• Country: United Kingdom
  • Initial release: June 6, 2018
  • Film Director: William Stone
  • Running Time: 20 Minutes
  • IMDB Grade: 6.8

In the vibrant city of Bristol, a tale of resilience and determination unfolds in the film “The Fence.” This heartwarming story, directed by William Stone, captures the essence of growing up on a council estate in the early 1980s. Inspired by true events, Stone’s film explores the challenges faced by a young boy named Steve Knight as he navigates the complexities of friendship, family, and the loss of his beloved motorcycle. From its humble beginnings as a short film to a highly anticipated feature, “The Fence” has captivated audiences and become a symbol of triumph over adversity.

A Bristolian Ode to Boyhood

The foundation of “The Fence” lies in the rich history of Bristol’s Hartcliffe estate. Built during the social housing boom of the 1950s, Hartcliffe faced its fair share of hardships, with notorious rioting incidents in the 1990s. However, beneath the negative headlines and statistics, a community with fascinating stories and a strong sense of camaraderie thrived. It was within this backdrop that William Stone, the film’s writer and director, discovered the inspiration for his project.

Stone’s father, a resident of Hartcliffe during the late 1970s and early 1980s, regaled his son with tales of that bygone era. Intrigued by the dynamics of a time before the internet and mobile phones, Stone was fascinated by the sense of community and principles that seemed to permeate every aspect of life. It was these anecdotes that formed the basis for “The Fence,” a testament to the power of storytelling and the enduring bonds of friendship.

From Short Film to Feature Triumph

To bring the Knight family’s story to life, Stone enlisted the help of his trusted collaborator, cinematographer Adam Pickford. The duo’s partnership began during their time at Bournemouth University, where their shared passion for filmmaking ignited a creative spark. While their friendship developed gradually, it became evident to Stone that Pickford possessed a talent for cinematography that aligned perfectly with his own aspirations as a director.

Their collaboration led to the creation of several short films, including the award-winning 2018 version of “The Fence.” This short garnered widespread acclaim, amassing over 4.5 million views on YouTube and receiving recognition at the Bill Vinten GTC University Awards. The success of the short film served as a catalyst for Stone and Pickford, motivating them to embark on the ambitious journey of transforming “The Fence” into a feature-length production.

A Delicate Balancing Act

The decision to expand “The Fence” from a short film to a feature presented its fair share of challenges. Stone and Pickford were determined to retain the essence and cinematographic style that made the short film so successful while infusing the feature with a more positive and vibrant atmosphere. They wanted to create a film that would resonate with audiences, evoking nostalgia for the 1980s while also delivering a fresh and uplifting experience.

The cinematography of “The Fence” played a crucial role in achieving this delicate balance. Stone and Pickford opted for a mix of dolly and Steadicam tracking shots, capturing the energy and movement of the characters within the story. While the short film embraced a grittier aesthetic, the feature leaned towards a more polished and colorful visual style, reflecting the overall tone and themes of the narrative.

Bristol as a Character

Bristol, with its distinctive charm and character, serves as a central element of “The Fence.” Most of the film was shot on location in the city, with occasional forays into the picturesque Cotswolds for exterior scenes. The filmmakers wanted to portray Bristol as more than just a backdrop; they wanted it to be a character in its own right. The city’s vibrant atmosphere, combined with the authenticity of the local community, adds depth and authenticity to the story.

In their quest to capture the essence of Bristol in the 1980s, Stone and his team curated an impressive collection of vintage bikes and cars. Stone spent considerable time building relationships with vehicle owners, forging connections within various clubs and attending meet-ups. The dedication of these collectors, who provided their prized possessions free of charge, contributed to the film’s authenticity and visual appeal.

