REAL life chicken factory workers have starred in an upcoming movie set in Flintshire which has premiered at the Edinburgh Film Festival.

Chuck Chuck Baby, directed by Flintshire-based director Janis Pugh, premiered at the film festival earlier this month.

It is set in a chicken factory in Flint and stars Louise Brealey (Sherlock), Annabel Scholey (The Salisbury Poisoning, The Sixth Commandment) Sorcha Cusack (Snatch, Father Brown, Jane Eyre), Celyn Jones (Set Fire to the Stars).

The main character, Helen, spends her nights packing chickens and her days caring for a dying mother-figure Gwen. Helen’s world takes an unexpected turn with the return of Joanne. They were the objects of the other’s unspoken teenage passions 20 years ago. One night, encouraged by Helen, Joanne starts a playful wooing game that re-awakens their youthful feelings. 

Janis Pugh, from Flint, worked at the chicken factory in Sandycroft some years ago - where she took much of the inspiration for the film.

Amazingly, the film features some characters played by local women who had never acted before.

They had also all previously worked at the chicken factory in Sandycroft - and were seen as the perfect fit. 

One of them, Vanessa Roberts, who lives in Connah's Quay, said: "The three of us (Amanda Waite-Jones and Babs Waite) decided to go for an audition.

"We didn’t have agents and we have never done this kind of thing before. The audition was at the All Seasons Hotel on the A55 by Mold. By some twist of Fate, Janis remembers Babs and Amanda who are sisters from school days/Flint area where she grew up.

"The three of us had a very raucous and giggly audition, telling many tales from our days of the chicken factory that would make your hair curl. Janis and the other casting directors were in stitches."

At the end of the addition, Janis told them immediately that they had got the roles."

Amanda and Babs are from Flint, and they were also joined by rookie actress and former factory worker Zoe May, from Holywell.

Vanessa described the film as "so funny, sad, heartwarming, emotional and inspiring". 

"Myself and my friends were so lucky to have been a part of it," she said.

"We went to Edinburgh to watch the world premiere of it, and we were dressed in the factory overalls - it was a truly amazing experience."

The Leader:

Since appearing in the film, Vanessa has signed up for a casting agency and recently appeared as a background artist in Coronation Street. 

She added: "Janis has been absolutely amazing. The work she has put into this project is incredible. She gave us an opportunity of a life-time and we owe her so much."

Chuck Chuck Baby is being screened at the Toronto Film Festival early next month and Vanessa said she "can’t wait" for it to hit the cinemas. 

It was largely filmed around Flint, Mostyn and Halkyn - with the factory shot in a studio in Manchester. 


Janis Pugh said: "I wanted to write a film that really explores female love - but in the confines of working class women. We took so much inspiration from our time working at the chicken factory - where girls would come in as 16 year olds but leave as women. 

"It was very important for me to write a film about two women who had suffered physical and emotional brutality in their past who come together to overcome that to find beauty in their present lives.

"The use of music in the film is a significant part of my work, it is used to convey the wants and desires of characters. It’s much more than mood and atmosphere, it is very much part of their emotional journey.

"I think from the moment I started writing this film, I really wanted the audience to cry, laugh, sing, cry a little bit more and then go home with the film in their hearts and pull down their own fences.”

The Leader: Janis Pugh with Louise Brealey and Annabel Scholey who both star in the film.Janis Pugh with Louise Brealey and Annabel Scholey who both star in the film. (Image: Pako Mera)

She added: "It took three months to write, and we were funded by BBC Film, as well as the BFI and Ffilm Cymru Wales. We shot it last year, and it took us 26 days to do so."

Janis described Vanessa, Amanda, Babs and Zoe as "amazing". 

"They were so bold and brave coming for the audition," she said. 

"And I knew instantly they were made for this film. They are all absolutely hilarious, and with their experience of working at the chicken factory - they were perfect.

"It's unique to cast non-actors - but it worked so well and it's been so amazing for them. It was fantastic to bring them to Edinburgh for the premiere - making memories they will cherish for life."

She added: "To have the film now moving to the Toronto Film Festival - the biggest in the world - is absolutely incredible. It's my first feature-length film that I've written - and never could I have imagined it would get the reaction it is."

The Guardian reviewed the film at the Edinburgh Festival - giving it a solid three out of five stars. 

"Pugh’s film undoubtedly wants to warm hearts, and this it manages to full effect," it said. 

The film is set to hit cinemas early next year.