I recently got the chance to talk to Jamie O’Keefe about his role in fighting drama ’10’. Here, Jamie talks about what it was like working with the cast and crew on-set and how he got into the industry in the first place…
Hey Jamie. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film ‘10‘.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
It’s about an old has-been fighter who had success in his youth in both unlicensed boxing and mixed martial arts but ended up disappearing for a few years and came out the other end settled down, unwell and passing time teaching a few students self-protection in a local sports hall. His old manager managed to get him back in the fight game and the story picks up from there, where the fights are screened on laptops to a select subscription only.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
It’s a guy in his 40-50s who is overweight, out of shape, retired from being active in the fighting arts. Basically a couch potato with health issues but with a heart of gold who gets pulled back into the fight arena to help an old pal out. He knows he isn’t capable of fighting anymore but cannot let his mate come to harm, knowing he could have helped him.
I understand you’re also the writer and producer of the project – how did the idea come about in the first place? How easy was it to put into production?
Writer yes, but my producer input was minimal. To be honest if I had produced it then it would have been a great film because I would have included a lot of emotional content and the fight scenes would have been good. But with the amount of acting and actual fighting that I had to do, it was impossible for me to produce as well. Luckily the film is story driven and not a fight-reliant film as such.
I had written a script some time back when I was thinking about the 40+ year olds who watch their kids, pals, or sporting heroes fight in the ring and may have done a bit in the past themselves, and sit there shouting at the ring or the TV giving out advice. As I thought more about it I realized that there are thousands of armchair fighters that are totally out of shape but just hidden somewhere inside them is a capability of being bit of a handful under the right circumstances. Fighting to protect our kids is one example I can think of.
So I wanted to write a script around this sort of character who is way past his prime but triumphs over disaster of sort, to give all the 40+ armchair fighters a character they could relate to. Paul Knight then had this idea that he adapted from a 1992 film called ‘Diggstown’ and we merged the two and came out with ‘10’.
As for putting it into production it was easy-ish to put into place because I knew 90% of the fighters and had trained most of them for many years in my guise as a self-protection trainer. I spent 30 years in the fighting arts. I also owned the camera we filmed most of it on, however we used a team of media students who brought along another five cameras just for the fight scenes. Paul Knight arranged the locations and set and worked hard at getting the right people in the right place. Things didn’t always go to plan but we found ways round any problems.
How would you say this film is different and unique?
I think the fact that virtually no-one in the film has been to a drama class, stage school etc. We were mostly all just people giving it a go because we enjoyed doing it. It shows in the end project but considering that me and Paul had only met a year or so earlier and made our first music video in the Romford Town Centre and in a room in a Travel Lodge with my video camera, I think we achieved a lot. That’s how we started and where our dream began. I think also the fact that there was no stunt guy and I had to go through about 100 rounds of heavy fighting over two days and still had to act. Throughout the filming of the fight scenes I fractured my ankle, ripped open my scrotum (ball bag) which required stitches, had one tooth punched out and another split. So you can see that it was pretty intense but all the full on blows were from my own pals so it was not personal or anything. They have trained with me for years so know how much they can respectfully dish out to me. The only person that had to hold back a bit was my mate Marc Kaylor who fought me with weapons, he realized that they would break my skin quite easily with even medium contact so he toned it down. So overall I was fairly well beaten and battered but that’s what was required.
It was funny at times because I was playing the part of a washed up former fighter who can barely manage any technical form from his yesteryear, but in reality most people on set knew of me as a real martial artist of many years, but they hadn’t read the script, only the few bits they were personally in. So they were watching me doing some pretty poor fight moves and expected much better of me. I even caught one guy taking the piss out of me doing a poor spinning back kick, to show he could do better. He totally missed the point of what I was doing. I was meant to look not very good and I achieved that. It’s one of the reasons that we couldn’t use a martial artists in place of me as they always want to show how good they are. I even had to put on about two stone quickly prior to the filming and had to wear a rubber body support to stop my spine etc getting damaged in the fights. One of the guys I fought was a Judo coach and towered over me. He really went to town on me and smashed me all over the place. But in fairness to him I did say to not hold back. … and he didn’t.
