Recently, we were contacted by Alex Holmes, a film student at City College Norwich. Alex wanted to make a short film for The Benjamin Foundation for a forthcoming project. We are deeply connected to our local community so we were pleased that we were able to support Alex in this way and he was able to produce a wonderful film to highlight the work our charity does to support young people. We spoke to Alex about his film and why he wanted to support us:

Why did you choose The Benjamin Foundation for your project?

“I was intrigued by their methods of being a standout charity. I don’t say that lightly, nor am I just trying to be nice. I was mostly moved by all these real-life stories I’d read on their website; it struck a deep chord in me.

I’m not saying I haven’t seen other charities do this before, however the tellings of these stories was something so different to any other charity. Also they were local and I believe that supporting local charities hits closer to home in the best way possible.”

What is it about our work that inspired you?

“The Benjamin Foundation just seemed to seep kindness and understanding. I think the first phone call I had with the receptionist cemented it fully for me; she seemed like an old friend when she answered the phone… and yes, as cheesy as it sounds it’s true. I was regressing over bad memories in my mind that day and I remember I had awoken from a bad dream the night before, I was just… just sleep deprived and grumpy, it was terrible, I hate feeling that way.

However later that day (when I was talking with the receptionist at The Benjamin Foundation) this wonderful woman on the other side of the phone seemed to talk too kindly to me. I’m just a film student and I felt immediately respected!

“Hello, Benjamin Foundation Norwich?”

“Hi, I’m a student from City College Norwich, I’m 18 years old and I’m trying to find a client to make a short film/PSA for them. Would you mind letting me speak to someone in your media team or something?-”

“Yes of course that sounds wonderful! I’ll get you through as soon as possible, if she doesn’t call you back today then she will call you tomorrow!”

She spoke back to me like I was important! That.. that was just great, she had given me the same attention and care for me as like a popular news service. It boosted my confidence, I felt heard… Then I thought ‘this must be a good charity!’ I got a strange ego boost after that..

-and I did get a call that same day.”

Tell us more about your college project/the brief?

“For our project we had to find a client to work creatively for or with them. That’s basically it. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the idea initially. I felt that it drains me as a creative, as an artist and as an individual voice. Maybe I just didn’t like making adverts/PSAs before this… However, the people here at this charity let me have so much creative control! They had no issues with how the film looked, what I shot it with, what I wrote for the script or anything I wanted to do as an artist! All they wanted is a message to make it across, and I can safely say we achieved that.”

What was your creative process?

“Listening to long pieces of music, writing, drawing, watching art films, recording myself talking for hours about ideas, writing drafts of scripts, storyboarding and meditation. I also like to shoot things with my camera in places where people wouldn’t normally look, I spent a whole day filming a bush near my house, wonderful things happen with nature, small insects, beautiful, beautiful patterns, these are the things that inspire me too honestly.

However, I don’t like talking about my work often or how I work as self-doubt can still run wild in an artist’s mind.”

How did you deal with the project during lockdown?

“It was so magical, what a time! I got to get up bright and early every day, have a coffee, maybe a cigarette and I would just start experimenting with ideas. Lockdown always gives me a chance to work better in a creative setting, writing, film, art, etc… It’s myself versus me, me and my mind. I kind of love that and the limitations it comes with. At this time whilst shooting I also stopped using social media, being totally unplugged from the rat race of self-assurance is a wonderful time, I may never go back.

Very rarely would I get hopeless in my creativity, that is one of the things I like my mind for, and if I ever got sad, I used that straight away as creative incentive for working. I knew that people like myself and people in even worse conditions than myself almost deserved this little blip of art I was putting out. That was my main motivation.”

What challenges did you encounter?

“Myself at times, however I always seemed to find a way to get myself out of that rut.”

What were your highlights?

“Shooting that first scene at night, it was so gorgeous, the light was so beautiful in the sky and everything just clicked so well. Atmosphere just pours out in that one wide shot, for that I thank the weather and timing, not myself.

Another time I remember fondly was standing near a fridge in Sainsbury’s with my microphone and sound equipment. I needed the sound of a haunting whirr that I could warp and slowdown in post. An old woman walked up beside me and just looked puzzled as I was pointing a microphone at chilled sandwiches!”

How do you feel about the finished piece?

I am pleased with it, I just know I could’ve improved it somehow… There’s always room for improvement. I’m mostly just happy I just got to make a piece that struck a chord with certain people though!

What are your plans for the future?

“When someone asks me this, I always say a similar thing every time: “I want to make my first feature film before I’m twenty years old, I want to make films that are honest and human. About pain, love, the human condition, feeling like a sickness, feeling alone, feeling scared, feeling alive, feeling a true emotion when you sit in a theatre.

I want to create real artistic pieces of cinema, pieces of cinema that show Norwich as the next filmmaking landmark. I want to be a François Truffaut and this place I love is my Paris. It’s not only my tool for film but it’s currently my home. I want to create documentary, I want to write books, I want to work on screenplays, I want to speak to an audience! I don’t want to be famous, but I do want my work to be made and seen and if I don’t even get paid a penny, I will still die a happy man. Because this is the art life and I can’t see my life without it.”

Thank you to Alex for being so open and honest, and for his hard work in creating an amazing short film which you can watch below. 

If you are moved by Alex’s film and you would like to make a donation to The Benjamin Foundation, please click the link below. Thank you.

Make a donation to The Benjamin Foundation
Quote Marks Left The Benjamin Foundation impacts the lives of so many people – it’s an amazing charity and a huge inspiration.

Maxine, Youth Support Worker - The Benjamin Foundation

Quote Marks Right