Take a look at the backgrounds of some of the rising talent in the British film industry and you may notice a pattern.
Almost two years ago I was lucky enough to be offered a scholarship to the London Film School which covered a significant amount of its £50, 000 tuition fees. This of course isn’t withstanding the price of living in London where private landlords will happily charge you £700 per month for a room that makes my staying in Kenya’s Nyalenda slums look fairly ‘upmarket’.
Of course, we all know that London has a certain mythos about. ‘Clouds of smoke, he sought to find his dreams’ sings Pete Doherty in the new Libertines album Anthems for Doomed Youth. I suppose like Oliver Twist, Dick Whittington and many others I travelled to London in search of fame and fortune. The London Film School was my ‘golden ticket’ and since then – in and out of boozers, squats and the odd trendy bar – I have been almost relentless in trying to make my dreams of becoming a professional filmmaker come true.
Next year, in 2016, I will begin shooting my graduation film. The film is entitled One in a Million and is based loosely on my experiences growing up in a rundown seaside town largely forgotten by the rest of the UK. I will not go into details about the film’s plot or characters; but I feel like it is a unique story that only I can tell. … Not because I’m particularly talented, but because I lived there and not in Chelsea or Kensington.
However, in order to make the film a reality (and indeed, complete my education) I am relying on the kindness and generosity of others to contribute towards the film’s rather pricey production fee. Ideally, I am looking to raise £7, 000 to finance the film and thus every donation – however big or small – is vital.
Now there is a reason for why I am asking you to donate to my film outside of the usual clichés such as: ‘this will be a really great project if I can get the money together’ or ‘I’m going to be really big one day so please support me now whilst I’m still among the little people’. No, filmmaking – like so many other things in our society – has become way too elitist.
The London Film School’s tuition fees alone are almost double the average salary in Britain. As Owen Jones has recently pointed out, in industries like journalism and film, young people are forced into doing months and months of unpaid internships that essentially exclude kids from lower economic backgrounds because their parents cannot afford to support them. Even the middle class are suffering as a result of an unfair system which favours the wealthy and offers very little support for the rest of us. Apparently, there is a price for making your dreams come true.
I hate to be cynical or accused of ‘class war’, but just take a quick glance at some of the emerging talent in British industries like film or journalism. Tom Hooper, the acclaimed director of The King’s Speech and Les Misérables, is the son of a wealthy CEO and former BBC producer. He was educated privately in Westminster (currently £8, 000 per school term) and went on to study at Oxford University. Eddie Redmayne, teen heartthrob and Academy Award-winning actor, came from a similar background. His father was a businessman, his great-grandfather was an aristocrat, and he himself studied at Eton College and Cambridge University alongside the likes of Prince William.
Certainly, these are not new sentiments that I am expressing. Dame Judi Dench (yes, M) told the Observer in 2014 that film had essentially become an ‘elite occupation’ for the children of the rich. Ben Stephenson, the BBC’s Head of Drama, has said much the same thing in interviews. In modern society, money and nepotism are perhaps the most important ingredients to a successful career in just about anything – particularly when it comes to film. The reality is that good jobs are becoming just as gentrified as Central London.
Now, I am not trying to insult anyone from a wealthy background who is currently pursuing a career in film or journalism. Wealth can only get you so far and I am 100 per cent aware that there are still challenges that we all must face together at a certain point. Moreover, I do not want to besmirch any of the students at the London Film School – or institutions like it. These places are filled to the brim with some of the most talented young people in the world, regardless of their backgrounds. Indeed, one could even argue that these places actually exploit the wealthy by charging high fees and offering a fairly bland education with no real employment guarantees afterwards. But to reiterate: my issue is NOT with wealthy kids, but with a political and economic system that does very little to help or support those who come from more modest backgrounds. The truth is that most people in Britain cannot afford to splash out £50, 000 on their child’s education – let alone give them £7, 000 to produce a short film.
Ultimately, crowdsource financing is currently one of the best ways people like myself can raise the money required to pursue our artistic dreams – however naive, annoying or crap we might be. In my view, British cinema – and art in general – needs more voices that express a different kind of life; a different kind of attitude; and that come from a different kind of background.
I don’t want to pretend like I am some kind of unique representation of the British working class, because I’m not. Furthermore, this is not an article motivated by an intense jealousy for those above me or indeed vindictive, revenge fiction. I suppose, in all honesty, it’s a mixture of frustration, politics and amongst all that; a genuine plea, launched desperately into cyberspace, to attract help in raising the funds required for my graduation film. So please, if you can, donate via this link: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/one-in-a-million-my-graduation-film#/story