Everyday Q&A with director Michael Winterbottom and cast, John Simm and Shirley Henderson

It’s 9.30am on a Monday morning and I’ve just been summoned to the Soho Hotel for an out-of-the-blue screening of Everyday, the latest film from the prolific British director Michael Winterbottom. I stroll in to the lobby and am greeted by the concierge, who doesn’t even bother offering to take my bag – just one look at my hoodie and jeans and he can tell I won’t be crashing here overnight. He directs me downstairs, which I assume is below sea level. To my knowledge I’ve never seen a film below sea level before. Having negotiated the stairs I grab a chocolate croissant from the smorgasbord of pastries, before proceeding to the hotel’s cinema-bunker.

Everyday was originally commissioned by Film4 to examine the prison system, but as the story developed during five years of on-off filming it came to focus on the lives of the young family of prisoner Ian (John Simm) living on the outside, whilst he does time for an unspecified crime. “I didn’t want it to be about prison life, but about the emotional impact of being separated from your family,â€? Winterbottom revealed during the post-screening Q&A. “It’s a film about growing up, and it looks at whether relationships can survive that long duration of time apart.â€?

Shirley Henderson’s strained wife Karen is left to raise the couple’s four children, played by four real life siblings, shot in the children’s real life house and at their real life school. “It’s a really small house, they really do sleep in the bunkbeds.â€? explained Henderson. Winterbottom decided to choose the siblings in order to create a world the audience would believe in. “From my point of view it’s always good if you can ground your fiction in some sort of reality.â€?

Shot in grainy vérité, the actors were encouraged to improvise set-ups, something that excited Henderson. “I was really drawn to the fact that we could develop it as we went along.â€? She said. Simm was drawn to the idea of working over such a long period of time, dipping in and out of the story: “It was such a fantastic idea and nobody knew how it was going to pan out. It just became part of our lives over five years.â€?

Everyday was filmed in real-life prisons with real-life prisoners, who doubled up as extras. “It was a strange experience, a real eye-opener,â€? revealed Simm. “I asked some of the prisoners what the worst thing about prison was, and they all said the first time the door slams shut, when they sit and think ‘Oh my God, what have I done?’â€?

Both actor and director insisted that prison is not the walk in the park tabloid newspapers would have you believe. Winterbottom said: “A lot of people say that prison terms should be longer, but I think those people should actually spend some time in prison, because a week in prison would seem like an incredibly long time.â€?

Everyday will be broadcast this autumn on Channel 4.