Tag Archives: Community

Halloween Animation and SFX Make-up Workshops

The nights are growing darker and there’s a chill in the air. Halloween is almost upon us! To celebrate the season, I have some scarily good workshops for your school or club to enjoy.

Oak Grove zombie make up

Zombie Make-up Effects

Transform into a gory zombie using professional special effects make-up techniques.

 £150 for up to 20 people*

 

Apparition – Drawn Animation

Work as a group to make shape-shifting ghosts and ghouls materialise using hand drawn animation techniques.

£150 for up to 10 people*

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Haunted House – Paper Cut Out Animation

Use paper animation techniques to create a haunted house filled with things that go bump in the night.

£150 for up to 10 people*

 

Each workshop is a 3 hour session with all materials and equipment provided.

Workshops are suitable for all ages and abilities.

Email contact@evanwilkinson.co.uk to book now. Availability is limited so book early to avoid disappointment.

*Workshops are charged at £150 within the local Brighton area. Work outside of the Brighton area may necessitate further charges.

Zombie blog

Evan Wilkinson, Community Filmmaker

Evan is a local filmmaker with over 15 years of experience in delivering workshops and providing industry training. He is currently an industry tutor at the Brighton Digital Media Academy.

Visit http://evanwilkinson.co.uk for more information.

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Tales of the City: Brighton Photo Biennial 2012

During the summer of 2012 I was working on an animation project for the Brighton Photo Biennial, working in partnership with Photoworks, Brighton & Hove City Library Services and the Youth Arts Project, part of Brighton & Hove City Council’s Youth Service. The brief was to provide a series of animation workshops for young people exploring the Biennial’s theme of the Politics of Space and to create digital stories for an exhibition at Jubilee Library. The project is called Tales of the City.

As an animator I am drawn to methods that are comparably low-tech by today’s standards. I’m fascinated by antiquities such as Zoetropes and Magic Lanterns and I love the organic nature of traditional drawn animation and stop motion puppetry. I think it’s important to be hands on and to have a physical connection with your work. Animation is a method of performance because your work is the result of your own personality. Your characters are born of you. The relationship between the animator and the world that they create is one that is very personal.

I was eager to introduce the young people to as many different animation techniques as possible so as to really allow them to experiment. Experimentation is what animation is all about. It was through experimentation that moving image was born and that experimentation allows the medium to evolve constantly. I wanted to include some examples of this evolution in my work for this project.

I started with simple optical illusions based around the concept of persistence of vision – thaumatropes, zoetropes and flick books. It was important to me to begin by demonstrating how animation can be created without the use of cameras and computers, especially when working with young people who may not have access to such equipment at home.

For me, the digital process is necessary to my work, but secondary to the drawings, puppets and sets that I create. The computer is there as a capture device and to refine the work in post-production but what an animator can produce with their own hands is the true magic of the medium.

The young people began by making thaumatropes – optical toys that create an illusion by combining two images on either side of a disk when it is spun quickly. I wanted to start with something small and simple that would produce an instantaneous result. Animation can be so time consuming and requires such patience that it can be off-putting for beginners and the real joy for someone having a go for the first time is to see their creation come to life in front of them. As important as it is for people to understand animation methods and techniques, it is vital for them to experience that little bit of magic for the first time.

As well as an understanding of techniques, it was important to also build an understanding of the Biennial’s theme into the work. The Politics of Space is a difficult concept to engage with and the challenge was to distil it into something that would engage young people and lend itself to creative work. The key was to make it relevant to them, to allow them to engage with the ideas and relate them to their own experiences. I decided to focus on local identity and the relationship that the young people had with their environment, using this to introduce them to the underlying politics within their space.

To begin with, we explored Brighton’s identity through discussion and drawings, creating a palette of Brighton iconography to draw into our animations. The young people created imagery that typified Brighton and then translated it into a beautiful hand drawn animation.

We then explored particular spaces on a closer level, discussing where the young people felt safe and welcome, where they liked to hang out and what places they avoided. It was interesting to explore Brighton from their perspective and to examine the different atmosphere and personality that you will find in different areas around the city. I wanted to make the young people aware of the politics of space by getting them to consider the rules and social norms they observe around the city and how these can change or influence their behaviour differently in different places.

