When Julian Gilbey was told he had received a Bafta nomination for special achievement by a first-time British film-maker, he thought someone was pulling his leg. But while his film Rollin' With The Nines enjoyed only modest commercial returns last year, it won the best film jury prize at the Raindance film festival in 2005 and Gilbey was praised by critics for his action set pieces.
The director hopes his third film will give him more mainstream exposure. Another collaboration with his 27-year-old screenwriting brother William, Rise Of The Footsoldier is based on the story of Carlton Leach, an east Londoner who rose from football hooliganism to more serious criminality, culminating in feuds with Turkish heroin smugglers and a triple murder in the mid-1990s. The film, which wrapped this month, stars Ricci Harnett, Craig Fairbrass, Roland Manookian, Frank Harper, Lara Belmont and Kierston Wareing.
Rise Of The Footsoldier is based on the same material that inspired the 2000 film Essex Boys but the Gilbeys insist their approach is more ambitious. Unfolding over three decades, the film is a "crime epic in the vein of Goodfellas", says William. He says it avoids the conceits of the British gangland dramas that came in the wake of Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels.
"We're playing it real," says the 31-year-old director, who began making films when he was 14 and became inspired by Robert Rodriguez. "There is no stylised dialogue, no gimmicky camera work, and only one scene where the men are wearing smart suits. Carlton Leach has been very closely involved so it has authenticity. Lock, Stock was a stylised comedy, and it was great as that, but that's not what we're aiming for."
Anyone expecting a slice of Loach-ian realism, however, should not hold their breath. "Whenever we make realistic films in Britain, we have to shoot on 16mm over 10 days," says Julian. "I wanted to shoot on hi-def cameras so it's rough and smooth because you have to draw in the audience. We've got steadicam, handheld and crane shots and, like Rollin' With The Nines, I'm not shooting the violence in slo-mo. It's very quick, because that's how violence happens in reality."
The film is being sold by Carnaby International, which is co-producing in association with Flakjacket Films, the company run by the Gilbeys and actor Terry Stone (who also appears in the film). Although the budget is only $2m (£1m), that still represents a tenfold increase from Rollin' With The Nines. Rise Of The Footsoldier is due for delivery in June and will be shown to buyers at the London UK Film Focus in June.
Although both Rise Of The Footsoldier and Rollin' With The Nines are set in the world of urban gangsters and, like their no-budget 2002 debut Reckoning Day, contain liberal doses of violence, the duo insist their tastes run wider. Their next project will be the $10m The Filmmaker, set to shoot in July with several US actors. Co-produced by Gold Circle (My Big Fat Greek Wedding), the film follows a director making a low-budget film in eastern Europe who runs into trouble when he borrows money from the Albanian mob.
"It's not about a bunch of men and werewolves," says William. "We'll be playing it serious and straight, more like Southern Comfort or Deliverance."