At My View our therapists work with children under 18 who are here on their own and can be going through acute feelings of loss and separation. They offer both individual and group counselling to help the young people find ways to manage the difficulties they may have coping with their lives here.
As part of this process children’s psychotherapist Sarah Temple-Smith, working with the charity Into Film, invited clients to take part in a one-off psycho-educational workshop to make a two-minute film about their lives on an iPad.
In the week leading up to the workshop we’d had a steady stream of young people signing up for it. Most of them had seen the flyer I’d stuck up in our offices in Croydon where they come for our weekly classes and group activities. As we left for the short bus journey to the venue I was accompanied by six young men who helped me carry the heavy bag full of iPads on loan from Into Film as well as the various snacks we would be sharing later on.
In spite of getting a little lost we arrived at the community centre in good time and shortly afterwards were joined by another young man who had found out about the workshop from his social worker and made his own way there. Like us, he had found navigating his way through the back streets of Thornton Heath a tad challenging!
While our Into Film colleagues, Petra and Kofi, gave out worksheets showing the different shots and angles we would be aiming to use in the films, the young men made short work of the biscuits and clementines, as only a group of hungry teenagers can.
For a few of the participants this technical side of film-making seemed unfamiliar- or perhaps it was more that something got lost in translation in a group with such differing levels of English.
Whatever the reason, they responded by helping each to understand what was needed and worked together to thrash out their ideas for a two minute film idea based on their own experiences.
Within ten minutes each group had drawn up a set of story boards of how they wanted to tell their stories: one, a newly arrived refugee child facing the intricacies of travelling the London tube, the other a boy getting a girl’s number at college.
Then at last it was time to start the filming. The tube group grabbed the meeting room so they could make use of the chairs and tables as props. I joined the others in the huge hallway which the centre staff kindly allowed them to take over. They were already discussing which shots should be close ups, mid shots or panning.
I was struck by how boys who an hour or so before had never been in front of a lens, started framing shots with their fingers or arguing for retakes to get their performances better. The magic of cinema, maybe.
At the end of the workshop we watched the finished films together, giggling at the talents of the boy playing the new girlfriend. But the performance of the young man playing the new refugee, jumping over a ticket turnstile (represented by a pile of chairs!), then trying to scarper but getting caught by Security reduced us all to helpless laughter.
Perhaps he was the young man whose (anonymous) feedback said he felt he had learned “…Acting, how to do it in front of other people” and noted the best bit of the day was feeling “a bit proud that I had done it and I didn’t fail, I did what I was meant to be doing.” A star is born…?