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.