Director to Watch: J Blakeson

Helmer is an ambitious student of film

J Blakeson (J stands for Jonathan, but only his mother calls him that) knows his movies. His debut, “The Disappearance of Alice Creed,” a tight and twisty kidnap thriller, is an exercise in shooting on a shoestring.

It bears all the hallmarks of years spent studying films, and devouring the books written on filmmakers, with one goal in mind — becoming a director.

Blakeson started making shorts in high school and continued at the U. of Warwick, where he earned a degree in film studies.

I’ve been trying to direct my debut for 10 years,” he says. “I started writing scripts because people didn’t want to hire me as a director.” He sold a pitch, co-written with James McCarthy, to Working Title, and together they were hired to write the sequel to “The Descent,” which gave Blakeson his first produced credit.

He conceived “Alice Creed” as a project he could direct himself for next to nothing. “I set myself rules. Only three characters. One or two locations. A flat and the back of a van.”

The two kidnappers (Eddie Marsan, Martin Compston) wear balaclavas for much of the action. Their victim, Gemma Arterton, spends much time with a hood on her head. “I designed it so you could make 50% of the film with stand-ins if you needed to,” he explains.

Such extremes were unnecessary when CinemaNX came aboard to finance the project, although the budget still didn’t afford much room for maneuvering.

I want to make ambitious movies. My ideas are more akin to films American producers make than British ones,” he says. “I’d love to have (Steven) Soderbergh’s career. He does massive Hollywood movies and tiny movies.”

Marc Samuelson of Cinema-NX says Blakeson’s the real deal. “He has all the inspired ideas one might hope for from a director,” he says, “but he has also done the hard work, in that he has watched, well, nearly everything, and remembers, thinks about and uses what he has seen.”

VITAL STATS

AGE: 32

HOMEBASE: London

INSPIRED BY: Stanley Kubrick and David Fincher

REPS: Agents: Nicky Lund (David Higham Associates, London); Jay Baker (CAA)

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