Human Traffic director and writer Justin Kerrigan speaks exclusively to Seb Wheeler about the long-awaited sequel
The sequel to the definitive dance music film Human Traffic has been touted since 2016, when director/writer Justin Kerrigan popped up with a Facebook page, a promise that it’d be set between Ibiza and Cardiff and a title: Human Traffic 2: The Revolution.
In 2019, Kerrigan stepped back into the spotlight to celebrate Human Traffic’s 20th anniversary and the enigmatic Welshman made time to speak exclusively to Mixmag, confirming that Human Traffic 2’s script had been written, UK distribution had been secured, Danny Dyer (Moff), Shaun Parkes (Koop) and Nicola Reynolds (Nina) would be involved and that the film would be “a reaction to Brexit.”
Now, 5 years after Human Traffic 2 was teased, Kerrigan has again spoken exclusively to Mixmag to reveal that “it’s time to make the film. We’ve got everything scripted and ready to go.” While previously he’s only answered questions via email, this time round Kerrigan granted a much more candid phone interview to give insight into Human Traffic 2.
To summarise: He’s rewritten the script since lockdown started; the themes that drive the sequel remain resolutely anti-corporate and pro-love; it’ll now be based around another long weekend in Cardiff and the ‘Revolution’ part of the title has been axed; the plot will be about how the characters “try and come together in a completely new time” and the original cast is very much up for it, including Danny Dyer, whose character Moff is at the centre of the script.
Kerrigan has started the New Year with a fresh appeal to help raise funding for Human Traffic 2. An official crowdfund has been started on Indiegogo where fans can browse a range of donation options from getting a credit in the film to being an extra and having lunch on set. There’s also a brand new website which reveals more about the film’s plot (Moff’s on a mission to get the old gang back together in a “post-rave apocalypse”) and a fresh short film from Kerrigan titled IMAN that hints at some of the sequel’s themes.
Read on for an exclusive interview with Justin Kerrigan who reveals more about Human Traffic 2 than ever before and takes us back behind the scenes of some of Human Traffic’s most famous moments.
Human Traffic 2 was first teased in 2016 – what have you been up to since then?
Trying to get it made! It’s a long story. And I’ve got to be careful about what I say, because of what I’ve signed to option the rights [an exclusive but temporary right to purchase a screenplay] on the sequel. But believe me, it hasn’t been easy and now we’re finally ready to go out with the campaign.
It’s time to make the film. We’ve got everything scripted and ready to go. I’ve got no shortage of actors, producers, art directors, musicians and special effects people that want to work on the film. But actually getting the film funded is another deal altogether. The first film wasn’t funded by the British film industry at the time. It was funded by a private investor. Human Traffic wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for independent finance.
The script that I’ve written I’d love to direct. I think it’s more relevant today than ever. The central themes are fear versus love, money versus love and control versus love. And it’s really all about the people coming together. And that’s why it was relevant for Brex-shit and that’s why it’s relevant now [during the pandemic]. But the independents are being crushed, you know? It’s the corporations crushing all independence, not just in film but everywhere and independent voices are being silenced and deplatformed. Nobody knows who to trust. The worst thing about this time is that I see people turning against each other. People are turning into self-elected government agents straight out of 1984 and something needs to be done before it’s too late.
Will it still be called Human Traffic 2: The Revolution?[Laughs] That’s a good question. It’s definitely gonna be called Human Traffic 2.
Is it still going to be set between Cardiff and Ibiza?
If we shoot it now there’s no way we can get to Ibiza. It’s impossible. If I can get the film made it will be set in Cardiff over a weekend again and will be in the same style as Human Traffic – comedic with touches of surreal.
Moff’s out of prison after a weed bust – what went wrong for him?
I can’t talk about anything, honestly, I’ve given you all I can at this stage. I’ve got to keep it top secret.
Does your new short film iMan offer hints at what we can expect?
