15th ÉCU Film Festival | 2020 
"I was very fortunate to collaborate with very talented cast and crew on The Last Kick and each of these collaborations added so much."
James Skinner
 The Last Kick 
skinnerfilms.co.uk
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Fuelled by drink and without a plan, Tom has brought his old football coach to the long-abandoned sports clubhouse. Tearing himself apart, Tom can’t decide if he wants answers or vengeance 

Hi James thank you for talking to TNC, how are you handling the lockdown?

You're very welcome, thank you for this opportunity. I feel fortunate actually, so far the lockdown has been bearable for me.  I have been keeping busy with work, have been enjoying cooking a lot and am trying to keep active.  

As a filmmaker is this experience providing you with some creative motivations?

I have actually had several ideas for films I can make during the lockdown, but I am very aware I may not be able to produce them all!  I am enjoying having extra time and having to be creative within the restrictions we have to deal with at the moment.

Your film The Last Kick has been selected for the 2020 ÉCU Film Festival in Paris, what has it meant to you to be part of this unique film festival for independent filmmakers?

It's a great honour to have had The Last Kick selected for  ECU this year. I was at the festival last year as an audience member and had the most amazing weekend. I was so impressed by the ethos and hard work of the whole festival team. I saw some amazing films from all around the world, made some great contacts  and left feeling inspired to make The Last Kick.  I'm therefore so pleased to have the film showing at the festival this year.   It's obviously disappointing that the festival can't go ahead in it's usual format, however this can't be helped of course. I am just very grateful to the  organisers for everything they are doing to make sure that the festival can be held online. 

With over 10 years experience within the creative industries how much did this experience inform the film projects you undertake? 

Over the years I have made a number of short documentaries and films for charities. Also, I have also facilitated a lot of filmmaking projects with young people. These experiences have definitely influenced the narrative shorts I am making now. For example,  several of my recent shorts have involved children and young people and tackle social issues.

How important is it for you as a filmmaker to use your films as a platform to address social issues?

This is incredibly important for me and is one of my main motivations for being a filmmaker. I have addressed social issues in my films since I made my first documentary whilst studying Youth and Community Development at University.  I then went on to study and MA in Media Practice for Development and Social Change.  Through this course I specialised in making films that address social issues and this is something I look to do with most of the projects that I take on now. 

Abuse in the sports industry seems widespread and in some countries there seems to be an unwillingness to hold those responsible to account. In The Last Kick the focus of abuse is a male victim, Tom, do you think it is harder for men to open up and talk about abuse they have experienced?

Yes, I do think  that this has often been the case, due to the expectation in most societies that boys and men should be tough and not open about their feelings/issues. I think it's encouraging that in recent years we have start to seen a change with an increasing number of men coming forward to talk about their experiences of abuse.  

Further to that do you think the press/public as a whole have difficulty viewing or understanding young boys and men as sexual victims?

I think this probably has been the case traditionally, however things seem to be changing slowly, which is encouraging.  

How important is the collaborative nature of filmmaking? 

It's absolutely essential and the vast majority of films couldn't be made without collaboration at the core.  I was very fortunate to collaborate with very talented cast and crew on The Last Kick and each of these collaborations added so much. I involved my team throughout, getting input at every stage, especially whilst I was co-editing the film.
 
Can you tell me a little bit about The Last Kick, what was the inspiration behind this film?


I am very fortunate to have access to an old abandoned sports field and pavilion with changing rooms etc.  It is very atmospheric and I knew that it would make a strong film location. Ben Marshall (the writer) and I discussed several ideas for stories  set in this location, however this one grabbed me.  At the time there were several high profile news stories about historic abuse within football and we felt compelled to explore this issue. It's not a topic that we have seen dealt with extensively on screen so it felt like the right time.

What was it about Ben Marshall's screenplay that interested you so much as a director?

Ben and I have worked together on four films now and I absolutely love his writing, he writes very visually and uses dialogue sparingly. His screenplays are very accessible, and I find they spring to life as I read them. He doesn't overcomplicate things, combining a few strong yet simple elements in a very effective way.  With the screenplay for The Last Kick, I really like how Ben dealt with challenging subject matter in a sensitive way whilst writing something very engaging and cinematic.

 

What was the most challenging aspect of making this film?

Although things went fairly smoothly, there were of course a few challenges.  Producing as well as directing is often tricky and I'm so greatful for the support of my co-producer Tamara Day.  However, the biggest challenge was ensuring that we told the story in a senstive way, which was definitely a priority for me.  We were very fortunate to have a script consultant on board who is a survivor of child sexual abuse.  His guidance/advice at thoughout the whole process was very helpful and we were able to incorporate his suggestions into the film. 

Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?

Although I grew up without a TV at home I've always enjoyed watching films, and as a kid I made some fun films with friends. However, I was more focused on art and graphic design and studied this at college before moving into youth work. When I started making documentaries at university I soon discovered I also had a passion for narrative filmmaking and this has grown ever since.

"I am very keen to make a dystopian feature about environmental activism and am likely to start with writing a short film that can act as a proof-of-concept."

What has been the best piece of advice you have been given when you started out?

To always have a strong plan!  I remember taking a camera with me on a trip to Poland many years ago, saying that I wanted to make a documentary there.  A filmmaker friend who was with me  on the trip was quick to advise me that without a plan it's very difficult to make  anything decent. This is something that seems so obvious to me now and I always ensure I have a very strong plan.  Needless to say, I didn't make a successful film whilst in Poland!

Do you have any tips or advice to offer fellow filmmakers?

I learnt so much from making The Last Kick. For example, I learnt the importance of prioritising the right things and not getting distracted by things that don't matter so much.  I was reminded once again how a very strong script should always be the starting point. It's always worth taking time to develop it so that it is the best it can be before sending it out.  If the story and script is strong then you will be able to attract the right people and resources to help you make the film and this was definitely the case with The Last Kick.  I am also so grateful to our Casting Director Mandy Steele who believed in us and the script and helped us get our amazing cast on board.  

What are you currently working on?

As well as a few short films that I am hoping to make at home during this lockdown period I am going to use this opportunity to finally start screenwriting! I am very keen to make a dystopian feature about environmental activism and am likely to start with writing a short film that can act as a proof-of-concept.

And finally, what do you hope people will take away from The Last Kick?

I'm fully aware that the situation shown in The Last Kick is extreme, and that sadly many perpetrators of abuse will never have to face up to what they have done. However, I hope that the film can help people understand the impact of child sexual abuse and that importance of supporting survivors to deal with issues in the right way.  I also would like to encourage people to think about the loved ones of survivors (like Tom's daughter Sophie) can be affected greatly and are indirectly victims also.

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