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Stuart Brennan (born 8 October 1982) is a BAFTA-winning British actor, writer, producer and director. He is an advocate for independent film, helping set up and establish film festivals across the world.
Early life and education
Brennan attended Pilton Infants School, Pilton Bluecoats School, Pilton Community College, North Devon College then went on to study drama at the University of Winchester (formerly known as King Alfreds College). Brennan's love of drama started at school starring in school plays, as well as Gang Show as a cub and scout then while at University Brennan was the lead in several productions.
Brennan was awarded a WBC Championship belt and made an honorary World Champion by the World Boxing Council in recognition of the five years he spent training for his portrayal of Howard Winstone in Risen, a part for which he also had to lose two stone (28 pounds). In 2011 he was awarded a BAFTA Wales for Best Actor for the portrayal.
Writer – theatre
Brennan's graduation theatre performance A Little Silhouette of a Man which he co-wrote and performed in with two other actors, was selected to premiere for the public at the prestigious Theatre Royal Winchester, to a sell-out crowd. The play is a comedic tragedy, starting with three friends waiting in a hospital for news of their friend, intercut with flashbacks of them waiting for their friend to arrive at their house, earlier in the day. The witty banter back and forth between the characters drives the plot and saw the three performers receive the highest marks of their graduating class for the piece.
His next play Coffee Mornings was produced and directed by Peter Snee and premiered at the Stoke Repertory Theatre in a professional production for Theatre Giant. The play had strong reviews and the writing was described by one critic as Pinter-esque. The uplifting comedy takes place over a series of coffee mornings between two working women. It explores the Hamlet quote "to be or not to be", as one woman suffers the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, yet speaks nothing of it, whilst the other takes arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing them, ends them—but to what benefit?
In 2013 Brennan wrote the play for the UK & Ireland number one stage tour of Houdini. The play focuses on the Brothers Houdini and their individual careers after they stop working together. As Harry's career takes off, his brothers struggles. The play toured for five weeks to some of the top UK theatre venues including, The Blackpool Grand, The Theatre Royal Windsor & Dublin's 2,000-seat venue The Gaiety Theatre. Brennan starred in the production as Theo Houdini and was supported by Harry Potter star Evanna Lynch, as Bess Houdini and Jamie Nichols as Harry Houdini. The play got strong reviews, with the script being referred to as "dynamic" and The Stage referred to the play as "a delicious piece of theatre that combines great drama with a generous helping of tricks and illusions."
In 2014 he wrote the play The Audition, a two-hander for a male and a female which has yet to be staged.
Writer – film & TV
In 2001 Brennan wrote the feature film Getting High With Leo which he produced and directed. It premiered in Winchester, but Brennan decided against releasing it and still retains the rights. Based on a true story the film follows a young man at university, who struggles with alcoholism and drug addiction.
In 2002 Brennan wrote the feature film The Innocent which he also produced and directed. The horror film was shot in Devon and released in the US and Russia. The modern-day ghost story, had Lauren Cohan originally cast in one of the roles, until she had to pull out due to other commitments.
In 2003 Brennan wrote the feature film New Awakenings, which has attached John Noble and saw Brennan travel to London and LA to meet a variety of actors and producers. The film was almost financed in 2005 and again in 2009, but as yet still has yet to be produced. The film is about a lonely farmer and his estranged niece, living bitterly with each other until the arrival of a young man suffering from PTSD, who offers to work on the farm and slowly but surely helps heal the rift between the pair.
In 2004 Brennan wrote, directed and produced the short film The Blood We Cry, which aired on the BSKYB network. The film deals with a false accusation of racism and mistaken identity.
2004 also saw Brennan write the feature film The Lost, which was shot entirely in 48 hours in Hampshire and directed by Neil Jones. The film features a poem being read by horror icon Peter Cushing in what is credited as his last ever film performance. The film was sold at the Cannes Film Festival and is on release in the US. The story follows three soldiers struggling with the horrors of World War I, escaping back across enemy ground and then slowly turning on one another.
