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Acclaimed movie starring two Bradford boys is shown at youth film event
Two Bradford schoolboys are getting used to a world of red carpets and flashbulbs after being plucked from obscurity to star in an internationally acclaimed new film.
Shaun Thomas, 16, and Conner Chapman, 14, had never met when they attended the third round of auditions for The Selfish Giant but when they read a script together, director Clio Barnard spotted a bond between them.
Shaun, of Holme Wood, and Conner, of Buttershaw, introduced the film – about two boys turning to scrap metal dealing after being thrown out of school – at the National Youth Film Festival at the National Media Museum yesterday.
Shaun has been riding horses since he was 12 and taught Conner to ride for the film.
“He was a natural,” said Shaun, who revealed that he missed the first two auditions because he was excluded from Tong High School.
“The teachers told us Film 4 was coming in to do auditions but I got kicked out for misbehaving. They let me go back to audition and when I went for my third one I met Conner. I was staying at my mate’s house and next morning I had a message on my phone saying ‘You’re Swifty’,” he said.
“I’d never acted before and I learned a lot making the film, it has made me more confident and mature. I used to mess about and didn’t think drama was for me. Now I’m studying drama at school – I wouldn’t have gone back to school if it wasn’t for The Selfish Giant.”
Conner, who attends Buttershaw Business and Enterprise College, had already appeared in a short film called Charlie Says when he auditioned for The Selfish Giant.
“I only went to get out of lessons,” he said. “It was like a big family on the set, everyone looked after us and it was great to work with actors like Sean Gilder from Shameless.”
The film, shot in and around Odsal and Buttershaw, has been described as “powerfully emotional and brilliantly acted”.
It was written and directed by Miss Barnard, of Otley, who was inspired by youngsters she met while filming The Arbor, about playwright Andrea Dunbar, on Buttershaw estate in 2010.
The film won a top prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and was recently the toast of the London Film Festival.
“It was like you see on TV, all these flashes going off from the cameras,” said Shaun. “It was an experience I never thought I’d have.”
The film goes on general release this week.
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