Born in Handsworth, Birmingham, Edgar left school with no qualifications because he regularly played truant to watch movies at the nearby Odeon. He had a string of dead-end jobs before enrolling on a Sutton College media course from 1991-93 where he used the basic equipment to make films. "It was really, really bog standard stuff and the edit suite was simply two VHS machines joined together. But I used to stay there until last thing at night until the caretaker came to kick me out."
In 1998 he directed the short comedy Dirty Phonecalls for ITV's First Cut scheme. As with all of his work it was shot in his native Birmingham. It became a worldwide festival hit and won the 1998 BBC Drama Award at the Birmingham Film Festival. The success of Dirty Phonecalls led to his first feature film Large, which was released in UK cinemas in 2002. Shot on a budget of £1.6 million, Large was backed by Film Four and went straight in at number one in the UK video charts. It sold to over twenty countries around the world.
His 2005 short Special People won Best Film at the 2005 Chicago International Film Festival, Best Drama at the 2006 Royal Television Society Awards, the BBC New Filmmakers Award and was shortlisted for the 2007 Oscars, BAFTAs and Turner Classic Movies Prize Shorts. Also shot in 2005, real-time crime drama The Ends won best short at the 2005 Raindance Film Festival in London and was nominated for the Golden Horseman Award at Dresden film festival. It also won the Big Issue Film Award and was shown on Channel 4 and cable TV throughout Europe.
His second feature film Special People premiered at the 2007 Edinburgh International Film Festival in competition for the Michael Powell Award, gaining great public and critical acclaim. It opened the 2008 London Disability Film Festival and won best film at the Britspotting Film Festival in Berlin. The film was released in the United Kingdom in November 2008 and currently holds a 90% fresh rating on critical aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.
Edgar shot his third feature film We are the Freaks in March 2012. It was screened at the 2013 Edinburgh International Film Festival  in competition for the Michael Powell Award. It was released in the UK by Metrodome on 25 April 2014 Guy Lodge in Variety called the film "crass but cute" and Allan Hunter in Screen Daily said it was a "likeable, breezy British teen comedy". Andrew Blair in Den of Geek noted the film's "political bent" and "anger bubbling under its surface".
In January 2016 it was announced in UK trade magazine Screen International that production was underway in Birmingham on Edgar's fourth feature film as writer and director, The Marker, which is described as a noir thriller starring Scottish actor John Hannah, Frederick Schmidt and Romanian actress Ana Uluru.
Edgar has said that the UK city of Birmingham "has become my film set and I love it". He regularly uses the city as a location. He contributed to the book Remaking Birmingham - The Visual Culture of Urban Regeneration in which he outlines the importance of architecture in the city's cinematic representations. He discusses the heritage of Birmingham as a base for broadly comic cinema in his essay "Take me Higher - Birmingham and Cinema". He cites his own short film Round which used the architecture of Birmingham's iconic Rotunda building as a location prior to its renovation in 2003.
His company 104 Films is named after a bus route in the city.
Film and disability
Edgar runs 104 Films, a company established in 2004 which provides training and opportunities for disabled people in the film industry. Edgar himself is hard of hearing and has said that it is a personal passion of his to put "disability in the conscience behind the camera as much as in front of it". The company have completed many projects for London Olympics, the British Film Institute and Creative Skillset. In 2013 Edgar was invited to meet Her Royal Highness the Queen in respect of his work in disability and film.
104 Films have produced or co-produced feature films related to disability including Special People, the BAFTA-nominated Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, and the BAFTA-winning I am Breathing. Their latest co-production, Notes on Blindness, premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and was released in UK cinemas in June 2016.
The credits of We Are the Freaks end with the phrase "Powered by disability".
Filmography (as director)
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- Young, Graham (15 September 2001). "The Life Mag - Interview - Justin Edgar - My big break". Evening Mail.
- Issue, Big (August 27, 2007). "Big Steps". The Big Issue.
- Leheny, Iain (2013). "Edinburgh International Film Festival website". http://www.edfilmfest.org.uk. Edinburgh Film Festival. External link in
- List, The (25 April 2014). "We are the Freaks". The List. The List.
- Lodge, Guy (12 July 2013). "Variety". www.variety.com. Variety.
- Hunter, Allan (24 June 2014). "We are the Freaks review". http://www.screendaily.com. EMAP. External link in
- Blair, Andrew (1 July 2013). [it's also got a lot of anger bubbling under its surface Read more: http://www.denofgeek.com/movies/we-are-the-freaks/26216/we-are-the-freaks-review#ixzz45QqUh3zI "We are the Freaks review"] Check
|url=value (help). www.denofgeek.com. Dennis Publishing.
- Kennedy, Liam (2004). Remaking Birmingham: The Visual Culture of Urban Regeneration. London: Routeledge. p. 113. ISBN 0-415-28838-X.
- Cooper, Sarah (18 June 2013). "Screen Daily". www.screendaily.com. EMAP.
- 104, films (30 January 2014). "IMDB". www.imdb.com. IMDB.
- Ide, Wendy (22 January 2016). "Screen Daily". www.screendaily.com. EMAP.
- IMDB, IMDB (10 April 2016). "IMdb listing for Notes on Blindness". IMDB. IMDB.
- Mitchell, Wendy (17 January 2013). "The Diversity Opportunity". Screen Daily. Emap. Retrieved 10 April 2016.
- Wiseman, Andreas (14 November 2013). "TV and film fail on diversity". Broadcast Now. Emap. Retrieved 10 April 2016.