I’ve wanted to make a film of THE BABY AND FLY PIE ever since I read the book over ten years ago. It is one of those rare projects with a powerful, emotional story, strong characters and resonant themes that enables the filmmaker to address issues that concern our society by using the remarkable ability that film has to take the audience to another world.

I first encountered the work of Melvin Burgess when I had an open offer from the Children Film and Television Foundation to fund the optioning and screenplay development of a novel of my choice. In the end I read all of Melvin’s work and found two books I wanted to film. Of the two THE BABY AND FLY PIE struck the strongest chord in me, but it proved too adult a topic for the CFTF and instead I developed AN ANGEL FOR MAY for them, which I filmed in 2002.

ANGEL went on to receive an appreciative worldwide audience: it garnered twelve festival wins, was chosen as European Family Film of the Year, and received an International Emmy nomination for Best Family Film. And it is with much the same team that I intend to make The Baby and Fly Pie, which we now call CROSSING 23.

The story is about a group of young people fighting for a better life in a chillingly possible near future, where social classes are rigidly divided behind closed borders. One of the things that attracted me about the book was the anger with which Melvin wrote about the implicit and explicit injustices.

Setting this intense, fast-paced, almost Dickensian, story in an alternative context enables us to design a different world, one where the specific social and political reality illuminates the fundamental truths of the story. It takes the audience to a place where they find themselves empathizing with our young characters making difficult moral choices, facing life and death decisions. Events like those in the story could be happening every day in places like Brazil and Iraq, but they don’t happen to the same degree here in Europe… yet. And though we will keep our story grounded in reality, by placing it in a possible near future it will bring into sharp focus the issues and themes that confront and concern today’s young people within the context of its energized and taut narrative.

Our hero Tom gets to know, on a deeper level, what it is to be an adult. His coming of age story is not only about getting the courage to stand up to his antagonists, but also about gaining a deeper understanding of human nature, flawed and fallible though it may be. In this way we see how a group of young people, each damaged by a broken family background, come together and build for themselves a supportive family unit.

My ambition is to make a film for a wide audience that reflects the plight and predicament of today’s young people – that crucial demographic between 15 and 30 who not only make up the most significant part of the cinema going audience, but who are also the harbingers of social change in the world we will all inhabit.


The look and feel of the film will be urgent and contemporary, created by using an energetic hand-held, subjective camera that stays engaged with the characters, as if it were a participant in the action. We will be constantly following our characters, watching their every emotion, indecision, and action.

The images will be naturalistically lit, though enhanced by digital postproduction to give the ‘colour space’ an altered, hyper-realistic look that will ground us in this other world.

We will create our speculative future, or ‘alternative present’ if you will, through the judicious choice and combination of locations and architectural setting. By choosing sites in several cities we will create a composite unnamed metropolis where our story takes place. In this way we will keep the amount of CGI to a minimum, using it for signage and to expand an existing set or give depth and our unique future texture to an existing exterior location.

The altered setting and the strong Dickensian plot will combine to pressurize our heroes. It places them in a life or death situation where they must confront and overcome their fears in order find their destiny.

Tom will be our point-of-view character, and we will be with him on the journey that he takes into this hard new world. The audience will never be ahead of Tom; they will only know what he does when he does. The sudden reversals and surprises will hit the audience at the same time as they hit Tom and his friends in their life and death struggle to confront their fears and find a better life.


Harley Cokeliss