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Support for Filmmakers in the West Midlands

west-midlands-map.gifThe West Midlands may seem a million miles from Hollywood, but filmmaking talent is strong in the region and as more and more young filmmakers embark on what they hope will become a career, the need for support and advice is as vital as ever. But is there enough in the region? And is it meeting and fulfilling the needs of a growing community of filmmaking talent?

Dan Lawson, Production and Development Executive for Screen West Midlands, believes there is. He said: "the need for support and advice is in high demand and the supply meets the demand. We have a strong track record for helping filmmakers early in their careers who then go onto become successful."

Justin Edgar (Netribution interview ), a filmmaker from Birmingham who already has a number of feature and short films under his belt such as Dirty Phonecalls which won the 1998 BBC Drama Award at the Birmingham Film Festival and The Ends which won Best Short Film at the 2005 Raindance Festival, agrees that there are outlets there for those who want it. He said: "Recognition is key. You must make yourself visible and get yourself on people's radar. But you must also be tenacious, if you get refused or suffer a knock-back, you've got to pick yourself up and keep going."

Justin Edgar knows what he's talking about. After graduating from Portsmouth University with a 1996 with a First Class degree in Film, it took a few years to get his first short film off the ground. With initially no funding the production halted until he was able to secure a grant from Carlton's First Cut scheme to complete the short. This was his calling card that got him the notice of the powers that be in the region.

But it was not all plain sailing. His first feature after university, called Beach Boys was unsuccessful in achieving any recognition, and he also applied to the 10X10 scheme five years in a row without success.


But that is a distant memory for Justin now as he has a number of projects in the pipeline. As well as a venture in Birmingham, a city that will always be close to his heart, he will also be directing in Germany.

For younger and newer filmmakers it is the dream to become successful and self-sufficient. But some are reluctant to approach agencies such as Screen West Midlands in fear of having to compromise on their vision.

The Frames, a trio of young filmmakers based in the West Midlands, have recently unleashed their new short film on the festival circuit, hoping it will achieve the recognition they feel their film deserves.

The partnership self-financed their 15 minute film, Milk, about a young woman's abusive relationship with her partner, and were reluctant to apply for grants. The reason being they felt they would have to relinquish too much control to those who held the purse strings and decided to go it alone.

Justin feels this may be an unfair way to view the help and grants that are offered in the region. He said: "The advice and grants offered are there to support young filmmakers and help them make something that fits the audience. An idea has to fit within the short film format, and if there's a chance that it doesn't meet criteria, it may mean the idea isn't suitable."

Dan Lawson agrees: "The schemes we offer are designed to make projects successful. They may be seen as quashing creativity but that is not the case, it is an opportunity to collaborate with people who know what they are doing. We encourage fresh and new ideas and are open to discuss them with anyone who is willing to ask us for advice."

Dan believes that the mechanisms in place in the West Midlands are growing and evolving to a point where anyone who needs guidance can find it here. The stigma - that to be successful, filmmakers have to look to the capital for help - is changing, partly to do with the key people at work within Screen West Midlands and the network of filmmakers within the region.

It is the hope of all involved that the pool of talent we have in the West Midlands goes from strength to strength, but as the number of budding filmmakers increases, are the schemes widely enough available to nurture this talent?

by Lucy Coogan

Published 03 April 2008
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