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By midlandsmovies, Jul 8 2019 12:00PM

Young filmmaker shorts screened at Leicester drama academy event

On Sunday July 7th Midlands Movies descended upon the King Richard III Centre in Leicester city centre where a unique film festival was underway featuring some of the most talented young filmmakers in the region.

The Pauline Quirke Academy (PQA) is a weekend performing arts Academy providing tuition for children and young people in comedy and drama, musical theatre and film and television.

Set up and endorsed by English actress Pauline Quirke (Birds of a Feather) in 2007, they are located in 105 towns and cities around the UK and focus on the arts. The youngsters attend outside of their normal school hours at weekends which shows the amazing commitment by these up and coming creatives and their families.

The King Richard III Centre opened in 2014 on the site of Greyfriars, the medieval friary in whose church the King was buried. A regal location then for the young people of PQA Leicester to attend a royal-esque red carpet event for them and their families to watch the short films that have been months in the making.

From drama to comedy and sci-fi and horror, the students haven’t just starred in the films but created the stories, had input into the scripts and took control of their productions behind the scenes. Some were directors, cinematographers, sound recordists as well as many more roles which enabled the children to experience a whole variety of skills to help them in their learning.

And so, with 6 planned screenings over the afternoon we spoke to as many of the students as possible to get their unique perspectives on their projects, the filmmaking process and their hopes for the future.

Josh Brambini-Meadows was first up and has been at PQA for 7 years – not bad for someone at just 13 years old! “In my film I play a visually impaired person with a guide dog but the boy is bullied at school. It was hard because you don’t know what it’s like but we used the subject “heroes” to develop our story about guide dogs who do all these good things. I’m a big fan of action films and I’d really like to develop my acting in future at PQA”.

Carmen Lee-Bennet echoed Josh and was in the film ‘Perfect’. “I play the lead’s best friend Emily and my friend at PQA Molly wrote it. I prefer to act and am looking forward to doing the PQA pantomime at Christmas. I can’t wait to see the film tonight”.

Amira Chawla-Sampey stars in ‘Freeze’ and as one of the newer members says, “I haven’t been on the big screen so am excited. I started in January and I really enjoy PQA”. Similarly Jasmine Lee-Bennett (9) adds “This is my first film and PQA has made me more confident” and friend Charlene Baariu (10) continued, “I’m looking forward to seeing my film tonight and it’s the first one I’ve ever made!”

Sophie Swaby describes how she got involved with the technical elements: “I play a student in Freeze and also did sound recording behind the camera. They’re both really fun things to do”. Isabella King said, “I’m in Legends which is about a sleepover party and then there are creepy dolls and explore a scary house. When I first joined I thought I would quit but I really like it because I met lots of new friends”.

Alex Gupta told us, “I am in Glitch which is about a boy who goes into a video game so it’s an action story with zombies. We filmed in the woods so there was a lot of scraping on brambles! We get lots of opportunities at PQA - this time I was director – and that’s what I want to do in future”.

Student Fran Mee explained how PQA supports her goals: “PQA is really fun and lots of opportunities to star in films. I’m in Safe with Me and did some sound recording. I want to be a singer and actor and the PQA staff are very supportive and they believe in you. It’s really amazing”.

And young Patrick Lambert-Connolly has his sights set on shepherding a crew again in the future: “I’m the director of Safe With Me and I enjoyed using the camera. The hardest thing about being a director is patience. I like all the opportunities you get with PQA – to perform in West End, be in films and lots more!”

“I was the director of photography which I like more than acting. I love making a film from scratch with my good friends” said Leo Denton (11) whilst Alexa Skidmore enjoyed the zombie make-up “with lots of fake blood and white face paint. I like these projects as we can create whatever we want”.

Senior student James King (17) came at his project with a lot experience which he was more than happy to pass on: “My 6 years at PQA has been great. I act in Detention and helped with a bit of scriptwriting. I enjoy seeing myself on the big screen and as an older student I try to help the younger people”.

His sister Courtney King (15) “I’ve been at PQA 8 years and it’s a really friendly working environment and like a second family to be honest” and their sibling Olivia King added that she too enjoys working with others “I have all my best friends at PQA and it’s a really nice atmosphere. Although one time my face was stained yellow from make-up and it got all over my food later”, she adds, already experienced in the world of production problems.

