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 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. 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, reflecting their own hardships and 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 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.