Beginner's Luck

(from the Beginner's Luck Official Website)

I had this thing in my head. I'd find some people we'd all get along and together we would make something beautiful.

Mark Feinman (19)

Have you ever been stuck with a group of people whom you find physically repulsive?

Have you ever been forced to do things that are morally and spiritually bankrupt?

Have you ever been so at sea that life itself lost all meaning and purpose?

Have you ever wanted to be an actor?

Beginners Luck is a film about young people with a dream ...



Inscrutable Mark Feinman, troubled Jason Keritos and mad Hettie Burton have always been misfits at school. In the dank South London summer that follows the end of term, they trade ideas in search of an adventure, a romance, cheering crowds and sparkling cameraderie; their escape route is to be a grand tour of Europe, their vehicle "The Tempest", Shakespeare's last play.

Their mission attracts an unlikely assortment of waifs and strays from public schoolboys to petty criminals. The world may regard them as teenagers with delusions of grandeur, but to themselves they are the Vagabond Theatre Company.

But when Vagabond hits the road, they find their idealism rewarded with every unmitigated disaster that can be visited upon nine young people and a Volkswagen camper van…

By the time they reach Paris, their money, luck and patience has been ravaged by rioting audiences, blizzards, sneering critics, hard core squatting, the Parisian police force and, finally, starvation.

All they wanted was some magic in their lives. But they didn't get it cheap and they didn't get it easily… they got it rough.

Terminally indecisive Mark Feniman has a dream. At 18, he thinks he's got what it takes to be a theatrical impresario. With fellow school leavers, Hettie and the tortured Jason, he puts an ad in The Stage and forms a travelling theatre company called Vagabond.

Pressured by looming opening dates, Mark finds himself forced to sign up the most unappealing gaggle of social rejects including school bully Sophie Emmett, the subversive movement expert Anya, Alex - the only one with any real acting experience -, George - the only one with any cash! - and macho Scott who is accepted on the criteria that there is simply no one else…

Their first joint venture is a Soho strip joint where "old hand" Stevie, the technical manager, succeeds in bringing down the lighting rig and the wrath of "Entertainment Czar", weasel Bob.

To Jason, Vagabond is his one chance to transcend a scuzzy life. Selling his grandmother's jewellery, he buys a clapped out Volkswagen van and blames the disappearance of his family heirlooms on his cat. Leaving the cat to undergo invasive surgery, Vagabond load themselves into the deathtrap van and escape South London.

First stop is Edinburgh. Mark has promised everyone a genuine theatre but the cast find themselves performing in the Bengali Tandoori. Bizarrely, the Scotsman critic comes to see them, but the review is too appalling even to print. At this low ebb, mark makes a stab at leadership. He announces they have been booked into a glamorous venue in Paris, Theatre Obscur. But in the "City of Love and Arts", they find their problems have only just begun. With no money and no roof over their heads, they would be better off marooned on a desert island…

Will Vagabond ever do anything they can be proud of? As Mark's dream descends into a nightmareish hell, every one of the cast are forced to question their ability to make a difference... to anything.



Mark (19) inscrutable, silent chaotic, Mark's single-mindedness and solvent durability is actually a front to cover his unaccounted vulnerability. During the film he begins to understand the real need for compassion in light of the damage assessments that has become directing the play and his company in ever constraining situations.

This is a young man whose dream has broken it's boundaries and by engendering catastrophe for people apparently under his wing, his self knowledge develops through an understanding of his limitations.

(acted by the very talented James Callis)

Jason (19), an awkward young man, increasingly isolated. Intelligent repressed, scientific as opposed to artistic, sexually na´ve, desperate to be taken seriously. During the course of the film he becomes steadily more disenchanted with the whole project, in particular his friendship with Mark whom he believes has let him down savagely. His frustrations turn to manic fits of depression, where he conceives the fixing idea of suicide.

(played by Tom Redhill)

Hettie (19), vaguely androgynous, troubled mad at times but apparently peachy. Ferociously clever, masked by an almost witless naivety. Hettie's personal experience is chronicled by extremes. She is passionate and curious about almost everything. She is also a kleptomaniac and a gifted liar.

(played by Rosanna Lowe)

Sophie (17), boisterous, vain, loud and brash, a real wild child… a heart of gold and taken absolutely no shit from no one… period!!!

(played by Amelia Lowdell)

Alex (24), Graduate from drama academy of meagre reputation, spikey with several chips on her shoulder, enough indeed to bury her, despite her tightly monitored paranoia she is flirtatious and manipulative.

