Britain’s new film talent

Meet the young actors and directors behind Britain's best new films

The 2011 BFI London Film Festival is overflowing with up-and-coming talent, from writers and directors to the screen stars of tomorrow. Dave Calhoun and David Jenkins profile some of those involved in four inventive new British features, 'Wuthering Heights', 'Junkhearts', 'Weekend' and 'Sket'.

Andrew Haigh, director of the London-set romance, 'Weekend' Andrew Haigh, director of the London-set romance, 'Weekend' - Portrait: Rob Greig

Andrew Haigh, director of 'Weekend'

A low-key, tender and believable portrait of a romance between two men fighting with their identities in an unnamed British city, ‘Weekend’ is 38-year-old Andrew Haigh’s second feature film. But he thinks of it as his first: ‘It’s my first fully scripted film,’ he argues, explaining that 2009’s ‘Greek Pete’ was fully improvised, and in some ways more a documentary than drama. ‘Weekend’ shows the meeting of twentysomethings Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New) in a gay club and is frank and easy in its portrayal of sex and chat. The film won the audience award at the SXSW festival in Texas this March and opened successfully in American cinemas a fortnight ago.

Haigh’s career started in the 1990s when he was an assistant to the director Ismail Merchant. He made several short films and spent a decade as an assistant editor on big films such as ‘Black Hawk Down’ and ‘Hannibal Rising’. ‘Those movies are weird, you’re in a back room not doing much,’ he says. But he also worked on the edit of smaller films like Harmony Korine’s ‘Mister Lonely’ and always valued ‘spending more time in the room with the director’.

Haigh, who lives in Norwich, hopes ‘Weekend’ continues to be received as freely as it has been – and not as a niche film. He says he hasn’t been so lucky with financiers and others in the film industry who worry about its audience. ‘There’s an uncomfortableness that exists around what people see as “a gay film”, whatever that means,’ he argues. ‘I’m constantly saying, “Don’t worry, it’s a universal story.” But why do I need to say that? At the same time, I’m not going to water things down to grab a mainstream audience. In a way, the film is born out of frustration – the way people feel about gay films is how they feel about gay people. I still feel it’s a problem. There’s a tendency to look down on films with gay content.’

Read our review of 'Weekend'