Written from the heart, Writing Britain is a short film initiative produced by Studio12 that creates a collection of films addressing people’s sense of place and tackles current issues that they face. Written and performed by young people, with support and direction from professional film makers, Writing Britain aims to provide a platform for new talent to be screened.
Shot on cinema cameras, underwater and on fire, the films provide a cinematic perspective to words written by our young writers. Writing Britain highlights how investment in young people can result in new, informative, reflective and exceptional ideas for film.
Writing Britain has been showcased through BBC3, International Film festivals and Channel4 Random Acts screenings.
Are you interested in joining this group? Drop us an email and we will put you on the next workshop. firstname.lastname@example.org
Screen shot from the first Writing Briatin Film
We look widely across region to give a voice to people with a story to tell. We seek out aspiring writers, artists, spoken word performers or filmmakers that will have a chance to work with professional film directors, poets and writing mentors. We deliver targeted workshops which excite, challenge, inspire and support the participants, who then are given a short time to write, shoot and present their idea for film.
A panel of professional writers and filmmakers select a number of pieces from entries that have the most potential to be developed into a set of films that reflect the projects themes for that series.
Working with the screenwriters and film producers these pieces are then developed with there mentors and prepared for production. We then assign directors and teams of filmmakers to ensure the final film is true to the writer’s vision.
WRITING BRITAIN I
In 2012, Studio12 and Left Eye Blind challenged a group of young people to create spoken word film that explores language and notions based on their sense of place. The film was delivered as a response to the national project “Writing Britain” by The British Library.
Set in the locations close to the lyricists’ hearts, the film depicts the challenges, choices and difficulties that young people face today.
WRITING BRITAIN II
Writing Britain, an extension project to the ‘Writing Leeds’ film delivered in 2012, commissioned by the British Library and delivered by Studio12 – Leeds Library service. The aim, to produce short films written by young people, their films to reflect their sense of place, belonging, hopes, dreams they have for the future.
We challenged 15 young people to write, shoot and present their ideas for film. After months of workshops with young writers, the majority of which were first time writers, individuals are chosen to have their words put to film. In partnership, investment in each film was undertaken and supported by the industry film production companies.
Shot on cinema cameras, underwater and on fire, the films provide a cinematic perspective to the reality faced by our young writers. Writing Britain highlights how investment in young people can result in new, informative, reflective and exceptional ideas for film.
“These young film-makers have produced beautiful pieces of work and they tell their stories in a poetic and emotionally intelligent way. Take a look.” Nicola Addyman – Editor of Weekly Programmes at BBC Yorkshire
WRITING BRITAIN II
Saph Holden (Past)
Addressed to government the film is an agonising tale of her teenage self and how she coped with the death of her sister at this time. Developed over nine months, the script and subsequent film was created by Saph working in collaboration with industry filmmakers.
Hassan Abdullahi (Present)
Provides his powerful poetical perspective on growing up in Leeds. Developed over nine months, the script and subsequent film was created by Hassan working in collaboration with industry filmmakers.
Mandlenkosi Maposa (Future)
“Live how you sleep. Live how you dream.” Ma reflects on the power of dreams in this uplifting Writing Britain short. Developed over nine months, the script and subsequent film was created by Ma working in collaboration with industry filmmakers.
Short documentary following the process of making the films. The documentary questions the social problems facing an emerging social class and asks what more can be provided to today’s youth living within it?
WRITING BRITAIN HISTORY
In the autumn of 2012 a British Library initiative entitled ‘Writing Britain’ asked young people from across the United Kingdom to write about their sense of place. From cities as diverse as Belfast to Manchester, Glasgow to Birmingham the project challenged young people outside of education or employment to ask questions of themselves and their place within their surroundings. What does your home mean to you? Why do you live where you live? What does the future hold for you?
For many of the young people within the project the opportunity provided the first instance in which they had been asked to express themselves within writing. For many others it was the first time that they had been asked to question their place within society. Many of the young people had been excluded from school; many had been what the government call ‘long term unemployed’ (those who have been on benefits for longer than 2 years). Many had never been considered for an interview. Across the country different facilitators of the project commented that their participants felt like it was their first time their voice was being heard.
In Leeds the writing took a different form. Studio12, a digital media initiative working through Leeds City Council partnered with Left Eye Blind, a film production company based in the city. As partners we decided that the young people’s writing should be put to film. Our revolution would be televised.
We believed that these young people deserved a voice that went further than the paper and pen. We believed that in order to challenge the stereotype of NEET young people (Not in Education, Employment or Training) we had to put a face to the passion, concern and commitment to change we felt in abundance with the group of young people we were working with.
We wanted to show that these young people didn’t need to be employed to implore drastic change to their lives, they didn’t need to be university educated to be opinionated or knowledgeable. We wanted to show that intelligence shouldn’t always be marked or examined. We wanted to challenge the stereotype that society had thrust upon them.
Our film took eight young people and asked them to write poetry. Many of the eight writers had performed and written songs previously, mostly within rap or grime genres. But within Writing Britain we asked the aspiring writers to go past what felt natural. To move beyond a genre of music that would instantaneously switch off a white middle class audience. One that would be instantly dismissed by local and national government alike. We asked them to write without a 4 4 beat. We asked them to write from the heart.