After discussing Brighton’s various neighbourhoods I asked the young people to choose one space which they had all been to and that they thought had potential to explore through animation. The young people selected Brighton Marina, which is close to where a number of them live.

Brighton Marina is an interesting example of the politics of space at work in our local community. By its very location it is separate from the city with only one main route in and out by car and minimal pedestrian access, making it an almost self contained space. There is the obvious geographical divide between land and water. The residential part of the Marina is gated, restricting access to only those that live there, creating a landscape of barriers and exclusion. There is also a social divide as the expensive boats of the Marina are symbols of a lifestyle that only few can afford and yet its location, just south of Whitehawk means that some of the city’s least affluent residents use it as their nearest source of leisure.

The young people explored maps and aerial photos to create a bird’s eye view of Brighton Marina, which they animated using paper cut out techniques. We started by creating our set and then breaking it down into moving elements such as the sea, cars, buses and boats. All of these were then combined to create a day in the life of Brighton Marina.

The young people then discussed their own relationships with the Marina – how they get there, what they do when they’re there and where they do and don’t go. These experiences were recorded as voice over, so that each member of the group could tell their own story. Finally, each member of the group made a paper cut-out version of themselves to animate their part of the story.

Every Saturday throughout the Biennial, the young people shared what they learnt through drop in animation workshops or children aged 5-11 at Jubilee and Whitehawk Libraries.

All of the work created for this project was exhibited in the Young People’s space at Jubilee Library during the Photo Biennial.

About the Author:

Evan Wilkinson is a Community Filmmaker based in Brighton. As well as producing videos and community film projects, Evan teaches workshops in filmmaking, script development and animation. For more information please visit: http://evanwilkinson.co.uk

Why Your Business Needs Video

For a filmmaker like me, it makes sense to have video on my website. Video is my product. Video hosting sites like Vimeo and YouTube allow me to upload my work and embed it on my site. I can display a selection of my best or most recent projects as well as a showreel giving an overview of my work as a whole. Keeping the rest of my work on my YouTube channel allows me to direct potential clients to previous work that is relevant to their project.

The evolution of digital technology has given video a home on the Internet and revolutionised the industry. Before the Internet and digital video, filmmakers like myself would have a very limited output for our work and getting our films seen by an audience was a huge challenge, especially for short films. You could enter festivals and competitions with the hope of being selected, you could organise a screening of your own or you could send out DVD screeners. Your audience was always limited. Online, videos can be accessed by people all over the world, 24 hours a day.

Filmmakers were early adopters of online video because we were quick to see the benefits, but the boom of online video has spread across all industries as more and more businesses are using video within their marketing strategies, even small businesses and start-ups.

If you’re running a business you’ll already have a website and be active across social media, but are you using video yet? You should be. Here’s why:

Video Creates a Personal Connection

You already do a great job of representing your business, so why not put that on show for the rest of the world to see?

Online video:

  • Allows you to pitch your business in your own words
  • Allows you to demonstrate your passion and energy
  • Allows you to convey your knowledge of your industry
  • Allows potential clients to get to know who you are
  • Allows potential clients to see you at work
  • Allows potential clients to see feedback and testimonials from existing customers

An online video is a great way to gain the trust of your potential client base as it gives them a face and personality to relate to and connect with.

Video Drives Sales

  • People can gain a better understanding of a product or a service when they see and hear someone explain it
  • A recent Video Rascal survey showed that 85% of people are more likely to buy a product once they have seen an explainer video
  • Axonn Research found seven in 10 people view brands in a more positive light after watching interesting video content from them
  • Diode Digital found that, before reading any text, 60% of site visitors will watch a video if available
  • Video promotion is over 6 times more effective than print and online

If a client is curious about the product or service that you provide then a video that allows them to see it in action will give them a sense of what to expect and why it has value.