The film stars your good self, Andre Samson, Shawn Birch, Richard Grimes, Dave Wiltshire and Saleem Raza – with Paul Knight onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set?
It was good working with them all. Andre I met on his first acting role a year earlier in a film we did together. He is a great lad with his heart in his acting. I hope he does really well for himself because he is dedicated. Richard Grimes has probably been in more films than the entire cast all put together. He is a super guy and good friend. You should see his recent portrayal of in-mate Charlie Bronson…brilliant. I think it’s on YouTube or on his showreel. Dave was really great with building the set and a lot of the behind scenes stuff. Saleem (Sal) is another nice bloke, I met him in a previous film set shortly after he had been shot back in his home town. He is a giant of a man and I looked like a dwarf next to him in the ring.
However, you mustn’t forget that Big Joe Egan was also in the film and had just finished filming ‘Sherlock Holmes’ with Guy Ritchie. Shawn Birch looks good as a bad guy and I originally wanted him as one of my opponents but on the day of filming he said he was busy being a sparring partner for Carlton Leach for his charity fight, so he played the part of a bad guy in ‘10’. In fact I wanted Joe Egan, Paul Knight, Shawn Birch and a few others to fight me in the film because they are all bigger than me, but they all preferred other roles in the film. It was probably best for me that Joe didn’t take up the offer as I would still be eating hospital food now through a straw. He is a very good friend of mine but I still wouldn’t like to take a blow from him. He was Mike Tyson’s sparring partner so that about sums it up.
Now we get round to Paul Knight. There are only a few things we see eye to eye on but they are unrelated to filmmaking. I think he is a better actor than a director or scriptwriter but that’s based only on the couple of years we have known each other and worked together.
I personally think he has an inflated opinion of his own talent and abilities and doesn’t know how to treat people. But he probably thinks the same about me. There was, and is, a side to Paul that I liked and found interesting but when he changes into his alter ego of The Great Baron Munchausen, I just distance myself from him. I believe we could have gone forward and created some good projects together but he sadly lost sight of the vision we shared when he put his head up his own backside. Don’t get me wrong though, I don’t dislike him, I just dislike the way he treats people, me being one of those people.
Let’s talk a bit about you Jamie. What made you want to get into acting in the first place?
I began by making self-protection DVDs with a little micro digicam and started selling them on Amazon and via my own website www.jamieokeefe.com. I already had over 10 years of writing and selling books on the subject so DVD was a natural progression. I then started getting interviewed in books like Hard Bastards, Bouncers, Streetfighters and like and that followed with me getting calls for TV projects like ‘Bouncers’, the 7 week TV series I was in for ITV1. I then did the Nick Harrison ‘Rude Boy’ music vid for Polydor and other bits and pieces. Then a couple of years ago Paul Knight contacted me to interview me, Joe Egan and a few others for a book he said he was writing. I knew nothing about him but went along and did the interview. In fact, I turned up with musician Mark Emmins who I knew from Charlie Bronson. To cut a long story short, the book that we were all being interviewed for didn’t materialize but me and Paul Knight began chatting about filming. He was curious about how I got on TV and was keen to get himself on the map. He was fairly unknown then and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. He asked me to join his forum which he named after himself so I did. As part of the forum we did an exercise where we would put our ideas into a film script idea and this would eventually shape up to be a film script. To be honest I think it was only me and Paul that contributed to it. I left the forum as I had enough of the nonsense that was going on and people working under false guises. Sometime later Paul came out with a script that he said he had written and copyrighted which ended up being the first actual film we made together. ‘Thugs, Mugs & Violence’. Although Paul went out and copyrighted the film script as being his sole work, it wasn’t, it was the one we were working on via the forum and he knows that, just as those on the forum at the time know it.
I’m not claiming to have written the script, but I did write a fair bit of it and received no writer’s credit for it. But I learnt from that experience. So I made sure I featured in a main role in the film so I will at least get some credit for my input. But I got a taste for acting years earlier when I worked with my pal Gary Curtis and the famous Christopher Lee on a music video they did for the States, plus I did a bit in ‘The Bill’, ‘Casualty’, ‘Crime Unlimited’, and the film ’11 Plus 11′.
