Ahead of Thieves in the Night Release We Caught up with Local Actress Liv Paige

Words: Sofia Jones
Photos: The Red Carnage Company
Friday 29 March 2024
reading time: min, words

Thieves in the Night is the first feature-length film to come from The Red Carnage Company, an independent production organisation founded by Matthew Button, Maximilian Feurstein and Ted Dontchev - and we speak to the latter about his role as writer and director, as well as one of the film’s stars, and Nottingham native, Liv Paige

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As we begin the interview, Ted Dontchev and Liv Paige seem excited. Perhaps this is aided by the fact that, unlike most dual interviews, they are together behind a shared screen as we connect over Zoom. Of course they’re excited: their feature-length suspense thriller has just landed on Amazon Prime Video. 

This is no mean feat in the underfunded, highly competitive world of British cinema. Dontchev quickly acknowledges this, recalling, “I wanted to get into feature films as soon as possible. There’s no money in short films, and there’s no guarantee that, even if you have an Oscar-nominated short film, you’re going to get a budget for a feature film.” 

Despite their success in securing a budget from individual investors and crowdfunding, Dontchev admits they were still ‘constrained’ by money. Yet there seems to have been a sense of freedom in that constraint, the type that arises when just enough discipline allows you to soar. Or, as Dontchev puts it, “If you can’t lean on fancy explosions every thirty seconds to keep the audience's attention, then you have to focus on character.”

It sounded like a film I would like to watch. I read the script, and it was great.

Staying true to its status as the first feature-length project from producers The Red Carnage Company, Thieves in the Night delivers on its promise of carnage: high stakes, violence, and death are its backbone.

But, as Dontchev alludes to, the film is more cerebral than that. There is a sustained focus on getting character right, its driving force. In the script’s early days, Dontchev – and his writing partner Maximilian Feurstein – only had ideas for the first and last scenes. The rise, the fall, and action in between were all splinters, yet to be teased out. 

Just like removing a painful splinter, this teasing out of action and character was done slowly. Each player – and their reaction to the tense circumstances – were crafted one by one. Dontchev explains: “We wrote iterations of the script from each different characters' points of view, forgetting everyone else for a moment. We thought, ‘How would they react to this?’”

This careful thinking creates characters in the film who feel real. At the beginning, the film seems neatly divided into good guys and bad guys. The bad guys are three criminals searching for a house to lay low in overnight. The good guys are the family whose house they choose and who, when the criminals realise they’re home, are taken hostage. The criminals are threatening and violent, so we expect the family to toe the line, but they are far from willing to play submissive hosts. As the film progresses, the line between good and bad, innocent and killer, soon blurs.

Just like real people, the characters’ morals are fluid, and who we thought was good and who we thought was bad gets thrown into question. This fluidity is reflected in the film’s production. After Dontchev and the team had finished their teaser trailer – used to secure investors – they took stock and recast the actors portraying the family. At this point, Dontchev laughs, “Apart from Liv, she’s the only one that survived the recast.” 

Liv Paige plays Mia, the sharp and spirited daughter of the family held hostage. Paige explains why she was attracted to the project: “It sounded like a film I would like to watch. I read the script, and it was great. As a working actor, sometimes you just take jobs because they’re jobs, but it’s nice to genuinely enjoy playing that character as well”. 

It’s reassuring to hear that Paige enjoys playing Mia, a character whose plotline is rougher than most in the film. While held hostage, she is singled out by one of her captors who takes an unnerving shine to her. Not only must she survive, but she must also endure lewd comments and unwanted advances. The threat of a dark alley, the so-called friend at a party; the fear of being a woman is distilled in these scenes. 

If you can’t lean on fancy explosions every thirty seconds to keep the audience's attention, then you have to focus on character

Despite her threatening situation, Mia stands out as a character who thinks on her feet and refuses to give in to her captors. Perhaps with a little bit of Mia-like strength in her, Paige explains that the sexist, threatening, and relentless comments made to her during the film didn’t prove “a challenge”. For Paige, the challenge comes from “the physical stuff”. “Although I didn’t have too many stunts, I had to hit one of the characters. I was more anxious about that and remembering my mark at the same time as my lines.” 

In fact, Paige confesses, it was “hard to act scared a lot of the time because the set was so funny”. “I was surprised when I watched the film because I was like, ‘This is tense.’” The joyous feeling on set was a product of the hectic and intense filming environment. The film was shot over three weeks, with all the cast and crew living across two houses in the Isle of Wight – one of which was the location for filming. This shooting schedule meant that those who began as strangers left as friends, another benefit of that budget “constraint”.

Maybe these conditions are not conducive if you need to act scared for your life, but maybe they are just what is needed to stay sane when acting in a suspense thriller – especially one that does not shy away from difficult scenes. There’s a remedy in there somewhere: watch Thieves in the Night, and once you’ve made it through the suspense-filled violence and death, watch the blooper reel that Dontchev is making to forget all about it.

Thieves in the Night is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video


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