Media Innovator Awards 2023

May21135 Films felt strongly that this was the type of inclusive work they wanted to pursue, nowadays called co-production but then it was really just Flexible Films being…flexible! During the next 5 years, Inspiration Filmworks made films on subjects like medication, restraint, and customer care, and were the recipients of the Oxleas Recognition Award for Best Practice in 2005 and runners up in the National Health & Social Care Awards, which afforded the members of Inspirational Filmworks the opportunity to go to a very glamorous awards ceremony. As course attendee Sarah Lewis testifies, “The course run by Flexible Films changed my life around. They didn’t just teach me how to direct documentaries, they taught me life skills.” Fellow participant Maria Warren agrees, commenting, “Being able to share ideas and seeing them come to life is a great way to boost self-esteem and confidence.” Sadly funding for the group ended in 2010 but Flexible Films continued to work with the group, now re-christened CanDo Films on a voluntary basis, with the support of Greenwich Mind and continued to make documentary and fiction films with the group. During this time Flexible Films were awarded the Newham Film Fund, which gave them the chance to make a film that was very close to Sybil’s heart. ‘Two Other Stories’ follows two mental health survivors and was very well received and premiered at the Curzon cinema in London’s Leicester Square. By now Flexible Films were getting very well known in their field and this lead to the beginning of, and continuing partnerships with the Race Equality Foundation, the (formerly Irish) Traveller Movement in Britain, NHS England, and Mind. Relationships that have now lasted 15 or 20 years. They also began projects working with Kent University, the Eden Project, UCLAN, the University of Hertfordshire, Together - working for wellbeing, youth groups, carers groups, schools, prisons, Birmingham City Council, as well as a very large project for a Swiss publishing company that saw the placement of English language learning materials throughout the canton of Zurich. A project that involved interviewing many school children in different countries. Community Filmmakers of the Year 2023 – UK Flexible Films, who are the winners of the 2023 Community Filmmakers Award are a small company. By that I mean that they have a small crew – just 2 core members, Sybil Ah-Mane and Russell Hall. However, with regards to what they have achieved since they started, they are mighty. Their story begins in a council flat on a council estate in East London in 2002. Both had recently completed MAs in Film and were passionate to get into filmmaking careers. Russell had been teaching Media Studies for a couple of years and wanted to take the plunge and get back into making films rather than teaching students to make films. Sybil was working part-time as a mental health support worker and in a media organisation. She enjoyed both roles and used her own experience of mental health to inform the films she made and also to gain the trust with the people she filmed. This was very important to her, as she believed very strongly that all stories should be heard although obviously some people were more confident to talk in front of a camera than others. Sybil and Russell quickly realised that their particular niche market in film was Community, Education and Health & Social Care. It was a time of massive regeneration on their estate and through community focused groups and meetings, Sybil and Russell got to know the members of the local council who were tasked with creating employment opportunities in the local community. When Sybil and Russell told them about their plans to make community based films, the council realised that this was a great opportunity for them to have the regeneration project documented and also get direct feedback from residents. And so began a relationship between Newham Council and the newly founded Flexible Films. Flexible Films excelled in this role as ‘Council Filmmakers’ throughout the regeneration period and beyond and could often be seen on the estate filming building developments and interviewing residents. In the next 5 years, they made over 20 films for Newham, all of them featuring interviews with members of the public (and council workers) - people whose stories and views/opinions would not usually have been voiced and helping to make sure the precious regeneration money was used to its best potential. With this small but increasing body of work behind them, Flexible Films were starting to make (small) waves in the world of community filmmaking. This lead to Oxleas NHS Trust employing them in 2004 to run a film group of mental health service users. Training the group, self-named Inspiration Filmworks, to use camera, sound, and edit - the 18 members were able to tell their stories to the Trust and help to make some policy changes. Flexible