One evening during the first 24:7 Theatre Festival, after a performance of my play O'Leary's Daughters, I found myself talking to Joe O'Byrne, whom I hadn't previously met, and he told me about the idea he had for a feature film for which he'd already got a title, Lookin' For Lucky: a man's dog runs away, and the man goes looking for him and his trail cuts across the lives and stories of a cross-section of the members of one Manchester community. Well, wow: what an idea for a story!
And talk about having 'legs', as they say in the business. While developing this film, Joe has also written and produced several stage plays set in the same community - in the fictional (and somewhat ironically-named) Paradise Heights - and featuring some of the same characters. Two of these I've seen: the hard-hitting monologue 'My Name is Frank', which Joe performed brilliantly himself for the second 24:7 festival, and more recently, at the Didsbury Studio Theatre, the lighter 'The Bench'. It's such a brilliant basic idea - a sort of Canterbury-tales of the twenty-first century north - a unifying platform for any number of diverse stories told in different ways.
Anyway, now the film is finished, and a couple of weeks ago I got the invitation to the first, Salford Arts Festival screening at Salford Quays. It's riveting, and I couldn't take my eyes off the screen (and not just because I turned out to know half the actors in it!). It's hard-hitting, yes, and there is much of the violence which underpins our present-day society, in this case surrounding prostitution, but there is also a touching humanity, which is somehow captured by the way the film is lit and the sometimes glancing, sometimes lingering camerawork of that perfectionist and hard taskmaster Jonathan Harris (I know: I have been an actor with Jonathan as Director of Camera!)
The thing which staggered me was the tiny budget on which I discovered this film had been made, and the fact of it is a testament to the commitment of everyone involved. And I've never been to a screening before where I've been handed a T-shirt! Congratulations to Joe, and to everyone else involved, on this achievement.
You can see a trailer of Lookin' For Lucky here)