Lights, Camera, Action and Coffee?….The Story of a Film Runner by John Tomkins

JOHN TOMKINS – FILMMAKER – Film Runner (Photo Credit: Christopher Williams)

My film ‘The Runner‘ came about when I saw a production of Individual Theatres’ The Tempest in the spring of 2014.  After the show, I met with the lead actor, Ben Gilbert, to discuss showreel material. I suggested putting together a 3-minute short, but this quickly expanded into a 30-minute film with around fifteen locations! And so began my latest collaborative film: The Runner.  The film was inspired by the idea of making ‘a-film-within-a-film’ idea,  playing fun with what it means to be a film runner and the Director of Photography from the film ‘Christopher Williams showing me the coffee tasting scene from Mulholland Drive.

Filming at Torre Abbey: Sam Pike , Tom Menary, Evelyn Rei, Christine Sweetman, Stuart Millner, Rosie and Midge Mullin

To help make the film, I brought together most of the awesome team from my earlier films such as ‘They’re Coming,’ and the critically acclaimed ‘A Dark Tale’ and I’ndietro.’  Formed in 2012, this collective of creatives has rapidly expanded in number and expertise, and with this film we were delighted to welcome the talented make-up artist Laura Harvey – who successfully transformed James Cotter into a man twenty years older for his role as ‘Henry,’ a very old style Film Runner, who can’t seem to get the lead actor’s coffee just right.

Key to making the film was casting and a tight script, with talent assembled from right across the south-west.  Among their number were directors, producers and theatre company owners who gave their time voluntarily to work on the film.  A draft was finished quite quickly for the film and sent over co-screenwriter Tom Menary who had worked with me before on previous collaborative films.  He helped me polish the script up a bit. It was key to get the pacing just right.  We had a few rehearsals before filming because all of the ‘film-within-the-film’ scenes had to be shot in one hectic day.

.With cast and crew in place, filming commenced in mid-June at Torre Abbey (as the location for the film-within-a-film), and the staff here couldn’t have been more accommodating for us. We then moved on to Haldon Forest for the training camp scene – great fun to shoot!  Then later at the Merlin Cinema in Torquay where we were granted permission to film in Screen 1 for ‘Harry Wilkins’ (Jimmy ‘The Bee’ Bennett) intro scene and a World Wide Premiere for the film-within-a-film ‘The Importance of Everything.’

‘Task One” on Runner training camp

With filming wrapped in October 2014, the hard work was yet to come. Looking back the dailies was a proud moment of a great team performance and some genuine laughs. The pace of the film was very important, with the edit being very tight and some excellent performances enhanced because of this.  Filmmaker Dom Lee came in to grade and sound edit the film and again helped polish it up.

The film was completed in March 2015 and will now head to film festivals around the world, in New York, Canada, UK, Brazil, The Cayman Islands and Switzerland to start with.  We are planning another film in 2016.

Meet the Runners Ben Gilbert, Tom Hutchings, Karen Fairfax and Jimmy “The Bee” Bennett as Harry Film Runner Trainer

We’re enormously proud of everything we’ve achieved so far with The Runner, but most of all in that we’ve succeeded in highlighting the south-west as a viable filming location and demonstrated that, with the terrific creative support and networks that exists down here, great things can happen! The most important thing is to reach the widest audience possible.

THE RUNNER UK TRAILER from Emberlense Productions on Vimeo.


John Tomkins is a Director/Producer based in the Devon UK.  John got into film in the early nineties as an avid Cinema goer to London’s Leicester Square, with one particular film ‘The Rocketeer’ catching his eye and enthusiasm to one day get into film making.

Years later in the early 00’s John realised this ambition  firstly with some experimental music videos for himself and other recording artists ( which proved great learning curves for future films ).  Then in 2012 he assembled a creative team from across the South West to work on action thriller ‘They’re Coming ‘. The films success and generous local publicity lead to films Indietro, the Critically acclaimed A Dark Tale and the latest ‘The Runner’. John also loves to support local film makers and has produced / Co -produced a few films for local filmmakers and also has a regular article in the local paper promoting indie filmmakers.  John has great plans for the future, with feature film ‘ A Dark Tale : Rowena Ghoul’ and few more short films up his sleeve.  John most importantly the creative team of talented Cast/Crew that works with him and amazing does all this in his spare time.


Official Website