Directing the stars: Alum film director on latest release

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Writer and director Brook Driver wrote his first full feature screen play during third year at Leeds. In April 2024, his debut film Swede Caroline was released in cinemas across the UK.

While studying at Leeds, Brook Driver (English Literature and Philosophy 2014) remembers watching British comedy Sightseers, starring Alice Lowe and Richard Lumsden. “The English setting and humour were exactly what I enjoyed,” he says. “I realised that was what I wanted to create.” 

But he never anticipated that 10 years later Lowe and Lumsden would be stood on his film set, acting out his script in a film which reviewers have described as “comedic perfection”. 

Swede Caroline is a mockumentary about competitive giant vegetable growers, released in UK cinemas on 19 April 2024. At the mention of the title, Brook smiles. “You’ve got to try to catch a bit of attention with the title and log line,” he says. “We are in a crowded market place fighting for attention. That title gives a sense of the tone and you can see the world a little bit. But this story also has emotional depth and heart.” 

Watch the Swede Caroline trailer

Watch the trailer for Brook Driver's new film on Youtube

The film follows the story of Caroline (Jo Hartley) as she readies herself for a giant vegetable-growing championship, only for the vegetable-growing world to be rocked by scandal as her prized marrow plants are stolen.  

A blockbuster cast catches the eye, but as an independent film – meaning it was produced outside the major film studio system – securing Jo Hartley (This is England, After Life and In My Skin) in the lead role proved the most important. “We had Jo in mind for the role from the beginning,” Brook says. “But she had to take a big leap of faith because we are first time directors. We managed to arrange a coffee with her, thankfully Jo liked the script, and that was that. 

“Once Jo was on board, others followed. People are more likely to put their faith in you because someone else has.” 

Jo Hartley sits with Brook Driver on set underneath an umbrella

Brook (left) emphasises the importance of securing actor Jo Hartley (right) in the lead role of Caroline

Although he is a first time director, Brook has been writing for as long as he can remember. “Stories, journals, blogs – I’ve always been writing. I did a year abroad from Leeds at the University of South Carolina, and did some modules in film writing and writing for screens. I loved it.” 

When he returned to Leeds for his final year, Brook wrote his first full feature screen play. He sold it a year later to a producer from the Harry Potter franchise – and although it was never used, it gave Brook the confidence he needed. He worked as a runner for a production company before becoming a video professional and then creative director.  

“My number one piece of advice for anyone looking to get into the industry is to keep going. It’s really hard and you get so many rejections for every script and idea. When I sold my first script I thought I’d made it, but the film has never been made.  

“There are a million failures behind every successful film.” 

One idea which refused to go away stemmed from an article about giant vegetable growers, and Brook began to develop a number of characters based in that world. “I read the article, and it was completely sincere and serious. I could imagine myself getting into it and trying to grow the biggest vegetable. I recognised there was a funny world there.” 

Brook spoke to a number of giant vegetable growers to find out more about the practice. When a producer told Brook he was looking to create a mockumentary film, it seemed to be the perfect fit. “I love mockumentaries – The Office, This Country, People Just Do Nothing – they’re a great way to meet funny characters in a believable way. The words just flowed.” Brook has been praised for creating real, relatable characters – particularly the strong, messy and brave Caroline, who embodies the spirit of an underdog hero.  

Three actors sit in a row on set

Richard Lumsden (left), Jo Hartley (centre) and Celyn Jones (right) on set during Swede Caroline

Brook was also brought on board as co-director to organise the star-studded cast – which includes Celyn Jones, Aisling Bea, Fay Ripley, Ray Fearon and Steve Brody. Rather than daunting the debut directors, the vast experience of the cast provided an added dimension to editing and production, and the collaborative process was one that Brook particularly enjoyed. “We’d play what was on the page, then Richard Lumsden might come up with an idea and try a different line. Often those bits would make it in – it’s great fun. Being the director meant I got to take my script through the next stage of editing and changes during filming, which as a writer you don’t always get to do.” 

Brook also recalls discussing Caroline’s backstory with Jo Hartley, and discovering that both character and actor used to work as an air hostess. Jo said a sentence in Japanese which Brook found funny – and it was added to the script. 

“With actors like the ones we had, there were loads of moments on set where you can’t stop laughing. 

“But it’s often the smaller moments of genius which you only spot afterwards. Those are my favourites.” 

Further information 

Swede Caroline is available to watch in UK cinemas from 19 April 2024. Visit the Swede Caroline website.

For further details, email Ed Newbould, Digital Communications Officer, University of Leeds at