Which one are you, Isaac or Jude? And can you expand on the inspiration for the story and the characters?
“Both and neither! I see parts of me, past and present, in both characters. I’m obviously a dreamer like Jude (how else did I get into this career?), but I also think I have the sensibility, focus and determination that Isaac has. I also see myself in both characters in that I battle with the significance of my relationship with home and whether that’s meant to be a life-long relationship or a seasonal one – stay forever or fly the nest to explore further? The story is inspired by my upbringing in South London; I was born and raised there and, in writing it, I was thinking particularly of the friends I grew up with who have all gone in different directions in life. I wondered what a conversation might be like with those who had the same foundations, but their lives have turned out completely different to each other.”
You started in the theatre, but was film/TV always something that you wanted to pursue?
“I actually started in film/TV, but the industry doesn’t recognise your beginnings when you don’t have anything to show for it (laughs). After about three years of writing film and TV and not being able to catch a break, I went into theatre as I saw that loads of emerging British screenwriters got their break that way. If you can’t beat ‘em…”
Was your family encouraging of your aspirations?
“In their own way, and at different times. I dropped out of university to write and my dad tried to convince me not to. Considering he’d been absent in my life for the best part of a decade and I’ve always been pretty head-strong, that was never going to work… But I wouldn’t consider that being discouraging as opposed to just having traditional values which includes considering safety nets and stable jobs (what even is a stable job these days?! And I’d have said that before the pandemic…). My mum was more encouraging in the immediacy but struggled with the realities of it. Having your broke adult son living under your roof is testing. They’re both incredibly encouraging and supportive now, though, and have been for a long while. I think for both of them, the turning point was seeing and experiencing my work. That was what helped them understand the method to the madness of my life choices.”
What filmmakers inspire you, and are there any that were particularly inspirational for No More Wings?
“Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy has beautiful dialogue and conversations throughout and Before Sunrise, particularly, has such gorgeous scenes that are just at a table. I remember also thinking about the diner scene in David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook (and, whilst tonally different, When Harry Met Sally). Moreover, I’m inspired by a bunch of different filmmakers; Woody Allen always comes to mind for the phenomenal dialogue. John Singleton. Tarantino. Aaron Sorkin. I remember thinking about the NBC series This Is Us a lot when I was thinking about the visualising of juxtaposing past and present.”
I recently watched I May Destroy You and Small Axe. It strikes me that the Black British are leading the charge. What are your feelings about it? Why now?
“In his 2015 Mobo speech, when he received the ‘Paving the Way’ award, Lenny Henry said ‘I could have only got here by standing on the shoulders of giants’ and then went on to deliver an exhaustive list of who those giants in question were. You should watch that speech, that’s the answer to your why. There’s a lot of people that came before me, who fought hard, who were denied opportunities they were deserving of and were given crumbs when they deserved banquets. I’m delighted for Michaela Coal and Steve McQueen because they are phenomenal talents who deserve everything they’re getting and audiences should be so grateful to experience their works. I love their work and look forward to contributing to the depiction of Black British narratives, too.”
Did you work with the cast at all on the dialogue and make changes after collaborating with them?
“I can’t remember but I doubt it. Those boys are all from London, so they’re used to all of that dialogue. If any changes took place, it would have been them adding their own nuances to the slang. It was pretty much all on the page but things like pronouncing ‘you know’ as ‘ukna’ they might have done naturally in the way they felt the character would have, which would have always been fine with me. I was a bit stricter with the dialogue for the younger boys; their story is set in the mid-noughties so it was important that there was no slang that an audience more familiar with the culture, community and slang would call out as not existing at that time.”
Do you think that this is the last catch up between Isaac and Jude, and why?
“Aw man, even thinking about that is making me sad! I hope it isn’t. They may become less frequent, but they’ve managed to stay friends this long – despite the crossroads that have taken them in different directions up until this point. I hope – despite the geographical distance – they can still have catch ups. If anything, they might become even more meaningful because they’re less frequent.”
What’s next for you?
“Boring filmmaker answer, loads of things that I can’t talk about! I can’t wait to be able to talk about them and share them though. More broadly, I can say that I am still writing, creating stories and that’s for both film and TV. Progress is a slow process in this world but I’m enjoying and embracing the process. I’m in no rush, you can’t rush greatness.”