Video Improves Search Engine Optimisation

  • Websites with video on the front page rank higher in Google
  • YouTube is the number 2 search engine in the world
  • YouTube is owned by Google, the number 1 search engine
  • YouTube has more than one billion unique visitors every month
  • Google’s search ranking algorithms take into account how long a visitor stays on your page
  • Visitors are more likely to stay on your site for longer if you have video

Social Media Loves Video

  • Video is the most shared brand content on Facebook
  • Videos are shared 1,200% more times than links and text combined

Every business needs to consider SEO within their marketing strategy. Online video gives you content that can be uploaded to YouTube, embedded in your website and shared across all of your social media channels. If your followers like it then they’ll share it too.

Video isn’t just an addition to your website, it’s becoming something that visitors to your site are expecting to see.

No Business is Too Small

No business is too small to use video as a marketing tool. In fact, I’d argue that it’s even more important if your business is small. Online video isn’t just about marketing; it’s about telling people what you do and why it matters. It’s a great way to demonstrate the value that you offer.

I run my own business and I understand the difficulty of having to cover every role that in a larger company would be shared across a team of staff. Keeping active with social media and marketing can be a challenge when you’re also delivering work and dealing with clients. You can’t do everything at once.

If you run a small business like I do, you’re used to relying on your online presence to do some of the work for you. I consider my website to be my shop front and I’m reassured knowing that it can be accessed 24/7 by potential clients no matter how busy I might be.

I also know how important it is to be able to represent my business in person when the opportunity arises. No one can describe your business better than you do. Being able to talk directly to a potential client is usually the best way to win their confidence but we aren’t always available to make new connections as often as we’d like to. An online video does some of that work for you, enabling visitors to your website to get a sense of who you are and hear you talk about your business with the passion and enthusiasm that you bring to your work every day. An online video can be accessed at anytime of day or night from anywhere in the world, meaning that whether you’re busy at work or it’s out of hours, people can still hear your pitch and engage with what you do.

As for the cost, digital technology has made video production more affordable and more accessible than ever before. A video for your website may not cost as much as you expect.

Case Study

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I’ve been making promotional videos for arts organisations and theatre productions for a while and I’ve recently extended my services to include local businesses. I’m a Community Filmmaker so my interest is in creating content that people can connect with on a personal level.

My latest video is for Octopus Alchemy, a social venture in Brighton that talks food politics and educates people about traditional foods. Octopus Alchemy is run by Darren Ollerton, who has an obvious passion for his work. I used an informal documentary style to make a video about Darren and to showcase his talents as a workshop leader. The aim of the video was to show what his workshops are all about.

I filmed two of Darren’s workshops and an interview with him about his work. The workshop footage conveys a sense of the atmosphere of the workshops and gives potential participants what to expect. I was also able to film participants enjoying the workshop and get their feedback. The accompanying interview gives a sense of who Darren is, how much he knows about the subject he teaches and most importantly, how much he cares about it.

“Whilst I’ve done a bit of it, in various guises, being in front of the camera is not a favourite pastime of mine and filming a promo piece for my project came at quite a difficult time for me. But Evan’s confidence about the project was infectious; he remained very objective about the whole process throughout which was reassuring. Evan definitely has a craft – he works with people, not just film – and he puts community at the forefront of his filmmaking, which really chimes with my politics.”                                – Darren Ollerton, Octopus Alchemy

Ethical businesses and social enterprises like Octopus Alchemy are on the rise in the UK. There is a clear market for personal, local businesses that customers can relate to. Faceless corporations are out of fashion, so letting your client base get to know you through video makes sense.

I have no doubt that your business could be improved by using video and if you’re local to Brighton then I can help you do it. I specialise in working with the community and creating video that has meaning. I can work with you to create a video that is true to your identity as a business. Visit my website to find out more about my work and how to get in touch.

*A lot of these stats were sourced here.

About the Author:

Evan Wilkinson is a Community Filmmaker based in Brighton who creates video for the local community. As well as producing videos and community film projects, Evan teaches workshops in filmmaking, script development and animation. For more information please visit: http://evanwilkinson.co.uk

Exiled: Five Years On

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In my last post I discussed the making of the documentary Exiled in 2010 and my experiences of producing a political film during an election year. Whilst reflecting on the film I caught up with President Allen Vincatassin about what life has been like for the UK based Diego Garcians since the making of the film, and the latest developments in their campaign for a return to their island.

