Bob's Weekend starring Bruce Jones with Ricky Tomlinson and Brian Glover

Production Notes

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 for it".

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 ".
















 guerilla films