THE HOUSE OF ABRAHAM PHILLIPS

AN INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM FROM WALES

“To live in Wales is to be conscious at dusk of the spilled blood that went into the making of the wild sky.”
RS Thomas, Welsh poet


“I seldom weep, but this story moved me. A dead and honourable man accused of negligence for a pit disaster that was clearly the fault of the company. It underlines the horror faced by a family who not only lose a father, husband, breadwinner, their very home, but have to face an undercurrent of local disdain because of the comment of the Chief Inspector of Mines.”


THE FILM


Wales, 1875. Against a backdrop of conflict and prejudice, a passionate young miner lives, loves and fights for workers’ rights until a deadly explosion deep underground tears his life apart.

Abraham Phillips
John Phillips
Jemima Phillips
Shon o’r Lan
Philip Phillips
Elizabeth Phillips
Dan Malone
Hannah Thomas
Collier Evans
William John
Shadrach
Thomas W. Booker
Seymour
Coroner Reece
William Galloway

The House of Abraham Phillips tells a gripping story where child miners die underground in rat-infested corridors, immigrants bear the brunt of daily prejudice, and the threat of a roof fall or an explosion is never far away.

Against a backdrop of darkness, fear and poverty, we see the lives of the Phillips family play out among the noise and filth of industry. There is conflict and danger, but there is also love and friendship.  Torn apart by tragedy, Abraham's family must find a way to face the future, to choose forgiveness rather than hate.

This is a high-quality film set in Victorian Wales with an A-list cast and visually powerful locations.

SYNOPSIS


It is December 1875. The Garth mountain rises above a small Welsh mining village where the Phillips family live, love and work. The village depends on the industry that blackens the valley floor, but there is tension amongst the miners at the Lan. The price of coal is tumbling, and if enough coal is not brought up the mine will close. When Abraham Phillips hears there is gas at the coalface, he has a tough decision to make. Send his men home with nothing or take a risk. He is an experienced miner and they have worked in gas before, but this time luck is not on their side. A deadly explosion tears through the Lan. Miners scream as flames engulf them and the roof collapses. After the disaster, Abraham’s wife Jemima must find the strength to bring the divided Phillips family together.

As the explosion plays out underground, we see scenes of home and working life for the Phillips family – months passing as the story moves towards its climax. Abraham’s eldest son John is a passionate young miner who loves life and takes nothing seriously – until Thomas Booker, the local iron and coal master, promotes Abraham to overman at the Lan. In John’s eyes, his father is a traitor, doing Booker’s dirty work when he should be protecting his miners.

When the Irish lad Dan is taken on at the Lan, he is alienated by the other miners. These skilled workers, who laugh, sing, banter and talk politics through their backbreaking shifts, refuse to accept an Irish immigrant in their midst. Not trusted by the other men, Dan works with John at the coalface, where they find true friendship. Encouraged by Dan, John urges the men to stand together against their appalling working conditions. This leads to clashes with his father, who believes that direct action will change nothing – Abraham knows from experience the price paid by those who oppose the system.  

The Phillips family live together in Ty’n-y-Coed, the house given to them by Booker when Abraham becomes his overman at the Lan. There is conflict, but there is love too as Abraham, his father Shon, Jemima and their children come to terms with who they are and what they stand for. At home, in church, in the Colliers’ Arms, at the top of the Garth, each of them experiences moments of understanding that make sense of life’s complexities.

CHARACTERS


ABRAHAM PHILLIPS – a family man in his mid to late fifties who sees the world differently from his father and his eldest son. He is an experienced miner who has spent his life in mining, working up from the ranks. Promoted to overman at the Lan mine, he is still a collier at heart, well liked and trusted by his men. Abraham is the voice of reason, always prepared to listen to others and to find the middle way.

JOHN PHILLIPS – the eldest son of Abraham Phillips. A miner like his father, John is a handsome, charismatic tear-away in his early twenties, something of a local hero. Ending his relationship with Hannah, a village girl, he finds a soul mate in Dan, an immigrant from Ireland. They both want to stir the miners to action. It is John’s passion that drives the story to its dramatic conclusion.