At the time of filming ‘Thugs, Mugs & Violence’ I had to choose between doing that or being in the series ‘Danny Dyer’s Dangerous Men’. Zig Zag productions interviewed me and offered me to be the focus of an episode with Danny but I turned it down as they wanted Danny to live with me and my family for a week, filming us doing normal stuff like having dinner together. That didn’t work for me so I declined and did ‘Thugs’ instead.
I set up New Breed training, books, publishing and DVDs many years ago so when me and Paul Knight got together to make films and do some acting we jointly set up New Breed Productions and achieved a lot in two years.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to pursue a career in the industry?
Don’t part with any money to agencies or producers, agents etc. Use your money to buy a cheap video camera and film yourself in the type of roles you think you’re best suited to. Get it put up on YouTube as a showreel so you can just send it to anyone you want to see it. Just keep doing it until you get noticed. Also if you have a script, be careful who you send it to as ideas cannot be copyrighted. So even if you write a good script and copyright it, other people can read it and pinch the basic idea and write something very loosely based on your work, then put it out as their own. I’ve seen it done a couple of times by a scriptwriter and it sickens me. So be careful.
If you want to make films then I suggest you get the sound recording sorted before anything else. Buy a digital sound recorder and external mike and practice doing radio screenplays or talking books, even if only for yourself. That way you will learn a lot about how important the sound is to films. These days you can buy three hi-def video cams that don’t use tapes, for around £2000 in all. With them, you can use a script from any known film from the internet, and try and remake it. That will take you through a good learning curve. You can buy just one cam for about £600 or less but will have to work a lot harder. In the few films I’ve been in we have made some really bad mistakes because we were new to it. In fact on the first film me and Paul made, a lot of it was recorded without any sound at all. Very bad advice but we took it, although I did protest against it throughout. The film stuff I’ve done via New Breed Productions has shown me what not to do in the future, so when I make my next film, I will not make those mistakes again.
What is currently on your I-Pod right now?
Oh loads of stuff from films, YouTube clips, music. Here is some ideas of how varied it is…
YouTube clips – Emma Russack – Killing Moon, How To Use Final Draft 8, Cat Stevens – Father & Son, Style Council & Paul Weller music vids.
Music – Thin Lizzy – Whisky in Jar & Boys Are Back In Town, Various Weller unplugged songs, The Who – Love, Rein O’er Me.
Films – ‘Taken’, ‘Big Fat Gypsy Gangster’ (Bulla), ‘Harry Brown’.
If you could invite three guests to dinner – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
- John Lydon – because in my opinion he changed the face of music and attitude and the Punk explosion in the 70’s changed my life and gave hope to a lot of young kids.
- Noel Gallagher – he worked on a building site for shit money and passed the day by writing a song in his head that later on made him millions… I love his attitude that he doesn’t have to suck up to anyone.
- The person who thought up that brilliant fiction book they call ‘The Bible’, it’s got to be the bestselling book of all time.
If you were stranded on a desert island – what three things could you not live without?
- Ice to cool my drinks, preferably sliced ice like they do in Las Vegas.
- LBC Talk radio as that’s where I update my knowledge from, but without internet I guess it would have to be an equivalent station close to where I was stranded.
- A set of survival books so I can make fire, shelter etc..
What’s coming up for you in 2012?
I’ve written a pretty unique script that definitely hasn’t been done before so I hope to get the right people to take it on and make a film from it. I love the work of people like Cass Pennent. Terry Stone, Steve Lawson and Ricky Grover as they are all old school and know how to put atmosphere and emotional content into their work. You need to have lived on the ground to understand that. So someone like that who can make something good from my script.
I will do the odd bit of acting here and there if asked but it will have to fit in with my availability as I’m very busy. I’m not in it for the money as I make my own money from my own work. In fact in the time I’ve been involved with film projects over the last few years I’ve made over £100,000 from my own work but not made a single penny from the film projects I’ve been involved in or from my involvement with Paul Knight. So that shows I only do what I want to do rather than what they refer to as ‘Cash For Trash’. I’d be just as happy helping out with a local student project as I would a music or film project. But to be honest I think my future lays with script writing as that’s something I can do as and when I want on my. PC, Notebook or Android phone.
Thanks for the interview!