Archive | February, 2019

“I know a film can’t solve the issues of knife crime, but it can start to raise some of the right questions”

10 Feb


As a director and filmmaker I wrote and directed a feature film that had the subject of knife crime at its heart. Literally.

The Knife That Killed Me was released by Universal Pictures in 2014. It was well received, got a 4 star review in The Times, and it was one of the top ten films of the year in the Huffington Post. It had time in cinemas and at various festivals around the world and it still has a rating of 7.2 on IMDb.

It is available to watch on Amazon Prime and iTunes and if you are old school you can still get it on DVD. The adaptation was based on the novel by Anthony McGowan which is also available.

I have seen this film in movie theatres across the world, and on one memorable occasion with over 900 young people in Rome at the film festival, where it received a standing ovation. It will be screened again the year in Norway in Harstad following our successful screening for a young audience at the Arctic Moving Image Film Festival there. You can view the trailer on IMDb.


The reason for this renewed attention is the rapid increase in knife attacks between young people over the last few years. Now of course a film can’t give any right answers, or solve this very pressing issue, but I do believe that a piece of art can raise the right questions if framed in the right context.

There was a Guardian article by Catherine Bruton about this very topic

“why doesn’t the UK government put titles like Hate and The Knife that Killed Me on the new GCSE syllabus rather than obsessing over Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy? “No one who reads The Knife that Killed Me is ever going to carry a knife – ever. In fact, they’ll probably eat with a spoon for the rest of their lives.”

There are ways that work like this can find a way into the lives of young people. I have spent my career as a director making theatre and film in this area –  in theatres, schools, and public settings. I know that you have to start at the grass roots level and build the narratives that are appropriate for the intended audience. But it can be done. It can work. It can raise the right questions, it can get young people addressing the subject matter in their own way.

The question I always used to ask was, if the result of the work that I make means that just one person decides to not carry a knife any more – then that is potentially one less crime statistic or part of a story that leads to yet another young life lost.

And that is something I believe is worth fighting for.

If you would like to help me drop me a line


Let The Right One In – This much I have learned about directing

9 Feb


I have been directing this for the last few weeks and as we head into the technical week before we open on Feb 18th, I would like to share my learning and thoughts about the process of directing.

I was chatting to a fellow director over Christmas before I started the rehearsal process at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. She gave me some really good advice, in that working in a drama school environment you really examine your process as a director and how and why you make the choices that you do.

So taking this advice into the rehearsal room was incredibly valuable, even though I always feel most at home in any rehearsal space, after all I have been working as a director for 30 years, it was my first time working in a drama school.

For those of you who know me, you will know that I never went to drama school, in fact my introduction was an altogether different type of theatre. There it involved scrubs, gowns and gloves.

So after being an Artistic Director and more recently a film director it has been a brilliant and rewarding process to be working at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. The entire production has been developed and made from the point of design, through to costume design and making, scenic construction, scenic art, production and stage management, sound, lighting and AV design and the entire cast, all from the students from the courses and programmes run by the school. The courses all have professional heads of department so the support for everything including voice to stage combat and movement are all backed up by the brilliant staff here.

The key thing about working in this environment is that you realise you are working with a top squad of players who are in your team. The final year programme actors are pretty special and you realise that this talented group of young people are going to head out into the world, and start working in various facets of the industry. So it is a privilege to be able to work with them and hopefully provide some additional advice or encouragement to equip them as they embark on their careers. This is an exciting and rewarding space in which to work.

So the rehearsal process and schedule has worked in the same way as all my professional practice, and we have worked through the script, developed characters through a series of exercises, games and group interactions. A particular area of work focused on whole group hot seating and character development. I extended this with a series of improvisations using phones which we developed and extended in this process, and some of these have ended up in the show. So in terms of my own practice – I think I have ended up doing more explaining and hopefully clarifying the rationale of exercises behind the ongoing process.

It is the job of the director to deliver the story with the cast and to enable all the departments and aspects of the production to come together to deliver the opening performance on time and on schedule. So this is what we have been doing. We now enter the technical phase where all the construction, design, sound, light, projection, costumes and props are all in the right places at the right time to deliver the story for the audience. So that is where we are. We did our first full run through yesterday, and the whole team did a fantastic job. I was really proud of them.

I will keep you updated on progress and how the tech goes – or if you want to come and see what we have made then come and join us from February 18th – the details are on the flyer at the top.

IMG_4780The acting team with myself and the Assistant Director Charissa Martinkauppi.