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Interview – Barnaby Blackburn – “Wale” – A Short Film


Posted September 30, 2018 by

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Interview – Barnaby Blackburn – “Wale” – A Short Film

Writer/Director Barnaby Blackburn’s Wale tackles the issues of social injustice and racial discrimination. This award-winning psychological thriller has been selected for several Oscar and BAFTA qualifying film festivals since its completion earlier this year and took home the top prizes at BronzeLens and Dances with Films, qualifying the film for the 2019 Academy Awards. The film stars newcomer Raphel Famotibe and Game of Thrones star James Sives.

Wale is the story of an 18-year-old mobile mechanic, who learned his trade whilst serving time in Aylesbury, the young offender’s institution. Now he’s out, living with his mum and trying to get his business going. But enterprise isn’t easy when you’re a young black male, with a criminal past.

Barnaby Blackburn is an award-winning Creative Director and commercial writer. Wale, which he wrote in 2016, is his directorial debut. However, Blackburn is no stranger to making films. In the past 5 years he has created several promos for well-known brands like Nike and Land Rover. Just some of the talent he has worked with includes Idris Elba, Charles Dance and Kenneth Cranham. At only 26 this talented director won a BAFTA for his promo for BBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics. In 2017 he founded his production company Dark Glass Films with his production partner, Ed Speleers.

Producer Ed Speleers has been acting on screen for 13 years in films such as 20th Century Fox’s Eragon and Breathe, and the hit TV series Downtown Abbey and Outlander. Producer Catherine Slater works alongside Andy  Serkis and producer Jonathan Cavendish at The Imaginarium, on blockbusters such as the upcoming Mowgli for Netflix, and Star Wars: Force Awakens; and independent films such as Breathe. Producer Sophie Alexander, having joined The Imaginarium in 2014, has worked in production on an array of projects such as Breathe and The Ritual, and the upcoming TV Series for the BBC, Death and Nightingales. Both Catherine and Sophie were selected for the prestigious BAFTA Guru scheme in 2018.

Barnaby Blackburn - "Wale"


To begin with, tell us about your latest film ‘Wale’, what is it about?

‘Wale’ is about a young man who has recently left a young-offenders institution where he learned the skills to be an auto mechanic. Now that he’s out, he’s trying to start his own business fixing cars. But enterprise isn’t so easy as a young black man with a criminal record. And when he gets implicated for a horrendous crime, it doesn’t get any easier.

Where did the idea come from? How did you get involved with the film?

Systemic racism in London is one of the central themes of the film. At the time of writing the script, there were a number of fatal incidents involving the police and kids from local black communities. The deaths of Rashan Charles and Edson da Costa, in particular, are ones I remember reading about at the time. Those stories, combined with several reports of racial prejudice within the Met Police, inspired thoughts and ideas that manifested into the script for ‘Wale’.

Tell us about the cast, who is starring in ‘Wale’?

We were fortunate enough to have fantastic casting directors for the film, Des Hamilton and Elan Jones, who brought our wonderful leads to the table. Raphel Famotibe plays the role of Wale and it’s his first time playing a lead role in a film. Jamie Sives is an actor I had long-admired from films like Wilbur Wants To Kill Himself and Hallam Foe who plays the other lead role of O’Brian. Both leads were terrific to work with and made life on set a lot easier for me as a director.

What are your influences as a filmmaker?

There’s dozens of filmmakers whose work I find influential: Alan Clarke, Ken Loach, Mike Leigh, Lindsay Anderson, Fassbinder, the Dardenne Brothers, Michael Haneke, Aki Kaurismäki, Lynne Ramsay and Paul Thomas Anderson are some who always come to mind. But when I have the first ideas for films, they’re usually inspired by photographs I’ve seen, music I’ve listened to, newspaper articles I’ve read or conversations I’ve overheard than they are by particular films or filmmakers.

What advice would you give any up-and-coming filmmakers, trying to crack the industry?

I think I’m probably better qualified to receive advice rather than give it. But from my experience of making this film, I’d say that if you surround yourself with talented people it will make your job a thousand times easier.

When and where can we expect to see ‘Wale’?

We’re screening at a variety of film festivals over the coming months including Aesthetica Short Film Festival, Norwich Film Festival and Kinofilm Manchester International Film Festival in the UK as well as a number of other festivals in the US and Canada. After our festival run is complete we’ll seek online distribution for a wider release. We keep people regularly up to date on news and screenings our instagram @walefilm and our website

What is the next step for you, do you have any other films or projects in production?

I’m preparing to shoot another short film named ‘Dad Was’ about an eight year-old boy giving the eulogy at his father’s funeral. And I’m also writing a feature script about an overrun and understaffed hospital, which I plan to have ready by the end of the year. Both will be produced through Dark Glass Films, which myself and my producer, Ed Speleers, founded last year.


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Interviewed By:

Adam Snowden
Company Founder & Managing Director

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