Former Sheffield student who became homeless at 57 turns life around to set up own production company

Imagine having a successful acting and directing career then one day, through no fault of your own, life comes crashing down and you end up living on the streets with less than £50 in your pocket.

Wednesday, 19th February 2020, 5:00 pm

That was the reality for Daniel Coll, who at 57-years-old was forced to become homeless after losing his business which reignited past trauma and mental health issues.

At the time, the father-of-one from Halifax was a jobbing actor – having started his career at the age of 21 with a drama diploma – and made frequent appearances in Coronation Street and Heartbeat, as well as appearing as one of the original dads in Billy Elliot the Musical in London’s West End among other roles.

He also starred in Mel Gibson's Braveheart and made his film directorial debut with The Tragedy of Macbeth in 2012, which won him Best Director in the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival that same year.

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Dan Coll founder of Killion Films.

But, despite the success, Dan explains how his life began to fall apart just a few years later in 2015 when things appeared to be going so well.

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Daniel, 58, said: “I was living in rented accommodation and I was paying £610 a month. At that point, I had a business with a business partner and was producing films – we produced a film by John Godber and I directed and produced it, it did fairly well and it is just about to sign its distribution deal.

“We made a series with Charlie Lawson which was on PBS TV – in America – and that was all going well but then, unfortunately, the business relationship fell apart and that came about as we were about to close a deal so, therefore, I lost the deal.

Dan Coll and Paddy Doherty during filming for Dan and Paddy's Bucket List in Japan (Photo: Killion Films, RKB of Japan and Travelxp)

“I’d been working on that non-stop for about four months, I hadn’t earned any income so that had all run out and, as the business fell apart, I then got post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) relating to a serious car accident I had in 2015.”

For the year after the accident Daniel had been able to control his PTSD but said that, due to financial pressures of losing the business, his life imploded.

He added: “I couldn’t work and then I went to the government to try and get help, signed on sick and this is where I think they’re failing because they then put me towards some tests – I couldn’t go because I couldn’t talk about my issues, the flashbacks were so severe and I was waiting for psychological help which had a 12-month waiting list.”

After failing to attend his appointments Daniel’s benefits were then cut, at a time when he still had no income, meaning that in 2018 he lost his home.

Dan Coll founder of Killion Films

With nowhere to go, and with only £30 in his pocket, he was then forced to live in his car.

“I remember just sitting in the car thinking ‘where do I go now?” Daniel said. “I had planned to come to Sheffield because my daughter is here and I wanted to spend the next few years here until she is 18. I brought a tent and thought I’d try and find work so went around cafes, bars, you name it, but they asked for an address which I didn’t have.

“For about a month I was really not with it, living in a tent off and on and sleeping in the car. I’d go to a campsite now and again to use the facilities. I was just thinking ‘I’m 57, what is going on?’ It was a massive shock and I kept myself to myself. I felt enormous, unbelievable shame.”

Fast forward a couple of months and it was by luck that Daniel was walking past Sheffield Hallam University during an open day.

Dan Coll and Paddy Doherty during filming for Dan and Paddy's Bucket List in Japan (Photo: Killion Films, RKB of Japan and Travelxp)

After listening to advice from course leader Colin Pons, he went on to study for a Masters in Filmmaking with the help of a government loan of around £10,000 which is available to all new students up to a certain age.

Daniel credits the course with helping him to get back on his feet, eventually helping him gain a roof above his head, allowing him to create an extensive portfolio of work and giving him more credibility within the industry as a director and producer.

Along the way, he was tested for and diagnosed with dyslexia, a condition he had struggled with throughout his life, and received financial help from the university and other organisations and charities.

He also created a short documentary called ‘Government Neglect’ about homelessness in Sheffield and was able to establish his business, Killion Films, through the university.

“I went to all my classes and utilised all the facilities and was able to make another film,” Daniel added. “My plan is now to utilise people here with my film company, to use people within the university and people I have worked with and give back.”

Since graduating last year, Daniel has finished filming a 10-part TV series called ‘Dan and Paddy’s Bucket List – Kyushu Japan’ with former Big Brother star Paddy Doherty in which the pair attempt exciting activities, explore the traditions and cuisine of Kyushu, and indulge in Japanese lifestyle while also encountering challenges that make them confront their own phobias and inhibitions.

It is a joint production between Killion Films, RKB of Japan and Travelxp and was broadcast on Sky 185 Travelxp.

Daniel is also looking for investors to help Killion Films develop and grow. For more information visit the Killion Films website or email: [email protected]