Hey Lovelies, 

As many of you know I am very grateful to be able to be a part of the film world with my blog and am willing to help everyone who wants to get into or work in it if they ask me for help! And while this company hasn’t asked me I wanted to share this news and feature from them, because it is an incredible cause and the JBA awards, need to be celebrated. 

I will admit that I did not write this piece, because I think the person who wrote it deserves the credit, but take a look lovelies and learn about the amazing JBA Awards and the passion projects in which they have helped…

Art has always been about passion. The desire to make your mark, carve out your story, and share your experiences and dreams with the wider world. This is particularly true of film, and those who make them. After all, the long journey from initial idea to the silver screen is arduous, from the first words of a screenplay, through development, and on to the holy grail of film financing – it can feel like an almost impossible dream for the filmmakers who simply want to pick up their camera and share their story with a dark room of strangers. Passion alone is therefore not always enough, and too many – whether by illness, disability, or financial strife – find that the opportunity never quite falls their way, and that their hopes are sunk by the necessity of simply getting by.

The Cinema and Television Benevolent Fund (CTBF), the leading UK charity for people working behind the scenes in the film, commercial television and cinema industries, also runs a talent development programme, the John Brabourne Awards (JBA), which provides individuals with grants of between £1000 and £5000  to help them overcome personal hurdles, and realize their passion. For those candidates lucky enough to receive the grant, it can be the difference between career success and shelving their dreams forever. 

JBA awardees often go on to create work that is deeply personal, and that reflects their long periods of hardship or life challenges. Take one of last year’s group, filmmaker Gareth Tunley. Tunley wanted to explore issues surrounding that most taboo of subjects, mental health. He understood the potential pitfalls: “I wanted to make a film about all kinds of issues relating to mental health and depression but was aware of the danger of running into clichés. A movie about a bloke staring at his shoes is not a movie anyone is rushing out to the cinema to see.” 

The JBA enabled Tunley (who has been affected by the issues himself) finally to create his long gestating project THE GHOUL, a dark psychological thriller starring Tom Meeten (Paddington) Alice Lowe (Sightseers) and Paul Kaye (Game of Thrones). The plot concerns a police detective going undercover as a therapy patient and so tackles the subject in an exciting and involving way - confronting the issue while avoiding easy answers and delivering a riveting and mysterious narrative. 

THE GHOUL is a thriller about madness, maths and magic.  It's about the dangers of belief, the potentials and perils of radical approaches to psychotherapy and the destructive power of love. With the support of the CTBF, Tunley and the team are currently in post-production on the project, and are planning to launch the film in September.     

Another awardee, Chris Andrews, also benefited greatly from the award. Following years of illness and chronic pain caused by an on-set injury, Andrews set about laying out his experiences for audiences, his writing acting as a crucial outlet for his agonies: “I was scared, but I went home and cried, got angry, pulled all the fear and frustration out and laid it honestly on the page.” The resultant script attracted industry attention, and boosted by the JBA grant, he has been able to rebuild. Today, he has an upcoming feature film SCUTTLER currently being developed with Creative England. “It was a huge moment in my life when I realised what it was to be a writer, a filmmaker an artist. You can’t leave anything behind, you must reveal all of you and not be scared of being judged. People respond to truth, good or bad. Much of my work explores the journey that’s brought me here.”

These are filmmakers pursuing deeply personal passion projects, and given the means and confidence to do so through CTBF support. Those with passions of their own to succeed in the industry, though currently hamstrung by burden, can apply for consideration for this year’s awards. Applications should be made via the website www.jbawards.org.uk  and will close on the 31st July. 

And to inspire candidates, we’ve compiled our own list of the ultimate passion projects made against the odds by trailblazing artists forging their own path. As Gareth Tunley himself recounts of his time working on Ben Wheatley’s micro-budget feature debut Down Terrace, these are filmmakers offering “galvanising ‘stop making excuses’ inspiration” – highlighting that with the requisite passion, and more than a little help, all hurdles can be overcome.

MEAN STREETS: Before Martin Scorsese became the most revered director on the planet, he was simply a young filmmaker bouncing back from a panned second feature. Encouraged by mentor John Cassevetes to get back to writing about what he knew, Scorsese set to work recounting his experiences growing up in the volatile neighbourhoods of Little Italy, New York. Featuring the figures and memories that defined his childhood, this deeply-personal portrait of his early days, shot with a meagre budget on the run from the unions, became one of the definitive films of the age. A credit to Scorsese’s ingenuity, many of the film’s most distinct features arose from sheer improvisation, with the revolutionary reliance on hand-held camera largely due to the budget simply not stretching to laying down tracks for tracking shots. Worth watching again just to witness the embryonic first-steps of the legendary partnership between Scorsese and DeNiro.

FOLLOWING: Anyone who saw Christopher Nolan’s hypnotic Kafkaesque short Doodlebug would have surmised that the Londoner was destined for greatness, but converting that potential into a feature-length success-story on a budget of just $6000 was a quite sensational feat. Shot almost entirely on one single-handed camera, production lasted well over a year, restricted to weekends by the fact that each member of the cast and crew held down 9-to-5 day jobs in the week. The film follows a writer on his daily routine stalking strangers for material. One day, he is invited to join a burglary, entering a world of crime and paranoia from which there is little escape. The film would deservedly propel Nolan into the directorial big leagues of The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, and last year’s sci-fi epic, Interstellar. 