In February of 2013 Allen met with Mark Simmonds (then Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Foreign Affairs) who agreed to a new feasibility study into the possibility of resettlement in the Chagos including Diego Garcia. The study has now been published and can be found here.

As part of his research, Mark Simmonds visited the island in March 2014 despite protest from Mauritius who are still pursuing claims of sovereignty. He was the first UK minister in history to visit the islands.

The study had favourable results, concluding that there is no legal barrier to resettlement and theorising various options by which a return could be implemented. This feels like a big step forward for the Diego Garcians who have been held back by such feasibility studies in the past. Previous studies have focused on a lack of infrastructure and environmental changes such as rising sea levels, claiming that the island would be uninhabitable despite the contradictory presence of some 5000 military personnel.

The new report in fact states that the ideal island for resettlement within the Chagos Archipelago, is Diego Garcia. The report concedes that the island base means that an infrastructure is in place as Diego Garcia already has a port and airport. Diego Garcia would be better for resettlement than the outer islands because of this existing infrastructure so the presence of the military base has actually become a positive factor in the case for resettlement.

A larger question remains as to how to create jobs and industry on the island and this is one of the areas that now needs research. A number of contractors from the Phillipines currently work at the base, so it is clear that the base does provide potential employment for civilians. Allen has managed to convince the UK government that the defense of the base isn’t a problem as islanders can occupy the other side of the island which is currently uninhabited. In the past, resettlement of Diego Garcia has been discouraged on the basis of it being a threat to international security, but people live next to and near to military bases all over the world.

The US is leasing the land from the UK and the lease officially expires in 2016. The lease will need to be renegotiated soon and the US is in an awkward position following revelations of the island base’s use in renditions flights and as a suspected black prison site – activity which may well be a factor in the USA’s reluctance to have a civilian population nearby. The US are unwilling to allow a civilian population to use any of their infrastructure such as housing, but they have not spoken against civilian use of the port and airport where immigration is controlled by the UK.

A week before Parliament’s dissolution, James Dudderidge, Simmonds’ successor at the Foreign Office, said that there is more work to be done to make a decision as to how resettlement could happen and who would want to return.

Allen has said that there is a need for more in depth work to be done as to who would like to return to the islands but the very realistic terms in which resettlement is now being discussed are encouraging. People have begun to register their interest in returning.

Allen has been in discussions with the Foreign Office about a pilot resettlement. One of the big questions is how much the resettlement will cost the treasury.

My conversation with Allen was conducted before the general election, this progress was made with the coalition government and the hope is that the work can continue when the new government come to power. There is a need for more studies in order to work towards a pilot resettlement in order to see if permanent resettlement could be sustainable. The Diego Garcians have a plan and are waiting to present it to the new government.

Today marks the State Opening of Parliament and with James Dudderidge and the Foreign Minister Philip Hammond returning to their posts it is hopeful that these discussions will continue to progress.

Looking back on the film.

Allen’s reflection on the documentary is that it highlighted the Diego Garcian’s story very well but he can’t confirm what impact it had on the local or national public. The biggest hope was that the film would reach a wider audience than just the local screenings that it was commissioned for and the Diego Garcian society haven’t had the resources to organize further screenings of the film. It seems that the Road to Crawley project hasn’t continued much contact with the community since the film was made.

Henry is still Crawley’s MP and Laura has retired from politics but both have continued their support for the cause. Henry has helped a lot with organizing meetings with Mark Simmonds to negotiate resettlement and speaking on the Diego Garcians’ behalf in Parliament on several occasions. Allen’s feeling before the election was that if the Conservatives remain in government then the DG population stand a good chance of achieving their right to return home.

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Charlesia (Saji) Alexis sadly passed away in December 2012.

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Myleene continues her work with the Sega dancers and the Diego Garcian youth group.

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Marie-Ange has made progress learning English and is now living in the Brighton area.

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Selmour is well and enjoying being a Grandfather.

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Allen has self-published his memoir Flight to Freedom which is now available on Amazon.

