The Paintbrush

SENIOR COPYWRITER AND FILM DIRECTOR. I help company owners humanise their brands by telling authentic, immersive stories that inspire, entertain and educate us.


Finding an old paintbrush in his back garden, a lonely young boy comes up with an imaginative way to restore contact with his absent dad.

(Password: paint)

This heart-warming short film was written by father and daughter, Nicholas & Shiona Penrake. Shiona directed and Nic produced.

Shorts International

The Paintbrush is now being distributed by Shorts International, so we cannot stream it freely via YouTube or Vimeo. However, as there is a high probability that you are visiting this site as a film professional, creative or friend, you can view the film by clicking on The Paintbrush and entering the password ‘paint’.

Shiona Penrake’s directing debut

Age 15, Shiona came up with the original concept for the film – using colour to show a change in feeling and fortune for a boy who misses his dad. I then worked with her to develop the story so that it resonated on many different levels. After 9 or so drafts, Andrew Fleming was brought in as DOP and the casting process got underway.

One of the criteria for producing a film for Shiona was that she had to write a script that served as a vehicle for her younger brother and actor, Jay Penrake. Admittedly we are biased as family members, and yet just as often your family are your harshest critics. Suffice it to say, Jay’s performance was spot on throughout and he needed virtually no directing; he just got it.

Elio we’d seen in a short on BBC Network – Sofa So Good – and thought his understated style was perfect for the role of the dad.

For the mum we had to search a bit harder. As Jay is half Japanese, I was hoping to find a woman who was either Japanese or had a hint of the Far East in her bone structure. There were no Japanese actresses who caught my eye, but when I saw a picture of Lois Winstone, I was struck by how similar her bone structure was to my grandmother when she was a young woman. 

So Shiona and I met her for a coffee in Soho one afternoon in August 2012. Both Shiona and I were so taken by her enthusiasm for the story, we couldn’t not cast her as the mum.

Shiona’s first shot at directing got underway a fortnight after her 16th birthday. There was a bit of a gap between days, (availability of actors and DOP prevented us from shooting 3 days in a row), and we wrapped in October.

Shiona wrote the theme tune to the film, which her uncle, Jim Meacock, helped to develop. Jim also provided us with the theme to the reunion scene. Christopher Barnett then wrote the main score, which perfectly complements Shiona’s theme tune.


Directed byShiona Penrake
ScreenplayShiona Penrake & Nic Penrake
Produced byNic Penrake
LeoJay Penrake
Leo’s MumLois Winstone
Leo’s DadElio Ruggieri
Delivery ManRichard Goss
Edited byShiona Penrake
MusicChris Barnett & Shiona Penrake
Director of PhotographyAndrew Fleming
Camera AssistantChris Ferguson
Sound RecordistsDoug Fayers and Alex Grassi
Colour GradeCarlo Ortu & Andrew Fleming
MixJon Gordon