Inspired by true events, ‘The Split’ tells the story of the dramatic life of an
ambitious man, his fame, crimes, love, capture and escape told through the
narrative of a niece he barely knew. Importantly, it’s also a story with a
backdrop of grief and atonement; of a daughter understanding her mother’s
motives only after her death and the realisation that family is everything.
Squire ‘Split’ Waterman was a household name in 1960’s London, a champion
and hero of the British motorcycle speedway circuit at the height of its
popularity, attracting crowds as large as any of today’s biggest sports arenas.
But his fame and ensuing lifestyle led him into a life of crime and a perilous
path of descent. He was drawn into London’s gangland underworld and
became a party to a number of brazen and highly publicised bullion robberies,
culminating in the infamous Clerkenwell bullion heist of 1967.
Between robberies, using the metal casting skills he perfected during his
motorcycle racing years, he toiled over a furnace, expertly melting down the
stolen bullion and forging it into counterfeit gold coins. He smuggled guns from
South Africa and became armourer to the infamous Kray twins, Ron and
Reggie. Squire was ultimately caught by a police sting operation at Newhaven
Docks, with a hoard of guns and gold hidden into compartments welded into
his car’s chassis.
As incredible as it seems, this is a true story and were it not for my mother’s
anecdotes, numerous newspaper articles and court transcripts from the day,
even I would think his escapades too fantastical to believe. However, what the
newspapers didn’t report is that there was a legacy of Squire’s years of crime,
that directly affected my family and took decades to unfold. It is our pleasure to interview Nicola Green, the writer of The Split.
How did you start making films and writing scripts and what was the first film project you worked on?
I’ve always loved the medium of film and the whole big-screen, cinema experience. A decent, authentic storyline with a winning soundtrack and engaging visuals, that’s my definition of entertainment.
I studied screenwriting with AFTRS (Australian Film, Television and Radio School) learning the process of writing with a view to getting my stories optioned. Writing is much more than a hobby to me, indeed, over time I’ve come to realise that it’s a form of meditation, the inner focus required to find a genuine dialogue, an interesting, insightful narrative.
At the risk of sounding cliched, my time writing ‘The Split’ was a cathartic experience; a labour of love and grief. My mother’s tragic, sudden death motivated me to write and complete my biopic screenplay ‘The Split’. I owe it all to my her.
‘The Split’ tells the story of three lives unknowingly intertwined over a span of fifty years; Squire ‘Split’ Waterman a sporting hero turned gold thief, sick child Jenny and a grieving daughter, Emma. Determined to uncover her family’s hidden past, Emma discovers a dark secret and a long-hidden legacy that binds the three lives together.
What genre of filmmaking are you looking to work on and why?
I honestly thought I’d turn my hand to comedy writing. Maybe I still will. Currently though, I’m working on the sequel to ‘The Split’, so effectively, I’m sticking with the true story genre for now.
What is the most challenging aspect of being an independent filmmaker?
The most challenging aspects of screenwriting are surprisingly not the writing part! It’s the getting your story optioned and for the writer to get represented. There’s this (invisible) wall, separating talented writers and film makers which the unknown, unrepresented writer has to chip away at every day!
How challenging is it to fund indie films?
I read an interview with Stellan Skarsgard the other day, I think he sums up the struggle of many creatives out there, in particular the issue of funding small, independent films. Here’s a link to it;
“I think that we should have Marvel films and more rollercoaster films. We should have other films, too. And that’s the sad thing: when raw market forces come in, studios start being run by companies that don’t care if they’re dealing in films or toothpaste so long as they get their 10% [return]. When AT&T took over Time Warner, it immediately told HBO to become lighter and more commercial. They were always making money. But not enough for an investor.” S.Skarsgard 2021.
Says it all really. Not many studios are prepared to take risks, be it financial or reputational.
Please name three of your most favorite directors. How have they been influential in your work?
I have more than three directors that I admire, but my top three would have to be;
Roger Donaldson is definitely on my list. ‘The World’s Fastest Indian’ is a fantastic biopic of which he wrote, produced and directed. It really is one of the best sporting films ever made in my humble opinion. I particularly enjoy the pace of the storyline, the slow-burn of the narrative, which allows the audience to savour the characters, the stunning landscapes and best of all the heart-stopping motorcycle scenes on the Bonneville Salt Flats. It goes without say probably, that a slow-burn story is my preferred style of writing, ‘The Split’ has this quality. Donaldson has proven that it can be successful and entertaining. He has also turned his hand to crime story directing, think ‘Bank Job’ with Jason Statham. I feel that we have the same love of film genres in common!
