Why film director Jack Spring chose Yorkshire to shoot his debut feature Destination: Dewsbury

Aged 22, Jack Spring is one of the youngest movie directors in the country. He speaks to Laura Drysdale about his debut feature Destination: Dewsbury and filming in Yorkshire.

Friday, 18th January 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Friday, 18th January 2019, 11:34 am

From childhood motion picture movies to hot tubs and onto Hollywood, at 22, movie director Jack Spring has already embarked on quite a journey. It has, though tough at times, been worth every step, as next month, his first feature film Destination: Dewsbury will make its UK premiere in Yorkshire.

“It’s a rude, crude schoolboy comedy following four incompetent middle aged men on a road trip up the country to see their dying friend one last time,” he tells me. It’s a description he has given to investors and distribution companies time and again, but his energy and enthusiasm is unfaltering as he fills me in. “There’s lots of laugh out loud moments. It’s funny but it’s got a lot of heart to it too.”

The film’s main characters were schoolmates in the eighties but have had little contact in their adult life. Told one of their old gang falls terminally ill, they reunite and set off on a journey to see him before it’s too late. Their destination is Dewsbury.

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Behind the Scenes on 'Destination: Dewsbury', shooting in Autumn 2016. Picture Steve R Lawson.

“I looked at Yorkshire because I was living in York at the time,” says Jack, from South London. “And the stereotype is true - people in Yorkshire are far more helpful than those in London. I’d been making films during my time in York so had a large network of film makers in Yorkshire too - it just made sense to start scouting there.”

He knew of Dewsbury through his love of rugby league; a former season ticket holder with the London Broncos, he’d previously travelled there to see the team take on the Rams. Though he looked at other areas too, he says it was the helpful and friendly nature of Dewsbury’s people and Kirklees Council that stood out.

“We looked at lots of towns and worked out where hadn’t had the best nationwide coverage and some place where we could do some good to the town, he explains, adding that he wants to bring a positive spotlight on the community. “We did want somewhere where we could work with the council and local people. It was great. People did us so many favours because they were so excited that a film was being shot in Dewsbury.”

Filmmaking for Jack started at the age of six, when he and his father, John, would produce motion picture animations using characters created out of sticks collected from the garden.

In the film, four friends, pictured, go on a road trip. Photograph: Steve R Lawson.

It was John and Jack’s mother, Mel, who bought him his first camera and at one point, nearly every week, Jack would write a short film on a Friday, shoot on a Saturday, edit on a Sunday and put it online on a Monday.

“I think I have got my work drive from mum and creativity from my dad,” he says. “My dad made a film called M25: The Movie, deliberately the worst film ever made.”

By the age of 16, Jack had won multiple awards at festivals across the world and two years later, he moved to Yorkshire to begin a degree in film and television at the University of York. It was short-lived though. He felt “boxed-in” by the study and, itching to try his hand at making a feature film, he left after a year in 2015.

Weeks earlier he had worked on biopic Scott and Sid, based on the real-life experiences of filmmakers Scott Elliott and Sid Sadowskyj from Bradford.

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“The producers and directors, I credit them for a lot...they are only ten years older and they instilled this confidence that there was another route [into filmmaking, aside from university]. It was like an atomic bomb went off in my head. There’s this other route and these guys have done it, so why can’t I?”

The idea for a road trip movie was sparked by Jack’s own tastes - “I don’t have a lot of patience when I watch a film and the nature [of this style] is very quick moving” - and it was “hilarious” trips to the pub with his father’s friends that inspired the characters.

“We feel there are two voids in British cinema,” Jack says. “The first is a lack of rude, crude, schoolboy comedy - no one has touched it since The Inbetweeners. I grew up on that sort of comedy so I wanted to bring it back.

“The second void was an under-representation of middle aged men in cinema. These guys [in the film] aren’t superheroes - in fact there’s not much attractive about them at all. They’re just normal guys, normal guys that are fun to watch.”

As well as deciding the plot, which draws from the real life experiences of the film’s crew and founding his production company to create the movie, Jack needed to raise £150,000 to cover the cost. But, he tells me, he struggled to attract investment due to his age and a lack of financial and business experience.

Determined, Jack started his own company to try to prove that he could manage cash, in the hope it would give investors the confidence to trust him. He established an inflatable hot tub hire firm in York and within a year had nine different branches.

His efforts paid off and private investors began to back him with their money. With half the budget in the bank, the cast and crew moved to Batley for filming in September and October 2016.

The movie was shot around Dewsbury, Leeds, York, Bradford and Batley and locals were brought on set as film extras and runners. “It was [an] extremely supportive [environment]. We would get crowds of people whilst we were shooting watching us,” he says.

People would stand and cheer when they called it a wrap after finishing a scene. It was an environment so welcoming, in fact, that Jack, now working on a second movie, plans to return to the county to film again.

“I can’t speak highly enough of the town (Dewsbury) and of Yorkshire in general, especially as a Southern lad coming up here. People are so much more friendly and helpful.”

It took more than a year to raise the rest of the cash and complete the film - but Jack and his crew, which had an average age of 21, finished in January last year. After they then secured a sales agent, Destination: Dewsbury premiered in Los Angeles, at the Beverly Hills Film Festival, last April and has since been picked up for theatrical release in the coming weeks.

The film will be shown in the Showcase Cinema in Birstall from March 1 and if ticket sales are strong, it could be rolled out to others. There are also plans for it to be released on television, DVD and online from April and a behind-the-scenes documentary showing the cast and crew as the film was made is also being put together.

“If the people of the area get behind it and we have a strong few weeks, the film gets pushed out nationwide,” Jack explains. He hopes the Yorkshire community will go along and watch “so we can really put the area on that nationwide map.”

“It’s incredible...it’s for everyone’s hard work and the investors as well. Now it’s got a very high chance of actually making a good stamp on the box office.”

Destination: Dewsbury will premiere at the Birstall cinema on Saturday, February 23 and will touch down in the capital with a London premiere the following day.

To book tickets for the Birstall premiere, visit www.showcasecinemas.co.uk