Justin Edgar didn’t have far to go in order to research his new movie about the perils of late adolescence.
He simply dug out some old tapes he’d made with his mates – and pressed rewind.
That put him back in the mindset of the 1990 resignation year of Margaret Thatcher and of being a young person wondering where your life might take you.
All he had to do then was to place his cameras on certain streets and areas of Birmingham and he was magically back where he started almost a quarter of a century ago.
Described as a cross between The Inbetweeners, Human Traffic and Trainspotting, his new film We Are The Freaks stars a talented young cast with This is England, Kill List, Skins and Fresh Meat on their CVs.
Born in Handsworth and deaf in one ear, Edgar left Plantsbrook School with no O Levels – but gained a first class degree in film studies at Portsmouth University.
Regularly bunking lessons to watch movies at the nearby Sutton Odeon led Justin into a string of dead-end jobs, whereupon the young Martin Scorsese fan realised that if he ever wanted to realise his ambition of making a film, he’d have to do something about it.
A Sutton College media course from 1991-93 helped him to make the most of the VHS revolution which suddenly began to enable ordinary people to shoot what they could see.
“It was really, really bog standard stuff and the edit suite was simply two VHS machines joined together,’ grins gap-toothed Justin.
‘‘But I used to stay there until last thing at night until the caretaker came to kick me out.”
At 30, he became the country’s youngest feature film director with Large (2001).
Now 42, Justin says: “We Are The Freaks is a film about growing up in Birmingham which I wrote four years ago.
“I just watched the home movies I made when I was about 18/19. I’ve still got the tapes at home and they are quite funny.”
How did he transform the Birmingham of 2013 during shooting to 1990?
“It’s a lot more about what you don’t see rather than what you do see,” he explains.
“I never saw that as a big problem.
“I wanted to set it 20 years ago because I think you need that distance, like American Graffiti and Quadrophenia did, otherwise your films can age very quickly.
“I know that because I’d made my own film before, Large.
“What I learned on that film, I was able to use to make the film I wanted to make now.”
Since Large, Justin has worked in commercials, produced a string of shorts and directed several episodes of Doctors.
Special People (2006) saw him directing wheelchair users as they tried to make a film themselves and social empowerment is a subject that remains true to his heart.
As well as a list of trainees at the end of We Are The Freaks, the credits end with the line: “Powered By Disability”.
Working with Sheffield producer Alex Usborne, a former head of producing at the UK’s National Film and Television School, Justin has his own company called 104 Films, named after a city bus route.
They backed local filmmaker Steve Rainbow with N.F.A. (No Fixed Abode), which starred Patrick Baladi, and they are now producing Rainbow’s new movie – iWitness (formerly Fun With Caravans).
We Are The Freaks was brilliantly shot by cinematographer Felix Wiedemann (who also worked on ITV drama Mr Selfridge).
Fast-rising city-born filmmaker Lauren Hatchard was given a break on the set and is now making her own cinematography bow with iWitness.
Buoyed by some good national reviews for We Are The Freaks – Time Out said the film had “raw energy” and “never feels like a cookie-cutter teen movie” – Justin is looking forward to using more local talents and to making more films in his native Birmingham, even though he lives in London himself.
“I think Peaky Blinders will be seen as a real watershed,” he says.
“And that’s despite some of the accents, I’ve never heard South African Brummies before!
“But, seriously, Peaky is great for me as a filmmaker who is lower down the pecking order.
“More people now know where and what Birmingham is.
“I am really proud that we did the whole of We Are The Freaks in the city, apart from outsourcing some grading and sound work.
“The city has become my filmset and I love it.
“We need more filmmakers to come here and to not want to make the city look like London.”
Peaky Blinders’ creator Steve Knight talks of “mythologising” the city in the way the Americans did with Chicago and Detroit.
“I want to make a supernatural film noir set in Birmingham,” says Justin.
“It will mythologise the city and create a new cinematic identity for Birmingham’s underworld to make it more like Raymond Chandler’s version of LA.
“I didn’t get any funding to make We Are The Freaks.
“We made it because we wanted to make it and it was funded with tax credits and by one or two rich people putting money in.
“We had a brilliant house to use in Edgbaston which cost £500 per day to use instead of the £5,000 it would have been in London.
“I don’t think filming bodies are interested in funding films for young people which is a shame – having been deaf at school and knowing what it’s like to feel like you are on the outside, I understand the cinema of the outsider.
“After it was finished, Metrodome came along and said they were willing to distribute it.”
* Justin Edgar will be taking part in a Q&A after a Departure Lounge screening of We Are The Freaks at MAC Birmingham from 8pm tonight.