The biggest challenge with this film is that everything you hear - both the lyrics and on-screen conversations - was recorded with different people at a different time and location. All of the on-screen interactions are actors lip-synching to real conversations between our protagonists.
As a company we have been working on knife crime related projects for over a year, immersing ourselves in a number of communities that have been deeply affected by knives and giving a voice to the young people whose stories so need to be heard.
We were collaborating on a related brief with agency FCB Inferno when we first met Dean and James and we were all instantly inspired by them. And so the idea evolved to try and tell their positive story to a wider audience of at-risk young people.
Due to the sensitivity of the subject matter and safeguarding requirements, we knew from the very start that we wouldn’t be able to use Dean and James on screen, their identities would needed to be protected. But the energy between them was so powerful that we wanted to somehow capture it within the film. The question was: How?
Eventually we landed on the idea of recording real audio with the real Dean and James and then using actors to lip-synch their words on screen. It started primarily with the music Dean is creating, but throughout the recording sessions, we realised that the intimate conversations between them were the key to showing how important that relationship was in helping Dean go knife free.
So we lifted the audio from a few key interactions and shared them with the actors who would play them on screen. Then on the day of the shoot we played back these audio clips and asked the actors to lip-synch to the dialogue. No audio at all was recorded on location, we didn’t even have a sound recordist on set.
Hopefully the result is a film that preserves the authenticity of the story but does so whilst still protecting the identities of our protagonists. If people watch the spot and have no inclination the whole thing is dubbed, that would be a success in our eyes. And that success is thanks entirely to the talented young men who made this happen.
Hearing Dean tell his story inspired us to make this film, but then watching him create this piece of music absolutely blew us away. He’s a genuinely remarkable young man whose life, as a product of his environment, could have gone a very different way. But thanks to James’ intervention, he has a very bright future ahead of him.
Huge props also to the two young actors who had to fill those shoes, as we heaped a lot of pressure on them to be able to lip-synch seamlessly. The rapping is one thing, and probably easier due to the consistency of the intonation, but to heighten the authenticity we’d used fragments of conversations that were raw, imperfect, with stutters and inconsistent rhythms. It’s impossible to overstate how impressive it is that they picked the technique up and nailed these phrases straight away.
For all of the techniques involved, the most important thing is that this film resonates with young people across the country who feel compelled to carry knives or are lacking the self belief that they can achieve anything else with their lives.
The tragic reality is evident in the latest statistics about knife crime and the number of young people who have died as a result of knife related incidents even since we started working on this brief. So many bright young lives ended, and so many more destroyed around the epicentre of each of these incidents. To borrow Dean’s words from the film, if one young person sees the film, hears his words and chooses to go knife free, that will have been worth it. But we hope the impact can be much greater than that.