David Perkins

The Fence: Bristol’s first independent feature film since 1962

As the first independent feature film to be produced in Bristol since 1962 prepares to hit the big screen this month, we catch up with director Will Stone, delve into the true local story and take a closer look at the star-studded cast…

A highly anticipated feature film from first-time director Will Stone and cinematographer Adam Pickford is set to be released this month, making it the first independent feature film to be produced in Bristol since 1962.

The Fence follows an 18-year-old working class lad living in Hartcliffe who has his motorcycle stolen the day he buys it. He seeks the help of his scoundrel friends and notorious older brother to track it down before it’s gone forever. Throughout the film, there is a strong moral theme examining the culture of the period, peer pressures and difficult individual choices.

“The short was based on one of many stories from my father’s childhood,” Will says. “He grew up on a council estate in Hartcliffe during the late 70s and early 80s – the estate was one of the most deprived and notorious in the South West. The main secondary school was the biggest in the country at the time, with around 3,000 students. He described it as a zoo, with fights everyday. He had plenty of stories of his childhood about school, fighting, stealing and all kinds of stuff. The bike story was just one of many really. But it’s one that stuck with me for a while and I eventually thought it was perfect for a short film project.” says Will.

The feature film is a development of an original short film of the same name that Will released on YouTube as part of his Film Production and Cinematography degree course at Bournemouth University in 2018. The 20-minute film, soundtracked by absolute classics from The Beatles and The Pogues, was shot on a £2,000-budget on an estate in Salisbury while he studied in the south of England. Although he had modest hopes for his film, it reached a million views in six months and garnered hundreds of positive reviews.

After watching the views continue to skyrocket into the millions but finding no success in his pitches to production companies, the young filmmaker set out to write a screenplay himself, fully committing to the project during the first lockdown.

After tireless work, Will and Adam managed to secure funding for a six-figure budget and filming ran from 9 – 28 August 2021. The two then launched a successful crowdfunder to raise £40,000 for the final stages of the project.

Around 90 per cent of the film was shot in south Bristol with locations including Whitchurch, Stockwood, Keynsham, Warmley, Cadbury Heath and Radstock. What’s more, around 50 speaking parts were filled by actors from the local area, bringing opportunities to young Bristol teenagers.

Most impressively, The Fence features some of Bristol’s most famous faces including Jayde Adams, Joe Sims and Paul Holbrook. Furthermore, the likes of Sally Phillips (Miranda, Bridget Jones), Eugene Simon (Game of Thrones), Paul Cooper (This Country) and David Perkins (Hollyoaks) also appear in Will and Adam’s directorial debut. Behind the camera, award-winning co-producer Guy Davies – best known for his debut feature As I Am (2019) – played a key role, along with a strong team of creatives.

The Fence doesn’t shy away from the poverty and social issues faced by Hartcliffe in the 1980s and yet the film is filled with moments of nostalgia, brilliant comedic timing, and pure charm that are worthy of attention.

Will and Adam’s talents and abilities have been recognised by experienced filmmaker (who was also their’ former university teacher) Tim Dodd, as well as businessman and entrepreneur Mark Thompson. The four men joined forces to form the company Red Anchor Films Ltd in 2020.

“I’m delighted to say we’ve successfully adapted the short into a feature,” says Will. “I was able to really expand on the world and the characters that people seemed to connect with. It’s taken years of incredible hard work to make it a reality and I couldn’t be happier with the finished film. I think what we’ve achieved with our micro-budget is hard to rival. Every penny is up on the screen where it should be and I truly believe this is one of those few little Indie films that has the potential to break the mould and surprise people.”

The Fence (18) will be showing at Showcase Cinemas until 15 September. For more information about the making of the film, visit: thefencefilm.co.uk