About the Author:

Evan Wilkinson is a Community Filmmaker based in Brighton. As well as producing videos and community film projects, Evan teaches workshops in filmmaking, script development and animation. For more information please visit: http://evanwilkinson.co.uk

Exiled: Making A Political Documentary In An Election Year

In the 1960s, some 2000 British citizens were forcibly removed from their island home of Diego Garcia so that Britain could lease it to America for a military base. Exiled follows the journey of these displaced people to rebuild their lives and fight for their return to their homeland.

In 2009 I started work on the documentary Exiled. I was working for a small production company at the time, so small that it was common to be involved in each project in numerous roles. Only about 5 people worked on the film in production and post-production roles. I was the film’s researcher, production assistant, interviewer, scriptwriter, one of the camera operators and the film’s main editor. I probably put in more hours on the project than the director did, by which I mean to say that I was very close to this film.

It was a formative experience for me. The project introduced me to the power of documentary, giving me a new respect for the form and a huge appreciation for factual storytelling. It also gave me one of my greatest experiences of creating a film for and about a community, allowing me to learn about and interact with amazing and inspirational people whose strength and determination should be an example to all of us. I was already engaged in community filmmaking, but this was my first opportunity to see it working on a wider scale and in a more vital context. It played a huge part in shaping my identity as a filmmaker today. The project also brought about my first real engagement with politics and social issues, helping to inform my value system and political leaning.

I felt extremely passionate about telling the story of the Diego Garcians. My experience of making Exiled, and of meeting and working with the Diego Garcian community living in the UK will always stay with me and I still feel a connection to the community.

I learned a huge amount in my research of the islanders’ plight and knew nothing of the situation before embarking on the project. I ended up with a massive wealth of information and I was horrified by my findings. I was shocked to discover that our country could be responsible for such injustice in recent decades, and that so many of us are completely unaware that it even happened and that the saga is ongoing. The history of the Diego Garcians’ experience is long and complex. I’ve posted a brief summary here.

In the build up to the general election, I’ve been reminiscing about the project, which was completed during the last general election in 2010. As the documentary touched on local, national and international politics, the backdrop of the election began to influence the project more and more in the build up to Election Day as it began to attract interest and scrutiny from politicians. I’ve also been in touch with President Allen Vincatassin to find out how the community have fared since the film was made and what progress they have made with their campaign to return home.

Making A Political Documentary In An Election Year

In the 2010 General Election, Crawley’s seat was a swing seat, having been won by only a tiny margin in 2005. Henry Smith was the Crawley Conservative Parliamentary candidate in the 2005 General Election where he received the highest national swing from Labour to Conservative (over 8.5%) reducing the Labour majority from 6,770 to just 37 – making Crawley the most marginal constituency in the country. The winning Labour candidate, Laura Moffatt, had the number 37 tattooed on her ankle as a reminder of how slim her victory was.

The growing Diego Garcian community in Crawley made up over a thousand new voters in the area, so winning their votes was set to make a huge difference to the outcome of the election in 2010. Laura was retiring as an MP and Henry was taking another run at her seat.

Both politicians were involved in the documentary as both had been greatly involved with the Diego Garcian community – Laura in her role as the MP for Crawley and Henry as the leader of West Sussex County Council at the time of the Diego Garcians’ arrival in Crawley. I met them both and interviewed them about their support for the Diego Garcians. Both seemed genuine and engaged. Both continue to support and work with the Diego Garcian community.

We’d reached out to numerous other members of Parliament, past and present who had been involved in the story or could offer a valuable opinion, but we had no take-up.

In March 2010, David Miliband (then Foreign Secretary) visited Crawley to attend an event for the Diego Garcian community. He was involved in declaring the waters around the Chagos Islands a Marine Protection Area in the interest of conservation. The Diego Garcian Society were optimistic about the plan, considering it as not just a means of protecting their homeland, but a potential opportunity for new jobs in the Chagos and a chance to be more connected to their home.

