The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists
The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists (2014)
Set in the summer of 1904, the film follows the story of how a group of impoverished Edwardian painter-decorators and workmen are exploited by their bosses and the political class. A group of apathetic working men are joined by Owen, a journeyman-prophet with a vision of a just society. Owen's spirited attacks on the greed and dishonesty of the capitalist system rouse his fellow men from their political quietism.
The Making of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists
I was first introduced to ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’ when I saw Townsend Productions’ two-man theatre version at Norwich Arts Centre in early 2013, when I was 16.
At the time, I was looking to further my filmmaking experience having just finished taking part in the British Film Institute’s Regional Youth Academy programme, and after reading and researching the story more I learnt that there was no existing film adaptation, despite the popularity and importance of Tressell’s book.
Approaching the centenary of its first publication in 1914, this struck me as the perfect story to tell and a great way of being able to further my experience as a director.
I contacted the writer of the theatre script, Stephen Lowe, who gave me permission to use his 1974 script as a framework to adapt my screenplay using - it would have been very tough to adapt such a large novel from scratch as my first screenplay.
Originally intending for my film to be feature length, I completed my script and set off in search of funding.
After approaching several organisations and institutions, a budget looked increasingly difficult to find, so I decided to just make the film anyway.
I cast actors for each role, all kindly volunteering to do the job for free to support the project, and after getting a nearby location lent to us by the owner, deciding a filming schedule and booking in friends to act as crew members each day, the project was looking promising. In the run-up to the shoot, I arranged a weekend of readthroughs and rehearsals before filming, which gave me time to arrange costumes and props, which we sourced from car boot sales, charity shops and my school's drama costume department.
Three days before filming, two actors (one of which was the lead role) dropped out of the project without notice.
I was forced to do a dramatic re-edit of the script and schedule, as well as move roles about within the cast and to find a new lead actor.
We managed to fix things on the day of the readthrough with the help of the assembled cast members, and we filmed on location for the next four days, encountering 30 degree heat, torrential rain and thunderstorms.
Despite our luck, the shoot was a success and a huge learning curve for me personally.
I worked on the edit of the film (now a 42 minute short rather than a feature) from September 2013 to March 2014, and the final cut was completed at the beginning of April in time for a small cast and crew premiere at the Forum, Norwich.
Behind the Scenes Photos
(click to enlarge)