A FURNESS film director has spoken of his shock at the success of his debut film that has broken box office records.

Ben Palmer, who was born and raised in Penny Bridge, directed The Inbetweeners Movie, which enjoyed an astonishing opening weekend by taking £13.22m at the box office, making it the biggest British comedy film ever.

Mr Palmer, 35, has been a key player in British comedy over the past decade, and said his upbringing in the area had a massive influence on his blossoming career.

“In our home life we were encouraged to go out and do whatever we wanted to do and were made to feel that we could pursue any career we wanted to, both at home and at school.

"I go back quite regularly. The Lake District is still my family home.”

Educated at Chetwynde School, Barrow, Mr Palmer’s journey from the Lakes to directing one of this year’s biggest films has been a roller-coaster ride.

Having studied English at university, followed by a postgraduate diploma in broadcast journalism, he began working as a camera operator on Channel 4’s Popworld programme.

Mr Palmer said: “I met Leigh Francis who would turn up in character and spend the whole day like that. We hit it off, became good friends and wrote our own material together.

“We would borrow cameras and go off and film our own stuff together. We got a pilot, which became Bo Selecta. This gave me a grounding in quite anarchic teen comedy.”

Mr Palmer was a crucial cog in Leigh’s groundbreaking show, helping to create sketches featuring the bizarre face-masked impersonations of Michael Jackson, Mel B and Craig David, with his pet bird, Kes.

“Its success did take me by surprise. We always thought it would be a bit of a weird late night thing but when we went into series two it became a phenomenon.”

Directing three series of Bo Selecta paved the way for The Inbetweeners, which arguably became bigger than Bo Selecta.

“Iain (Morris) and Damon (Beesley) had been developing it for a number of years. They had shot a pilot and producer Spencer Millman said to me: ‘Would you mind coming in and having a look at it?’ “So I spent a week or so editing it. It got commissioned but I wasn’t around for the first series.

"I came back to direct series two and three, and the film - I was quite lucky my first film was a natural progression, but it was quite daunting at first.

“There is a lot of personal experience in the film.

"My first teenage holiday with friends after my exams where you go out there with the best intentions and actually discover things are just as rubbish as they are at home, and you end up taking it out on each other, then leaning on each other for support.”

Mr Palmer, who is working on a pilot for a comedy show, said: “The success of the film was unexpected.

"You hope the fans will go and see it because it had become quite a big hit, but there is a whole audience out there who haven’t seen the show but have gone to see the film.

"It’s been remarkable.”