Charlie Swinbourne: Why I made the new Four Deaf Yorkshiremen comedy – which is online today!

Posted on May 19, 2014

Watch Four Deaf Yorkshiremen go to Blackpool by clicking here!

Late one night in 2006, I was watching television when I saw a classic sketch called Four Yorkshiremen being performed by Monty Python.

The sketch, which involves four men complaining about their upbringing, inspired a Deaf version, which I called Four Deaf Yorkshiremen, in a nod to the original.

With £10 at stake, the story featured four old Deaf men arguing about their tough Deaf childhoods.

My intention in making the film was to capture Deaf storytelling and humour, in sign language.

I wanted to show the kind of stories I saw as a child, going to the Deaf club every week, where the joke was in the way the story was told, the facial expressions and body language, more than just the punchline.

I was very lucky to be offered support by Remark Production to film it, and once I’d hired an old function room above a pub in South West London, and found four Deaf actors to play the roles, we shot it (with Mark Nelson as cameraman) in one afternoon. The total cost was about £200.

The film has since clocked up over 150,000 views online, with some of the actors being recognised on their travels around the world.

A year later, in 2008, the gang got together for another instalment, this time filmed in a house – where they complained about their bad luck with women.

Since then, comedian John Smith, who plays one of the old men, has told me that for years, the audience at his stand-up gigs have asked him if there’ll be a third part.

I always wanted to bring the four men back, but I wanted to do so with proper funding, so that I could get the guys up on their feet, in a longer adventure. I also thought it’d be great to introduce some other characters and take the old men out of their comfort zone.

IMG_4779So I was delighted a year ago to get funding from the BSLBT to make a new film, with the support of production company Mutt and Jeff Pictures.

Louis Neethling (who directed my scripts Coming Out and Departure Lounge) produced the film and was also my mentor throughout the production. I couldn’t have asked for better support.

After six months of scriptwriting, and two days of rehearsals, the film was shot in March this year.

The biggest thrill for me came on the first day of filming, when I saw the original four actors – John Smith, Matt Kirby, Jonathan Reid and Ilan Dwek – in make up, dressed up as the old men.

This will sound cheesy, but it felt like meeting old friends again.

They were joined by three actors playing the young men – Matthew Gurney, Adam Bassett and Sean Richards – and two actors you might know from their appearances in soaps here in the UK – Ali Briggs and Rachel Shenton.

Everyone involved, including the crew and everyone who supported us behind the scenes, worked incredibly hard, and those five days of making the film – including a memorable (and very cold) morning on the beach – were massively rewarding.

The film is out today, and can now be viewed online. I hope you enjoy it.

Watch Four Deaf Yorkshiremen go to Blackpool by clicking here!

By Charlie Swinbourne. Charlie is the editor of Limping Chicken, as well as being a journalist and award-winning scriptwriter. He penned the films My SongDeparture Lounge and Coming Out, and wrote and directed The Kiss, which showed at Bradford International Film Festival earlier this year.

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