Friends Madison Brace, Elodie Dakin, Daya Chahal love the freedom they get at the academy: “We helped behind-the-scenes and in front of the camera. We enjoy comedy and drama and you get to use your imagination at PQA and you make great memories”.

Siblings Oliver (13) & Sienna Ross (7) said, “We like getting together with like-mind people and have a really good time on projects”. And it’s not only the students enjoying the PQA experience. Parent Melanie King can’t sing the praises of the academy enough. “When we first looked at what PQA could offer my daughter, I thought it looked an amazing place. She has always been very creative and the classes have helped focus her skills. I was so proud to see her on the West End stage last year and PQA brings out confidence in children and helps them progress”.

Zoe, Andrea, Shanice Nyandoro “We’re in Freeze and A Part of Me. We love dancing and singing and it’s great PQA include everyone when they make the films”.

Taiven Allen “I directed The Intruder about a boy who wakes up to find a clone in his bedroom. This is my first film and I like expressing feelings as different characters but also enjoy the technical side. I’m influenced by Bradley Cooper who moved from acting to directing and we did a little improvising on set which was fun”.

Megan & Amelia Jackson “It was very physical on set, we did a few takes of a slapping scene! But also people don’t see how many people are working behind the projects and during the filming you get to know people more”.

Caitlin Spencer (13) said, “I’m the lead in short film Perfect which is about being anxious at school and not fitting in. I prefer acting and found the project a great place to discuss our ideas and PQA allows you to experience things you wouldn’t normally be able to”.

Finally James Bremner (14) shares his positive experiences with fellow students: “I play a scientist who sorts out a glitching robot clone. It was nice to find out how the process takes place on a film set and gives you an insight into how bigger movies are created. My dream is to be an actor and I love my friends there as we’re all so passionate about the same things”.

And so we moved on to the screening and each film was fantastically received by full-capacity audiences. With support from PQA associates Emmeline Hartley, Alex Stroud, Tommy Draper and event management (and occasional acting) by PQA Principal Karen Stevens, it was a hugely successful and entertaining day. I cannot wait to see further projects from these talents as it is them who will be the next generation of filmmakers from the region – and I highly recommend you check out the films when they hit the festival circuit from Summer.

Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Jul 4 2019 05:20PM

Red carpet to be rolled out for young Leicester filmmakers

Students from The Pauline Quirke Academy of Performing Arts in Leicester will be attending a premiere of their own films at the King Richard III Visitor Centre on Sunday 7th July 2019.

The young filmmakers will walk the red carpet and see their work on the big screen in the iconic tourist attraction. The PQA students put in many hours devising, performing and producing every element of their film.

Karen Stevens, Principal at PQA Leicester said “For the past three months, we have worked intensively with 125 of our students to produce twelve short films which will enjoy their premiere this weekend. The students have taken responsibility for every aspect of the films, from the directing to acting to make up to operating the camera and boom".

"I’m delighted that their hard work will be rewarded with a screening in such an atmospheric and exciting venue", she added.

PQA, which was started by actress Pauline Quirke and her producer husband Steve Sheen in 2007, is a weekend performing arts Academy providing tuition for children and young people from 4-18 years.

Students spend three hours rotating through hour-long sessions in Comedy & Drama, Musical Theatre and Film & TV. There are more than 170 Academies nationwide.

Website: http://pqatv.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/pqatv

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pqatv

By midlandsmovies, Nov 11 2016 05:18PM

‘A Girl in Words’ is the debut short film written and directed by young filmmaker Daisy Nicholson. It stars up and coming actors Hannah Dunlop and Elliot Woodward and the exciting production is already well underway with the team re-drafting scripts, completing full casting and rehearsing hard.

With storyboarding, shot lists and now shooting finalised Daisy Nicholson is looking to premiere the film at The Phoenix Cinema in Leicester to promote the short to a Midlands audience. Daisy believes this will be a great opportunity to share the film with others, thank all the cast and crew before she undertakes the next stage of entering the film into festivals.

Daisy explains that, “all the money raised will go towards hiring Screen 2 at the Phoenix Cinema”, and adds any further funds raised after the target will be used for a Digital Cinema Package enabling the team to show the film in the best possible quality, as well as entering the film into festivals all around the world.