In 2005 Brennan wrote and produced the short film The Fifteenth based on the life of boxer Howard Winstone in the 1960s. The film was produced with and directed by Neil Jones and was the precursor to Risen. It played at numerous festivals, including at the Short Film Corner at the Cannes Film Festival.
In 2006 Brennan wrote the feature film Risen, which he produced with Neil Jones, who also directed. The film was the feature-length story about the life of boxer Howard Winstone and his incredible road to winning the world title in the 1960s, despite losing the tips of three fingers on his right hand at the age of 16 and being unable to form a fist with that hand. The film has sold around the world and is available in most territories, picking up numerous awards at film festivals. The film took five years to make in which time, Neil Jones also worked on the script and became credited as co-writer. Risen had the largest UK independent film premiere, with over 2,000 people attending the Cardiff International Arena for the screening.
In 2007 Brennan was hired by Sunipa Pictures to write on spec the feature script Life of Scars, a western that follows a run away slave, who becomes a gunslinger and hunts down his racist employers. It has yet to be produced. This year Brennan also wrote Zombies of the Night, a feature film that started production, but got cancelled in post-production, a short version was eventually released entitled ZOTN.
In 2008 Brennan was hired to write on spec a viking drama about a plot to dethrone a viking king titled Fallen Warriors for JMJ Productions. The feature film has yet to be produced. That same year he worked with writer Daniel Good on the black comedy feature film Crystal Palace which was optioned, but has yet to be produced. Brennan also wrote the feature film Rogue a vampire thriller, that has yet to be produced, although some scenes were shot to help raise funding.
In 2009 & 2010 Brennan was hired by Green Leaf Film Studios in Chengdu, China to adapt 26 episodes of Terry Deary's True Time Tales best-selling books for TV. The directors of the studio were so impressed with Brennan they hired him for 18 months to help set up the VFX and Animation studio. Brennan directed and produced the 30-minute 3D-animated pilot episode of True Time Tales. He also wrote a series of twelve short episodes of adaptations of classic fables, entitled Fantastic Fables and oversaw the production of the two-minute 2D-animated pilot episode.
In 2011 the final draft of the casino heist feature film Villains was finished by Brennan, which Universal stated as one of "the best they'd ever read" and came on board to finance the film, but after the failure of a number of their films at the box office that year, withdrew funding at the last minute and put the project into turnaround. Neil Jones was attached to direct.
2012 saw Brennan collaborate with actor Sebastian Street and write the film Tomorrow. The movie went into production in 2014 with Martha Pinson directing and Brennan starring with Stephen Fry and James Cosmo. Martin Scorsese and Emma Tillinger Koskoff executive-produced the picture.
In the same year Brennan wrote two other scripts, the dark horror A Backpacker, which is currently being produced by Ridley Scott's longtime collaborators: Kanzaman Productions in Spain, with award-winning director Jose Manuel Marin Minguez attached to direct & The Storm—a powerboat thriller heist movie in the vein of The Fast and Furious. The Storm was written on spec for Vector World.
Rocked by the events of the New Town shootings, Brennan wrote a feature exploring the problems with guns in communities in 2013 entitled Old Town. The film has yet to be produced.
The beginning of 2014 saw Brennan write and direct zombie thriller Plan Z, produced by Imaginarium Tower and Zoghogg Entertainment and featuring himself, Brooke Burfitt and Victoria Morrison. Filming took place in Scotland, England, Chicago, Isle of Skye and Italy. It is being represented for sales by Carnaby International and was released in cinemas in 2016.
2015 Brennan wrote a modern adaptation of A Christmas Carol, which was produced by Stronghold and Towerflix. The film shot in March 2015 in Edinburgh, Scotland and Philadelphia, United States. It was released at Christmas 2018.
