The lack of diversity at this year’s BAFTAs is being directly addressed by Birds Eye View Film Festival Founder Pinny Grylls in the way she has decided to write her new feature film Hear My Voice.
The film tells the story of a Congolese boy from Hackney who dreams of being the world’s greatest opera singer – and is being written in collaboration with up and coming BAME writers and actors from Intermission Youth. Supported by The Royal Opera House – the young writers have been to see several operas and participated in opera workshops.
Intermission Youth was set up in 2008 by founder Darren Raymond to help young Londoners from socio-economically disadvantaged and ‘at risk‘ backgrounds to transform their lives, giving them the tools to make positive choices to become the best version of themselves through making theatre. It was Intermission Trustee Mark Rylance who introduced Pinny to their talents for remixing Shakespeare – and she wondered if they could do the same with opera. The idea for an urban Billy Elliot story remixed with opera was born.
From April 2020 onwards Pinny and the female-led film production company Project 1961 plan to start developing and writing the film script for Hear My Voice with Intermission. This will involve 10 writing workshops supported by top BAME screenwriting professionals who will act as mentors. The aim is to give the script an authentic voice from young BAME people growing up in London today – while also giving them a foot in the door of the British Film Industry. They hope to have a script ready to be financed in the summer of 2020.
Project 1961 plan to raise 20k for the development and writing of Hear My Voice through a Kickstarter Campaign launched on 16th March 2020. LINK
Project 1961 was set up by Producer Julia Ton to challenge conventional ways of producing films. Julia’s career began as production assistant on the set of Andrea Arnold’s grittily authentic Fishtank – who worked with a combination of actors and non-actors and shot in story order. The film went on to win at Cannes and a BAFTA. Since then Julia has been interested in bringing unheard narratives and voices to screen. Julia’s credits include the international Emmy Award winner Bellingcat-Truth in a Post Truth World by Huns Pool (2018) and she is currently producing The Glass Ceiling – the invisible made visible directed by Mari Soppela.
Pinny Grylls is an award-winning documentary, and co-founder of Bird’s Eye View Film Festival set up to promote female directors in the industry. Her UK Film Council short film Peter and Ben won several awards at international festivals including London Short Film Festival, SXS West and Aspen. Frequently specialising in the arts she has directed The Hour for The National Theatre and Becoming Zerlina for the Royal Opera House. Most recently Pinny was contributing director on feature documentary The Street by Zed Nelson, now on release in cinemas.
‘I am a documentary filmmaker and this is my first fiction feature film. All my work so far has been generated from real life – so it felt right for me to continue to work in this way by working with the members of Intermission to write this story about young people growing up in London. Early on in the creative process, the young people of Intermission expressed frustration with the range of ways BAME characters were being represented on screen. While Top Boy and Blue Story are fantastic in their genre, they were excited about telling a different kind of story about a young black voice struggling to be heard. They also seemed to really like the ideas of making him an opera singer rather than Hip Hop or Grime artist. That excited them and me – which was why we began the opera workshops at the Royal Opera House.
I think there is a real appetite at the moment for authentic stories made in collaboration with the people they are about. Which is why I can’t wait to see Sarah Gavron’s Rocks – due to be released in April, as from what I have heard she wrote and made that film in a similar way. It also seems to be a very female approach – one that is more collaborative, and about listening and responding to people whose stories you want to tell. I hope that this approach will continue the trend of introducing a more exciting range of voices to our TV and film screens’ – Quote from Pinny Grylls