IT will be lights, camera, action in Southend next month as the seaside town welcomes its eighth annual Southend on Sea Film Festival with the world premiere of London Heist opening the event on 26 May.
Taking the opportunity for a day out at the seafront, the film’s star and writer Craig Fairbrass popped down to the Genting Casino in Westcliff on Tuesday to meet with Festival Director Paul Cotgrove to officially launch the five day festival.
“I love Southend,” says Craig. “I can remember coming here when I was three, because I lived in Stepney, if the sun was ever out we lived under Stepney Green Station so we used to hop on the train and come down for the day.”
No stranger to the big screen, Craig has starred alongside big names such as Denzel Washington (For Queen and Country), Sylvester Stallone (Cliffhanger) and Jason Statham (The Bank Job), as well as many roles on TV including Dan Sullivan in Eastenders.
However, his new flick is one that is very close to his heart.
“I’ve had it wrapped around me for 20 years,” says the 52-year-old. “It was just a story from going to Marbella as a kid, being out there so many times, sitting by the pool just thinking. I wanted to write a really solid crime film but with a twist.”
The film tells the story of Jack Cregan, a career criminal who sets out on a revenge mission after his father Alfie is brutally murdered and their heist money is stolen, set against the backdrop of London and Spain – as well as some scenes shot right here in Essex.
“We shot everywhere, in Essex, London, Spain…only roads and houses, I don’t think you could pinpoint it as an iconic place in Essex,” he says. “But this is a personal mission for me, I lost my dad 18 months ago and we used to talk about the film all the time so I had to get it made.”
Having written the film, the story has been a labour of love, but Craig says acting out your own script can come with its problems.
“It was a nightmare!” he laughs. “I’m not a writer so this took forever and I’ve had other writers come on board to help. Obviously there are lines that I wrote for other characters and lines that I wrote for my character that you’ve got to be open to change. I’ve been on film sets and writers get quite precious about material with people changing stuff. As long as you’re changing stuff for the better, that’s all that matters and I couldn’t have wished for the film to turn out any better. Mark McQueen has done a terrific job as Director. Let’s not forget it’s a low budget British film, but as a low budget, British feature film it stands alone.”
The film’s world premiere Gala screening will take place at Southend’s Odeon Cinema and Craig couldn’t be more thrilled to be opening the Southend on Sea Film Festival.
“I’d been invited twice before but I’ve always been working so it was completely impossible. This is my first time there and it just so happens that our film is opening it!”
The Southend on Sea Film Festival runs from 26 May 30 May. For a full programme and details about venues and where to buy tickets, visit southendfilmfestival.com.