Inside Housing revealed the winner of its Reel Homes film competition – designed to engage film-makers with homelessness – at a special screening event last week. Find out more below and watch all the footage entered
Back in November, Inside Housing launched a competition with the bold aim of helping to produce a Cathy Come Home for the 21st century.
Designed to tie in with the 50th anniversary of Ken Loach’s seminal film about homelessness – as part of Inside Housing’s wider Cathy at 50 campaign – the competition’s central goal was to reach outside the sector and engage up-and-coming film-makers with homelessness and the housing crisis.
It also aimed to challenge stereotypes about homeless people and affordable housing, and bring fresh perspectives to existing debates.
The winner will gain access to funding provided by the competition’s backers (see list below) to help produce a final short film based on their idea. Entrants were asked to submit test footage for a film and a synopsis outlining their plans.
Last week, after our panel of judges had poured over the 33 entries, the footage from the 10 shortlisted entries was screened at a special event, sponsored by United Living, in central London. Scroll down to watch all the footage submitted by the entrants.
And at the end of the evening, the winner was announced – Megan K Fox, for her film Girl about a young homeless woman.
The overall standard was so high that Cardboard Citizens, the high-profile theatre company that works with homeless people, staged its own screening of the shortlist earlier this week. Ken Loach’s company tweeted links to this event.
Michael Chandler, programme director at Cardboard Citizens, who was one of the competition’s judges, said it had been a “privilege” to watch the films “and a really tough call on deciding the winner”.
“I was so impressed that I thought they all deserved another screening to a wider audience.”
Ian Burnett, chief executive of United Living, said: “When it comes to raising awareness and leveraging action around pertinent issues such as homelessness and the housing crisis, the medium of film is one of the most powerful influencers we have.”
Now, with the winner announced, the hard work of making the final film begins. See below for Megan K Fox’s inspiration for the film and her initial thoughts about how she plans to develop it further.
After the screening, Inside Housing sounded out winner Megan K Fox about her inspiration for the film – and what she is planning to do next. The 25-year-old film-maker, originally from Dublin, is based in south London and works at membership organisation Women in Film & TV UK. She holds an MA in film directing from the Met Film School, based at Ealing Studios. She worked on her film, Girl, with actress Natalia Kostrzewa, director of photography Ben Calloway and make-up artist Hannah Hubbard. Here are her initial thoughts.
As a teenager I spent two summers volunteering in my local soup kitchen in Ireland, and since then I’ve always held the issue of homelessness and rough sleeping close to my heart. It’s such an important issue and when I started making films I realised that I couldn’t find many (possibly any!) positive or particularly compassionate portrayals of homeless characters on screen. I found out about a vertical video challenge and started thinking about that visual format, how claustrophobic and limiting it is, and I thought that this would be a perfect format in which to tell the story of a homeless woman as it provided a visual metaphor for her feelings of isolation and insignificance, her lack of options or opportunities to escape from her situation. I thought about a feeling that I take for granted every day, as many of us do: the feeling of putting on clean, fresh clothes and what that does to our sense of self worth.
Then I imagined how it would feel to be denied that and to crave it more than any other drug or alcohol that so many people assume rough sleepers are dependent on.
I wanted to portray a homeless character with the dignity and pride that we all deserve to feel.
It was incredibly moving to screen my film alongside some really affecting documentaries and test footage videos about homelessness and the housing crisis. To be in a room full of people who really care, some of whom have been homeless themselves, and are actively working to solve this issue was an honour. I think all of the film-makers left with an increased sense of how important it is to keep telling these stories and representing the under-represented on screen. It was a fantastic and really impactful event.
I’d love to tell the story of how this young Polish woman became homeless, following the first days of her rough sleeping in a fictional narrative that will shed some light on just how easy it is for any of us to fall into this situation, and also highlight some of the struggles that women in particular have to face on the streets. One of the most hurtful remarks I often hear people say when they see homeless foreigners is ‘why don’t you just go back to your own country?’.
I’m hoping to make a short film that will make people think twice about that kind of remark, and share a narrative that explores how immigrants in the UK can fall through the cracks and be left without options when it comes to housing and security.
The other shortlisted entrants were:
Adam Baird – The Cost of Livin’
Adam, 35, from Liverpool, is a contributor to the satirical website The Daily Mash and occasionally runs creative writing workshops at homelessness and housing charity the Whitechapel Centre. His film tells the story of a man who has been homeless for some time and manages to get a flat with the help of a housing advisor after being attacked in the tent in which he has been sleeping. But this is not the end of his troubles.
Carol-Mei Barker and Lukas Demgenski – Crisis
Carol-Mei, 36, works in education for the British Film Institute and produced and co-directed the film with cinematographer Lukas Demgenski. Crisis tells the story of the regeneration of the Gascoigne Estate in Barking, where Carol-Mei lived as a teenager.
Olivia Cheung – Astray
Olivia, 20, lives in Cardiff and has just finished studying film at the University of South Wales. Her entry, based on the true stories of two women, depicts the life of a young woman living in a tent.
Damien Hasson – The Guest
Damien, 36, is an actor and writer originally from the north of Ireland. His idea came when he was volunteering with the Simon Community homelessness charity in London and learnt about Operation Poncho, a robust policy for dealing with rough sleepers in the City of London.
Jennifer Hartley – My Favourite Thing
Jennifer, 43, from Cardiff, is a director of Theatre Versus Oppression, an applied theatre charity which creates and runs projects with marginal and disadvantaged people. Her film features six people who have been sleeping rough in and around Cardiff talking about their favourite household items now they have a roof over their head.
Harry Johnson – Have You Heard About Nigel?
Harry, 25, is a freelance film-maker and videographer based in Liverpool. His film is about a man who is in employment but also lives in poverty and becomes homeless.
Ellie Jones – A Moth Inflamed
Ellie, 21, from Birmingham, is about to graduate from Westminster Film School with a BA (Hons) in film production. Her film is inspired by a group of anarchist squatters occupying an abandoned parliamentary building and protesting about the housing crisis.
Roxy Roscoe – Don’t Look Down
Roxy, 22, lives in Greater Manchester and works in developing digital media and marketing campaigns. Shocked by the number of rough sleepers in the city, she wrote, directed, produced and edited the film while studying television and radio production at the University of Salford.
Mei Leng Yew and Natalie Ktena – My Homeless Housemate
Mei Leng is an emerging film-maker from south London. She splits her time between working as an assistant in documentaries/factual for broadcast television and working with the British Film Institute on its ‘Displaced in Media’ programme. This is her first independent production as producer/director.
Natalie Ktena, based in West London, is the assistant producer. She works as a production co-ordinator for BBC Three.
Their documentary follows three Brits who have opened up their homes to homeless people.