Madeley Schoolchildren Star in New Movie

From right to left: Leon Egerton, Harriet Millward-Thomas, Olivia Merrills, PC Lee Thomas, Joe Gazillo, Charlie Cartwright, Lauren Williams, Jonathan Boyle, Abbi Edwards

A small slice of Hollywood came to Shropshire recently for the premiere of a movie that it’s hoped will persuade children not to make hoax 999 calls or start fires deliberately.

The film, “It’s Too Late Now,” stars a five pupils from the Madeley Academy and follows the tragic journey of one of them, Josh, played by 13-year-old Joe Gazzillo from the moment he makes his first hoax 999 call to the moment the door of a prison cell slams shut behind him.

Josh’s “partners in crime” are fellow Madeley Academy pupils Abbi Edmonds who plays Danni, Olivia Merrills (Stacey), Leon Egerton (Ben) and Lauren Williams (Paige). The five were chosen from 30 pupils who auditioned for the roles.

Filmed on location in Telford, Shrewsbury and Worcester, the film was directed and filmed by Charlie Cartwright, a watch manager at Newport fire station and youth officer for Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service. He worked closely with PC Lee Thomas from West Mercia Police.

“What began as a simple project to replace a 20-year-old schools education film quickly grew into a major project involving the Courts Service, a major housebuilder, the Dana Prison and many other organisations,” Charlie said.

“The support and co-operation we received from so many organisations and individuals was fantastic. We couldn’t have done it without them. Persimmon Homes even allowed us to use one of its houses on a new development in Lawley to stage a fake fire,” Charlie Cartwright added.

Some of the most dramatic scenes were shot at Shrewsbury Crown Court where a real judge, David Swynnerton, agreed to “sentence” Josh to 12 months in prison and six months educational and rehab. The subsequent scene showing Josh being locked into a cell were shot at the old Dana Prison in Shrewsbury.

Madeley Academy’s deputy head teacher, Jonathan Boyle, played Josh’s father in the film. “It was a fantastic experience for everyone involved and we can be proud of this film.”

Speaking after Monday’s premiere, “leading man” Josh said: “We all enjoyed being part of the film and shooting scenes in places like the prison and the court. It was good to see the finished film tonight. It looked good.”

Shropshire’s chief fire officer, Rod Hammerton, was in the audience and said afterwards: “The level of collaboration between all the people and organisations involved in making this film is fantastic. Together they have produced something outstanding on a shoestring., something that will be seen by schoolchildren across the whole country.”

The film will be shown to schoolchildren through Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin from September and will be made available to other fire and rescue services across the country.

21st June, 2017