Wilfred's image was always there like the Mona Lisa stare. He was like an extra teacher. Those eyes checking on the pupils, approving, disapproving, empathising. Being a BI pupil you were never allowed to forget the association with its most famous alumnus. Lenny Malcolm, Mike Murphy, John 'Bert' Allen and other teachers were rightly citing him at the appropriate opportunity. A film about Wilfred Owen was inevitable at some point.
At the time, it was more of case of having to learn Dulce et Decorum Est and Anthem for a Doomed Youth mainly because it was on the curriculm. In truth, I didn't really have an affinity with World War One at the time. My dad was in the Russian convoys in World War Two, so naturally I used to pour through his photos, hat and naval ephemera. Aside from bits and pieces in a history degree, it wasn't until a couple of years ago when another BI alumnus and school friend of mine, Neil Perriam had posted on Facebook about his forays into the World war One battle zones searching for BI fallen that my own latent interest was sparked into life. I wasn't sure whether it was Rich's cup of tea. He had been an award winning film maker from an early age but his own journey was via the apocalyptic route of three movies depicting life after the Big Bang. Then I thought wait a minute, that's not a bad segue into this subject matter! Many contemporary commentators did indeed think this was the end of the world as they knew it.
Wilfred Owen was not the original target for a film subject actually.
As Rich, Neil and I traversed the killing fields of the Somme, visiting the graves of the fallen, my mum's uncle (a later discovery) William Warr who fell on the first day of the Somme, it wasn't until we took a considerable diversion to The Forester's House at the Sambre-Oise Canal near Ors that the plan to take an angle on Wilfred was hatched. Along the way, we have met some really pleasant people. The Canadians at Newfoundland Park who conduct themselves with such courtesy, Michelle Preddy (professor of English at Jules Verne) and enjoyed the hospitality of The Greens at their house in Brackel, Belgium. Lucy London at the Wilfred Owen Museum in Birkenhead. Neil's list is more extensive over his eight year research journey.
What is patently clear is that we need to make this film on Wilfred Owen. Funding or not, we will be doing this film to the best of our ability in a fashion that best befits, in the words of one of his major biographers Dominic Hibberd "a deeply impressive man," if a complex one. Roy Hattersley when reviewing Hibberd's book in The Guardian said " it's about the poetry." It is indeed, but when tracing what happened to Wilfred in 1918, we also need to know what major life events contributed to that poetry. Here's to Wilfred Owen and may our film, in small way, contribute to the impressive list of works dedicated to the man.
Keith Thompson (Assistant Director) #wilfredowenfilm