Human Traffic, I was thinking man machine like Kraftwerk, you know? And also the fact that we’re turning into a roboticized traffic society and I think that the McJobs scene conveyed that the best. So basically I’ve taken the idea of the symbol of Human Traffic, the traffic man, and turned it into a little story about today. But originally it was intended as a promo for Human Traffic 2 just with a couple of robot dancers. And then when I shot it I started improvising with the dancers and we started improvising the choreography and then a story started to form and then in the edit I made it into a little film.
Are you still in touch with the original cast?
Yeah I’m still in touch with Danny and Shaun, Nicola. I speak to them, I bump into people here and there, I get a call. Everyone’s excited to make the film, everybody’s involved.
So the original cast are on board?
Danny’s on board. Basically, we need to get the film funded and then we can start to tell you all the people that are back on but nearly everybody wants to be back on – a couple of people I’ve lost contact with. But it’s certainly going to be the voices of the characters, [they] will certainly be the sequel as much as the original film, but more developed, because they’re not youth culture anymore.
I wouldn’t be going through all this if I didn’t think it was a good film. And I think it’s a different kind of script and it kind of goes against the grain again of Human Traffic which is why it’s so difficult to get made. But I think it’s the best thing I’ve written.
You’ve hinted that it’ll be set in a post-rave apocalypse presided over by a new world order. Can you expand on this?
No, because that would ruin the story. It’s just as fun and mad as the first film, but it’s set in our times. And, you know, the rave generation are mostly parents now but it’s really about recapturing the spirit of the times which brought [the characters] all together and the second film is really about how they try and come together in a completely new time.
The original film explores themes of friendship, family, community, masculinity and romance all against the backdrop of the mid 90s superclub explosion. How intentional was that commentary?
My films are very idiosyncratic. I write about things that I experience or that I see or hear or the people I know. A lot of my friends and family are part of the characters. I just write from my perspective and my perspective at that time was a 23-year-old who was basically writing a film about his life at the time, you know? I was basically a part of the rave culture, you know? That was how we were living and I was in a rush to make Human Traffic while I was still a part of youth culture and that was important to me, because I felt there was a very exciting underground scene and I became part of it. And it was like a little family and a lot of the friends that I met around those times are still very good friends to this day. It was a very special time.
How have you adapted to getting older but staying interested in the energy and spirit of youth culture?
When I first agreed to write the script for the sequel, I went to Ibiza for a research trip to see what was happening and how things have changed.
I can’t write for youth culture. I’m not going to attempt to go back and write what I was like as a raver. You know, those times have gone. I’m writing about now. I don’t represent youth culture. I can’t. I’m not young anymore. I wrote the film when I was young and that’s why I was in a rush to get the culture I was a part of on celluloid and in the cinemas because I felt there was certainly a subculture that would get it and that was really the test of the film: whether people got it or not. And it was only the people that were part of the scene that really understood the subtleties in the direction. Because obviously, we don’t see anyone taking chemicals in the film or anything. Everything’s kind of implied.
What did you think of Ibiza?
I found that it was predominantly a richer class than what I remember 20 years ago. It was like three grand to sit on a sofa in the club, it was very expensive. The vibe was still there but it seemed to be more people my age and it was predominantly a rich scene. I managed to go around most of the clubs, got an invite from most of the clubs, and I felt that the only club that looked any different, or the only club that was different for me, was Ushuaia, which is built on the American EDM thing.
What was a typical day filming Human Traffic like?
Chaos, just mayhem. Every day, you have a plan, you walk in and would be handed something saying, you know, these shots have been cut today, these actors are being cut today. So every time I was shooting I was constantly improvising to try and keep the essence of the story when we were losing the resources and the characters as we were shooting. So it was a crazy time. Me, the cast and the crew were all really tight and we all went back to the same hotel at the end of the day, had a couple of beers and bonded – it was very special time.
What are your early memories of Danny Dyer?[Laughs affectionately] Well, I remember him walking into the room and I think he was the only person that I didn’t have to ask whether they’ve experienced the rave scene, shall we say? I was looking for people who were part of it, who were authentic, because if someone was trying to act that, you know, the people just wouldn’t buy it so the actors had to be real, and really a part of it, so Danny offered his experiences without me having to ask, which was a pleasant surprise. I could tell that he was definitely a part of the scene.
