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Ken Loach: Sweet Sixteen by Gemma Starkey
Introduction Origin of an idea Casting Directing & Shooting Cinematography Editing
Audience & reception The Politics of Film        
Origin of an idea

Ken Loach has worked with numerous screenwriters over the course of his career, but he has enjoyed long and fruitful collaborations with two writers in particular - Jim Allen and, more recently, Paul Laverty. Allen first worked with Loach on 1969's Wednesday Play 'The Big Flame', and their later partnerships include Raining Stones (1993) and Land and Freedom (1995); Laverty has now written 13 films for Loach, including Sweet Sixteen, which won the best screenplay award at Cannes Film Festival in 2002.

Laverty started off as a lawyer, but moved into screenwriting after working for three years in Nicaragua, where he recorded human rights abuses. This experience inspired his first screenplay for Ken Loach, Carla's Song, an unlikely love story in which Robert Carlyle's Scottish bus driver accompanies a Nicaraguan refugee back to her homeland at the height of the Sandinista/Contra conflict. At the time Laverty said he wanted to "give human shape to just one of these thousands of statistics". The same objective has driven all of Laverty's subsequent screenplays, which have tackled such challenging issues as unemployment, poverty, drug dealing, Irish nationalism and the exploitation of illegal immigrants.

It was during Loach and Laverty's second film together, My Name is Joe, that the idea for Sweet Sixteen emerged. Although a tragic story, the film is shot through with humour and a sense of youthful optimism - a characteristic of Laverty's work. Ken Loach remarks: "Paul sees serious stories with comedy running through them, like Blackpool on a stick of rock. The comedy is actually integral."

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In this short video, Loach, Laverty and producer Rebecca O'Brien discuss the origin of the ideas behind Sweet Sixteen and the process of developing and shaping the story.