Patricia Dobson shines the spotlight on the UK’s best new writers, directors and producers. (Click on contact names for links)
Zam Salim is one of those prolific short-film directors who has been steadily maturing and growing in confidence. Over the past year, he has made so many shorts - mostly with no money and in his spare time - that the Eskisehir film festival in Turkey has just honoured him with a retrospective.
His quirky, inventive approach to stories and how to film them has resulted in a string of films that are visually stimulating, blackly comic and consistently surprising. They include Laid Off (which was nominated for a 2006 Scottish Bafta and has just won the best film and audience awards at the Jim Poole Scottish Film Awards), Mashed, Original Bob and Cold Light Of Day.
He is winning fans in the industry, too: BBC Films’ Ed Rubin admires his skill at taking ‘seemingly mundane subjects and making them both thought-provoking and, at times, extremely funny’. Salim is now developing a television drama about an inner-city boxing gym, working on a YouTube project for the BBC and writing two screenplays.
Contact: PFD, (44) 20 7344 1000
It is not surprising that Adam Smith is moving into feature films. He began his career producing club and concert visuals and then making pop promos, and his style of film-making has always had a strong sense of characterisation.
As Shane Watson of the online digital festival onedotzero says: ‘Adam’s great skill is in story-telling and getting great performances from actors in fresh, original ways, matched by a perfect understanding of visually exciting moving images.’
With a couple of documentaries under his belt, including the Grierson Award-shortlisted Ghetto On Sea, Smith moved into directing television drama this year with Channel 4’s edgy teen drama Skins. His attentiveness to the actors won him admiration among the writers and producers and proved that, unlike many promo directors, he is more interested in telling stories than showing off his tricky visuals.
The experience introduced him to writer Jack Thorne, with whom he is now collaborating on a project for the UK’s Company Pictures. Smith is also developing a fictionalised documentary for Warp Films.
Contact: CAM, (44) 20 7292 0600
Zoe Stewart had an unusual approach to getting her project Hush made. With writer-director Mark Tonderai, she decided the screenplay was to be written to the budget rather than the other way round. ‘This has dictated the project from the ground up,’ she says. It also got a swift reaction from Warp X, whose managing director Robin Gutch responded to Stewart’s ability to marry a creative and commercial focus. ‘I feel her commitment, integrity and eye for a good project will take her far,’ he says.
The thriller, which will star Rafe Spall and Kate Ashfield, and which Pathe Pictures International has just boarded, will crank up in August in Yorkshire.
Through Shona Productions, the company she runs with Tonderai, Stewart is producing a number of promising projects, including the coming-of-age drama Powermike with producer Mia Bays, to be directed by Gaby Dellal; Prodigal from director Yousaf Ali Khan, and 10 Hours From Light, a vampire film set in the Baltimore projects starring Noel Clarke.
Contact: Shona Productions, (44) 20 7907 0965
Jack Thorne, who first came to attention with his plays Fanny And Faggot at the Edinburgh Fringe and When You Cure Me at London’s Bush Theatre, has seen his career trajectory soar over the past year. Following the award-winning short film Supermarket Love Song, which Daniel Outram directed and which screened at Sundance last year, Thorne went straight into writing for two acclaimed Channel 4 series: Shameless and Skins.
The Spastic King, a wry drama set in a centre for the differently abled, was made for Channel 4’s Coming Up series and broadcast earlier this year. Thorne, who worked in development for film-maker Pawel Pawlikowski from 2004-05, is about to see his feature debut, The Scouting Book For Boys, go into production for the UK’s Celador Films and Film4.
Contact: PFD, (44) 20 7344 1000
It was less than a year after graduating from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama that Paul Wright won the Scottish Bafta for best new work with his film Hikikomori, followed by a Bafta nomination for best short. A study of an adolescent boy’s slide into isolation after the death of his baby brother, the short mixes video, film and still photography into a mesmerising film which belies Wright’s inexperience and youth.
Wright has already impressed commissioning editors with his ambition and determination and he is working on ideas for several more shorts, a documentary and a full-length feature. In common with Hikikomori, these will focus on the fringes of society. His work, he says, will ‘push the boundaries while keeping things as organic as possible. I guess the films I’m trying to make are kind of like The Elephant Man but with a punk soundtrack.’