I grew up in the Dales. Every formative experience I had was shaped by the landscape that surrounded me. I can’t begin to describe just how powerful that feeling still is to me today.
But I can show it.
In telling this story, I’m coming home. I’m returning to the villages and communities that I grew up amongst and to my delight I’m finding that the world I cherished lives on. The boy from down the street is now married to the girl who lived on the farm.
The farmer, the publican, the quarry man, they all still live here, drink there, celebrate this and disagree about that.
The community that I left behind when I was sixteen still thrives and I want this film to be a celebration of that. The ranger in my life was a man called Al Boughen, a park ranger whom I gravitated towards as a teenager; accompanying him on weekends and school holidays as he attended to his park duties. When I was sixteen my family migrated to Australia and though I wasn’t to know it at the time, I was never to see Al again.
Over the intervening years I’ve thought often of Al and the desire to tell his story has bubbled away as I’ve made the progression from film industry runner to director. Finally with a number of short films under my belt I felt that the time was right and I began to put into motion the script that would eventually become Lad: A Yorkshire Story.
Whether through fate or happenstance, the embarkment of this journey coincided with Al’s passing and though I wasn’t to meet Al again, I was lucky enough to meet his widow Pat, and through conversations and photos was able to piece together a portrait of the man throughout his years as a park ranger. It was humbling to see these old photos of Al at work. He was a striking figure, immaculately dressed no matter how strenuous the work. And fit too, a testament to his younger years as a Queen’s guard. Armed with the photos and Pat’s blessing, I began to craft the story of a boy and his mentor, along the way discovering some incredible local acting talent, including the two leads, Bretten Lord who would play Tom and Alan Gibson who would play Al in the final film. Not to mention the other ensemble roles including a brilliant Nancy Clarkson as Tom's mum. With a combination of workshops and improvisation we worked on finding the voice for the characters and their relationships. With their gift for improvisation and inherent naturalism they fell into the roles and I crafted the film around their real-life friendship.
The making of Lad has been truly life transforming and the professional pinnacle of my life to date. What started as a process of introspection became so much more and the relationships that I formed with the people who helped to bring the film to life will be ever lasting, as will my renewed appreciation of the landscape
that shapes the Dales.
In so many ways too this is a coming home story, an opportunity to close the circle that opened when I left for Australia so many years ago and with it, the opportunity to once more call Yorkshire my home, which is perhaps the greatest gift of all.