Theatre Director Helena Middleton steps up for her Film Directing debut with Kin

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Kin tells a story of the relationship between two young brothers raised in the children’s care system, and the turning point they face when told their application for a kinship care arrangement has been denied.

Ahead of it’s screening at PFF, Director Helena Middleton tells us about her experience developing and shooting this powerful family drama,

“Based in part on personal experience, Kin highlights the chasm between growing up with a family and growing up institutionalised, framing this distinction through the intimate, powerful, and universally relatable bond between two brothers. It is a human story which shines a light on lesser seen lives.”

Helena is based in Bristol, and has a strong background in theatre directing – with involvement in projects across leading South West theatre venues including Bristol Old Vic, The Bike Shed and touring shows to Theatre Royal Plymouth. Kin is her first step into directing for film, and she explained how this was the most significant obstacle for her,

“My biggest challenge was the learning curve that came with doing the job for the first time. Everything was a first and I’m used to 100% knowing what I’m doing, so I had to learn to relax and know that if I surrounded myself with the right team, everything would be ok.”

Drawing from influences such as Andrea Arnold, Clio Barnard and Lynne Ramsey, who use cinematography to combine the gritty elements of social realism with a softer, dreamlike quality, Helena used the production to begin developing her own filmmaking style.

Picking a theme that is both relatable in it’s relationship between the siblings, but also inherently uncomfortable when dealing with the consequences of a care system suffering from limited resources and free-falling adoption rates is no small task. Tackled with sensitivity and vulnerability, Helena and the production team have created a thought-provoking short about the importance of family and sacrifice.

Image Credit: Tim Hall

“I would say our biggest success was the team that we pulled together – the film stars some brilliant actors, including BBC Casualty’s Sunetra Sarker and BBC Dickensian’s Joseph Quinn, and our whole team was just brilliant. I’m also particularly proud of the film’s score, composed by David Ridley and Aaron May. It’s fantastic and really elevates the film.”

Helena worked alongside Writer Samuel Bailey and Producer Tim O’Brien for Kin, and the team are hoping to continue working together on films in the near future. In the meantime Helena’s next film will focus on her Mum and the Drag King scene, which we hope we’ll be seeing at future PFF events!

To enjoy watching Kin at Plymouth Film Festival, book your ticket to the Family Affairs screening here.


Longfield Drive – PFF Official Selection for Best Student Film

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Selected to screen at Plymouth Film Festival and part of the Best Student Film Official Selection, Longfield Drive is a dark political Crime Drama set in Oakland USA that looks to explore the sensitive issue of police racial profiling and shootings. We spoke with Director of Longfield Drive, Kiosa Sukami, an innovative up-and-coming British filmmaker, about his passion for film production.

When asked about his motivation for this project, Kiosa cites a hot political and social topic that has touched the lives of many people across the globe, with a brief reference to the shooting of 18 year old African American Michael Brown in Ferguson, and the subsequent protests that were sparked worldwide.

“We’ve all heard the news reports about racial profiling and the unrest caused by shootings in the US, but you never feel you have the full picture. Longfield Drive will give the festival audience the whole picture without any bias.”

Set in a typical American diner, but filmed in a single location in Bournemouth, this ambitious set was meticulously styled inside and out to provide a seamless journey through the short film. The film features a continuous shot through the set, and this proved to be the biggest challenge for the production team as they had just one day to complete the filming.

“Bold. Unpredictable. Witty.”

– Kiosa Sukami, Director, on how to describe Longfield Drive

For someone so fresh in the world of filmmaking, this is undoubtedly a project with high aspirations. Kiosa explained the passion that has driven him so far, “I always knew since I could remember I wanted to shoot videos, even if it wasn’t films. The day that I was given the ultimatum approaching higher education and college to either take the Medicine route after my father, or the Creative route, I didn’t blink twice & I’ve been running with it ever since.”

So how does someone who is carving a path for themselves through the world of filmmaking feel when they learn their work has been selected to screen at Plymouth Film Festival?

“Over the moon! PFF has an amazing audience beyond my peers that I’m thrilled will get to see this film, and it takes selections seriously. Finding out we were up against 650 other films feels like a win in itself and has given me more fire in my belly to continue filmmaking.”

Longfield Drive will be screened on Saturday 27 May as part of the State of The World category, and is also part of the Official Selection for Best Student Film. Tickets for this screening session are available online here.

IT GIRL Director Simon Lex chats to PFF

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Here at Plymouth Film Festival, we want you to be fully prepared to receive all the fantastic films coming your way this year. So with that in mind, we caught up with the teams behind a few of this years Official Selection.

First up, we met with Director Simon Lex. Based in Exeter, Simon has worked alongside Plymouth based writer Richard Gosling to produce IT GIRL – the story of a young man, who’s chance encounter with a missing girl launches him towards the internet stardom he craves. Selected to feature in the Obsession category of the festival, IT GIRL is a darkly comical satire of our modern obsession with social media that may make you laugh and cry in equal measure.

“self-absorbed, comical, terrifying” – Simon Lex, on how to describe IT GIRL

When asked about the production of the short film, Simon told us about the complications that arose from only having one single weekend to film, “We had planned to do all the outdoor shots on the Saturday but the weather changed, and it just rained all day Saturday. So at the last minute we had to reorganise the whole shoot schedule in the hope that it would stop raining on the Sunday. This involved getting a whole new cast of background actors at the very last minute! But everyone on the shoot was absolutely incredible, they worked so hard to make it happen and thankfully the weather finally decided to be kind to us so we could get all the shots we needed just before the sun went down.”

Before making films, Simon was working as a doctor in Malawi, Africa. Shocked by the extreme levels of poverty he encountered and disillusioned by the impact he felt he could have in the field of medicine, he sought other means of producing change in the real world.

