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Brighton Journal | 23rd January 2020

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Brighton young filmmakers, stepping into professional life with the support of the David Thomas Award.

Brighton young filmmakers, stepping into professional life with the support of the David Thomas Award.
Hannah Midgley

Two young filmmakers based in Brighton were singled out by this year’s David Thomas Award: Charlie Melrose for the best student film and Tom Dwyer for best film proposal.

The David Thomas Award was set up 4 years ago by Sarah Thomas, with the support of the University of Brighton and the production company The Progress Film Company, in memory of University alumni and filmmaker David Thomas, and is aiming to support filmmaker talent at the university of Brighton.

I recently had the pleasure to meet two of these young promising filmmakers, winners of this year Thomas Award.

Charlie Melrose, best student film, at Brighton Studios.

Charlie Melrose, best student film, at Brighton Studios.

Charlie Melrose has just finished a degree in English Language and Literature, writes songs and has his own music project under the name of Charlie Melrose (You can find it on Spotify and Youtube). She has previously studied performing arts, with one year higher diploma in professional Musicianship and teaches a drama club, Zylo Performance, where she makes films with kids during the Easter and Summer holidays.

I met Charlie Melrose the night of the screening.”Annie and Me” is a funny short comedy film written and directed by Charlie, who also happens to be the main actress. Although happy to be there, little she knew she was about to win an award:

“My film was the highest marked in the class and one of the highest marked out of the whole uni as that is why it was chosen to be screened at the David Thomas Awards as one of the lecturers told me. I hadn’t entered it for any award so it was very unexpected and a complete honour!”

-How do you explain what´s your film about?

“It’s a film that tackles the difficulties that come with an anxious mind, but the power of the story-telling lies in the dark comedic way it is told, whilst having a serious underlying element to it. The twist at the end gives an anxious person hope, that despite what their ‘Annie’ might be telling them, they are not alone in this feeling”.

-How long it took to produce? Who helped you?

“With all the planning and preparation it took me about two months. I wrote it, storyboarded it, directed it, acted in it and edited it. My friend Jack filmed it on his nice camera with good lenses, I invested in some lights (they weren’t expensive but they did the job) and my friend Ruth agreed to be Annie, which was good as she was the one I imagined in it the whole time. My bandmate created the music and the extras were various friends, most of them in the music scene as well. It took us a day and a half to film”.

-Did you find it daunting/thrilling to produce?

“Oh yeah. I mean, I thought people might think me crazy if they saw it. Because even though the lead character is ‘Kat’ not Charlie, it’s based on arguments I have with myself. My anxious mind had a field day over it. After we filmed it I cried for a day. I think it’s because I had finally expressed something I had been holding in, and that’s what anxiety does to you, it makes you turn inwards, people don’t know what’s going on inside. But I was so so proud of it, so proud of myself for getting it out, so proud of my team, yeah just so happy I made Annie & Me”.

 -Who do you get inspired by?

“Annie & Me was inspired by Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag and Miranda Hart’s Miranda, who were both written by the lead actress in both cases, like mine. I liked Fleabag’s experimental nature”.

-Do you like acting as much as directing?


Tom Dwyer, mentorship award with Progress Film

Tom Dwyer, mentorship award with The Progress Film Company


-Congratulations, Tom. Has this been an old dream of yours? Did you always wanted to become a filmmaker?

“I actually wasn’t going to do Film originally, I was going to do a Chemistry degree, because I was good at it, but then I took a gap year and I was working in this job which I didn’t really enjoyed and it just made me think that you don’t have a lot of chances to decide later on in life what you are gonna do, so I decided to switch to something I really enjoyed…and my parents were really supporting of the change”.

-How did you find the Film and Media Degree at University of Brighton?

“The course I chose was mostly theoretical. I read books, watched films and wrote about them…but then, you get optional modules the second year and the third year… It´s more creative. It was then when I made a documentary about St Bartholomew’s Church on my own … The tutors are involved in the David Thomas awards, and that’s how I found out about it”.

-Did you find the degree inspiring?

“The module on theoretical documentary was which inspired me the most…I have always had a very set idea of what a film should be, following Hollywood kind of structure, and the course has been really eye-opening regarding the many ways you can film…like short films, or obscure documentaries and that sort of stuff, and there are films that I found inspiring like “Camera Person”, by Kirsten Johnson, and “The Gleaners and I” by Agnès Varda, or any documentaries by Agnes Varda, reflecting on the role of the camera person in the making of  documentaries”.

-How different would be this mentorship from your work at uni?

“I am going to try to make this project really good, because it’s going to be the first…It’s a film I have produced and It hasn’t been for a grade, you know, like university, where I thought of the requirements I needed to fulfill, while now with Progress, the film is more like a reflection of what you would like to do in filmmaking”.

-Which was the proposal that they will help you to make?

“The proposal I sent over was for a documentary on “nostalgia”. That’s what my dissertation was on… but on a different area of nostalgia, about horror films, recreating the 80s style… Nowadays you have all these new films, but you can question how new they are, because they are just recreating…and “nostalgia” is what I want to explore in documentaries, looking at something that seems nostalgic when it´s not supposed to be nostalgic…I want to explore super 8 cameras, why is it that they have this style, that whatever you recorded, it is nostalgic because all the cultural associations we have of it…But if you film things that are not necessarily nostalgic, then you create a tension”…

-What do you expect to get from this mentorship?

“A confident boost, if I make a film and I really like how it looked, it would be a step forward in me having confidence in my own ability to produce films and also to gain knowledge of the use of camera equipment, which I don’t have much at the moment and that I would like to acquire; and it’s also to be able to say that you have made a film at a young age, and to say that you have made it with a film company… I think this is something that quite a lot of production companies would appreciate. I think it’s going to be a really rewarding experience in that sense”.

-How is to work with The Progress Film Company ?

“Progress is not a London company, but seems quite at the forefront of what is doing. They are very good into putting money into their employees and allowing them their own personal creative projects. That is a very forward thinking way of getting creativity in your company and at the same time being a business”.

“Progress has giving me access to lots of equipment…Now I will be making a kind of little test tube, a short documentary about Dukes of York’s Cinema, because they still project 35mm.That has become more of a rarity, people still going to watch 35mm, just because it is a special occasion. That’s gonna be like a couple of minutes film and for me it’s exciting, because I had no opportunity to use equipment before, as it is so expensive”…

-What is their creative input on your film?

“I meet the head of the company occasionally to see the progress I have made, or discuss ideas I am having and how I am going to develop them, but they are not making me change anything. They encourage me to work a lot in it, and they think that working a lot on it you are going to find the strengths and faults of your project. If I have a problem, I can go to them, and they have so much experience with filmmaking, that they can help me to work around that problem”.

-Any smaller project you could do on your own?

“I really like music videos. People are watching a video because they like the song, and they already know they like the song, and you then have the freedom to do things that are different and unique…and they are so short as well that you could produce them cheaply… So I think I would like to make music videos, to explore how that works”.

Well, good luck to both of you, and we hope to see your new creations very soon!

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