Patricia Dobson shines the spotlight on the UK’s best new writers, directors and producers. (Click on contact names for links)
For a first-timer, Deborah Haywood has made an impressive short. Lady Margaret begins with a teenage girl innocently hitching a ride with two teenage boys. She fancies one of them, but the other is more forward. As they take her to an isolated countryside spot, the film gradually turns into something much more unsettling and unpredictable.
It explores issues such as teenage sexuality, male competition and the line between adulthood and childhood with an understated and confident touch.
Haywood is now writing screenplays for two shorts and two features: Pin Cushion, about a school slut, and Wastelands, about teenage domestic violence. They are being produced by Tina Pawlik.
‘I want to make the sort of films I would want to watch - stories that don’t shy away from taboos but don’t exploit them either,’ says Haywood.I’m inspired by real life and real people. I want to find the extraordinary in the ordinary.’
ANNA HIGGS AND GAVIN HUMPHRIES
Recently graduated from the National Film and Television School (NFTS), Anna Higgs and Gavin Humphries set up Quark Films, which has just completed its first short, Wish, written and directed by Australian actor Matt Day. While at the NFTS, Higgs and Humphries produced separately a range of films, including the well-received Ela, directed by Silvana Aguirre, and Milk Teeth, directed by Tibor Banoczki, which won the special jury prize in the graduate film section at the Annecy international animated film festival last month.
The pair have an ambitious development slate, including the micro-budget futuristic romantic comedy Project Snowflake from writer-director Sasha Damjanovski, an animated television series with fellow NFTS graduate Banoczki, the moral dilemma drama The End Of Goodbye with Aguirre, and a documentary series about football academies.
‘The talent and promise Anna and Gavin showed as students at the Nfts is already being realised in the projects they have in production or development since graduating earlier this year,’ says NFTS director Nik Powell. ‘Expect to see a lot more of these two in the not-too-distant future.’
Contact:Quark Films, email@example.com
Former news reporter and documentary-maker Kothai Kanthan moved into fiction film-making in 2005 with Simple Protest and Living In Silence. Her third short, Aisha And Nadeem, completed earlier this year, shows her maturity as a director. The story of a British Asian woman whose brother is arrested for suspected terrorism in Afghanistan uses improvisation to subtly explore issues such as British identity, personal freedoms and social isolation. The film was picked up by the Canadian Film Centre for international distribution at this year’s Clermont-Ferrand short film festival.
Kanthan is now on a one-year course at the National Film and Television School, where she has been noted for her commitment, focus and determination in tackling difficult themes in her work. She is developing a feature with producer Marc Boothe of London’s B3 Media, writing a short film for Indian television entitled Troubled Hearts, and developing a feature about the civil war in Sri Lanka.
Jesse Lawrence spent much of his early career as a theatre actor, which perhaps explains how he managed to elicit such natural performances from the cast of his debut short Mash Up. Made for the UK Film Council’s (UKFC) Digital Generation programme last year, the film confidently melds fast-cut realism with expressionistic fantasy in a stylish, unpredictable film about drugs, crime and youth culture. It premiered at Edinburgh last year and is doing the international festival circuit.
Lawrence, who is part of the La Famiglia film-making collective, is now shooting Much Ado About A Minor Ting for the UKFC and Film4. Like Mash Up, the film takes its inspiration from stories Lawrence heard growing up in west London.
He is also attached to the film adaptation of Courttia Newland’s best-selling novel The Scholar for producers Neil Peplow and Justin Smith.
Since he debuted with his 2003 play Debris, Dennis Kelly has become one of the UK’s most exciting and prolific young writers. His stage work so far has including the award-winning After The Endin 2005 and Love And Money, a caustic look at the value of love and the burden of consumerism, which wowed critics in 2006.
He took his first step into screenwriting with the BBC animated sketch show Monkey Dust and followed it with Pulling (co-written by Sharon Horgan), which won a Bafta nomination this year. Kelly is now working on the psychological thriller Blackout for Big Talk Productions and Film4, about which he will only reveal that it was inspired by his interest in the flawed, unreliable narrator.
He aims to continue working across the mediums but his fans in the film world are increasing in numbers. ‘Dennis is a thrilling new writing talent with a wonderfully dark heart,’ says Film4’s head of development, Katherine Butler. ‘He has the ability to masterfully manipulate his audience with the way he plays with structure, and then deliver an absolute sucker punch with his final reveal.’
Contact:Casarotto Ramsay, (44) 20 7287 4450
Award-winning commercials and promo director Mat Kirkby’s first foray into film-making, Hard To Swallow, is a short about a group of friends over Sunday lunch. That Kirkby skilfully juggles the different narratives and delivers an hilarious and eye-popping punchline is testament to his confidence as a film-maker. Kirkby has a cheeky sense of humour - just take a look at his pitching film for the MySpace My Movie Mash-Up competition or his promo for Women Beat Their Men in which he persuaded a man off the street to be whacked repeatedly by a succession of women auditioning for a part. It is no surprise that he now has his first commission from the UK Film Council (UKFC), a comedy called The Liars’ Club about couples living in London.
The UKFC is not the only outfit tracking him: ‘Mat’s quirky and fresh humour shines out of his promos and first short film,’ says BBC Films’ Beth Richards. ‘He gets subtle, but painfully funny, performances from his actors and isn’t afraid to have fun with his scripts.’
Contact:RSA Films, (44) 20 7437 7426
Stephen Leslie is a member of that exclusive group of writers whose screenplays have caused a flurry of excitement among sales companies at Cannes. Release, a very amusing dark comedy about a small US town which one day every five years becomes the most dangerous place in the country as it suspends all forms of law enforcement, was the script that attracted the attention and it was picked up there by Wild Bunch. Produced by Damian Jones for WarpX and Film4, the film is set to roll later this year in the US.
It is not Leslie’s first foray into drama; his short film I Was Catherine The Great’s Stable Boy caused some noise 10 years ago but the director was sidetracked into the BBC producer scheme and then made documentaries for the BBC and Channel 4.
He is now focusing on film and TV drama and, as well as Release, is developing Flutter, a black comedy about gambling, which will be produced by Sarah Boote and has US indie ThinkFilm attached.
Contact:Rochelle Stevens & Co, (44) 20 7359 3900, firstname.lastname@example.org
Having served her apprenticeship with Anglia Television and then Intermedia Film and Video in Nottingham, Tina Pawlik produced five shorts for the UK Film Council in 2005. To build up her experience of long-form projects, she moved into different production co-ordinating roles on two first-time directors’ features - Steven Sheil’s Mum & Dad Anton Corbijn’s Control. Next, she teamed up with fellow Star Of Tomorrow Deborah Haywood on the beautifully made short Lady Margaret.
Pawlik has built up solid relationships with new directors based in the East Midlands region, which has earned her praise from commissioning producers. Apart from Haywood, with whom Pawlik is developing the features Pin Cushion and Wasteland, she is working with Tony Kelly on his debut The Freedom Club, Sheil on the feature Sisterhood, and writer Paul Fraser.
Contact:Anthem Films, (44) 7989 368075;