“I watched two documentaries called: ‘We feed the World’ and ‘Let’s Make Money’ by the Austrian director Erwin Wagenhofer. These were such hard hitting documentaries. It was from this that I started making films. Since then I have become interested in telling stories that expose some flaw or quirk in our societies but in a way that is entertaining and accessible to a wider audience than those inclined towards slow subtitled documentaries about international financial markets. The humanism that motivated me to work as a doctor still fuels my filmmaking but I see film as having a greater ability to produce real change.”

“I attended Plymouth Film Festival with Richard Gosling (the writer of IT GIRL) who’s film Baby Bird was screened at PFF2016. I was really impressed by the quality of the festival which made me determined to make a film that would get selected. So, while I have submitted IT GIRL to festivals across the globe, PFF was the one that I really wanted to get into. It’s really great to have such a well run, innovative film festival in the south west. I am feeling extremely excited about having IT GIRL screened at the festival and can’t wait for the PFF audience to watch it and to hear what they think.”

For more information on IT GIRL head to the film’s website, and to catch the screening at PFF2017 book your Saturday ticket for Obsession.

Award winning Director Eddie Sternberg chats to PFF

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Last year’s Plymouth Film Festival saw one film pick up a haul of awards in not only the Fiction category, but also the Audience Choice award and the coveted Grand Prix, as well as a nomination for The Roger Deakins award.

I Used To Be Famous from writer/director Eddie Sternberg and the Superplex  team, tells the story of a bold and moving culture clash between a failed singer from a late nineties boyband and a musically talented young man with an incredible ear for rhythm. Made in conjunction with The BFI and Film London, this film follows two outsiders who transform each others world’s through the power of music.

We spoke to Eddie about his experience creating this award winning short film, what’s next from Superplex and his tips for success:

Can you start by telling us about the process of creating I Used To Be Famous?

The first time I started thinking about it was back in August 2013, that was when I first had the idea of the character Vince. After about a year of percolation, Chris Pencakowski, the producer of the film, convinced me to send it off to Film London and submit it for the London Calling Southern Exposure Film Fund.

We hurriedly pulled a pitch together, wrote the script and sent it in. We made it through to the shortlist, and then we were workshopping for a couple of months before we were invited to pitch and eventually win the fund. Luckily, we were successful and from that moment it was all systems go and I was just writing, writing and writing. Pre-production kick started a month or two after that, then the actual shoot itself took place over 3 days in early June.

Overall, from pre-production to delivery, the film took about 8 months. However from the initial idea, the initial script – it’s been with me for a couple of years. We completed filming in just 3 days, which was down to the help of a great producer, and an excellent cast and crew.

It sounds like you had the support of a great crew behind the production:

Absolutely, most of the crew worked on my first short film which was called Out Of Body, so we had a ready made team this time around, along with a few new faces, we worked really well together.

Tell us about the first film you made:

I made a short film back in 2009 that no-one is ever allowed to see!

But the first ‘official’ short film I made was Out of Body, it was made in 2014 and funded by Transport for London and released at Safe Drive Stay Alive events as a road awareness piece, but it also had another life at film festivals so it could reach an wider audience.

We’re currently discussing how it will be distributed but it should be available very soon.

What was your experience of taking part in Plymouth Film Festival?

I submitted the film very near the deadline, so I emailed Will and Ben to make sure they had received it. They were really helpful, the most responsive festival organisers that we’ve experienced. Despite it now being only in it’s third year the festival itself seems so established. From submitting the film, to the screenings, to the response after the event, I can’t recommend the experience highly enough.

And topped off by all your wins!

It was absolutely amazing!

We were looking at the Grand Prix winner from the previous year, The Fly from Director Olly Williams, we were so impressed by it and we realised the standard is so high here. We were delighted to have been nominated in the Fiction category and our DOP Eben Bolter was particularly excited to be nominated in the Roger Deakins award category of course, it just didn’t cross our mind that we could win the Best Fiction, Audience AND the Grand Prix.

It was really overwhelming and we had an amazing weekend in Plymouth. It’s such a nice city – to just experience the festival and the standard of films would have been great, but that we ended it on such an unexpected high note was fantastic.

So what’s next for the Superplex team?

We’ve got a few things happening – I’ve been developing a feature length version of I Used to be Famous along with writer Zak Klein (co-writer) Chris Pencacowski and Collie McCarthy who are co-producing. We’re just coming to the end of the third draft which will hopefully be ‘the one’.

I’ve also got a few television projects that I am working on, one of which is with the incredibly talented Kayode Ewumi. Superplex has a nice slate of projects too. My long term collaborator Adam Baroukh has just been given the UK Jewish Film Festival’s Pears Fund for his short film The Outer Circle and Chris has a couple of other feature projects he’s been working on, one of which is an exciting full length documentary called Owl Man.

Any advice for aspiring filmmakers?

Whenever I get asked this I always find it tricky, because I’m still very much at the start of my career. We’ve been really lucky with the success that we’ve had with I Used To Be Famous, especially in Plymouth, and our other shorts too.

I suppose I would say do your research on the Festivals, there are so many out there If you really do your research, you can find a festival that is suited to your film – read up on their ethos and what they look for – you can have a lot of success.

In general the one piece of advice that I would always stand by is that it’s paramount that you have a happy set. From the Producer to the Production Manager, the Runner to the DOP. Making a film is a totally collaborative process. If everyone is happy (and fed well!) they’re going to be at their very best, which in my opinion, is the best way to make the final product as good as it can be.


Want all the latest from Eddie and Superplex? You can follow Superplex on their website here, or check out their Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date!