It sounds like an Enid Blyton adventure ‘Five Go Filmmaking’ but the acting talents of Jack Davis, Sophie Kelly, Nicole Holt and Abigail and Rebecca Chilton mean that they may soon be the ‘Famous Five’! Between them they have landed the starring and leading roles in a forthcoming feature film of Richard II produced by the Co-operative British Youth Film Academy (BYFA). The students from Bradford School of Arts & Media’s National Diploma in Performing Arts programme will spend five weeks filming on location in Grimsby.
The production will be a dark, slightly surreal and phantasmagorical retelling of the Shakespearian history play with incredible costumes and effects. Jack will play King Richard, a daunting challenge for any actor but one that Kevin Atkinson, Head of Acting at BYFA, feels that Jack is capable of. Kevin said “I suspect the role of Richard II will change Jack’s entire life. He is very capable and very committed. Having seen his work I have complete faith in him. I know that the audience will see an incredible performance where they will hate, love and feel sorry for Richard – all in the space of one film.”
Kevin explained that as this is a professional film it will receive its premiere at a film festival next year, before release and DVDs go on sale. The BYFA sought to nurture talent regardless of location or disadvantage and give it an international platform, so last year’s BYFA production Julius Caesar has just had its premiere at Cannes. However before this the students will enjoy the star treatment when they tread the red carpet next spring when the film has a cast and crew screening premiere, which will be attended by various celebrities as well as their families. Nicole said “I am living a dream to be in a film. I am only just finishing the first year of my course and next year I will be going to the premiere of a film that I am in! I can hardly believe it and my Mum is so proud of what I have achieved.”
The students secured these parts after undergoing a gruelling selection process. Abigail explained, “Kevin Atkinson introduced the work of the BYFA and then did workshops with all the students on both years of the course. We were split into groups and given two phrases to devise pieces from. We were pushed from the outset to see if we could cope with the pressure and deliver what they were looking for. A number of us were then asked to stay back to audition for the film with more challenging improvisations.” Their contributions were videoed and sent to the Director, who then selected students to be considered for significant roles. For the second callback on Saturday 21st May, a small group were given even more punishing scenarios which explored every emotion before performing monologues from scripts they had been sent. Their ability and obvious potential earned them a clutch of amazing roles. Sophie said, “We never expected to go this far. We were all so happy to get the first callback.”
The students are currently working hard on performances for the forthcoming College Summer Shows. Then they have just two weeks to learn their lines before filming commences on 25th July. However Jack has no time to rest. “I will be going down to Manchester to work on my character with the Director, John Montegrande and then have more meetings with him on Skype. It is going to be really demanding. At the first workshop I was well outside my comfort zone and I thought I don’t want to do this. But now I am so excited about the opportunity. It can seem impossible to get into acting unless you come from down south or are from a privileged background. But the guy who played Julius Caesar last year has from an estate to going to the Cannes Film Festival. After this film we will be in the circle of knowing people and it is such a good start.”
Following filming Jack and Nicole will return to College to complete the second year of their National Diploma; while Abigail, her sister Rebecca and Sophie will all return to College in January 2012 to join the new HNDs. The students already hope to apply to be part of next year’s film and the BYFA are looking at filming in Bradford next year. “As the first City of Film I think it would be really important to film here.” said Rebecca. As they will be studying at Bradford College their fees will be funded due to the College’s membership of BYFA.
Bradford College regards the opportunities offered by BYFA as so important that they have included BYFA involvement in two new programmes. Damien O’Keeffe, Curriculum Team Leader for Media, Music and Performing Arts said “Bradford College is now a partner in BYFA. As part of that package they deliver workshops, seminars and practical sessions on the nuts and bolts of filmmaking. This is the first year that we have been involved although from next year participation will be embedded in two new Higher Education courses commencing in January 2012 which will offer a progression path and new opportunities for our students: HNC/D in Film Production and HNC/D Performance Stage & Screen. Students from our National Diploma in Creative Media Production were also spoken to about taking technical roles in the production.”