After an enjoyable shoot, the film's final edit is being completed along with a fun blooper reel to showcase the great attitude felt on the set.

To assist this exciting new project, please head on over to the Kickstarter campaign here:


Please also check out Daisy and her production company One of Four over on Twitter



By midlandsmovies, Mar 11 2016 10:46AM

Midlands Spotlight - Leicester Filmmaker Receives National ‘INTO FILM’ Award

Young and very talented filmmaker Jess O’Brien who Midlands Movies has previously showcased here (click here) has been named as one of national film organisation Into Film’s ‘Ones to Watch 2016’ for her excellence in film production. Read more about this amazing feat below.

At just 14 years old, Jess O’Brien is already making waves in the region with her work at the Pauline Quirke Academy leading to her making her film ‘Coping’. Written, acted and directed when she was thirteen, the film features three of her friends Yasmin Allen, April Hancox and David Knight and looks at how a young girl recovers from the death of her two best friends.

Given to only three young filmmakers in the country, the awards have been created by Into Film which is an organisation established by leading film education charities. The First Light and FILMCLUB organisations help to inspire young people aged 5-19 across the UK to learn through and about film.

As part of the honour Jess will be invited to a special careers session at BAFTA led by their Director of Learning, Tim Hunter after which she will be accepting her award and delivering an acceptance speech to the full house at the Odeon Cinema in Leicester Square before the day of celebrations is concluded with an after party at Planet Hollywood.

Upon receiving the news Jess said “I was speechless when I heard. A few years ago if someone had told me I would be going to meet BAFTA executives and accept an award for filmmaking I would never have believed them!”

After completing ‘Coping’ Jess showed great initiative by organising a premiere screening at the Phoenix Cinema, attended by 100 guests. ‘Coping’ has also been selected for five film festivals including the Olympia Film Festival in Greece and the Adelaide Kids Film Festival in Australia.

Jess was nominated by her film teacher at PQA and filmmaker at Badshoes Film, Keith Allott who said, “Jess is an exceptional talent in all areas of film. She is a gifted filmmaker and actor and combines that with great determination and a desire to learn. She is currently discovering film editing and showing a real flare for that too. This is a thoroughly well-deserved award for a bright talent.”

Jess has just completed production on her latest film ‘Hinterland’ featuring young actors Jacq Ardron and Tyler Dunnan and will be organising another screening in Leicester later this year,

“This film looks at the consequences of people’s decisions and how we take responsibility for them”, says Jess.

With two exciting and successful projects already under her belt we predict even further accolades will be coming to this bright regional filmmaker very soon indeed.

You can view ‘Coping’ online below:

By midlandsmovies, Sep 5 2015 07:49AM

Leicester’s Badshoes Film have a had a brilliant last few years with a number of projects and Summer 2015 is providing to be equally successful with new projects and festival favourite “Flawless” going from strength to strength.

“Flawless” has been covered by Midlands Movies before (click here) but has recently been chosen as part of the Official Selection at the Aesthetica Short Film Festival in York which takes place on 5th – 8th November. Aesthetica is a BAFTA-qualifying film festival which means that the film will now be entered into the BAFTAs ahead of their 9th November deadline. Midlands Movies passes on our wishes to all those involved and gives our best of luck to everyone for the competition.

Director Keith Allott has sent huge thanks to the cast and crew for their creativity and hard work on the film and says it wouldn't be here without them and their involvement.

However, Keith is not resting during this busy period for BadShoes as during the school summer holidays he was issued a challenge by young film-maker Jess O'Brien who is a student at the Pauline Quirke Academy and who was featured on our site earlier this year. - click here.

Setting Keith a gargantuan task, Jess asked if he could write, film and edit a short in just 24 hours. With the challenge accepted, it was Bill Newsinger who provided the phrase to build the film around - "All that glitters...”.

Keith explained that it turned out that you can make one and we have a link to the film below which stars Thomas, Jess and Emma O'Brien and a special guest appearance by furry friends Louie & Meg. Keith passes on his further big thanks to Liz Fowler who provided the masks.

Watch “Commander Amazing here:

By midlandsmovies, Apr 1 2015 07:24PM

Midlands Movies Mike speaks to Jess O’Brien who is a young writer, director and actor from the Pauline Quirke Academy (PQA) in Leicester. She’s beginning her first film outside of the PQA and with mentoring from Bad Shoes’ Keith Allott, plans to go into production soon, as well as screen her film using KickStarter funding.