It was easy to burn the city to the ground in the wave of discontentment and despondency each felt when asked to write about their city. But when asked why they’d defend Leeds from outside criticism we saw each leap up to defend the city. It’s that what we focused upon. Why each chose to live in the city. What, when you looked past the weeds that grew in every street in England, makes Leeds the city worth living in?
What we didn’t expect was the huge force in which our initial expectations would overawed. Each responded to the call to defend and celebrate the city in both shades of light and darkness. Their words were eloquent, raw and delivered with confidence. The piece was a highlight of the Writing Britain project. The film travelled beyond the British Library and into film festivals. Leeds City Council’s Chief Executive Tom Riordan continues to use the film in conferences, speeches and meetings. As a means of art and expression it enables a delegation of political figures, private businesses and public enterprises to identify with the challenges facing young people today, many of them of them from minority and / or low incomes… and understand them better.
Writing Britain opened up the eyes of our writers to the potential of self-expression. To their voices being not only heard… but also understood. Since the project’s completion Studio12’s walls have been full with aspiring street poets. The film continues to tour across the country and the young people are the role models for the next generation of writers.
In the summer of 2013 Studio12 once again partnered with Left Eye Blind to deliver what we considered to be Part 2 to the Writing Britain project. A fire had been lit. 15 writers were interviewed and assembled to take part within the project. In this instance we wanted to go further than the idea of sense of place. We asked our writers to not only look at their sense of place, but their sense of place within society or their family, religion or history, city or street.
Through an intensive workshop and interview process the 15 writers were whittled down to just 3. But as we whittled down the stories we did so with a heavy heart. The words that came back to us were heart breaking, inspirational and confrontational. Many wrote about their personal histories and frustrated ambitions with a sense of injustice and appreciation that mesmerized us. The final three were to lead the light of the community that we had assembled.
Our 3 writers, Saph, Ma and Hassan write about their lives with eloquence that is bar beyond their age. Working with a screenwriter their pieces were further compiled to be prepared for screen. Each had their poem filmed as their own piece, three standalone films that present a cross section of Leeds young people. Each of these films has been showcased on BBC3 and screened at international film festivals worldwide. The films continue to be used as tools for discussions in schools, health workers and tackle young people issues.
2016 was the next release of the Writing Britain films. That year the project attracted 32 submissions, which again we had to reduce to 4 writers that we felt had the potential to be taken to the next stage. Supported in their development the young people worked with lead mentor from the Writing Squad Rommi Smith, developing their screenwriting over the next 6 months. From there we assigned industry directors and production teams to develop their scripts into short cinematic films. These independent films were released in Oct 2016.
As we reached out to the people of Leeds we found support in every area of production with the creation of theses cinematic shorts. We have had over 20 companies and individuals support the production of these films giving their time for free or cost. We as a production team are overwhelmed by the support shown by the people in this great city purely for the love of making film.
That year we had the pleasure and support of working with Leeds based music team Jez and Tim from Utah Stains, which added a new level of complexity with their skills in producing the music scores for those films. Attracting industry writers, directors and musicians provides the young people with the aspirations to produce a professional piece of work that can be taken to media outlets. Writing Britain highlights how investment in young people can result in new, informative, reflective and exceptional ideas for film.
The Writing Britain project continues to present day, with Studio12 providing a platform for unheard voices and discovering stories untold.
Notes for Editors:
Left Eye Blind is a production company based in Leeds. We create cinematic film for Music, Television and the Commercial Industry. Working across the world we continue to build upon our award winning productions with an ever-growing slate of feature films.
Mojo Film is a social enterprise, committed to making high quality creative and imaginative films. We are a group of filmmakers, animators and artists with the experience and skills to deliver a creative product with the right message. At the heart of Mojo Film is a belief in positive mental well-being for all. To this end we train and employ people who have experienced mental health issues who wish to work in the film and television industry. In addition to commissioned work we also run funded practical film projects that increase trainee’s skills and experience.
Utah Saints are an English electronic music group based in Leeds, Yorkshire. Utah Saints have been making music, DJ-ing and playing gigs around the globe since the birth of House music and are made up of Tim Utah and Jez Willis.
The Writing Squad is a program for emerging young writers in Yorkshire and the Humber, Lead artist Rommi Smith is a poet and playwright.
Rommi Smith is an international writer who has held numerous prestigious and historically significant writing residencies
The British Library is the national Library of the United Kingdom and one of the world’s greatest research libraries. The Library’s collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages.
“If you want to be moved, inspired and impressed this is where to look; some extraordinarily powerful work produced by some of the city’s newest emerging talent.” Sally Joynson – Chief Executive, Screen Yorkshire
“The films are absolutely beautiful and so moving” Ellie Kirby Programme Coordinator – Arts, Channel4
Studio12 provides FREE access to a visual and audio production studio for 16 - 30 year olds living in Leeds
“The value of the film is that we can listen to what the young people in the project are telling us and then work together to make sure this isn’t a one-off. The most challenging thing for us is reaching young people that we don’t communicate with. We know there are many young people out there who we want to reach out to. And this work has been a very fine example of how important that strand of work is.” Councillor Judith Blake, Leader, Leeds City Council
“This is the trap to poverty. When it’s so hard to climb the mountain why not just spend your life at the bottom never looking up?” – Hassan
“Live how you sleep. Live how you dream. Be the person you imagine you can be.” – Ma