done. When we got to the basement, all of the cast and crew helped to put them in order and get them on the shelves.”
Cast in the leading role was Georgina Sherrington, best known to children of the nineties as Mildred Hubble, the eponymous Worst Witch in ITV’s popular series. When asked what attracted her to Stop/Eject, Sherrington cites the script’s balance of grief and sadness with the happy memories Kate experiences through the tape recorder. “It was beautifully written,” she says. “What I liked about it was that you got to see so much of the time when they were happy.”
Filming progressed smoothly with one exception. The screenplay called for Dan to propose to Kate as the couple stand on a weir after losing the engagement ring in the water. Oseman explains, “We found a beautiful location near Matlock. When we scouted it in March, the weir looked dramatic but it was totally safe to stand on. Unfortunately we had heavy rain over the next three or four weeks and when we came to shoot the weir had transformed into a raging torrent. There’s no way anyone could have stood on it.” Filming was extended by a day to allow the cast and a skeleton crew to shoot the scene at a much more practical location nearby, but ironically much of the resultant material ended up on the cutting room floor for pacing reasons.
“It’s a powerful ‘what if?’ question,” Oseman says, reflecting on the themes of Stop/Eject. “What if you could go back in time? Where would you go? Who would you see again? What would you change? It’s questions like that and the emotions they bring up that I hope will make Stop/Eject have a universal appeal.”