Mike asks this young talent about her background, hopes and plans for the film as she plans the long journey to festival screenings.

MM: Hi Jess. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your current project

Jess: Hello. My name is Jess O’Brien and I am a 13 year old girl who has been acting locally for around three years before joining Leicester’s performing arts academy PQA in early 2013. My current project, Coping, is something I wrote independently mainly to challenge myself as I will be acting and directing. It is a short story focused around a girl who loses her two best friends while she watches. It shows the main character, Ruby attempting to deal with the whole situation, proving that getting over something as big as this can’t be done alone.

MM: How did you come up with the story idea?

Jess: I don’t really know how the idea came to me, I have always loved writing and as I started to get more and more into the acting career I wanted to challenge myself. I felt that I wanted to write something quite deep that wouldn’t only test me but also the actors. I started off by writing down notes which I then turned into a rough script. I sent it over to Keith Allott who directed my first two films Flawless and Atonia and is the Film and TV teacher at PQA. Over the next six months I developed the idea more and more, storyboarding it until I was completely happy. I had to research a lot of the impacts and emotions which an event like this would cause as thankfully I have never personally gone through this.

MM: Thank you. And what were your influences on this film?

Jess: I think the thing that influences me to act and write is being around people that are like me. They understand how I see things from a film point of view. Also, after acting in my first two films, Flawless and Atonia, I saw their success and it just gave me the urge to just try it myself.

MM: And what has been the most difficult hurdle you have had to overcome?

Jess: While I was writing it, I had a lot of chats with Keith and realised a vital point. In a situation like this, showing the emotion won’t so much be in what they do, more about how they do it. This meant I had to be very specific about the small details and how to play certain parts. The idea of the film could be taken in a very different way if the emotions aren’t right. Ruby could just be seen as a teenage girl acting out for attention instead of being in real trouble and other characters could come across as being menacing which is not right. Therefore, I had to work really closely with the actors so they could understand my thinking.

MM: And what kind of thing are you hoping for when you finally start shooting?

Jess: The main I’m hoping for is that it will be fun and not too rushed. Also, we have had a few rehearsals which were mainly talking about dialogue and the script. We did do run-throughs of the whole script, but not too many as I didn’t want to over rehearse and not get a full performance on the day. I’m looking forward to getting the other actors opinions and changing things around and doing it differently. A lot of the scenes I have left to the actors to improvise which will be fun to play around with.

MM: Do you have any heroes in the film industry?

Jess: Keith is the person that inspires me to act as he got me into screen acting and is the person who got me into writing my own film. I look up to other actresses like Hetti Bywater and actresses that started acting young and made it their career - like Lindsay Lohan whose films I watch a lot.

MM: And what has been your greatest achievement or success?

Jess: My biggest achievement is being given the opportunity to be involved in Flawless. The director could have chosen anyone because there are some incredible actors out there and being asked to do something like that is really amazing. Without all that, I wouldn’t be where I am today so I am so thankful to the makers and everyone that made that possible. Also, Flawless has been very successful, getting into 16 festivals and winning awards and that’s mind-blowing to think that I was involved.

MM: What are the future plans for the project?

Jess: In the future I’m planning to collect funding to pay for any expenses - like the screening I am planning for soon after filming takes place. Also to put Coping into some festivals to see peoples’ thoughts and learn things from the professionals that judge.

MM: And finally, what advice would you give to others thinking about making a film?

Jess: What I would say to someone thinking of being involved in filming is dream of being good at something, not of being famous. If you do become famous, it’s a bonus for being good at something. Don’t worry about what anyone thinks because that’s the reason I didn’t get into acting sooner and I regret that. To be in the acting/filmmaking career I think you have to be willing to look stupid and be embarrassed so just go for it - that’s what I did and it got me here. Life is full of risks anyway so you might as well just take them.

Thank you for your time Jess.

Find out more about Flawless and BadShoes films at this link: https://www.facebook.com/badshoesfilm

And the Pauline Quirke Academy Leicester here: http://pqacademy.com/academy_locator/leicester/?ccm_paging_p_b6550=7

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