From the heart of a boy comes the story of a man. Dan Hartley's Lad: a Yorkshire Story (2013) tells the tale of a 13-year-old boy, Tom Proctor (Bretten Lord), who has just lost his father. He meets Al Thorpe (Alan Gibson), the experienced ranger, who then takes Proctor under his wing. Set against the backdrop of the Yorkshire Dales, Proctor manages to come to terms with his father’s death and starts to rebuild his life, one stone at a time.
As writer and director, Lad was Hartley’s debut feature film. He has, without a doubt, created something special and lasting; part autobiographic, the story is based on his own relationship with a park ranger when growing up in the Dales. When asked whether he had a target audience in mind, he said: “I didn't have a specific audience in mind, rather I told a film from my heart about someone I cared deeply about. I think you have to satisfy yourself as a viewer first and then hopefully the rest follows!”
When the film was released back in 2013, the rest, however, did not follow. After being repeatedly stonewalled by the BBC, Hartley decided to change how independent films in the UK are recognised, and offered Lad to the BBC for free. In an open letter he explains his frustration with the way independent films are being treated in the UK and how he feels there needs to be better access to them for the public to let really good films build a base and grow. “I believe a great deal more can be done to support and encourage British independent films and as such I hope this gesture helps towards that aim.”
With 21 international awards and counting, Lad has reached a worldwide audience. Yet it was produced on a shoestring budget with a cast who, with the exception of Nancy Clarkson in the role of Proctor’s mum, had all made their acting debut in Lad after replying to an ad in a local Yorkshire paper. The actors played the roles as honestly as they were written; every crew member is from Yorkshire and this unstudied honesty really translates into the film.
Lad: a Yorkshire Story has been touring the country and was screened in London on 20th June having teamed up with “Child Bereavement UK” to host a screening followed by a filmmaking workshop with the charity’s youth group.
Make sure to catch this one of a kind British film, with its heartfelt honesty that makes it both beautiful and moving.
Words: Raphaela Ring