2018 also saw the release of his follow up directorial effort, The Necromancer. This had a 32-screen cinema release in the UK and is expected on digital and further releases around the world in 2019. The film was shot in 2016.
Director – film & TV
Brennan has directed the following feature films:
- Getting High With Leo – drama – 2002 (student film)
- The Innocent – horror – 2003 (student film)
- Plan Z – horror – 2016
- The Necromancer – horror – filmed in 2016/17.
- Wolf – horror – 2018
Brennan has directed the following TV shows or short films for TV:
- The Blood We Cry – drama – 2004 (student film)
- Terry Deary's True Time Tales – The Magic & The Mummy – 3D animation – 2010
- Fantastic Fables – The Fox and the Crow – 2D animation – 2010
Brennan has also directed the following music videos:
- Inside Out – for The New Electric, a Canadian pop band.
- Journey's End – for Roger Taylor, of Queen fame.
Festival Official Selections
|Film Festival||Project||Award Win||Award Nominations|
|Horrorhound Weekend Film Festival||Plan Z||Best Director||Best Director, Best Film, Best Actor|
|Big Island Film Festival||Plan Z||None||Best Film|
|Fright Night Film Fest||Plan Z||None||None|
|Canada International Film Festival||Plan Z||Best Foreign Film||Best Foreign Film|
|National Film Awards (UK)||Plan Z||Best Thriller||Best Thriller|
|The UK Festival of Zombie Culture||Plan Z||None||None|
|Mountain Film Festival||Inside Out||Best Music Video||Best Music Video|
|Creation International Film Festival||Inside Out||Best Music Video||Best Music Video|
|Canadian Diversity Film Festival||Inside Out||Best Music Video, Best Director||Best Music Video, Best Director|
|Los Angeles Cinefest||Inside Out||Semi-Finalist||Best Music Video|
|Film Score Festival||Inside Out||None||None|
|The Monthly Film Festival||Inside Out||None||Best Music Video|
|Phoenix Film Festival Melbourne||Inside Out||None||None|
|Rock N'Roll Film Festival Kenya||Inside Out||None||None|
|El Ojo Cojo International Film Festival||Inside Out||None||None|
|Alaska International Film Awards||Inside Out||Best Music Video||Best Music Video|
|Film Score and Scruffy City Film & Music Festival||Inside Out||None||None|
|2nd Indore International Film Festival||Inside Out||None||None|
|Brazil Cinefest||Inside Out||None||None|
|Horrorhound Weekend Film Festival||The Necromancer||None||Best Director, Best Film|
|Bristol Independent Film Festival||The Necromancer||Best Film||Best Film|
|Seneca International Film Festival||Tomorrow||Best Film, Best Film Audience Award||Best Film, Best Film Audience Award|
|SCAD Savannah Film Festival||Tomorrow||Best Film||Best Film|
|Scottsdale Film Festival||Tomorrow||None||Best Film|
|Napa Valley Film Festival Film Festival||Tomorrow||Best Film, Best Film Audience Award||Best Film, Best Film Audience Award, Best Actor|
Producer – film & TV
Brennan set up and ran Burn Hand Film Productions from 2001 until 2014, he also has set up and worked with British Phoenix Films, Studio 82, Jumping Tiger Inc. and Imaginarium Tower.
He has worked and developed projects in England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Germany, New Zealand, China, United States, Italy, Mexico, Spain and Canada.
He has worked as a producer on numerous short films and feature films.
2016 his movie Plan Z was released to critical and commercial success. It played theatrically at eleven cinemas in the UK and was released on iTunes, GooglePlay and on DVD in ASDA in 2017. Top horror critic MJ Simpson called it "One of the top horror films of 2016."
The movie was also released in the USA, South Korea, Portugal, South America, UK and China.
In 2017 he was invited by the government of Qatar to direct and produce a series of promotional videos for the nation.
In 2018 he produced and directed the movie Wolf.
