Content Warning: Drug addiction, sexual abuse.
Isabella, a sex worker and drug addict, struggles to survive Leeds’ red-light district. A romantic encounter offers respite, but happy endings are hard to find when you’re working on the sweet street.
Coz is an award-winning producer, writer and director. Gaining a BA (Hons) in Film and Moving image at the Northern Film School and his Masters in Scriptwriting from The University of Salford. His Debut feature ‘Wandering Rose’ was acquired by eOne Entertainment and distributed in over 18 territories and 5 continents and has won a number of awards at film festivals around the world.
In 2014 West Yorkshire police and Leeds City Council set up the “Managed Approach” in the suburb of Holbeck with the aim to reduce the problems of street prostitution. The Managed Approach allows street sex workers to ply for trade without fear of arrest. Since coming into force there have been multiple attacks and even murders on the street.
I wanted to explore the minds of the woman who work on the streets and discover how and why they are there. Delving into the drug and substance abuse problems along with violence, rape and murder that takes place in this “safe space” I also wanted the film to have a love story develop between the two main protagonists but show how working on the street there is no fairy tale ending and the reality of the work and lifestyle can destroy everything around them.
One of the things I felt strongly about in the making of Sweet Street is that I wanted this film to have its own language, both tonally and structurally. I understood that I could make a film that was explicit about one girls life living with her addiction problem and her work and that told the story of what day to day life is like for the women who work on the street. I wanted to make a film that allowed audiences to feel what it’s like for the woman who work the streets every night whatever the weather. The tremendous strength and vitality that these individuals have to endure in order to survive.
The look of the film was so crucial to the storytelling of the piece I always wanted to shoot on 16mm. I wanted to audience to feel the dirty and raw environment that the women work. Too glossy and it would overshadow the realness of the world and almost glorify the subject matter.
It was important to me that the audience not go numb in the watching of this film, or to be so torn up that they shut down and stopped listening. So, the balancing between the reality of the life and the incredible hope and joy that they long for was something I grappled with a lot. The shifting tones between pathos, humour, irreverence and joy were something I strived for, trying to keep the film visceral and surprising in its emotion and arc.
I hope the film will create an emotional experience for viewers, and in the process educate and help better understand what these women have to do in order to survive.