Monday, September 7, 2009

Teenage film-makers make Jam


Screenterrier normally only reports on young actors but thought these young film-makers deserved a mention too...

Three 18-year-old filmmakers have started shooting their first movie, Jam, after raising money from public donations through the BuyACredit website.

It began as a schoolboys' dream – three friends who wanted to direct their own big-budget feature film.

They had no money so they set out to raise funding by appealing to the public, asking people to donate £1 to have their name listed in the credits.

Against the odds, the project took off, attracting finance and big-name stars. Yesterday the three 18-year-olds found themselves on the first day of shooting for a short film linked to the major movie, directing a clutch of celebrities in their own schoolyard.

Gary Rhodes, the chef, Phillip Schofield, the television host, and Frank Skinner, the comedian, were among those who turned out.

Actors including Sir Ian McKellen and Stephen Fry have signed up to appear, along with Lynda Bellingham, Annette Badland and Patricia Hodge, the actresses, Paul Daniels, the magician, and Debbie McGee, his wife.

Already the teenage film-makers – Adrian Bliss, Toby Stubbs and Ben Robbins – have raised more than £100,000 towards their target of £1 million, and they hope after proving their directing credentials with the short film, Jam, the funding will increase enough to produce a feature-length film based on a little-known Jules Verne novel, Clovis Dardentor.

"It's a bit surreal, we're just 18-year-olds and we have the support of these people," said Mr Bliss, who is filming at the boys' former independent school, Aldenham in Hertfordshire, where they were all weekday boarders.

"We came up with the project in June last year and it started very small. We were selling the credits to friends and parents. But we thought then that it could get a lot bigger.

"It's just grown since then and now we're working with people that we're used to seeing in films and on television.

"Stephen Fry has agreed to have a small part in the final feature film, and we hope we will be able to get more celebrities involved."

Yesterday's filming saw the teenagers ordering Rhodes, Schofield and Skinner around the set in a makeshift location in the grounds of the school, close to Elstree Studios, the only complication being the occasional interruption of a nearby street cleaning machine and the odd helicopter flying overhead.

Jam tells the story of one of Clovis Dardentor's main characters – Mrs Desirandelle – as she desperately tries to win a village jam-making competition.

For much of the filming Rhodes, who plays himself, was covered in the sticky substance.

"I certainly haven't been directed by people so young before, but it was great," he said.

"There was a spirit and drive and excitement about them, and you can tell this is something that they love.

"They convinced me to get involved when I found out it was about jam, as I love jam – and I thought the script was really good."

Despite working with such high-profile figures the three teenagers, who have just completed their A-levels, were unfazed and took control of their professional cast and crew.

"It is amazing to work with people like that, but you just have to forget about it," said Mr Robbins, who gained three As last month.

"Later on you think about what you've done and it hits you, but while we're on set we are just getting on with it."

Earlier this year the teenagers, all from middle-class families in Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire, set up the BuyACredit website after discovering the Clovis Dardentor manuscript in the British Library and deciding they desperately wanted to turn the adventure yarn into a movie.

The final film will follow two best friends who are hoping to find fame, fortune and adventure, when they meet wealthy Clovis Dardentor who must give his money away to whoever saves his life.

A script has already been written and the trio hope that with the support of the public they will be able to turn it into a major film next summer, more than a decade after they first discovered their shared passion for cinema.

Mr Bliss and Mr Robbins began creating mini-productions after meeting in primary school, aged seven, and were joined by Mr Stubbs when they reached secondary school.

"We started making little films when we were young and it's just gone from there," said Mr Bliss.

"Then we started making promotional videos. We've spent so long working on films now, it takes up most of our time.

"It was hard studying for A-levels at the same time as getting this project off the ground, but it was worth it, and now we can concentrate completely on the film.

"Making films feels like you are part of something special, something really amazing and creative."

The teenagers hope Jam will be available to view on their website by the end of October, following a premier in London.

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