Release of dystopian Leeds film with couple who went from 'Molotovs to marriage'

A dystopian thriller about a future Leeds heading towards civil war starring more than 100 members of the community has been released.

Short film The Good Book is the first production involving the Leeds People's Theatre, made by Slung Low with the support of Leeds 2023, an organisation set up by the city council and arts groups.

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Set in a future Leeds, The Good Book tells the story of a society that is divided between loyalists of the powerful Queen Bear and radical followers of Galahad.

'Rioters' on the steps of Leeds Town Hall in The Good Book. Picture: Slung Low/Brett Chapman.

Avalon is a young woman who conducts a dangerous mission to rescue a relic from destruction.

The short film features a cast of invited actors including Bradford's Riana Duce (The D-Road, Claybody Theatre), Angus Imrie (Fleabag, The Boy Who Would Be King, The Hollow Crown, Emma, and The Archers), Katie Eldred (Hunger, Arcola Theatre), along with members of the Leeds community.

Filming took place in late January at Slung Low’s base, the Holbeck Social Club, and at Holbeck Cemetery, Leeds Central Library and Leeds Town Hall, but pre-production took six months and director Brett Chapman has overseen editing since the shoot closed.

The film, which is just under 30 minutes long, has already received acclaim, with publications such as The Guardian giving it four our of five stars.

Soldiers at Leeds Town Hall in The Good Book. Picture: Slung Low/Brett Chapman.

Speaking about the reactions, Mr Chapman - who celebrates the release on his 32nd birthday - said: "It's a relief, to be honest - you can become a bit blind to it when you're sat there with it on your own.

"It was a pretty huge undertaking. It's the biggest production I've been trusted with."

The crew had to co-ordinate the many volunteers who took part, and often had only short time frames to shoot at the various locations.

"It was a challenge, but a really welcome challenge," said Mr Chapman, of Sheffield.

Beatrice FuentesandJose Fernandez with their families during their wedding ceremony at Leeds Town Hall. Picture supplied by Duncan Clarke PR.

"I feel like people really stepped up to this."

Many of the productions Mr Chapman works on are with small crews, unlike The Good Book.

He said: "It revitalises your love for making films - you remember how exciting and magical it is when it's not just you behind it."

Lead actress Ms Duce, posting on social media, said: "So very proud to have been part of this epic project in gorgeous Leeds, full to the brim with Leeds people. The team worked so hard and have done a stellar job."

Beatrice FuentesandJose Fernandez during production for The Good Book. Picture supplied by Duncan Clarke PR.

The Good Book continues screenwriter James Phillips’ future dystopia series which started with The White Whale at Leeds Dock in 2013, continued in 2014 with Camelot - a Slung Low and Sheffield Theatres outdoor co-production that was last seen as a centre piece of Hull, UK City of Culture 2017’s performance programme - and on the BBC with the epic Flood.

Leeds People’s Theatre, created by Slung Low, involves the public participating with professional artists and creative teams, offering an opportunity to learn, gain more experience or simply be part of a community.

Holbeck couple Beatrice Fuentes and Jose Fernandez were part of the group in The Good Book.

Originally from Spain, they now live close to Slung Low's club in Holbeck.

Jose was featured in a bar brawl scene, while Beatrice is also intermittently seen in the background.

Speaking about the film, Beatrice said: "We've never done anything like that. My husband is an IT consultant and I'm head of HR for a company, so we're not very artistic.

"There were many different people who normally would not cross paths in life. When we started to get involved, it was just fun."

The pair, who have been together for 15 years, decided to marry after Jose suffered a heart attack a couple of years ago, so that formal documents were in place.

It "escalated" however, with Beatrice getting a dress and the pair's families travelling for the ceremony at Leeds Town Hall - days after they appeared on the steps during filming.

"We went from rioting and Molotov cocktails in the rain on Sunday to then getting married on the same steps five days later," she said.

The film, which is supported by Leeds City Council, Leeds 2023, the Arts Council and Leeds People’s Theatre, is available to stream online for free at Slung Low's website.