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'.

Shannon Beer and Solomon Glave, stars of 'Wuthering Heights'

Solomon Glave and Shannon Beer, two of the stars of Andrea Arnold's 'Wuthering Heights' Solomon Glave and Shannon Beer, two of the stars of Andrea Arnold's 'Wuthering Heights' - Portrait: Rob Greig

The British filmmaker Andrea Arnold prefers to work with actors with little or no baggage. When Arnold was looking for a teen girl to be the lead in her 2009 film ‘Fish Tank’, she decided on Katie Jarvis, a 17 year old who a casting director spotted at an Essex railway station. For her new film, a radical, pared-down version of ‘Wuthering Heights’ which won the Best Cinematography prize at the Venice Film Festival in September and opens in cinemas next month, she scoured schools in Yorkshire for youngsters who could play the younger versions of Emily Brontë’s tragic lovers, Cathy and Heathcliff. One of Arnold’s ideas was that Heathcliff could be black or mixed-race: an update that would add fire to the character’s poor treatment at the hands of the Earnshaw family who take him into their rural home as an act of Christian charity.

Arnold ended up casting  12-year-old Shannon Beer and 13-year-old Solomon Glave, two schoolkids from Sheffield, to play these vital roles in her film. When I meet with Beer and Glave in London, where they have travelled to meet with Time Out – Beer with her dad, Glave with his older brother – their memories of nabbing their first acting gigs are amusingly divergent.

‘There were 3,000 at the audition,’ recalls Glave, now 14, and a quiet, handsome boy wearing a chunky cardigan. ‘No, there weren’t,’ butts in a quick-witted but reticent Beer, now 13 and wearing an off-the-shoulder jumper and floppy boots. ‘I thought there were 1,200.’ ‘I dunno,’ says Glave. ‘Somebody said it were 3,000.’

Did they audition together? ‘Never together,’ Beer says. ‘I think we did, you know,’ offers Glave. Beer: ‘You sure?’ This was back in the summer of 2010: a year is a long time for a 13 year old. ‘I didn’t even know what we were auditioning for,’ says Glave. ‘I didn’t think I was going to get it. Then, every morning when I woke up, I was like: am I having a dream?’

How was the first day of shooting last September? Beer jumps in. ‘Well! Someone stayed in bed,’ she says, nodding at Glave. We had to wake him!’ Glave leaps to defend himself. ‘That was only the first day, innit?’

They stayed in a hotel in Darlington and filmed on moorland surrounding a cottage which Arnold adopted as the home of Cathy and the Earnshaw family. ‘I wouldn’t like to live like that,’ says Glave of their lives. ‘I’d probably end up killing myself.’ The film’s brutal outdoor scenes suggest they had to contend with harsh elements – rain, snow, mud and wind. ‘We were snowed in one day,’ says Beer. ‘It was horrible,’ says Glave. ‘And it was always me getting wet and cold.’

Solomon Glave and Shannon Beer on the misty moors in 'Wuthering Heights' Solomon Glave and Shannon Beer on the misty moors in 'Wuthering Heights'

They laugh about how they had to climb a hill each morning to reach the set. ‘How many times did we walk up that?’ Glave asks Beer. ‘It must have been 20 times a day for nine weeks.’ ‘I lost weight and my skirt wouldn’t fit by the end,’ adds Beer. How did she like her nineteenth-century outfits? She just screws up her nose.

Did the pair get on? Beer looks a bit embarrassed, the way 13 year olds do when asked about boys. ‘We didn’t hardly talk,’ says Glave. ‘I just poked him a lot,’ says Beer. Arnold clearly struck a chord with them. ‘She’s great, Andrea, she’s very good,’ Beer says. Glave explains he’s a little dyslexic and had trouble reading the script – but Arnold had a solution: she gave him a tape player with his lines on it and he would listen to it each night. ‘The next morning I’d wake up and know my lines.’

Which scene was the toughest to film? Beer says it was a fight, when the two roll in mud. Glave disagrees: ‘The fight was easy.’ ‘Yeah, but you were sat on top of me,’ Beer points out.

Last month they travelled to Venice to unveil the film to the world. ‘It was wicked, living like that, with cameramen taking photos and all that stuff,’ remembers Glave. Now they both have to deal with curious friends. ‘Our story was in the paper a couple of weeks ago,’ Beer recalls. ‘Now everybody asks me how much I got paid. I just tell them to go away.’ Did Beer and Glave stay in touch? Beer shakes her head. ‘No – he deleted his Facebook, didn’t he?’ Good on him, I say. Why don’t you do the same? Beer looks at me like I’m crazy. ‘No way! I’m on it all the time. Facebook ­is my life!’

Read our review of 'Wuthering Heights'