The idea for this film was inspired when I read the story about a US fighter with Downs’ Syndrome, whom had been battling the courts and negative press to be allowed to compete in a fight. Although inspired by his real life struggle, we didn’t want to write about his experiences but instead wrote our own short intense story set in the world of British Amateur Boxing and the relationships of his family. We loved the idea that this short would show Down’s Syndrome in a different light, a different role and something that hopefully surprises the audience.
Currently there has been a lot of talk in the media about the inclusion of disability in both main stream television but also film and it was subject of a major talk at this years BFI London Film Festival,w here they set out plans to hit targets that would see more disabled people either starring in or working on British Film productions.
We put a lot of time into the casting as this was a very niche role to fill. After a few months we were lucky enough to find Tommy Jessop (Fighter). He had plenty of acting experience but knew nothing about boxing. Through a few contacts of mine, we were able to get him trained up by Olympic competing boxer Ryan Pickard, the captain of Repton Boxing Club in East London. He taught both Tommy and Simon Kunz (Pops) the basics in a very short period of time. For both of them this was an amazing experience and unique training opportunity that not only got them both looking believable but during this process they formed a close relationship that was priceless on the shoot.
Working with Tommy was such a great experience. He’s a trained actor through and through and not only knew his lines but everyone else’s, he was prepared and ready at every step of the way and incredibly professional. My approach and understanding of Down’s syndrome has completed changed since working withTommy and from this I strongly feel that we need more disability visible and included in mainstream media. Its up to us to change the publics opinions by showing them a different world out there.
FIGHTER was commissioned as part of Film London's 2017 'London’s Calling' Scheme. From over three hundred entries, Fighter was one of twenty one films selected for funding and support by Film London.
The twenty-one finished films were showcased at an industry screening in London September 2017 where Fighter won two of the three awards for both best film and best cinematography.
From that twenty one films produced Fighter was among nine given the honour of premièring as part of the 61st BFI London Film Festival 2017. Fighter has gone on to be selected for a number of other festivals as well as gaining industry attention in the press and across the film community.
Article by Bugsy Steel