Monique Needham’s directorial debut Cashpoint shares the story of a young woman’s seemingly perfect Internet date gone wrong.
The writer and director who previously worked in television production on shows including Big Brother and Come Dine With Me took a leap of faith and using the experience she gathered over the years returned to her passion of film making. Her first taste came in 2013 when she wrote and directed web series Housemates returning in 2019 with her first film Cashpoint.
We spoke to Needham about the journey it took to get Cashpoint into production …
Who are you?
I am a girl born and raised in London. Wembley to be specific. When I was a kid I used to love The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. I used to record the episodes on VHS and watch them over and over again. Occasionally they would have outtakes in the credits and I remember wishing I was on set and wanting to be a part of it. I think that’s where my interest in film was sparked. There was no YouTube or Instagram so filming and sharing content back then wasn’t easy. I went down the road of studying film at University; I wanted to go to film school but just couldn’t afford it so gave it all up. Two years ago I said to myself if I do not give this a go now I will regret it when I’m 80, so here I am.
Tell us about your directorial debut film Cashpoint…
I wrote it about 4 years ago. A friend told me about a date she went on, the guy had no money on him went to the cashpoint and returned with no cash. I always wondered if he really went to get money or did he just pretend. This film is my elaborated version of what I think happened that day. I have heard many dating gone wrong stories which at the time were not funny but in hindsight are hilarious. I wanted Cashpoint to feel like one of those stories.
The film received its world premiere at The London Independent Film Festival, how excited were you and how did the audience receive the film?
I was beyond nervous. A few friends had seen it prior to the screening but this was going to be a room full of strangers. I am a very shy person and suffer from a slight case of anxiety so the pressure felt very real, I was sharing my film baby with the world. After the first minute and having the support of my friends who were sat next to me I was fine, and I just sat there feeling proud of myself. At that point, I thought it doesn’t matter if people liked it or not, at least I was able to go through the process and make something for people to see. That in itself felt like an achievement for me.
There is an ongoing debate when it comes to dating as to who should pay and what that means moving forward, do you think that men should always foot the bill and if they don’t how would you respond?
I don’t think he should always pay on every occasion. Men and women both earn money. We are not in the 1960s where the woman was at home and the man was in the workplace. Sometimes the woman can pay, sometimes the man can pay, we are equals no? I have a rule, if the guy says he wants to take me out then yes he can pay. If I say I wanna take a guy out then I’ll pay. This way the expectation doesn’t always fall on him. That’s just me though.
Were you involved in casting the actors? What was it about Ani Nelson and Kadeem Pearse that sealed the deal?
Yes, I was involved in the process from beginning to end. I knew Ani from a project I did a few years back called Housemates and back then I found she took direction extremely well and I enjoy watching her perform. So when I was writing Cashpoint I had her in mind. I knew she would be perfect for it. The next task was finding the male lead. It took a while to find Kadeem (Chewing Gum). I already had an idea of the type of person I wanted and people I was meeting and seeing just didn’t work for me. Ani mentioned Kadeem and after seeing him I knew he’d be perfect. What sealed the deal was seeing them together, they just made sense visually and the dynamic and rapport between them, was there, I believed that they could be on a date with one another. Once I locked down the two of them I was ready to shoot.
Who is the target audience?
There isn’t a specific audience as we all relate to dating and the stories that come with it, personally or through people we know. I do like to find humour in situations that may not necessarily be funny. Usually, situations that at the time weren’t funny but in hindsight, you can find the humour are my perfect stories. If you have a similar type of humour then I think you will enjoy Cashpoint.
The film looks at Internet dating from a comedic point of view but meeting people online can be quite dangerous, what advice would you give for online dating, have you ever tried it?
I don’t think I’m the best person to give advice as my own online dating experience is limited. But I have people around me with a variety of experiences, I know someone who is now engaged to the guy she met on an app, but I also know someone who completely lied about their whole identity. I see online dating as no different from meeting someone in real life in terms of safety. Someone can lie to you in person just like they can do online, so I would just say be mindful and alert and spot those red flags when dating, period.
What is the most challenging thing about being a director?
It’s trying to explain my vision, I have pictures and ideas in my mind and trying to get that across to others has always been hard for me. I try to use as many visuals as possible, mood boards, colour palettes or other film references to help get across what I am thinking. But what is a challenge is not getting fixated on your vision and the specifics of that vision. When I bring people on board I am also bringing on people with ideas which can include elements I never thought of that would be perfect for the story. It’s getting easier for me with each project I work on.
Did you train or did you learn to direct on the job? Are there other areas of the film making process that are of interest to you?
I am self-taught and still learning. I used to work in television and was surrounded by producers and directors and learned a lot from them but overall I figure it out as I go. Make mistakes, make note of those mistakes and learn from them. I love cinematography, I do want to explore that more for sure this year.
What’s next for you?
I am currently working on my next short. I have a producer on board which is exciting so cannot wait to get into production. Hoping to shoot later on in the summer. As soon as I have more to share I will.
Cashpoint was edited by Emma McCleave (Spectre, Guardians of the Galaxy), produced by Nana Opoku (Exit Route), the cinematography was created by Bradley Stearn (BAFTA nominated Standby, the talented colourist Rebecca Goodeve (The Keith and Paddy Picture Show, Insurgent) and the music composed by Reon Vangèr.
Cashpoint is screening at various film festivals. The official release date will be announced soon. Keep up to date via www.getneeks.com