GEARHEAD by Joe Magee

Between 2002 and 2004 artist-filmmaker Joe Magee worked with young people on Bristol’s Knowle West estate – resulting in three award-winning short films, THE KNOWLE WEST TRILOGY, of which you can see one, GEARHEAD, below.

Each film is an independent story and together they unite to form a coherent whole, with shared approaches, values, techniques and characters. The films were made with 15-19 year old non-actors, with no crew or lighting. Shot on digital video, the imagery has been heavily manipulated and graphically colourised, with Magee creating an experimental soundtrack for each film.



The films are set on ‘an English housing estate’, and each features a character suffering some form of alienation from their addictive behaviour. GEARHEAD presents a day in the life of a heroin addict. FRUIT LOOP looks at the problems associated with a fruit machine obsession, and CLOT explores how a clean living teenager is detached from his peers because his behaviour is out of joint with theirs, ultimately questioning what constitutes ‘normal’ behaviour.



In 2004 GEARHEAD won the Film Council First Light Best Film Award. Sir Alan Parker, who presented the award, said “The judges felt that this film was a clear winner due to the incredibly sophisticated use of visual, aural and structural properties of film. This is a haunting film and stays with the viewer perhaps for longer than they would like. Very imaginative, edgy – strongly directed and grimly clear.

Also in 2004, FRUIT LOOP won the International Competition Special Prize of the Jury at OPERE NUOVE, 36th Festival Nazionale del Film Corto, Bolzano Italy. The films have shown at numerous international festivals, including Edinburgh International Film Festival, Tampere Film Festival, London Film Festival, Winterthur, Napoli and Brief Encounters, Bristol.

The films were commissioned by Knowle West Media Centre ( – Gearhead was jointly commissioned with Picture This Moving Image. All films were supported by Knowle West DETACHED Youth Project. The films were funded by UK Film Council, Knowle Safe, Knowle West Youth Partnership, Neighbourhood Renewal Community Chest Fund Through Greater Bristol Foundation, Aardman Animation.

See Joe’s HYPNOMART, a collaboration with Alistair Gentry, using covert footage of shoppers in a suburban mall to study human behaviour, here.

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