PI:  Darren Aronofsky is now well-established as one of Hollywood’s most beguiling creative talents. However, it was his early work in Pi that would set the tone for the likes of Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan to come. Funding the film largely through $100 donations from friends and family, and with his own mother taking over catering duties, it was no easy start. Pi tells the tale of a paranoid mathematician unlocking the patterns he believes govern nature. Shot in startling black and white, and laden with the themes of compulsion and manic obsession that would become his calling card, the award-winning debut stunned Sundance, setting Aronofsky on his way.

A ROOM FOR ROMEO BRASS: A breakthrough for Shane Meadows (This Is England), triumphing at that year’s British Independent Film Awards. A Room For Romeo Brass follows the tumultuous relationship between two pre-teens Romeo and Gavin, which is tested to the limits by the arrival of a mysterious older man. Shot on a typically-tight budget, the film is semi-autobiographical, based on the childhood relationship between Meadows and co-writer Paul Fraser - a friendship that hit the skids after Meadows, in a brash show of teenage hi-jinks, shot his buddy in the stomach with an air-rifle. Highlighting the director’s talent for bringing magnetic outsiders with a dark side to the screen, the film is notable for drawing a startling debut performance from frequent Meadows-collaborator Paddy Considine. 

ONCE: A low-budget wonder bringing together a cast of first-time actors. Director John Carney had to apply for permission for his young lead to take time off school to film her part, and was forced to use long lenses in order to record on the Dublin streets without permits. A partly autobiographical retelling of the director’s own long-distance relationship, Carney’s commitment to the project was evidenced by the significant portion of his own money he placed into the production. His passion was rewarded with a position on numerous ‘Best of Year’ lists and an underdog Oscar®-win for Best Original Song. Not bad for a film originally intended to be sold to fans at gigs on DVD… It also found a supporter in none other than Blockbuster King Steven Spielberg, with the director gushing that ‘a little movie called Once gave me enough inspiration to last the rest of the year.’

DOWN TERRACEL: Pooling together £6000 in savings with two friends, Ben Wheatley (Sightseers, A Field in England, Highrise) set about achieving the ambitious, arguably near-impossible, task of making a debut feature-length film. Shot in just eight days, breezing through forty scenes a day, and marshalling a cast largely filled with friends and non-actors, the final result is nothing short of a minor movie miracle. A black comedy centred on a crime family seeking to unmask the police informant they believe lives among them, Down Terrace garnered a number of awards and established its director as one of Britain’s foremost filmmaking talents. The Ghoul creator Gareth Tunley worked as an actor on the film, and was inspired by the entire DIY ethos of the experience to head out and make his own directorial dreams a reality.

KATALIN VARGA: Joining Wheatley on the top rank of exciting British directorial talents, Peter Strickland gave notice of his considerable talent with feature debut Katalin Varga. Made for under £30,000 using money bequeathed by his late uncle, the director admits that he was forced to make a tough decision between buying a ‘one-bedroom flat in Bracknell’ or ploughing the funds into his passion project. Taking a punt on his own potential, Strickland headed to Transylvania to shoot a film in the obscure Hungarian tongue. The result was a beautifully-shot rural revenge story that was quickly accepted into competition in Berlin, and would serve as a springboard to the much-lauded Berberian Sound Studio.

MONSTERS: That the stunning visual effects of this epic were entirely created on the home computer of first-time director Gareth Edwards is testament to both the incredible leaps in modern technology and to the ingenuity of the filmmaker. Far from merely a showcase for his VFX credentials however, the production of Monsters was an old-fashioned low-budget guerrilla shoot that saw Edwards lead a pair of non-actors across Mexico. With the key cast and crew able to drive to locations packed in one small van, and extras often dragged from the streets and invited to participate, the film boasts a strong homemade aesthetic that contributes towards its highly-effective documentary feel. Edwards would eventually move on to even bigger monsters, in the lumbering form of last year’s Godzilla. 

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD: Benh Zeitlin took Sundance by storm with his evocative environmental fantasy, completed just days before the festival opened. With only a handful of shorts under his belt, the baby-faced helmer would eventually score a well-deserved Oscar®-nomination for his ‘ragtag little film’. Funded by a non-profit organization, Zeitlin called on the aid of his family and friends to bring the project to fruition, with his sister working on set, an old friend co-writing the music, and a neighbour editing the project. Revelling in the creative freedom of the Louisiana shoot (and dodging shotgun-wielding locals at points), Zeitlin drew a ferocious performance from Quvenzhané Wallis, who - in a piece of trivia designed to make anyone who hears it feel extremely old - became the first Academy-Award nominee to be born in the twenty-first century.

WHIPLASH: A thriller set in the closeted world of a jazz institute doesn’t appear to be the most obvious choice for a film pitch, but young director Damien Chazelle knew otherwise. A talented jazz drummer and student himself, Chazelle had experienced his love for the art diminish with each passing day, due to the stifling teaching-methods, high-pressures, and crack-down on any form of spontaneity or pleasure. With Whiplash, Chazelle regained his passion, and put the creativity back into jazz on his own terms, and via a totally new medium. Originally an 18-minute short, Sundance success secured financing for the full-length feature. A tough 19-day shoot ensued, with Chazelle (in a surreal case of life imitating art) returning onto set the very next day after a serious car accident. In the climactic set-piece, a virtuoso 10 minute drum solo of thrilling intensity, you can almost feel the director smashing though his own frustrations with each strike of the stick. All the effort paid off with the filmmaker rewarded with a box-office smash, and awards recognition.

Blog Soon, 
Joey X

To keep up to date with all the latest news from the blog, follow it on Twitter @LetsStartNow18 :)

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