We originally had permission to film the event for our documentary, but found ourselves turned away by security when we arrived with our cameras. After some negotiation by our hosts on the council we were allowed into the event, but sadly, not with our cameras. When the event ended, however, our Director used the question and answer session to his advantage, introducing himself and our project to David Miliband and asking him in front of the audience if he would agree to a quick interview with us. David agreed. We charged back to the car for our kit, ran back in –almost getting blocked by security once again – and hastily set up an on-the-fly interview.

The original footage of the documentary is no longer in my possession (as Compulsive, and its archives are no longer in existence) but I do have a low-res copy of the interview. The quality is terrible and I didn’t include it in the final cut but I’m still proud that I was able to interview the Foreign Secretary.

It felt a little suspect for the government to suddenly take more notice of the Diego Garcians so close to the election but the islanders were optimistic and keen to support any initiative that could lead to a return. Unfortunately, the creation of the conservation area was later criticized as a further obstacle to the Diego Garcians’ right to return as the islanders would now find their return posing a threat to the environment as well as international security. The possibility of this being a tactical move by the British government to further deny Diego Garcians access to their homeland was confirmed by Wikileaks. 

Our clients at Crawley Borough Council, had set a screening date for two weeks before the general election and as the day approached things started to get crazy.

Once government entered Purdah, we were contacted by an official at the council who told us that we needed to submit the film to their office for approval before the screening date. They would advise us as to whether we would be allowed to screen the film and explained that we would need to accept any necessary cuts that they recommend or else have the screening banned. We were told that all publicity of the screening was banned. No photos could be taken at the event. A list of all guests at the screening was required, detailing their political bias. No political figures were permitted to speak at the event unless we allowed someone from every party to speak and be given the same amount of time.

Following this, we had requests from the Foreign Office, the local Conservative Party and the local Labour Party to allow them to see the film before the screening and make cuts if they deemed necessary.

We received a complaint from the Shadow Foreign Secretary about not being included in the documentary – the same Minister who refused our repeated requests for an interview months earlier. All kinds of people who had declined to appear in the film were suddenly angry that they’d been excluded. People seemed to be lining up to speak at the screening, all jostling for a chance to attach themselves to the Diego Garcian cause.

When we informed our clients about the situation they said that moving the screening date would constitute a breach of contract so we found ourselves caught between a rock and a hard place. Our film was at risk of being picked apart. All of our contributors had signed release forms. No one had any rights to our footage beside us. Our commitment was to the Diego Garcian people and to telling their story as best we could. Our intention had always been to allow the community to tell their story in their own words. We didn’t want to relinquish control of our film and allow others to dictate how the story would be told. All of a sudden, all sorts of people who weren’t even involved in the film were concerned about how the film could damage their chances in the election.

It was a stressful week but thankfully we reached an agreement with our client about rescheduling the screening until after the election, which put control of the edit firmly back in our hands. As soon as the screening was moved everyone lost interest again. The Shadow Foreign and Commonwealth Office went back to ignoring our emails and no other politicians besides Henry and Laura retained an interest in taking part in the film or attending the screening.

After the screening in May we worked on a longer 60 minute cut of the film for October’s Black History Month. After that we had plans for a feature-length version of the film that we were unable to raise funding for. Our aim would have been to further investigate the right to return and to question the role of the base in light of emerging evidence of it’s use for renditions flights. We had hoped that this final version of the film could take a harder line against the military base and the politicians involved in the expulsion. We wanted to create a campaign film for the islanders that would really question how this could happen and how the islanders could still be denied the right to return home. It’s unfortunate that our funding applications were unsuccessful.

Then the election came. Henry gained the seat he had been campaigning for for so long. He continues to support the Diego Garcian community in Crawley. Laura retired from politics but also continues her support of the Diego Garcians.

With the new coalition government came austerity cuts to arts budgets and youth services. It was a hard time for community filmmaking. Compulsive Productions sadly closed down the following year and with that went any hope of continuing the project, although I still have hopes of returning to the story one day with a follow-up film. The silver lining of my time ending with Compulsive was that it set me on the path to building a business of my own and Exiled remains to this day one of the most exciting and inspirational projects I’ve ever had the pleasure of working on.

