A powerful new film about TB, directed by a farmer’s son, is set to take the movie world by storm.

Bovine, a 10-minute “short”, is a fictional coming-of-age story about a boy living on a farm hit by the disease.

The film is the product of months of work for 21-year-old Will McGregor, whose experiences growing up on a farm in Norfolk inspired him to make it.

It could bring the big break for this talented filmmaker, who wrote the script in tandem with his studies at the University for the Creative Arts in Surrey.

will mcgregor film director 
Director Will McGregor.
The cast and crew of more than 20 spent a week filming on location in Devon and the plan is to launch it later this year on to the festival circuit – including the world-famous Cannes and Sundance events.

Will, who’s the youngest-ever nominee for an award at the BAFTAs, hopes this “honest and raw” drama will inform non-farming audiences about the seriousness of bovine TB and communicate key messages about the devastation it wreaks on rural businesses and families.

He reckons it will show how arduous the life of dairy farmers can be, while positively representing their sense of stewardship and the duty of care they feel for their stock. “It’s a duty,” Will says, “that leads to an appreciation for their animals that is heartfelt and unique.”

For Will, the choice of location at Blackawton was crucial. “A film’s made in pre-production,” he says. “It’s all in the planning.”

Each shot was meticulously planned, the script was revised more than 20 times and, though he was “instantly and continuously inspired” by the environment, he stresses he wanted to “avoid making a butter advert”.

He cites Hunger, the story of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, directed by Steve McQueen, and Darren Aranofsky’s The Wrestler – the tale of a faded wrestler, played by Mickey Rourke, attempting a comeback – as among his eclectic mix of influences and reference points and refers to the “variety and texture” of the environment they chose.

“I want to tell stories and film is the ultimate medium, bringing together images, sound and actors. Every element of creativity is in there.”

Actors John Parker and 12-year-old Freddie Davies play the two main characters and, for Totnes-based John who acts in tandem with his job in engineering but had once been a farmer, it was a case of déjà vu.

boy in barn Freddie Davies

The start of something big? Freddie Davies in a scene from the film.

“I did a scene in the parlour and it was like riding a bicycle,” he says. “It all comes back as soon as you put the clusters on.”

For the film’s young star, meanwhile, it could mark the start of something big. Freddie wants to go in the Navy and, though he enjoys drama, reckons he did the audition because “it was raining and there was nothing else to do”.

His mum didn’t even know he was doing it. “First I knew,” she says, “was when I got a letter saying he’d been called back. It’s a brilliant opportunity for him and great experience, though.”

boyattable John Parker R Freddie Davies L

Chemistry… Freddie Davies with co-star John Parker.

According to Bovine‘s producer Poppy Solari, there is amazing chemistry between the two actors. “The fact that they looked alike, acted alike and worked together well were all also important,” she says.

It could end up costing more than £10,000 to make the film – they’ve relied heavily, Poppy says, on a lot of people helping, including Mole Valley Farmers and Andrew Dayment, whose farm it’s been filmed on.

“It’s been stressful at times, but I love it,” she says. “It’s a real buzz bringing something like this together. Film sets become like one big family.”

Will, whose production company is called Evoke, plans to keep making films, to make bigger ones and to make sure more people see them.

To say he’s driven is an understatement. “If I spend two days doing nothing, on the third day I’d think of a film to make,” he says.

It’s all, he says, about the story. “I’m not saying you have to have a moral, but you have to have a reason for making it. I want to make a film that can help people see the world in the way I see it or change the way they see it.”

For real-life farmer Andrew Dayment and his son James – who got on with the job of farming as filming took place – the subject of TB is one close to their hearts. They’re in area where there is a big population of badgers and have lost animals to it. “Testing is dreadful, it’s so stressful,” says Andrew.

He enjoyed the whole process, despite a bit of leg-pulling from friends and relatives. “The neighbour thought we were making a porn film,” he jokes.


For more news, pictures and behind-the-scenes stories on Bovine, see Farmlife’s blog at www.fwi.co.uk/fieldday


Pictures: Briony Bond