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Drunken Butterflies – Review and director Q & A

Fresh off its premiere at the Hackney Picturehouse in London last month ‘Drunken Butterflies‘ written and directed by, Garry Sykes, is an indie drama that explores youth culture in Newcastle Upon Tyne.

The film opens with a colourful scene of reveal as a group of teenage girls chirp about the previous nights trespasses’. The leader of the pack is quickly established as feisty Tracy Bell, played by Yasmine Ati who bursts with rage at news that her brother’s girlfriend Chloe (Leanne Rutter) has potentially been unfaithful at a party.

This event kicks off the action and lays the groundwork for much drama to come. There becomes a distinct divide among the the group with Chloe, Isla (Amanda Hodgson) and Nicky (Katie Quinn) on one side and Becca (Kate Knight), Tracy and Sarah (Lucy Kelly) on the other. The feud reaches a breaking point as the ladies meet-up at local park along with Liam, (Dean Bone) who plays Tracy’s brother as he confronts his girlfriend regarding her actions at the party. Viewers find themselves in the middle of an all out rumble as the girls exchange insults of the third degree.

The action is steady, but still managed to leave room for intimate dialogue which encompasses facing the constant fear of fitting in along with heart-wrenching family dysfunction.

Tracy who is both feared and admired suddenly finds herself challenged for the role of “Alpha female” by the equally mouthy Becca. This clash spurs Tracy’s journey which is littered with frustration and inner angst. Using a documentary style of interview the film weaves together brilliant first hand tales of infamous Tracey Bell, showing viewers just how far reaching her influence and marred reputation really goes. The Newcastle way of being is highlighted throughout the story providing a first hand look into the bored and and anxious lives of youths living within the colourful Northern city.

The film comes full circle as the feuding clan find themselves under the same roof for what is an epic party of disastrous proportion. ‘Drunken Butterflies’ is an authentic indie film that is full of grit, heart and stellar performances that leaves you wanting to see more.

The film can be rented or downloaded at

Director, Garry Sykes sat down with Life for Films to talk about the film.

What inspired you to make a film about this particular subject?

I grew up in and around Newcastle, where the film is set, and always wanted to make a film there – it’s a city filled with stories and dreamy architecture, and yet very few films are ever made in the region, which I still don’t understand. More recently, I got obsessed with this site Vinepeeker, which just plays this continuous, uncurated stream of videos uploaded to Vine – it’s completely hypnotic – and wanted to make something that produced a similar effect, a kind of found footage story told in immersive, sporadic bursts. It was important to me not to make a retro film about my own teenhood, but to make something very authentic and forward-looking, taking cues from the way that people represent themselves on social media, and drawing on the experiences of the cast to take the audience into their world as it is now, not as it was when I or anyone else was their age.

How did you go about finding the actors for this film?

We posted a casting call on Tumblr and Twitter, we made a YouTube video ad, put out flyers and posters, and then we held auditions at the Star and Shadow, which is a fantastic, volunteer-run cinema in Newcastle. Casting is critical for any film, but for a film like this where we were working with the cast to improvise and develop the story, it really was make or break – we weren’t looking for actors, we were looking for talented, natural performers who had an instinct for this kind of project and who could live as their characters, growing and developing as the story moved forward. Some of the cast ended up very close to our initial ideas for the characters, some ended up taking us in totally unexpected directions, which was amazing to see.

What were some obstacles you faced while filming?

Almost all of the issues we faced came down to time and money, there’s never enough of either, and we picked an ambitious film to make on a low budget. Less time and money means a lot more work for everyone, but we were blessed with a very talented, very dedicated cast and crew who pulled together to make it all work in spite of, or in some cases helped by, the constraints we faced. I think filmmaking on this level (or any level) is about turning restrictions and accidents into strengths – say you don’t have the resources to close off a location for filming and there are people everywhere, or your big final party scene hits so many obstacles that the shoot ends up over-running til 5am, put all that chaos in the film and you get something much more alive and exciting than you could have ever planned for.

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