Leon Herbert has been in the business for over 20 years as a film and stage actor, with roles in Scandal, Aliens 3 and Batman and most notably as the first black Jesus Christ. After a successful acting career Leon turned to screenwriting and has written 11 feature film screenplays and directed several theatre productions. He headed up ‘Corazon Visual Network’ for 3 years, a filmmakers association set up to inspire and support young filmmakers. As a result, he has produced nine short films. In August 2005 he completed his first feature, ‘Emotional Backgammon’, a romantic thriller set in London.
The film was the first independent to premiere at Odeon’s Leicester square cinema with 850 viewers. The making of the film was the subject of a Channel 4 documentary, ‘Movie Virgins’ where Leon was challenged to produce a film with no money and was pitted against another director who was given £3 million.
Through this exposure and personal savings of £6,000 Leon shot the film on deferred fees. He was supported in production through contacts that shared his vision such as major facility houses, Fuji film, Panavision, Lea Lighting, Soho Editors and Goldcrest Films. It took £1.5 million and 5 years to complete the project.
The team secured a major US distributor within 3 months of completing Emotional Backgammon. Leon joined his brother in creating their own distribution company, Buccaneer Distribution Limited. Following a successful UK regional release the movie has won ‘Man of Merit’ award from the Executive and Professional Network and scooped a Pan African Film festival ‘Jury Award’, Denver Independent Film festival ‘Best Film’ and Screen Nation Film and TV award for ‘Outstanding achievement’. Most recently the Black Enterprise Awards nominated Buccaneer Distribution as ‘International Business of the Year’.
A lack of positive role models in the media for black youth has had a disastrous social impact. Leon has shot a documentary about this issue, which reflects on the lack of support for new talent in the UK film industry. Leon has been approached many times to act as an inspirational speaker for the next generation of young filmmakers. In this industry success lies in self-belief and conviction. Leon can share his experience to show how films can be made using his practical hands on experience and sheer determination.