Produced and directed by Joe Stephenson, “Chicken” tells the story of Richard, a teenager with learning difficulties, who lives in a caravan and finds comfort talking to his chickens. In this coming-of-age drama, the lonely protagonist becomes besotted with the new landowner’s daughter and his unwavering loyalty to his abusive and volatile brother is brutally torn.

The critically acclaimed film was B Good Picture Company’s debut feature and is certainly worth watching, especially Scott Chambers’ performance in the leading role and Eben Bolter’s fantastic cinematography. Although it was on the AQA A-Level course, for media studies, “Chicken” remains a great text to explore the economic context of independent filmmaking and the shifting patterns of audience consumption.

Official Trailer


Filmmaking is long and complex process, but it has never been more accessible because the technical infrastructure required to complete a cinema-ready project is increasingly affordable, even within the tightest budgets. Good DSLR or mirrorless cameras can shoot high-quality HD and cost-effective editing software can help piece together the footage. There are also lots of companies which will rent out equipment and their expertise. This is particular useful when it comes to getting good sound recording equipment.

Locations are another expense to consider. Although “Chicken” was able to take advantage of natural lighting, they were at “the mercy of British weather with no budget to have extra days” beyond their 19-day filming schedule.

Financing an Independent Film

Although “Chicken” was self-financed and produced with a micro budget of approximately £110,00, there are lots of funding opportunities available in the United Kingdom for filmmakers eager to see their ideas make it to the big screen. Independents and larger production companies can apply for National Lottery grants which are managed by the British Film Institute (BFI). In previous years, lottery-funded films have “won an astonishing 14 Oscars and 32 BAFTAs”.

Regional support is also available for commercially viable projects: Screen ScotlandNorthern Ireland Screen and Ffilm Cymru Wales all have development and production funds to help local companies.

If the production passes a cultural test and can be certified as British, it can then apply for the UK Film Tax Relief which offers a cash rebate of up to 25% of the project budget. The test is a points-based system. For example, a film with two or more lead actors who are British citizens will score you four points. You will score another four points if at least 75% of the film is set in the UK.

Making a film is a risky business so co-productions are common in the industry. This is when one company teams up with another to split the cost of the project or to secure a loan. Their individual investment is smaller and reduces the financial impact if the film fails to break even. Distributing and marketing films is also expensive so a smaller production company might sell the rights to an established studio. Both companies will then appear in the credits.

It should also be noted the use of co-productions can protect large investors from lawsuits and expensive legal costs because the smaller company “owns” the film and only they can be sued in court. Finally, co-productions are a good way to settle copyright issues. If you own the intellectual rights to an idea, you can strike a deal with the filmmakers.

Unfortunately, in terms of this film, Joe Stephenson said, “Every funding body turned ‘Chicken’ down at every stage” and “a lot of the big companies… said no”, but the “crew and cast… was very understanding”. In other words, the producer and director had to borrow cash from friends and work within the tightest of budgets to complete his vision. His B Good Picture Company was the main production house, but he also had some support from Bold Turtle Productions, another young and energetic company.

The choice of narrative was never going to engage a mainstream audience because it lacks the four-quadrant appeal of a summer blockbuster. The revelation at the end, which was unnecessary and too contrived, may have frightened potential investors. Sometimes, you have to borrow, beg and steal to make a challenging film.

Traditional Film Distribution Methods

Film festivals are an important element of the film industry because they provide opportunities for deals to be struck between production companies and distributers. They also play a significant role in raising the profile of a film through press and audience attention.

Again, the BFI can help filmmakers by connecting them to festival organisers across the world. For example, “Chicken” was screened at the International Film Festivals in Edinburgh and Dublin, but also at the Busan International Film Festival in South Korea. It picked up the Silver Gryphon Award for Best Film (2016) at the Giffoni Film Festival in Italy and won the Grand Jury Award for Narrative Feature (2015) at the New Hampshire Film Festival in America. It really is a global industry.

This increased exposure led to a limited release in the UK with The Picturehouse showing it on twenty screens across their network of fantastic cinemas. “Chicken” also gained momentum through the vocal support of Sir Ian McKellen, who called it “an astonishing debut; intriguing, enchanting, moving”. There was also a very positive review from the well-known critic, Mark Kermode, on the BBC’s The Film Review. According to IMDb, the film achieved $10K worldwide.

New Distribution Opportunities

Of course, new digital technologies have revolutionised the way we consume the media and Stephenson took advantage of these modern platforms to reach a wider audience.

For a small fee, “Chicken” was made available to stream on BFI’s own video on demand (VOD) service, BFI Player. While FilmFour, a linear television channel, bought the rights to broadcast the film in the UK, iTunes owned the distribution rights for US audiences on their subscription-based service. At the time of writing, you can also rent or buy “Chicken” on Amazon Prime, Filmddo and Vimeo’s VOD platform. If you would rather own a physical copy of the film, traditionalists are still able to purchase the DVD online. These are all typical business models used by media companies.

Finally, some producers use “open screening” opportunities to showcase their film.


Marketing a film is a very expensive business. Fortunately, for independent filmmakers, advertising on social media platforms is a cheap and effective way to raise the profile of your project. B Good Production Company campaigned on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, informing their followers of key developments in the release of the film. Using the two-step flow theory of communication, retweets and shares from industry leaders will generate lots of publicity so the support of Sir Ian McKellen was an important factor in the film’s progress.

There are also video-sharing platforms that can host film trailers for free. For example, the official trailer for “Chicken” is available to stream on YouTube and IMDb, but it has also been posted on Daily Motion. This is a great of example of traditional marketing techniques crossing over to the new digital media.

long shot of the actor looking across a field
Chicken Movie Poster

The producers also used other traditional marketing material, such as the poster above. For the media studies exam, there is no need for any detailed semiotic analysis, but it is worth pointing out the use of awards, reviews and star ratings. These codes reassure the viewer that “Chicken” is worth watching.

External Links

B Good Picture Company
Joe Stephenson – Film News | | Movie News & Reviews (
Exclusive Interview: Joe A. Stephenson on directorial debut Chicken – HeyUGuys
Chicken Director Joe Stephenson and Lead Scott Chambers chat making of the film. – FLAVOURMAG

Further Reading

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