Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 1947

Bullet Boy — the story behind the gun crime headlines

This article is over 17 years, 2 months old
The acclaimed film Bullet Boy examines gun crime on London estates without moralising about the issue. Director Saul Dibbs spoke to Socialist Worker
Issue 1947
Ashley Walters — better known as Asher D from So Solid Crew — takes the lead role in Bullet Boy
Ashley Walters — better known as Asher D from So Solid Crew — takes the lead role in Bullet Boy

I was reading the local papers and finding stories of young men dying on pages four and five. These tragedies are happening and they’re almost being passed over.

I thought, well here’s an opportunity to make a film that really goes much deeper and deals with the people involved. There was a story there to be told that hadn’t been told, a story that deals with the consequences for a family of somebody getting involved with the whole gun thing.

My background is in documentary making. The way I work is to treat a story in a similar way, to research it like a documentary.

I wrote an outline of the story with Catherine Johnson. We got the family, got the basic outline, and that came to about 25 pages.

We then began casting and started to feed in some of the experiences of the actors into the piece. And then we shot the film with only a 60 page script with not much dialogue. We were making up dialogue on the day, really.

The main cast numbered around seven people. Half of those had experience of acting, or have been in a professional production. The other half we got from all over London — they had no acting experience at all.

Beyond that, when it came to the people playing smaller roles in the film, they were pretty much all local residents of Hackney, east London.

That just made sense—we were filming in one of the estates and we tried to encourage those who were interested to take part in scenes where we needed other people.

What we’ve tried to do is humanise the issue, to say this is happening to ordinary people. My feeling is that the story is a universal one. It’s not a black story, it’s a story with black people in it.

If you look around the country the issue of people with guns goes across all races. It’s got much more to do with people who feel excluded, or haven’t got much vested interest in society. The people who get involved in this kind of thing feel that they haven’t got that much to lose.

My standpoint is that I make films — I’m not an expert on what we should do to solve the problem of gun culture. What I feel I’m best able to do is to try and make a film that will allow people to understand that this kind of thing affects ordinary families.

We should be thinking of the issue in a different way. We shouldn’t be putting out this idea that it’s about yardies, or gangsters, or drug dealers. It’s about people in a particular situation who have an uncertain and limited number of choices in their lives.

I think we need to understand why they’re doing what they’re doing — and what impact that has on the families who care for them. They’ve got their own dreams and aspirations like everybody else.

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