Michael Winterbottom's 'Everyday' is a prison drama that was worth doing time for

The director's latest film for television was five years in the making. It's not a vanity project, he tells Gerard Gilbert, but a human tale shot in real time

The filming of Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now lasted a hellish 16 months, while Stanley Kubrick's final work, the Cruise-Kidman psychodrama Eyes Wide Shut, clocks into the Guinness World Records for "the longest constant movie shoot", at 400 days. But the British director Michael Winterbottom (24 Hour Party People, 9 Songs, The Trip) has just surpassed even these two masters of the sado-masochistic movie marathon. His latest film, a one-off drama for Channel 4, was five years in the making.

Well, it was and it wasn't. For half a decade, Winterbottom and two of his regular actors, John Simm and Shirley Henderson, took a few weeks out of their busy schedules to make Everyday, which looks at the effects of a five-year prison sentence on a family from rural Norfolk. Unfolding in real time, the drama is largely improvised, with Simm (Life on Mars, State of Play) and Henderson (who worked with Winterbottom on Wonderland, 24 Hour Party People and A Cock and Bull Story) performing with a real family of four children – the Kirks – in the Kirks' home and in real prisons. The resulting drama has a poetic realism reminiscent of Ken Loach at his best.

"A lot of films take place over a period of time," says Winterbottom. "But when you're making fictional films you tend to shoot over seven or eight weeks, which means you're dealing with quite conventional ways of showing time passing – make up, or in the case of children, taking different children to play the same part. I thought it would be interesting to have a fictional story, but allow the film to take place over a real period of time."

Cast and crew filmed twice a year – often around Christmas because that tended to be an easy time to catch everyone – then summer for contrast, the children growing up in front of our eyes. "The film is about duration," says Winterbottom, one of Britain's most varied and innovative film-makers. "I didn't want it to be about crime and punishment; I wanted it to be about separation."

Simm, who plays Ian, a husband and father locked up for an unspecified crime, says that the project became part of his life. "We'd all just get a phone-call when coming back from a job, and if we were all around, I'd go back to prison."

Filming took place at a number of jails, with inmates and wardens playing themselves. "I would interact with real prisoners," says Simm. "I got on with everyone I came into contact with. But then I'd swagger down the prison corridor and suddenly you'd get, 'Get back in your time-machine, knob-head'...

"Michael wanted me to spend a night in the cell… that didn't happen. It's very claustrophobic in there – and the prisoners all said that the one thing you remember throughout the whole sentence is when the door shuts for the first time in your cell."

In one respect Simm, who has an 11-year-old son, Ryan, and a five-year-old daughter, Molly, with actress Kate Magowan, didn't need to use his imagination. "That thing about being away and missing your kids is something I can relate to," he says. "It's nothing like being in prison, but I sometimes spend three months away and I'm used to those phone-calls and how upsetting it is – 'I missed this' and 'I missed that' – and they send little videos of their first day at school…"

Prison visits were filmed in the real visiting rooms, with real wardens working the room. "They were policing visits as they normally do," says Winterbottom. "It's quite hard to know what you are allowed to do and what you're not allowed to do, so it was great to have genuine people there. But prison visiting rooms are not the most enticing places."

Indeed, there is an uncomfortable scene where one of the younger Kirk children, Sean, starts bawling his eyes out. Acting, improvisation, or for real? "It is a weird area about how much is acting and how much is not," says Winterbottom. "When Sean burst into tears it would be spontaneous – we hadn't asked him to. But then although he'd have to do it exactly the same again, he found himself hitting the same area of tears each time."

Simm, Henderson and the children went for days out to the seaside to get to know each other, while on the first day of filming, Henderson arrived early at their house to wake them up (scenes that are included at the beginning of the film). And Simm says that his separation from the children just added to the sense of realism. "Sometimes I wouldn't see them for a whole year," he says. "I'd be at the end of a phone, with Shirley, doing the Christmas thing – and we always had a real conversation because they're kind of not acting; it's their real names, their real house. I'd ask what they got for Christmas and it was really what they got for Christmas."

