Bruce Windwood is pathologically modest about the feature film he devised and produced.

“It’s fine – but it’s a light-hearted comedy, not The Godfather or anything,” he got used to saying.

So it came as something of a bodyshock when Albert Ruddy – producer of The Godfather and Million Dollar Baby – came to pat him on the back and say: “This is one of the funniest British comedies I’ve ever seen – with a brilliant ending.”

Albert was jury president at Zurich Film Festival where the independent film, shot at Kirtlington Park House near Bruce’s home, had just won the coveted Audience Award having won rave reviews from 2,000 moviegoers. “That was a seminal moment – yes, surreal,” says Bruce.

“This was a film we had made on such a low budget – almost guerilla film-making. The budget on this film wouldn’t stretch to the catering budget on most Hollywood films.

“But that moment with Albert Ruddy was a real validation that it had all been worth it – you can’t get much higher praise than a twice Oscar-winning producer of The Godfather.”

Albert took copies of 12 In A Box back to the States to try to get it placed. However, this is where Bruce’s rags-to-riches story takes on as many twists, turns and cliffhangers as the school reunion comedy caper (strapline: “One stately home. Two corpses. Twelve million in cash”).

Rewind to 2006 – when the world teetered on the brink of recession. Bruce and writer/ director John McKenzie shot their film in a bleak four-week patch of winter on location in Kirtlington. Having billetted their cast – a talented lot including Miranda Hart, Katy Wix (Not Going Out, Torchwood) and Ken Collard (BBC3’s Cuckoo) in the village, Bruce embarked on the schizophrenic task of “wearing 10 zillion hats” to try to finish the film and find a distributor. Despite winning Best UK Film at the LA Film Festival, Best Screenplay at Boston International Film Festival and a showing on the world’s largest outdoor screen at the Orange Open Air festival, Bruce and the team had to face the fact that getting it “out there” in the UK looked unlikely.

“It was incredibly frustrating to have 2,000 random moviegoers say they loved the film but not being able to get past The Gatekeepers,” says Bruce. “We have so much talent with actors, crew, directors, you name it, in this country, but the British film industry is just starved of money. For every King’s Speech, Full Monty and Four Weddings are a thousand that fail. “Despite our fantastic film heritage, the British film industry accounts for 0.4 per cent of GDP, but we don’t have big studios – or the big bucks to help independent filmmakers. “But we were always realistic about it – we knew we didn’t have the international box office stars.”

Pragmatic Bruce, who has also written and starred in short film Compulsion (check it on YouTube) about a hitman with OCD, is turning his somewhat manic experiences into a book (Losing The Plot) and an entertaining documentary shot in America about trying to make that big break.

However, the opportunity for the film to finally have its UK premiere came from The Phoenix in Jericho which screens 12 In A Box all next week with by a Q&A with Bruce on Monday night.

“I’m a big believer in boutique cinemas as opposed to multiplexes. The Phoenix screening means a lot to me personally,” added Bruce. “It’s gone on for years and – as far as this film goes – this was very much the last throw of the dice.”



REVIEW- 12 In A Box



Who doesn’t love an underdog, hey? So the story of 12 In A Box’s attempt to bowl over the Hollywood big guns is enough to endear it to the stoniest film-watcher’s heart – even without the local link.
But what really packs a punch while watching it is what a well-crafted hoot it is, packed with proper British belly laughs to warm the cockles of the heart.
Arriving at the stately mansion of an old school chum, a gaggle of 12 disparate souls are given an offer they can’t refuse. The loner who owns the house is on his last legs and wants to offer his fortune to alumni from his alma mater – offering £1m to each guest present so long as they can stay on the premises together for 96 hours.
After some lively debate, the motley crew set about trying to get their grubby mitts on the dosh in true British style – ie by smoking, sniping, stuttering and seducing their way through the next three days.
And it’s the thoroughly British nature of the characters and the humour involved that make this such an entertaining romp. Like the hybrid of a turbo-charged Ealing comedy and a Cluedo-inspired farce (with the added Carry On charm of nookie and confusion at every turn), it’s the characters that make you care about the climax and believe this situation.
So, when the matronly wife of one of the assembled guests advocates putting her dead beloved in the freezer among the quiche and mince to “make the best of things, in true St Michael’s spirit” you are not only rooting for this bunch of reprobates, you actually feel as though you’re in the house with them.
This is the film that sorely deserved all the love – and the luck – our own homegrown film industry could have offered.
“I do so love the randomness of life” says the host of the stately mansion who sets up the caper. With this gem finally getting an airing right on the filmmaker’s doorstep, we couldn’t have said it better ourselves

***** 5/5
Liz Nicholls



  • Phoenix Picturehouse, Oxford
  • Six screenings throughout the week
  • For tickets, call 01865 316570.
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