Actor – university
Actor – theatre
In 2004 Brennan performed as one of the leads in A Little Silhouette of a Man at the Theatre Royal Winchester. Brennan then toured the South West of the UK with a production by Wessex Actors Company, as the lead role in Does Santa Really Dream of Reindeer. The show played 13 venues across the region and was well reviewed.
He teamed up again with the Wessex Actors Company in 2005 for a larger scale tour of The Mayor of Casterbridge in a lead supporting role as Donald Farfrae, directed by Michael Barry. The play toured 18 venues across Dorset, Devon, Cornwall and Somerset.
2006 saw Brennan take the stage in Joe Flavin's production of Blue in Camden, London, as one of three actors dealing with the loss of their friend.
In 2008 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Brennan drew rave reviews for his "brilliantly convincing" performance in the two hander The Open Couple playing opposite Jennifer Sarah Dean and directed by Peter Snee. There were also performances in London.
In 2012 he gave his voice to a recorded version, performed live with puppets of A Christmas Carol, performing the role of Bob Cratchett, directed by Peter Snee.
In 2013 he performed as Theo Houdini in the lead role of the play Houdini in the UK & Ireland Tour. Although the play drew mixed reviews, including a strong four-star review from The Stage, Brennan for the most part was praised, with comparisons being made to a young De Niro, Brando and even Daniel Day-Lewis.
In 2016 he was the lead role of Professor Goodman in the national Australian tour of Ghost Stories, directed by Jennifer Sarah Dean and Peter Snee. The play earned strong reviews and sold out many of its dates as it toured Melbourne, Adelaide, Wagga Wagga, Canberra, Perth and Geelong.
Actor – film
The World Boxing Council also recognised Brennan's portrayal of the boxer Howard Winstone and his commitment to portraying the boxing accurately in the film, by making him an honorary World Champion and Head of the WBC Mauricio Sauliman presented him with an authentic championship belt.
Risen took 5 years to make, due to financing issues and Brennan trained the entire time, so that once filming took place for the fight sequences he could actually spar for real with the other boxers in the film—most of whom were played by world boxing champions, including five-time world champion Érik Morales.
Brennan dropped 28 pounds (2 stone) to portray the featherweight boxer Howard Winstone.
For the Welsh accent, Brennan spent 6 months before filming speaking all the time in a Welsh accent and continued for two years, during the projects hiatus. On set and during filming, he stayed in his accent the whole time, whenever filming took place.
In the film The Reverend, Brennan, who portrays the title character, the Reverend, actually became an ordained reverend, after taking an online course. He also read the bible and attended church services.
For the film Tomorrow, as the character of Sky, he dropped 42 pounds (3 stone) to portray his role better.
He regularly turns down roles, choosing to take one project at a time and focus and immerse himself in each character.
In 2008 Brennan set up The Newport International Film Festival, to help support and foster filmmaking and exhibition opportunities for filmmakers in Wales. For the first two years he personally covered all of the costs of the event, giving free entry to filmmakers and free admission to the public.
In 2010 he established The Film Festival Guild and set up two new festivals, including The British Independent Film Festival and the British Horror Film Festival. He employed a manager to run the festivals and brought in selection committees.
By 2015 the Film Festival Guild runs festivals and events all over the world including America, Canada, France, Ireland and the UK.
The Film Festival Guild has a full-time staff, offices in the UK and US, Award ceremonies at the festivals, After Parties and top class venues. It has screened over a thousand films and given awards to over two hundred filmmakers from over 60 countries. Brennan continues to advise the festivals and their teams, as well as help set up new opportunities and support systems for filmmakers.
- Date posted: 2 August 2010 (2 August 2010). "WBC night of champions - Cardiff 2010". Muaythai Promotions. Retrieved 2 May 2013.
- "Press Release: BAFTA in Wales Announces The Winners Of The 2011 British Academy Cymru Awards". BAFTA. 29 May 2011. Retrieved 10 March 2012.