Since the making of the film, Allen Vincatassin has been elected President of the Provisional Government of Diego Garcia and the Chagos Islands. I spoke to him last week about how the community is doing and how the campaign has progressed and I’ll be sharing the update in my next post. It’s good news and it could be a step forward.

About the Author:

Evan Wilkinson is a Community Filmmaker based in Brighton. As well as producing videos and community film projects, Evan teaches workshops in filmmaking, script development and animation. For more information please visit: http://evanwilkinson.co.uk

Exiled: Production Info

Exiled

Exiled is a documentary that I made with Compulsive Productions in 2010. It tells the story of the islanders from Diego Garcia; some 2000 British citizens who were forcibly removed from their island in the sixties so that Britain could lease it to America for a military base. The film follows the journey of the displaced people to rebuild their lives and fight for their return to their homeland.

The film explores the history of the Diego Garcians’ forced removal from their island, their experiences in the slums of Mauritius, and their journey to the UK where they struggle to build new lives and continue to battle for their rights.

The film features interviews with members of the Diego Garcian community who reflect on life on the island and give eyewitness accounts of the expulsion and the shocking conditions they endured on their journey to Mauritius. The islanders recount their struggle to survive in the slums of Mauritius when they were denied resettlement money and left to languish in poverty.

Roughly two thirds of the Diego Garcian islanders now live in Crawley after using all of their available resources to make the journey to the UK. Life for the islanders has improved but their culture and lives have been inexorably altered by the expulsion and the scars of this experience are still visible. Now the islanders struggle to overcome language barriers and integrate into British society despite racial tensions and violent oppositions within the town.

Our team worked hard to become trusted and accepted by the Diego Garcian community living in Crawley over a period of months. We conducted several interviews with residents before deciding on the community figures that would tell the story of the exile.

We spoke to Allen Vincatassin, leader of the Diego Garcian community in Crawley who led the islanders in their move to the UK. Allen is a spokesperson for the community and campaigns politically for their rights. He provides valuable support for community members settling in the UK and has also been instrumental in the recent government initiative to declare the Chagos Archipelago a Marine Protected Area for the future conservation of marine life.

Since the making of this film, Allen has been elected president of the Provisional Government of Diego Garcia and the Chagos Islands.

Allen’s late grandfather, Michel Vincatassin famously took legal action against the British Government for their treatment of the islanders and faced bitter opposition until his death. Michel’s son, Simon, told us the story of his father’s campaign and the poltical tensions it created. Sadly, Simon has now passed away so this footage shows him in his final days.

We interviewed Selmour Chery, an elderly man who reminisced about his life on the island and how a visit to Mauritius left him stranded with no home and no job when he was told he was not allowed to return to his home.

We spoke to Selmour’s sister, Saji Alexis, an inspiring woman who led the people in protest against their dire living conditions and lack of support in Mauritius. Despite being beaten by the police and thrown into jail, Saji continued to protest and lead hunger strikes until the Diego Garcians were finally granted British passports and full UK citizenship rights.

We spoke to Marie-Ange Modliar who was among the last islanders to be removed in inhumane conditions aboard the over-crowed ship, Noordvaer, and Myleene, a community worker, who teaches Diego culture to the new generation of Diego Garcians. Myleene and Marie-Ange visited the island together last year as the first Diego Garcian women to return since the expulsion.

Also interviewed are the former head of West Sussex County Council, Henry Smith, who recounts his experiences of providing welfare support for the 2000 islanders who arrived at Gatwick Airport as destitute British citizens and the former MP for Crawley, Laura Moffatt, who campaigned for the Foreign Office to allow the islanders visits to their homeland.

At the time of making the film, the US military base on Diego Garcia housed over 4000 military personnel. The base had proved a site of strategic importance for the US military in their recent actions against Afghanistan and Iraq. The Diego Garcian population are still banned from returning home. The American military have stated in the past that their presence on the island would pose a threat to international security.

The island’s ‘lease’ comes to an end in 2016 and will need to be renegotiated. The islanders are still campaigning for their right to return to their home.

