George Jaques, who counts Heartstopper star Kit Connor among his friends, produced his first feature film aged 23. He spoke to the City A.M. Magazine about how he did it
Filmmakers talk about ‘authenticity’, but the word is thrown around too lightly. Not so with Black Dog, a new feature film by 23-year-old Londoner George Jaques, which finds something thrillingly fresh to say about masculinity.
Feature film directors in their early twenties are vanishingly rare, for obvious reasons: barriers to entry in the film industry, competition, and frankly not being good enough to make anything worthwhile. But Jaques bucked that trend, impressing audiences and critics at the London Film Festival premiere earlier this year.
“I look back at what was happening for me at that time: my mum had cancer, and my best mate, a friend of ours, had overdosed. When I started the production company it was a bit of escapism. It was almost therapy in some ways. It felt super exciting that I had this group of young actors who were like family.” To be fair, he did begin early: after attending the fee-paying Whitgift school in Croydon, he directed his first play, Dilate, in an abandoned London tunnel in 2017 aged 16.
He has since written more plays and short films; one industry voice calls him a “true prodigy.” As an actor, he starred in recent ITV comedy A Town Called Malice, as well as a leading role opposite Jude Law in HBO’s The Third Autumn. Black Dog has a simple premise: two teenage guys take a road trip from London to Scotland. Jaques finds grit in their relationship that deconstructs ideas about men by platforming the type of male relationship we really don’t often see. Jamie Flattery, star of Avatar 2, is Jaques’ lifelong friend and one of the two leads in Black Dog.
“There’s bits of me and bits of Jamie in both characters,” says Jaques. “I grew up in a diverse London, which informs my work. Top Boy is a great show but it shows a real violent London. I wanted to show the energy of London: the fun of it but also the intensity.” It’s about “two boys being so open and vulnerable,” he adds. “I feel like it’s a sensual love story rather than a sexual one.” Jaques and Flattery began writing Black Dog when they were 18 and he says the script has barely changed in the years since. “I want you to like him, then not like him, and be always conflicted.”
I’m heartbroken that that happened to Kit Connor. No young person should be forced out. Sexuality is a personal thing. It’s incredibly personal. It’s no one’s business ultimately
Black Dog has some incredibly subtle and contemporary examinations of male relationships. Some communities think gay roles should be played by gay actors, but for Jaques it was integral that neither of his leads be labelled by sexuality. It’s a hot topic of conversation. “Truthfully I feel like young people have a different mindset towards sexuality,” says Jaques, who doesn’t identify as queer. “What was important as a director was going, right here’s my view on it: you fall in love with a person rather than a gender. So let’s make sure that comes across. That feels quite freeing and important.”
It’s pertinent stuff for Jaques. He went to school with Heartstopper star Kit Connor, who was bullied out of the closet in 2022 after speculation around his sexuality. On Heartstopper Connor plays a bisexual lead. “I’m bi,” he tweeted, before deleting his social media profile. “Congrats on forcing an 18-year-old to out himself. I think some of you missed the point of the show.” “I’m heartbroken that that happened to him because no young person should be forced out,” says Jaques, sounding charged for the first time. “And you know, sexuality is a personal thing. It’s incredibly personal. It’s no one’s business ultimately.”
At school, the duo performed together in school plays, including a version of Macbeth. “I had like two lines and I think Kit did too. Now we speak once a week. I’m so proud of everything he’s achieved and I think the feeling’s mutual.”
Connor posted the Black Dog trailer on social media and his six million followers got it two million views overnight. “I didn’t ask him to, I never would. They’re all so supportive,” says Jaques. “Like you said, it’s quite a weird thing to direct your first feature film at 22. Some people are just like, ‘I’ve got to support him.’”
Jaques hopes to continue working on both sides of the camera, telling stories that resonate with young people, “about grief and love,” he says. “And friendships. I’m excited to keep creating characters that make you question something in yourself.”
George Jaques’ debut feature film Black Dog was released through streaming platform Mubi
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