WHEN Sam Johnson wanted to make a film about bullying he didn’t have far to turn for expert advice.
The 26-year-old’s uncle is Simon West, who directed Hollywood blockbusters Con Air, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and The Expendables 2.
And Mr West, 53, from Burford, also got Dr Who and Star Trek Into Darkness star and Kidulthood writer Noel Clarke to give Mr Johnson some tips.
Now it is hoped the 15-minute film Billy The Kid will be shown in UK schools during November’s Anti-Bullying Week.
It tells the story of 15-year-old Billy, played by John Bell, who starred as Bain in 2013’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
A still from his film Billy the Kid with actors Jake Wheeldon and John Bell
The youngster lives his life like a cowboy and is bullied at his new school but saves the day and wins his fellow pupils’ respect when escaped convicts seize classes.
Mr Johnson, who went to Abingdon School, said: “We’ve got some quite big action scenes so it was good to have my uncle on the set as a point of reference. For young filmmakers it was really special to have someone of his calibre there.
“It sounds corny but I want to make films that can help make a difference, however small, and I knew I wanted to do something with an anti-bullying theme.
“Like most people I had a few issues with bullying as a kid – nothing serious but it’s something that remained prevalent in my mind.
“I remember being at school and all the anti-bullying films I saw were so dry, and there was very little dialogue about the issue.”
A dramatic scene from the film
Pre-demolition Didcot Power Station was used for the jail scene while filming also took place at Burford School and Abingdon School from July 30 to August 3.
Pupils from St Helen’s & St Katharine’s School, Abingdon and Cokethorpe School, Ducklington, near Witney, also starred.
Mr Johnson’s parents Nigel and Louise even put up about 50 cast and crew at their Clanfield home in tents, barns and sheds as well as providing props and catering.
The £10,000 film was funded by the British Film Institute, Creative England and Burford Garden Company, owned by Mr and Mrs Johnson.
An online appeal will split cash between charity BeatBullying and the production and has so far raised more than £3,800.
Director Simon West
Mr Johnson, who produced an online short for Adidas, hopes to make Billy the Kid into a full-length feature.
Former Burford School pupil Mr West, who helmed 1997’s Con Air with Nicolas Cage, said: “The theme of bullying in Sam’s film is so relevant in schools today that I think it’s vital this film gets shown in schools around the country, maybe even internationally.
“It’s a great short film and from what I saw I definitely think Sam is on his way to Hollywood.”
- Support the campaign at indiegogo.com/projects/ billy-the-kid
- Do you want alerts delivered straight to your phone via our WhatsApp service? Text NEWS or SPORT or NEWS AND SPORT, depending on which services you want, and your full name to 07767 417704. Save our number into your phone's contacts as Oxford Mail WhatsApp and ensure you have WhatsApp installed.
- Send your Letter to the Editor: What do you think? We welcome letters from our readers on a wide variety of subjects and you can send us a letter for publication here
Our top stories
- Prisons' shake-up will be at heart of today's Queen's Speech
- Five things you need to know in Oxfordshire today
- TV Wildlife presenter Chris Packham speaks about his Aspergers, teenage struggles and attempts to get into Oxford University
- GALLERY: Prince William proves a hit with young and old students on Oxford visit
- Elections 2016 roundup: Everything you need to know for May 5
- Authorities search for solutions as graffiti in Oxford doubles in a year