Capturing the Spirit of the 1980s

The visual aesthetic of “The Fence” reflects the filmmakers’ intention to transport audiences back to the 1980s. The film was shot using the ARRI Alexa Mini camera, paired with Cooke S4 lenses. While shooting on film would have been the dream scenario, budget constraints necessitated a digital approach. Stone and Pickford worked closely with Cinewest’s Elliot Gilfoyle to achieve a look reminiscent of 35mm film, utilizing the capabilities of the ARRI Alexa to capture a mix of nostalgia and character.

The film’s grade, overseen by Cinelab’s Paul Dean, further enhanced the desired aesthetic. Dean’s background in film proved invaluable in bringing a traditional look and feel to the digital footage. The collaboration between Pickford, Stone, and Dean resulted in a visually stunning final product that captures the spirit of the 1980s with authenticity and flair.

Lighting the Path to Success

Lighting played a crucial role in capturing the atmosphere and mood of “The Fence.” Pickford, together with his talented gaffer Bertil Mulvad, employed a variety of techniques to create the desired visual impact. One of the standout tools in Pickford’s lighting arsenal was the use of old 5K tungsten Fresnel lights. These versatile lights proved invaluable in illuminating both large and small spaces, allowing Pickford to experiment with different angles and create striking visual compositions.

Shooting night scenes presented a unique set of challenges for Pickford. As a first-time experience for him, lighting these scenes required careful planning and meticulous attention to detail. One particularly demanding scene involved a fight sequence and a stuntman falling from a bike. To effectively light the scene, Pickford strategically placed lights behind buildings and down alleyways, maximizing the available space while maintaining the desired aesthetic.

The Power of Collaboration

“The Fence” is a testament to the power of collaboration and the strength of community. Stone and Pickford assembled a talented cast and crew, most of whom were local to Bristol. The film provided an opportunity for emerging actors to shine alongside experienced professionals, creating a dynamic and engaging ensemble.

Notable actors such as Joe Sims (known for his role in “Broadchurch”) and Paul Cooper (from the popular series “This Country”) lent their talents to the project, further adding depth and authenticity to the narrative. The combination of established actors and fresh faces contributed to the film’s vibrant and relatable portrayal of Bristolian life in the 1980s.

The Journey Ahead

Completing the filming of “The Fence” marks a significant milestone for William Stone and his team. However, their journey is far from over. The next steps involve post-production, including editing and creating a captivating soundtrack that complements the film’s themes and enhances the viewing experience. To ensure the film reaches its full potential, Stone and his team have launched a crowdfunding campaign, inviting supporters to contribute and be a part of bringing this inspiring story to the big screen.

The ultimate goal for “The Fence” is to secure a distribution deal and bring the film to UK cinemas in 2022. Early interest from notable companies indicates the potential for success, further fueling the team’s determination to deliver a high-quality product. As Stone sets his sights on future endeavors, he envisions a continuation of his filmmaking journey, exploring new topics and pushing the boundaries of storytelling.

Embracing Bristol’s Legacy

At the heart of “The Fence” lies a deep appreciation for Bristol and its unique identity. By setting the film in his hometown and embracing the local accents and subculture, Stone sought to challenge stereotypes and give a voice to the often-overlooked West Country community. Through his storytelling, Stone aimed to inspire audiences to see beyond the surface and recognize the resilience, strength, and diversity that define Bristol and its people.

As the final touches are added to “The Fence” and the anticipation grows, Stone and his team remain committed to honoring Bristol’s legacy and sharing its stories with the world. The film stands as a testament to the power of community, the importance of pursuing one’s dreams, and the enduring spirit that can transform a simple tale into a work of art.

1 Film Review

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  • A tomfoolery short set in mid 1980’s Bristol, UK. Exertion has gone into getting the look and feel right, albeit the need to stay away from chronologically erroneous vehicles makes for an inquisitively vacant city. The exhibitions are light however incline intensely on generalizations. The film was never going to win Oscars, yet is fun in its way. Our legend is affable; his foe is underplayed, with an excessively hard mother yet is playing somebody she plainly isn’t. The content is straightforward yet makes its clear. Camera points capitalize on the settings, giving the entire thing a more expert look than it maybe merits.