JEMIMA PHILLIPS – a dutiful mother and wife in her forties. Jemima is a strong woman with strong views. The disaster at the Lan takes away her family’s reputation and her status as an overman’s wife. But even as she faces poverty and is rejected by her community, she is brave and stoical, keeping her family together at a time of crisis.

SHON O’R LAN (JOHN OF THE LAN) – Abraham’s father. He is a man who believes in progress and argues, like his grandson, for the role of unions as the only way to improve their lives. A bit of a philosopher and a man of strong views, he is often at odds with his son. The disaster at the Lan breaks Shon, but he is a constant and calming presence, helping to bring the family back together.

PHILIP PHILLIPS – the younger son of Abraham. Philip leaves the village to work in Thomas Booker’s Liverpool offices. Like his father, Philip is a peace-maker. He returns to the village after the disaster to help his family, trying to make John see sense, to make him understand his father’s impossible decision.

ELIZABETH PHILLIPS – the youngest member of the Phillips family. Elizabeth is happiest when wandering in the woods or listening to her grandfather’s stories, but she is expected to work hard in the house to support her mother.

DAN MALONE – an immigrant from Ireland. In spite of his experience as a miner back home, Dan works as a labourer in the Lan. He is disliked and distrusted by many of the miners, who believe that the Irish undercut wages and force the Welsh out of work. He is about the same age as John, and they share the same political views.

WILLIAM GALLOWAY – a young Scottish mining engineer. Galloway’s father is a coal and iron master so he has seen first-hand the working conditions underground. His life’s work is to make mining safer. When he investigates the Lan disaster, he comes to a unique conclusion for the time – an understanding that was to change mining practices across the world.

HANNAH THOMAS – a local girl who looks to life beyond the village. Hannah is John’s girl, but when he begins to ignore her she is not prepared to accept it and confronts him. After putting him in his place, she realises that she is looking for something else – something that John can never give her.

COLLIER EVANS – the voice of reason amongst the miners. Around Abraham’s age, Evans is a decent man who understands life. He supports Abraham and has the same world view, taking the middle ground in any debate and looking for ways to find agreement. On the day of the explosion, he shows great courage, going underground to help with the rescue even though he has been badly burned.

WILLIAM JOHN – fireman at the Lan. Will is an experienced miner. As the fireman, he is responsible for checking gas levels each morning and for carrying out controlled explosions to remove the gas. He is a long-time friend of Abraham and helps him to understand his strong-willed son John. Will supports Abraham without question, but he takes his job seriously and always works by the book.

SHADRACH – an aggressive, bitter man who leads a small group of miners. His loud mouth and antagonistic attitudes set him apart. He is belligerent, rude and always looking for a fight – he and John clash repeatedly. Shadrach has no time for the Phillips family and hates Irish immigrants.

THOMAS W. BOOKER – the master of the local iron works and the Lan mine. Booker has reluctantly inherited his father’s iron and steel empire. A young man who loves a grand gesture, he is all talk and no substance. As a business tycoon, he is inept – he borrows and spends heavily, and fails to keep his pit in a good state of repair.

SEYMOUR – the English pit manager at the Lan. Seymour is a surly Northerner who has no time for the Welsh. He is heavy-handed in his dealing with the miners and frequently threatens Abraham. As Booker’s right-hand man, he has no interest in safety – his only goal is to get the coal up and to get it up as fast and as cheaply as possible.

CORONER REECE – the local face of the legal system. He is old school, overly formal and fixed in his views – he doesn’t like it when the people around him know more than he does. As a coroner, he is thorough, but lacks understanding.

THE STORY


The House of Abraham Phillips is based on a novel by Norma Procter, which tells the tragic story of a mining disaster in the small village of Gwaelod-y-Garth for the first time. The film will bring to life her moving tale of working-class families and the unsung heroism of ordinary men and women by focusing on one family closely linked to the Lan mine in 1875. The main incidents in this story are based on historical facts recorded in contemporary reports, but this is a fictitious reworking of the loves, hates and hardships of Abraham Phillips and his family as they struggle to survive.


100% Wales, UK

We will use local Welsh locations, Welsh crews, Welsh studio facilities. It is anticipated that filming will commence Winter 2O19-2020.

Love. Hate. Forgiveness. In a brutal world, none of us can survive alone.