A group of Yorkshire filmmakers have set themselves the ambitious task of recreating 1930s America in modern day Northern England. The second film from writer-director Jamie Anderson, The Death of Jack Hamilton is an adaptation of the short story by renowned author Stephen King.
A true-crime tale, the film follows John Dillinger, Homer Van Meter and Jack ‘Red’ Hamilton after their narrow escape from Little Bohemia. In the midst of a chaotic shootout with federal agents, Hamilton is shot in the lung. As the gang seeks medical attention for Hamilton, he slowly succumbs to gangrene and dementia.
With worldwide interest already expressed based on the script alone, from Los Angeles to Barcelona, this exciting production is set to offer audiences a unique and refreshing interpretation of King’s story. I spoke with the film’s director, Jamie Anderson, and director of photography, Oliver Richards, to discuss the film and how financial backers can help it reach its potential.
O&O: I’m aware of King’s ‘Dollar Baby’ deal with aspiring filmmakers: pay a dollar and he’ll give you the rights to adapt his work. How did you approach King, and what drew you to the author’s story?
JA: I approached King through his secretary, Margaret Morehouse, and she walked me through the process of acquiring the rights to the story. I had to send a signed contract to Mr King along with a one-dollar bill. Once I was given confirmation that this had been received, Jonas Alexander and I immediately began piecing together a script. I had not read this particular story until early last year whilst I was in the midst of directing my debut short Id of the Soulless. I found myself confronting a lot of painful emotions and experiences throughout this process – it was a deeply personal project. The Death of Jack Hamilton found me at this time. Initially, I had struggled to find meaning in the piece but, upon further readings, it eventually became a coming-of-age story that focused on the existential crisis facing John Dillinger as he is forced to confront his mortality. I began to see Dillinger as a man whose entire worldview and concept of self was compromised by Hamilton’s death. I hadn’t anticipated that the spiritual successor to my psychological horror piece would be a 1930s American gangster film, but ultimately they are not too dissimilar!
O&O: Creating 1930s America in Yorkshire is ambitious. I see you’ve secured a Ford V8 for the shoot, which is incredible, but how specifically will funders be helping to flesh out the Chicago setting and the exteriors? Ollie, as director of photography do you have any specific ideas?
JA: We have a phenomenal location manager working tirelessly to secure locations across the region that can realistically simulate 30s America, from the vast landscapes of Aurora to the dingy alleyways of Chicago. We are hoping to use the Ford V8 to the fullest in the exterior car chase scenes. The logistics of this are complicated, as you would expect, and we would of course need to cover petrol costs, insurance, storage etc for the vehicle. This is where a lot of the money would go, along with accommodating the cast, transporting cast, crew, equipment etc, and ensuring that said equipment is insured. We shot the interior scenes for the film on 5d mark ii and 7d, but are hopeful of securing a Sony F3 for the exterior shoot. This will heighten the quality of the final film and allow us to shoot on a format that will truly do justice to the vast exteriors that we intend to capture!
OR: To authentically replicate 1930’s America in 2012 Yorkshire on a low budget requires creativity from all of the crew, particularly within my department. During the interior shoots we were using a DIY jib and shoulder mount with great results, lighting wise we also worked with painted light bulbs in addition to the professional lighting we secured from the University of York. All of these things will give the film its character, and I feel will make it stand out. One of the greatest challenges will be the car scenes, which will need to be rigged properly and shot dynamically. Funding will also be needed to ensure we can get the right grip and camera equipment, as without it the ability to shoot several exterior scenes will be limited.
O&O: You mention the film will incorporate themes of fate, friendship and the fragility of life. King’s novel is extremely graphic in its description of Hamilton’s lapse into dementia. Jamie, as director, how are you planning to work with the actors to draw out and explore these themes?
JA: Screenwriter Jonas Alexander and I wanted to ensure that these themes were present within the script before we even entered pre-production. It is important to ensure that each character is organic; you should know each character’s back-story, thoughts, habits, hobbies, fears, wishes, before you even begin writing. This gives the cast everything necessary to begin fleshing out their characters from the script alone and also implements your creative vision.
We spent about six months casting this film, calling in favours with casting directors across the country, putting out casting calls, sleeping on friends’ couches in London – it really was intense. Luckily, from this we have put together a phenomenal cast with a deep understanding of their characters. I prefer to see how actors interact with one another whilst in character and then offer thoughts from an objective stance. I will of course run them through the scene at the beginning of the day and block the scene out with them, but I trust the cast to deliver performances of the highest quality – I wouldn’t have cast them otherwise!
Chris Sheridan was certainly presented with a mammoth task in conveying Hamilton’s lapse into dementia. With the shooting days been scattered around, one day Hamilton could be completely detached from reality and the next he could be “fine as a fiddler’s f**k” – he would have to switch demeanours constantly. Luckily, Chris is an astounding actor and that shows in the performance.
In exchange for a range of donations, financers can attend a private screening, visit the set and even become an executive producer! To contribute and help this local project thrive, please visit and share their Sponsume page here.