Dressed to the nines for the UK Premiere of his debut feature ‘Jackdaw’, Durham-born director Jamie Childs is beaming. At Teesside Showcase, mere miles from where the crime drama was filmed, he walks a metaphorical red carpet in a state of stupor. “Honestly, I haven’t even had the chance to look around yet, it’s kinda mad. Doing it on a weekday in Middlesbrough, you’d think no one would turn out, but they’ve sold out all the screens!”
Getting a premiere in the north-east is a rare occurrence but Childs hopes it will help mark out a future for the industry in the region: “We have so much to offer as an area and we’re going to rapidly see change. The north-east has this rich tapestry of untapped stories. It’s got a lot of interesting culture and history behind it. Our ‘Jackdaw’ crew who weren’t from here said it was really refreshing to be treated with so much fondness and respect.” Discussing plans around the FulwellCain movie studio in Sunderland, Childs says: “If we get the big studio built, I can help by perhaps bringing a big Netflix production up here. It only takes one big show to change everything.”
‘Jackdaw’ opens with his main character Jack Dawson (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) diving into the North Sea to gather a package. Jackson-Cohen said at the premiere that it was ‘bloody freezing’. This was corroborated by Childs who says they filmed on location, and at a bay in Hartlepool: “The bit we filmed in the sea was by some wind turbines, which were actually owned by EDF energy who gave us permission to film and were really helpful, but yes it was fucking freezing.”
Joe Blakemore plays cocaine-fuelled villain Silas – a man who has been on the go for a full 48 hours before the events of ‘Jackdaw’. Childs: “People who watch this are gonna think characters like Silas are quite far-fetched … but that rave scene up here still exists as do people exactly like Silas.”
Childs, best known for directing Netflix hit ‘Sandman’, ‘Willow’ and episodes of ‘Doctor Who’, talks about the biggest difference he found between prestige TV and “bootleg filmmaking”: “It’s been a bit like making an indie film. It’s really fun and completely different as you’re essentially going back to square one in that you have to cut corners and be slightly bootleg about it. ‘Jackdaw’ was such a small project in that sense. On the big screen, it’ll hopefully look bigger than it was with the resources and budget we had. We tapped into the skillset of the crew who have worked on bigger TV stuff. It’s experience, knowing how to do things but scaled for what we had”.
Suggesting that a financial safety net exists on Netflix is quickly debunked by Childs. “You do [have a safety net] but at the same time it’s less freedom because you can’t take risks. There’s so much money spent on Netflix shows that you have to get everything first time. Sometimes that can mean going for a safer option while with ‘Jackdaw’ we had to just see what we could do with what we had.”
Childs didn’t set out to make ‘Jackdaw’ as a straight-up crime-thriller: “The intention in ‘Jackdaw’ wasn’t to make a gritty crime drama but something that played fun with the tropes of those kinds of movies.” He cites Steven Spielberg as his favourite filmmaker, saying that ‘Jackdaw’ is “a nod to that cinematic style that I grew up loving.” Childs, the excitement in his voice evident, also details how Panavision provided lenses that Spielberg used: “They gave us these 1970s anamorphic lenses, which are tricky to pull focus from wide to close, but Spielberg had this one built specifically for ‘Ready Player One’ with a new element in it.”
‘Jackdaw’ also has local phenomenon Sam Fender debut a new song ‘Iris’, which plays over the credits. On getting him involved, Childs says: “My music supervisor James Drummond suggested him. We wanted a local artist and Fender was making a big splash. We got in touch with him and since we both love where we come from, he was up for it. He presented us with some demo tracks, which included ‘Iris’, which is the name of the mother in ‘Jackdaw’. It just fit the movie so well, and it’s also been a great bit of press too.” He continues to say that Sam is doing great stuff: “He’s drawing more attention to the area, which is what we need, because who knows what can happen then.”
‘Jackdaw’ is now on general release.