Former Leeds student ‘pinching himself’ as film debut gets international release

Chris O'Neill
Chris O'Neill
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A former Leeds school pupil - whose love of film-making led him over the pond to pursue a career in Los Angeles - has seen his latest creation released on Amazon Prime Video.

Chris O’Neill, a former pupil at The Grammar School at Leeds, is achieving his dreams after leaving the UK for the US a few years ago to make it in the world of movies.

His writing-directing debut film Absolute Debauchery has been released internationally on Amazon after it was well-received at the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival last year.

The 41-year-old, originally from Adel, said he is “elated” at the success of the film, which tells the story of two small-time gangsters who lose $30k of their ruthless boss’s money on a card game, forcing them to go on the run through LA criminal underworld.

He said: “A script I wrote in Leeds which became a film I shot with a cast and crew of phenomenally talented people in Los Angeles and Las Vegas [has been] released on a global platform. I’m still pinching myself.”

He added: “I’m really happy and proud for all those involved that they can turn on the telly and see their hard work.

“It’s taken a lot of time and passion and commitment and seeing it through.”

Chris said it was while at the Leeds grammar school that he discovered his love for acting, and went on to be accepted into the National Youth Theatre - whose alumni include Daniel Craig and Daniel Day Lewis.

“During my A-Levels, I staged several shows for LGS which I had written and directed and that was a great training ground,” he said.

After graduating from the University of East Anglia in film, he travelled to LA and “hounded” film executives at studios and production companies with scripts before landing a writing deal with Tapestry Films in Beverley Hills, where he soaked up information ready to make his own film.

“With Absolute Debauchery, I went to the bank, took out a loan for the amount I thought we could shoot it for and went to LA and Las Vegas and did it.

“We shot the film on location - we were literally running through the streets of Los Angeles and through the Las Vegas Strip, which was very exciting and added a lot of production value.”

He said he was thrilled when the film was screened at the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival.

“It played at a historic cinema on Wilshire Blvd in Beverly Hills, flanked by the offices of big talent agencies and production companies and it was truly amazing to see the film projected on a giant screen in the heart of where the Hollywood power players make their decisions every day.

“I was approached by several film distributors and finally figured that Amazon Prime Video, with its international reach and the ability to be do a same day release in Leeds and LA was just the obvious choice.”

Despite missing Aagrah curries and Gregg’s pasties, Chris says he has no plans to return home from LA and is currently busy working on his next film, a horror called Headshots.

“Hopefully, we’ll be back in Leeds later this year for the Leeds Film Festival where we can show terrify everyone with Headshots. But for now, I’m grateful my family and friends can see our hard work paying off and catch Absolute Debauchery on Amazon Prime Video.”