I was just so impressed with Danny, we all were. I think he was straight off the tip, if I remember. He was working on a tip. And he turned up and he basically blew us away. And I just thought he was eally funny. It’s important that the characters were funny as well and he made me laugh. He was a completely different character to everyone else and we loved him.
How much did the film mimic your life at the time?
In many aspects, Human Traffic was like a mirror to the time that I was living in and I wrote about what I knew and I tend to write things that mean something to me and things that I also want to understand, things that I’ve gone through, like a head fuck – OK, I’m over that now, how can we make this funny? How can I take the piss out of myself here in the hope that other people will get something from it as well, you know? I was living for the weekend. I used to go out on my own, first of all, to raves and end up in parties, Illegal raves, and that’s how I met a whole new bunch of friends from that time, some of them I included within characters of the film. I couldn’t write about anything I didn’t understand so I just thought about the stuff I did understand and try to make it fun and visually interesting.
How did “nice one bruvva” come about?[Laughs] “Nice one bruvva” came from slang dialogue that me and my friends used to kick around. But it was Cardiffian: “Nice one bra” and then it was “nice one brae”, people used to say “nice one man”, “nice one brae”, right? Just like fun, you know? That’s what I wrote. And then Danny was taking a view on the Welsh accent and I said, “well, just say it how you would say it.” So him and John [Sim, actor playing Moff], we played around a bit, and then it turned into “nice one bruvva” so basically they got the vibe for what I’d written but we changed the dialogue to fit them, so it was something that they could see naturally.
How did you come up with spliff politics?
I lived it! I guess I was just trying to put some kind of order into the psychological game that I used to witness and be a part of when people used to pass the joint around at the party but I wonder if that’ll ever happen again?
You have a cameo in the record store scene too.
That scene where we’re dancing, that was eight o’clock in the morning, we were all exhausted at the end of the shoot and the people I’m dancing with are mostly the crew because we couldn’t get any more actors on stage, they’d had enough! And we had no idea what we were going to do, we were like, “let’s just go for it”, and that’s how it ended – it was one take.
Have you ever blagged your way into a club ?
I used to do that all the time. I was always blagging into clubs. I never had any money and clubs were expensive, especially the big nights, and all my friends would be in already and I just used to get into the party by any means possible.
The success of the film changed your life over night – how did you deal with that?
When the film came out it was a massive relief that the people got it and that it was received how it was. I got to go to all these film festivals around the world – I hadn’t really travelled much up until then – and I got to meet the roots of rave culture everywhere I went.
What’s your relationship with rave and drugs like now?
I’m researching the rave scene all the time for the movie. It’s important that it rings true, like the first film, the same perspective with the same themes. I love music, I love dancing, I love people. I love fun. I love when people come together and dance, when there’s a sense of unity and freedom. I love those things and think they’re essential to humanity – it would be a crime if all the things that originally brought us together were illegal.
How did you bag cameos from Howard Marks and Carl Cox?
Producers went through the official routes. I hadn’t met Howard prior to the day that we were shooting ‘spliff politics’ and I remember that he was such an amazing character, he was very special, so warm and so intelligent. He was a unique character and I became good friends with him afterwards.
I remember when he turned up on set, he was hilarious. We had to do the rehearsal just before the shoot and he’d just come from a party and he was laughing and very stoned and he kept rolling up more joints as we were rehearsing and he couldn’t get through the lines. As funny as it was, because we were laughing, there was something inside me that was getting very worried because it became clear that he was too stoned to speak – obviously I didn’t say that to him! Then I went down to the set and I was very worried but wow he just threw himself into it, was incredibly professional and didn’t fluff one line. We all miss him massively.
Carl turned up with his friends and everyone got the scene and was excited to make it and we had fun making the film. After we’d shot the film but before it came out, we got a party, somehow, in a big club during the Cannes film festival. Carl was playing, Danny Rampling was playing, and we had one of the best parties in Cannes that year, people were queueing round the block. I saw Carl play in Space in Ibiza during the Human Traffic research trip and it was amazing, he’s still the king of Ibiza.