Features / Better Bristol

Big screen ambitions for Bristol filmmakers

By ellie pipe, Tuesday Mar 31, 2020

Applause and cheering rise to a crescendo as the credits roll in the auditorium of the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) HQ in Paintworks.

For the four filmmakers who took part in the Stories From Our City project, this is a key moment in their prospective careers as they prepare to answer questions from an audience that includes industry experts from across Bristol.

“When I first had a vision, I thought this could work and when I saw it for real, it was like woah!” says Kendra Adrien, speaking to Bristol24/7 a week after the showcase of her film in RPS. Her film followed the inspirational story of Nasra, one of Kendra’s closest friends.

The 18-year-old admits it was scary to have the film she put so much time and effort into out there for public scrutiny, but also incredibly rewarding.

Kendra is one of four filmmakers to take part in the inaugural Stories From Our City project, which saw Bristol24/7 collaborate with boomsatsuma to run the hands-on course in a bid to provide opportunities for people currently underrepresented in the film industry.

Kendra goes through the final editing process with boomsatsuma’s Tom Churches

Each participant directed and produced their own short film, which was showcased at the event on February 26. They now have access to ongoing support as they work to get a foot in the door.

Raekwon Graham chose to focus his film on a family friend and role model. He said the hardest part of the process for him was deciding what to cut from the material.

Speaking about the project, the 21-year-old from St Philip’s says: “It was very good, especially with the access to mentors and being able to stay in touch even when this is over. I felt a bit worried watching it back, especially when everyone is watching and critiquing it.”

Raekwon said deciding what to cut from the final film was the hardest part of the process

Kendra agrees, adding that knowing where to look for opportunities is also key in an industry that can often be hard for outsiders to navigate.

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Read more: Telling Bristol’s stories through film 

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For Warefta Murshet, the structure of the project enabled her to remain in full-time employment while working on her film.

“Quite often with creative projects life gets in the way so having the structure helped,” says the 24-year-old, who relished the challenge of making a complex topic accessible to a wider audience through film.

Speaking about the showcase at RPS, she adds: “I found it really interesting that people actually came and spoke to me after. I met people in the industry and I’m meeting up with them again.”

She adds that networking events with industry representatives are invaluable but argues there should no longer be an expectation that people should work for free.

Collins says he doesn’t see many people from backgrounds like his in the film industry

Reflecting candidly on the project, Collins Suleaudu admits he felt quite anxious embarking on the course and struggled with the commitment initially.

“From the beginning, it was a bit like we don’t know what to expect when we come to these kind of places,” says the 30-year-old, who also starred in his own film about musical influences in Bristol.

“The final showcase solidified it for me,” continues Collins. “That alone has given me more confidence. It’s helped me get back into my own projects and given me a good start with something polished to start my portfolio.”

He adds: “What I represent, my background of being from St Paul’s, I want to see more of my type of person coming into this place [the film industry]. I don’t see them at the moment.”

A key element of the project is to provide ongoing support for the filmmakers involved.

Lyndsay Davies, creative projects manager for boomsatsuma, says a number of opportunities have come out of the Stories From Our City course.

Speaking about the pilot project as a whole, she adds: “We were really pleased with our partnership project with Bristol24/7. Although ‘Stories from Our City’ was a pilot, it gave us the opportunity to unpick some of the real challenges that people entering the industry face, whilst offering them a supportive platform to develop their own narrative.

“We hope the project was empowering for the team, helping them to realise their talents, gain new skills, build a network and create an impressive outcome for their portfolio – their story from our city. We’re looking forward to seeing what’s next for them.”

The showcase event at RPS included an opportunity for young creatives to network with industry professionals

Channel 4, which recently opened a new creative hub in Finzels Reach, is among the companies that have offered to have a conversation with some of the filmmakers after the project.

Organisations including the BBC, UNESCO, Tusko and Icon films have also offered support, whether it’s a chance to present in their offices, embark on a work placement or showcase the short films.

All photos by Ellie Pipe

Read more: Stories From Our City showcase: Nasra

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