Following the US release of Running Naked, we reached out to Michael Knowles, one of the producers and writers of the comedy drama about two cancer survivors starring Matthew McNulty, Andrew Gower, Tamzin Merchant and Rakhee Thakrar. We’re extremely grateful he took the time to answer a couple of our questions while wrapping up his latest filming project in Mexico.
Michael Knowles is an English film producer, writer and musician. Having been mentored by Andrew Eaton through the UK’s Guiding Lights scheme, he has produced several full feature length films including the award winning drama Best Laid Plans and mystery horror film The Messenger starring Robert Sheehan and Tamzin Merchant. He’s also produced a series of short films, among them one of British acting legends Pete Postlethwaite’s last films Waving at Trains. In 2004 he received a BAFTA nomination for his short film Talking with Angels.
First of all, congratulations to a truly beautiful and heartfelt film! I really enjoyed attending the virtual screening of Running Naked on World Cancer Day. For touching on such serious subjects like cancer and mental health, it is a surprisingly uplifting film.
Many thanks that’s very much appreciated.
You recently mentioned in an interview that “life is about living, not dying” and that it would be a great slogan for Running Naked. Could you explain how it relates to the film?
We are all dying at different rates. The film touches how reflecting on this can positively affect how we live our lives. We need to be present in the moment and sometimes bad thing happening make you focus on this. I know when my wife went through this, we really focused on what was important to us and what was a stressful time became strangely a positive one.
My friend is a survivor of teenage cancer. I know she would love to watch Running Naked but she’s hesitant it might trigger some unwanted memories. What would you tell her?
We were keen that the presentation of cancer was both true but also positive. With that in mind we screened the film to young cancer patients through the teenage cancer trust. Their feedback was both moving and overwhelmingly positive. See below:
Firstly, when I found out it was a movie about two young lads going through treatment. Straightaway I thought “oh no” this might be too close to home and thought I might need to keep tissues ready for the emotional scenes. However, with that being said, my reaction was actually quite the opposite. This movie highlighted friendship during tough times and how they had each other to support but also how important it is to be there for one another.
For me personally, I never thought you could put comedy and cancer in the same genre, but the Running Naked team made it happen. Keeping it light-hearted and making me grin rather than cry just shows it was well put together. From the script, the cast, the whole movie storyline was brilliant. I laughed throughout because I could relate to the scenes.
I always avoided cringe cancer type of movies only because it was emotionally distressing but this movie I highly recommend, it’s a good watch. The writer’s message was to highlight friendship aspects during tough times and how the main characters Ben and Mark are just trying to live their lives to the fullest which as a viewer was so inspiring. They do things out of the ordinary especially for Ben because he has OCD. Highly recommend this movie and I’m sure you’ll reach out to your friends after watching if you haven’t in a while, especially during the current situation, as this movie just give you a pure warm fuzzy feeling inside. I know I’ll be recommending this movie to my friends.
Let’s go back to the beginning: the script for Running Naked was developed over a longer period of time until you and Victor Buhler decided to finally make it into a film. You called it a “leap of faith”. Are you glad you took it or would you have hoped for different circumstances?
I think films have a moment when they will or won’t happen. I am glad we took the leap of faith when we did as otherwise it wouldn’t have happened. I know when people find the film, they generally love it. Particularly if they have been through any of the experiences related in the film. My hope is over the years people will discover it and it will gain a following.
The script for Running Naked draws on some very personal experiences dealing with your wife’s own battle with cancer. Would you say it made it easier or more difficult to write?
Whilst the film doesn’t directly touch on the same experiences, having a pool of emotions and reflections based upon similar events did help. Particularly at a distance from those events.
Can you talk us through the casting process a little? How did Andrew (and the rest of the talented cast) become a part of Running Naked?
Andrew Gower came through an introduction from Tamzin Merchant (who I had worked with previously and who was cast as Sara) who was working with Andrew on Carnival Row. Matthew McNulty came through Andrew’s agent. Emma Stansfield and Sacha Parkinson I had both worked with before. Rahkee Thakrar also came through Tamzin (thank you Tamzin).
This needs to be followed by the unfortunately inevitable question: how was working with Andrew Gower?
He was great and gave so much to the role of Ben. He is a fab actor and we are looking to work together in the future.
Running Naked was filmed in summer 2018. Since then the world has changed quite fundamentally and in quite an unpredictable way. Do you think this has also changed people’s reception of the film?
It’s strange in the film the character of Ben washes his hands a lot with gel. This was meant to be unusual but now is the new norm!
Hopefully the hope and positivity in the film chimes even more now.
Stoke-on-Trent seems an unusual choice for a filming location. Why did you choose it? I personally liked the contrast between the more “clinical” look of the city and the lush English countryside, just like the film itself balances a very serious matter with heart and humour.
We shot there because it hadn’t been seen on screen before but also because I teach film at the university of Staffordshire and the university (and the students there) helped in the making of the film.
What would you say was the biggest challenge in making Running Naked?
I would say making what is such an ambitious film on a pretty micro budget.
Do you have a favourite scene?
There is a scene towards the end of the film when the two leads reflect on their friendship that I love and that echoes what I feel about friendship. However lots of great scenes and special moments in the film.
Running Naked is now available in the UK and in the USA digitally and as VOD. Are there any plans for releases in more countries, more theatrical screenings? I’m quite old fashioned and like physical copies of my favourite films. Any plans for a DVD release maybe?
No plans for DVD but looking at potential cinema screenings post covid. Working through sales agents to release in other territories.
You’re currently filming in Mexico. Is there anything you can share about your new project? Or any other projects we should look out for?
Just finished there. Some info on this here: Sam Claflin & Veronica Echegui Leading Rom-Com ‘Book Of Love’ – Deadline. Next project will be Deep Fried Bastards. Also working on another project with the wonderful Andrew Gower.
Thank you so very much again, Mr Knowles, for your time and patience. Hopefully many people will have the chance to experience Running Naked soon, on the big or small screen, and we’re looking forward to seeing your future work, especially if it involves our Andrew Gower!
For further information:
- read our exclusive Q&A with director Victor Buhler to find out more about the making of Running Naked!
- watch Andrew Gower‘s interview with The Upcoming!
- follow Running Naked on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates!
You can rent or buy Running Naked here: