Back in 2005, 13-year-old Thomas Turgoose was wandering around his hometown of Grimsby when he spotted a queue outside a local club that supported children excluded from school. With exclusion hanging over his own head and time to kill, Turgoose enquired as to the nature of the queue and, on discovering it was a casting call for a then unknown Warp Films production, he agreed to participate only if he was paid £5. That £5 multiplied significantly when Turgoose landed the part of Shaun, the central character in Shane Meadows’ hit film This is England.
Some 10 years later, Warp Films is hoping to repeat the trick with its latest project. This time in Sheffield with Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, a film adaptation of the hit West End musical of the same name about a 16-year-old boy who wants to attend his school prom in a dress. Aside from being home to Sean Bean and those dancing nudists, Sheffield is not often the first port of call for filmmakers, but theatre director Jonathan Butterell drew attention to the Steel City when he set the stage production of Jamie there.
Headed up by casting director Shaheen Baig (Philip K Dick’s Electric Dreams, Black Mirror, Peaky Blinders), Warp Films is heading out into the community to find 30 young people to star as the students in Jamie’s class. “We need to represent a real class from a comprehensive school in Sheffield,” explains Warp CEO and producer Mark Herbert. “And in a real class, you are not going to find that all the kids go to stage school. We want to go out there and find a mix of kids, so we can reflect the diversity of a real classroom.”
For This is England, the casting team popped up in all sorts of unconventional locations like amusement arcades and community centres. Herbert refers to these techniques as “looking under every single rock,” and the hope is that the people of Sheffield will get involved in this process and share the news with their friends and neighbours. This approach also opens up the door to new talent that might not have had the funds for stage school. “I believe there are lots of talented people from different backgrounds – not just in casting but in every element of filmmaking – that get overlooked. You’ve got to give everyone equal footing and sometimes certain people just don’t get those casting opportunities.”
The producers are scouring Sheffield and the surrounding area for young people over the age of 16 that could slot into a class of year 11s. Does Herbert have any insider tips on what they are looking for? “No. That’s the really weird thing – it’s very hard to describe what you’re looking for on something so diverse. We don’t want to put anyone off. If we try to describe what we’re looking for it might put someone off who has ‘got it’. What was great about Tommo [Turgoose] was that he wouldn’t say anything he didn’t believe in. He had an honesty – a wide-eyed innocence – and a bit of steel in him that was so right for that part. It’s often a mixture of so many things that makes someone special.”
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie casting call is open until 22 July and individuals can apply via jamiefilmcasting.take-part.co.uk
Published 6 Jun 2018
With This Is England back on the small screen, Brogan Morris pens a sincere plea for the director to return to feature filmmaking.
By Lucy Brydon
With her debut feature Sick(er) taking shape, Lucy Brydon discusses the importance of trusting your gut.
As a Desi girl coming of age in the early 2000s, Gurinder Chadha’s film has a profound impact on me.