(played by Sarah Beltcher)

Charlotte (24), a no-messin-about Yorkshire lass with more emphasis on the Yorkshire than the lass. Direct, down-to-earth, rather butch and takes life too seriously to have developed a sense of humour.

(played by Debbie Chazen)

George (18), public school pup. Boundless enthusiast with an abyss of tact.

A good-natured innocent, and despite being abroad in to the defiling "real world" remains intransigently uncorrupted.

(played by Daniel Hart)

Scott (27), an understated eccentric, a blackbelt in Ninjitsu , clean-cut, laddish and yet altogether not what he appears to be at all.

(played by Domonic Coleman)

Anya (late 20s), no fixed abode, age or surname, perhaps Eastern European, certainly a refugee of some kind, attractive bright and in control.

(played by Julie Delpy)



In 1989 Nick Cohen, a school leaver, in a spirit of great excitement and equal naivete, decided to place an ad in "The Stage", and, with the help of a few friends, to take Shakespeare to the Fringe.

The ad and less traditional recruitment methods (such as approaching a bloke in Sainsbury's on observing his juggling skills) yielded a cast of misfits, dreamers and public school thesps.

From this unpromising assembly, the Vagabond Theatre Company was born. It can not be said that their production of "The Tempest" took the world, or even London, or even their immediate circle of friends by storm. However, this production was a memorable one, in the manner of a private apocalypse, and is soon to be the subject of an independent feature. Co-written by Nick Cohen and James Callis, an original member of the Vagabond cast, Beginner's Luck tells the story of their humble beginnings in the world of performance.

Ten years on, director Nick Cohen has worked for the R.S.C, directed a documentary for channel 4 (Firing Line) and written and directed the short film "Surety". James Callis has appeared in numerous T.V. and film projects, in addition to a stage career that has seen him act opposite Bob Hoskins in a two man show, wining the "Critics Circle" best newcomer award and most recently in "Sex, Chips and Rock'n'Roll".

Such success was not predictable from their first adventure on the public stage. The Vagabond Theatre Company launched itself upon an unsuspecting London public, with a subsequent Edinburgh run. The public remained resolutely uninterested; playing to empty houses, Vagabond struggled with inexplicable determination through a deeply disastrous tour. Perhaps it was the unspent karma of a past life misdeeds that brought the string of torrents down upon the young director and his cast: at times it seemed they laboured under supernaturally abysmal luck. In London, a theatre was collapsed in mid-performance, prompting an exodus of the few critics in attendance.

The key to the Scottish cast residence was lost, and a self-professed Karate expert with a walk-on part broke his leg in an attempt to kick the door down. Through the misfortunes of the London and Edinburgh runs, the cast cherished one consolation; the performance of a venue, and dreams of glory in no less a location in Paris.

Where of course they died on stage and very nearly starved to a leteral demise. Neophytes to a man the cast and director were blissfully unaware of the notorious difficulty of publicising a fringe production in Paris. Once again, they played to empty theatre houses and the impoverished company were finally addicted from a Petra dish of a one star hotel. Reduced to a handful of centimes, they took their dubious talents to the streets and somehow managed to raise sufficient change to feed themselves to the end of the run. At last, with an inaudible whimper they came home. Through blind faith and sleep depravation, "Beginner's Luck" has overcome a chronic cash shortage and recruited a salary less cast including principal commitments from Julie Delpy, Fernella Fielding, Steven Berkoff and Chris Cazenove. Equally crucial has been the goodwill of industry worties ranging from Angel Eye Television, who donated trendy Soho office space, to Fuji and Metrocolour who've pledged film stock and discount lab facilities respectively. Most of this support was attracted by Nick and James's short film "Surety", well received at a number of press and industry screenings. In addition, the larger production team has shown great willingness to suffer in the name of art; all report significant weight loss and vastly reduced social lives.

From this cocktail of freebies and workoholism, Late Night Pictures intend to prosecute a classic campaign of the Guerrilla film makers art. Through the deployment of a stubborn initiative that hears "no" as maybe more often than not ending up in a "yes" the long odds of poverty grow shorter. Where Vagabond Theatre was an assembly outstanding for it's utter lack of worldliness, Late Night Pictures has been the beneficiary of a decade of work in film and theatre by the Cohen/Callis partnership.

Hence the title "Beginner's Luck" can be seen as a reference to these two endeavours, a decade apart, yet sharing a foundation in mulish resolve. No longer beginners, the Callis/Cohen team remains as dependent on fortune as ever; this time round it seems to have dealt them a promising hand.

This text was taken from the official website for Beginner's Luck where you will find contact details and lots of stills from the film.