Producer/Director/Co-writer, Jevon O'Neill woke on New Year's
Day 1995 and vowed that before the year was out he would have made
his first feature film.
He came up with the idea for BOB'S WEEKEND - an unashamedly uplifting
modern fable set in his home town of Blackpool - and immediately
enlisted Jayson Rothwell, an advertising copywriter based in Manchester,
to collaborate on the project and they soon had a first draft.
He approached the "usual suspects" for British film finance,
including British Screen and Channel 4, and received the usual response
reserved for first-time film makers - an anonymous receipt and a
promise to respond sometime in the future. From past experience,
O'Neill knew what that meant... he could either wait and maybe never
make his first film or he could plough ahead regardless of the inconvenience
of not having any money. So he started sending out copies of the
script to friends and family.
At this stage he would have been happy to shoot on video with his
father in the title role, but O'Neill had approached Bruce Jones
(Raining Stones, Coronation Street) with whom he had previously
worked on a commercial. The actor agreed to take the lead. Suddenly
the project took on a life of its own. It went from video to 16mm
to 35mm. Bruce Jones persuaded his friend Ricky Tomlinson (Riff
Raff, Cracker, The Royle Family) to take a role and Brian Glover
(An American Werewolf in London, Alien 3, Up n Under) signed on
for the pivotal cameo of The Boss.
Meanwhile, Manchester based Casting Director Michelle Smith was
searching for an actress to take the crucial role of Angela, the
young student who helps Bob to come to terms with his past. Despite
interest from a well-known TV actress, O'Neill cast unknown drama
student Charlotte Jones. Says O'Neill "I was a drama student
at Manchester University and I saw the ambition in her that I had
at that age - plus, quite simply, she had everything I was looking
for in Angela."
Apart from the actors, the other 'star' of BOB'S WEEKEND is Blackpool
itself. "I wanted to convey the excitement and wonder of the
place" said O'Neill "It's not just about a beach... it's
a special town, a dream factory." The support of Blackpool
Borough Council and First Leisure Corporation (then owners of many
of Blackpool's most famous landmarks including Blackpool Tower and
North Pier) was crucial. "We simply couldn't have shot the
film without their co-operation" remembers O'Neill.
By the beginning of September the one thing that O'Neill was still
looking for was someone to take over the production so he could
concentrate on directing the film. He'd interviewed dozens of people
by the time he contacted Associate Producer Jonny Kurzman.
Kurzman came away from the meeting clutching a copy of "BOB'S
WEEKEND", rehearsing how he was going to tell O'Neill he couldn't
do it. But there was a snag. "I loved the script" remembers
Kurzman. "It was the best first draft I'd ever read. I wanted
to see the film." O'Neill adds: "Everyone else I'd seen
told me why I should wait to make the film. Jonny agreed we should
just go out and shoot it."
There's never enough time or money to make a movie and it's easy
to think of all the reasons why you can't do it but, as Angela says
to Bob in the film: "Take the 't' off 'can't' and you can do
anything." "We had a ridiculous pre-production period,
but our window of opportunity ended when Blackpool illuminations
were turned off and there was no guarantee we'd be able to get our
cast together again" recalls O'Neill. "We decided to go
By this stage O'Neill had raised £ 100,000 in cash from people
all over the North of England and the balance of the £350,000
budget was going to have to be deferred, including cast, crew and
equipment suppliers fees. It would mean pulling a lot of favours...
On October 16th; "BOB'S WEEKEND" started principal photography.
The shoot was predictably gruelling but they were lucky with the
weather and four weeks later the production returned to London.
On New Years Eve, O'Neill and Editor Nick Thompson locked off the
picture. There was still the small matter of the sound post-production,
opticals and prints, etc. but to all intents and purposes O'Neill
had hit his deadline: a year to the day since he had vowed to do
it, he had made his first feature film.
As a matter of course the film was entered into both Edinburgh
and London, the two premiere British Film Festivals, only for it
to become the centre of a tug of war over which of the fierce rivals
would host the premiere. In August 1996 the film made its debut
at Edinburgh where it proved so popular that extra screenings had
to be added. Incredibly, "BOB'S WEEKEND" was in the main
competition, up against films made with 100 times its budget. And
if the production budget was small, the film-makers had even less
to spend on promoting it... with the result that they couldn't even
afford to get posters made up.
Then, in November, Philip French, the film critic of The Observer,
spotlighted Jevon O'Neill's BOB'S WEEKEND as the best British Directorial
Debut at The London Film Festival.
This hit of the festival however caused problems. Originally made
for the UK market only, Paramount Pictures wanted to acquire worldwide
rights (and guerilla films the UK rights) which was far better than
Jevon and his team had hoped for. This lead to a long laborious
job of clearing everything -actors, music etc, retrospectively for
a world market. Until this was sorted out guerilla films delayed
the UK release.
The reason we did not clear the rights in advance" said Jevon
"was that absolutely everyone we spoke to in the film business
said BOB'S WEEKEND was too British and would not travel. As a first
time film maker I thought well they must know better than me - so
we decided to save the money by just covering ourselves for the
UK. Now, because it's Paramount, everyone assumes they're about
to get rich quick. Whilst this is not the case and I do have to
prove to everyone that I'm not quite living in a Hollywood mansion
- it's a great vote of confidence for the film". All I ever
wanted to do was to make a British film that was different from
the current fare ".