A former soldier from Stoke-on-Trent has produced and directed his very first feature film which shows the stark reality of bullying.
The film called: “Jessica,’ is the story of a 12-year-old girl who becomes the victim of school bullies and documents the devastating impact it has on her.
It’s a far cry from director Joe Vuckovic’s previous life. The 30-year-old was in the army for more than six years and served in Afghanistan.
The film which started out as a poem, was shot two years ago in both Burnley and Stoke-on-Trent with the key scenes filmed at Trentham High School and Cambridge Drive in Clayton.
Working with the Amanda Andrews Agency and Acting Mechanics with Amanda and Academy award-winning actress Rachel Shenton, the cast features Staffordshire actors and actresses including Blythe Bridge High School student 14-year-old Maisie Carr. The key role is played by Burnley actress Jessica Faye, aged 14.
Working closely with Joe, ‘Jessica,’ was produced by award-winning producers Suzanne James and Darren Teale MBE from Junction 15.
Joe financed the film himself and it has now been submitted to 25 film festivals around the world including Academy Award Qualifiers to hopefully widen its reach.
He said: “I came out of the army and didn’t know which direction I wanted to go in. I’ve always loved film and acting so when Amanda asked me to look at this poem with a view to turning it into a screenplay I jumped at the chance.
“We actually shot it over five days, two years ago but because I was financing it myself, it’s taken a while to get the post-production completed and Covid has also added to the delay.
“It is worth the wait though and I am incredibly proud of what me and the fantastic team I worked with has achieved. There is some real homegrown talent here and some stars in the making. If the film makes one person think before they’re cruel to someone or they make an unkind remark, then we will have helped make a difference.
He added: “In the past bullying was left at the school gates, now children don’t have that respite. Bullying can happen at any time, day or night because of phones, iPad, and laptops – that means for some life can just be intolerable with no escape. I want the film to show people the utter devastation that cruel words, comments and actions can have on others. I want this to be one of many films that makes a difference, and I am already working on my next project.”
Suzanne James from Junction 15 said: “It was really great working with such lovely actors. The talent was phenomenal. It was such a deep subject matter that it was important to us to foster good relationships with the actors and to talk about how they felt. Most importantly it was relieving stress by having fun and playing. They really delved into the roles of bullies or being bullied but were all friends off set with most of them staying in the same hotel, so they really bonded. It felt like a real dream team especially with Joe directing and I am sure this is the first film of many for him.”