Mike Leigh, director/writer of many films including ‘Vera Drake’, ‘Happy-Go-Lucky’ and ‘Secrets & Lies’. He apparently shoots the films starting with a loose script, then heavily improvises with the actors to get each character near as perfect and fully integrated. To my mind, this technique demonstrates a directing versatility that may set him apart from other directors. ‘Secrets & Lies’ was inspirational to my writing ‘The Split’. The dialogue has to be authentic, and Leigh obviously applies this standard to his work. Set design and costume is also something of note in his work. No compromise it would seem, a stickler for authenticity.
Anthony Minghella ‘s body of work inspires me to keep doing what I am doing, in particular, ‘The English Patient’ of which he directed and wrote the screenplay for (from the award-winning book of the same name by Michael Ondaatje). Another expert of the slow-burn storyline, mesmerising the audience from the start with glorious visuals, sumptuous film scores and subplots with hidden meaning in the dialogue, willing you to learn more about (the story), letting you in, little by little. His screenplays were written for the big screen, but one thing that I admired about Minghella, he was a rule breaker with his screenwriting! As newbies to this business, we’re constantly advised to keep set-up description to a minimum, fill the page with white (implying filled with dialogue) and overall, less is more! Minghella’s set-up in ‘The English Patient’ broke the rules, but what a joy to read his descriptions of the desert scenes, with very little dialogue. This didn’t hinder his writing career!
My list would be incomplete if I failed to add Bruce Robinson (Withnail & I), Nicholas Hytner (The Lady in the Van), Rachel Ward (An Accidental Soldier), and I can’t leave out Sofia Coppola, her film ‘Lost in Translation’ is sublime.
What is your next film project and what are you currently working on?
Promoting and increasing my social media reach with ‘The Split’ is my priority. My other aim is trying to get representation, as I’m of the impression that having professional representation increases one’s chances of getting optioned. I do have a sequel underway – ‘The Reunion’ – the story of Squire ‘Split’ Waterman after being exiled to sunny Spain, seeking the quiet life, seemingly now a law-abiding citizen after his stint in prison. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The fast-life once tasted, is a life hard to resist. And Squire never could say no to a challenge.
What was the inspiration behind your latest film project?
My inspiration behind ‘The Split’ was, without doubt, my mother. In particular, how clever she was. How stoic she was. How brave she was. How loving and loyal she was to her little family. And I knew none of her struggles until after she’d died.
How did you find the cast and the crew of the film?
If anyone knows Orlando Bloom personally or professionally, please let him know that the part of Squire ‘Split’ Waterman was written for him. Not only does Orlando physically resemble Squire in his youthful days, but apparently, he too has a love of motorbikes!
What is the distribution plan of the film and did the film receive any screenings or was it featured in festivals?
‘The Split’ is enjoying a fantastic time on the film festival circuit! Film Freeway Gold has introduced my biopic to many festival competitions around the world. It has gone on to win quite a few, many in the Best Feature Screenplay or Best Unproduced Feature Screenplay category. I’ve enjoyed participating in a true crime podcast interview recently (winning the Crime/Mystery Film and Screenplay Festival, Best screenplay category). I’m very grateful for every selection, every finalist, or semi-finalist nomination. My story is getting seen and taken seriously by industry professionals.
Why do you make films and what kind of impact would your work have on the world?
Do I think that I have something to say with my story? I think so, yes. I’ve written a story, that involves family and love, matters of the heart that almost everyone on this planet can relate to. The desire to keep the ones you love safe from harm, actual or perceived, no matter what. To keep secrets so huge and never tell a soul. You take them to the grave with you, all to protect your young family.
A broader issue is that of gender and a successful writing career. Do women writers who write about motorbikes, gangsters/true crime and macho, womanising-men, have a harder time being taken seriously enough by studio executives? Quite possibly! For me to be an inspiration for other female writers out there, to give it a go, then, yes, I’ve achieved something amazing. Follow your dreams. Never give up. If you feel it in your bones that what you’ve got is special, then persevere, prove others wrong. Half of this planet is female, and boy! We’ve got some stories to tell and we tell them very well. When I’m collecting my first award on a stage somewhere, sometime, I’ll be sure to mention this in my winning speech.