About the Author:

Evan Wilkinson is a Community Filmmaker based in Brighton. As well as producing videos and community film projects, Evan teaches workshops in filmmaking, script development and animation. For more information please visit: http://evanwilkinson.co.uk

Crossed Paths: Art Direction

In my last post I talked about my role as a Make Up Artist on the short film Crossed Paths. I talked about how I created make up effects for each of the two leads and gave a brief synopsis of the film, which was made by young people in Crawley.

I also worked as the Art Director for the film, making key props and dressing the locations. A lot of the action in the film takes place in a small square with shops and a pub where the characters hang out.

One scene required filming in a shop where Aaron gets a job. We were lucky to find a shop in the square where we were shooting that allowed us to film on their premises over night. The shop was closing down and the owners agreed to leave behind their remaining stock for us.

There wasn’t enough stock to fill the shop, which was a bit of a challenge, but I managed to fill the front of the shop, the till area and a central aisle. It was a good couple of hours of shuffling stock around while the crew filmed scenes outside. As often happens with set and props work, the crew only ended up using a portion of the set but I was very happy with how it all looked under the lights.

Aaron’s neighbour Hasan has given him a job in his shop, but they soon come to blows over Aaron’s growing right wing views. When Aaron’s new friend and N.E.M. member Joe asks Aaron to post flyers about their march in Hasan’s shop, Hasan objects and Aaron quits.

We used a local pub as the meeting place for the N.E.M. which was conveniently located in the same square as the majority of our shooting, in Gossops Green. The close proximity of our locations lent itself to the sense of confinement and the intensity of these different cultural groups struggling to live side by side.

The staff of the Windmill Pub were extremely accommodating and nothing like the scary looking thugs we filled their pub with. The pub was already decked out in England flags, which made for a perfect backdrop for the N.E.M. meetings. My work at this location consisted of lighting the scenes and rearranging the pub’s interior to accommodate our equipment and make the most of the location. I repositioned a lot of the furniture and decorations to suit the blocking of each scene, added some more patriotic embellishments and filled the pub with N.E.M. flyers, advertising the march.

We first see the pub when Aaron meets Joe and they go for a pint. Joe is in a similar position to Aaron, out of work and angry at the lack of opportunities. He tells Aaron about the N.E.M. who blame immigration and multiculturalism for the lack of jobs. Joe takes Aaron under his wing and encourages him to come to the next meeting.

In the next scene at the pub we see Aaron becoming indoctrinated into the group as the N.E.M.’s leader rallies them for the march. It was a tough scene to shoot as the interior of the pub was quite dark and the number of wide shots necessary to show the whole group meant that we were limited as to where we could place our lights.

As the N.E.M. are preparing to march, a group of college students plan a counter-demonstration to oppose the right wing group. We filmed the scene in the canteen of Central Sussex College in Crawley.

I decorated the canteen using Stop the N.E.M. flyers, which the protest organiser also hands out during the scene. I created a range of placards for the protest scene, some of which I left unfinished and placed around the canteen along with marker pens, paint and brushes so that our extras could be seen working on them. I also created a large banner to be used later at the protest, which I hung as a backdrop.

The action of the film all builds up to the day of the protest when all of these groups face off against each other.

As this was a Council funded projected we were able to close the roads where we were filming, which was great. It also meant that we had police officers with vehicles on hand who were happy to participate, which really added to the look and feel of the scene.

I made a range of banners and placards for the protest scene, some of which were also used in the earlier canteen scene. I wanted the various signs to look homemade and so I used fairly cheap materials. I also tried to create a difference in style between those belonging to the N.E.M. and those belonging to the students.

It was a strange experience creating protest signs for both sides of the protest, a bit like having split personalities – switching from extreme right-wing hate-speak one minute to anti-fascist imagery the next. I was also a bit worried about what my neighbours would think when I had to leave a lot of the placards outside to dry.

The film was used as part of an anti-extremism project by Crawley Borough Council. It was distributed to schools along with an education pack to help teachers explore the issues raised by the film. The pack also contained further interviews with the characters, which lent more context to the story.

If you would like to explore issues through filmmaking and create a short film with your group then I can provide the necessary training and support to make your project a reality. Visit my website or contact me now for more information about my filmmaking workshops.