EXCLUSIVE: Starred Up screenwriter Jonathan Asser - who was named Best British Newcomer at this year’s London Film Festival - has revealed details of his next project.
Asser has completed the script, which has a working title Pretty, with plans to send it out to directors in the New Year.
Set in the London district of Camden (where Asser lives), the film centres around Keith Pretty, an ex-con who blows his chance to train at a local boxing club so turns to bear knuckle fighting and prostitution.
After reaching rock bottom, he manages to convince the boxing club to give him another chance, but he struggles to shake off the sordid world he left behind.
“With Starred Up I took the prison drama genre and reworked it,” Asser told ScreenDaily. “What I’m trying to do here is the same thing, take a boxing drama and rework that genre.
“Genre is really helpful in giving the audience access to the material, but to give it a twist and surprise people, is the joy of the storytelling.”
Asser worked as a therapist in the prison service for 12 years, creating a form of therapy for violent prisoners - “shame/violence intervention” - before his work was controversially cut in 2010.
Influenced by his personal experiences, Starred Up centres around a troubled teenager who is transferred to an adult prison, meeting his father in the process.
It attracted the attention of Scottish director David Mackenzie who went on to make the film for Sigma Films, with backing from Film4, Creative Scotland, Quickfire Films, Northern Ireland Screen an Lip Sync Productions.
Starring Jack O’Connell, Rupert Friend and Ben Mendelsohn, it was also selected for the Official Competition line up at the LFF and has generated strong reviews.
It is due to be released by Fox Searchlight in the UK in March, with Independent handling international sales.
“I wrote a piece of fiction, but in terms of the atmosphere and dynamic of prison, it feels very authentic,” added Asser.
“There are details to the script that you could only bring if you’ve been a prisoner or a member of staff with a lot of experience.
“What I saw in my head when I wrote the script is completely in tune with what David has done with it, it was a wonderful collaboration.”
Asser also revealed that he is now working with Mackenzie on another project, details of which are still under wraps.