Winterbottom chose to film in north Norfolk partly because he has "a little place" there, and shot A Cock and Bull Story in the county and knows it well, but also because the famous big skies and beaches (especially the vast Holkham beach, which also appears at the end of Shakespeare in Love) accentuated the sense of Ian's confinement. "Also I think that any time you have a story set in prison it tends to be urban – and I liked the idea that this was a rural story," he says. "The casting director looked around schools in north Norfolk – we were looking for one child – and then when we saw the Kirks, we thought brilliant, because more is better." Has he inspired the children to want to become actors? "I hope not," says Winterbottom , as quick as a flash. "They were coming round to it," adds Simm. "By the end they were correcting us on continuity."

'Everyday' is on Channel 4 tonight at 9pm

Arts and Entertainment
music Malik left the Asian leg of the band's world tour after being signed off with stress last week
News
Author J.K. Rowling attends photocall ahead of her reading from 'The Casual Vacancy' at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on September 27, 2012 in London, England.
peopleNot the first time the author has defended Dumbledore's sexuality
News
‘The Late Late Show’ presenter James Corden is joined by Mila Kunis and Tom Hanks for his first night as host
news
Arts and Entertainment
Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat and Blackberry Wine, wrote a blog post attacking the app and questioning its apparent 'strong Christian bias'
books
Arts and Entertainment
Leading light: Sharma in London

books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
photography
News
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
people
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
News
Brooke Magnanti believes her reputation has been damaged by the claim
books
Arts and Entertainment
A large fire has broken out in London's historic Battersea Arts Centre
art
Arts and Entertainment
Orla Brady as Anne Meredith, MyAnna Buring as Elizabeth Quinn and Joanna Vanderham as Katherine McVitie in Banished
tvReview: Despite the gritty setting, this drama is as fluffy and soppy as a soap opera
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and co-director Richard Glatzer, standing, on the set during the filming of ‘Still Alice’ in New York
film
Arts and Entertainment
Great British Sewing Bee finalist Matt Chapple
tvReview: He wowed the judges with an avant garde dress
Arts and Entertainment
Driven to the edge: 'Top Gear' producer Oisin Tymon is said to have had a row with Clarkson
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Nazi officer Matthias Schoenaerts embarks on an affair with married French woman Michelle Williams in 'Suite Francaise'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Prime movers: Caitriona Balfe (centre) and the cast of Outlander
TV
News
Feasting with panthers: Keynes
books
Arts and Entertainment
Strung out: Mumford & Sons
music
Arts and Entertainment
Avant-garde: Bjork
music
Arts and Entertainment
Despite a decade of reform, prosecutions and convictions of rape has remained consistently low
arts + entsAcademic and author Joanna Bourke in warning to arts world
Arts and Entertainment
Electro Velvet, made up of Alex Larke and Bianca Nicholas, will represent the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015
music
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss
    Tony Blair joins a strange and exclusive club of political leaders whose careers have been blighted by the Middle East

    Blair has joined a strange and exclusive club

    A new tomb has just gone up in the Middle East's graveyard of US and British political reputations, says Patrick Cockburn
    Election 2015: Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May

    Election 2015

    Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May
    Countdown to the election: Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear as the SNP target his Commons seat

    Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear

    The Chief Secretary to the Treasury didn’t forget his Highland roots in the Budget. But the SNP is after his Commons seat
    The US economy is under threat because of its neglected infrastructure

    The US is getting frayed at the edges

    Public spending on infrastructure is only half of Europe’s, and some say the nation’s very prosperity is threatened, says Rupert Cornwell
    Mad Men final episodes: Museum exhibition just part of the hoopla greeting end of 1960s-set TV hit

    New Yorkers raise a glass to Mad Men

    A museum exhibition is just part of the hoopla greeting the final run of the 1960s-set TV hit
    Land speed record: British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

    British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

    Bloodhound SSC will attempt to set a new standard in South Africa's Kalahari desert
    Housebuilders go back to basics by using traditional methods and materials

    Housebuilders go back to basics - throwing mud at the wall until it sticks

    Traditional materials are ticking all the construction boxes: they are cheap, green – and anyone can use them
    Daniel Brühl: 'When you have success abroad, you become a traitor. Envy is very German'

    Daniel Brühl: 'Envy is very German'

    He's got stick for his golden acting career and for his beloved restaurant - but Daniel Brühl is staying put in Berlin (where at least the grannies love him)
    How Leica transformed photography for ever: Celebrating 100 years of the famous camera

    Celebrating 100 years of Leica

    A new book reveals how this elegant, lightweight box of tricks would transform the way we saw life on the street and in fashion, on the battlefield and across the world