LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION… in Brixton!

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In between lockdowns, CHIPS organised an exciting summer programme for young people in Brixton, the highlight of which was making a professional film, called ‘What Happened to Karen?’

The idea emerged from our discussions with young people earlier in the year, who said they would like to capture the story of what it’s like to be a young person living in Brixton.

The film was shot in and around the Angell Town estate in late summer outside a school, in a local shop and in the park. In it, they tell their story, confront some of the issues they face in their day-to-day-lives, and give a different perspective to the usual story we hear about young people today.

Challenging the stereotypes

“The film encourages us all to challenge the stereotypes that society, and the media, can often present – that all groups of young Black people must be up to trouble”, says CHIPS volunteer Naomi who led the project.

Each of the young people played an active role, from shaping the script, to acting and working behind the scenes. “As well as offering young people the chance to do something creative during a challenging summer, it’s helped them to gain new skills in teamwork and creative production and to find a voice, learn about themselves and grow in confidence,” she adds.

Local mum Kamika helped manage the project and agrees: “I am super-proud of the young people for choosing to spend their summer on this project. Their level of commitment has been amazing and what they have achieved together during such a challenging period is nothing short of miraculous!”

Watch the film for free!

The film is available to view online free of charge thanks to Million Youth Media, a youth-led organisation which uses the power of film to challenge minds and transform lives.

To watch, go to YouTube. If you’re interested in screening it with your youth, community or church group, please contact Naomi at naomi@chipspeace.org

Q&A with Naomi

CHIPS volunteer and part-time team member Naomi helped lead the film-project on behalf of CHIPS, working together with directors Carlos and Cas. Naomi has a background working in TV drama for the BBC and ITV and we asked her tell us more about her highlights from the project!

What was your personal highlight from the project?

I guess the overarching highlight was seeing the contribution of the young people on every level. From watching Jayshaun persuade the shopkeeper to take part as a character in the film, through to Zian running the scenes and using the Clapperboard, and Renee assisting with camera… to see their ideas go from the whiteboard to the screen was an honour to watch!

Also, they are incredible actors which made the edit much easier for our wonderful Director of Photography, Lolly Michaels. 

What was the most challenging part, and how did we overcome it?

There were lots of challenges – not least finding a willing ‘Karen’, but through prayer and good connections, Geraldine proved to be the perfect actress for the role!

What was so special was that every single obstacle, big or small was overcome through prayer. At one point, the technology wasn’t working so we genuinely laid hands on the hard drive!!

Another concern of mine was finding a director. I prayed and we found two absolutely fantastic directors Carlos and Cas who worked together to create a masterpiece and who invested in the young people right from the word go. Kamika, my co-producer, is also a constant answer to prayer. 

In what ways has the project helped the young people taking part?  

Watching them grow in maturity and also talent was incredible. I look back now at the workshops and think – wow, I never thought I’d get so much focus, ambition and energy from them at every stage.

Seeing each of them choose what they were most passionate about and developing their skills in those areas (and in turn, gaining experience which can help them in their careers) was phenomenal. It gives me so much hope for their futures.

While we were filming, tragically, there was a major incident on Angell Town. But instead of being focused on the negatives, they chose to focus on the film and come together and pray for their hometown. It was so, so special.

Why should I watch the film?

Well firstly, it’s very, very good!! It is so professionally made. It brings the stories of the young people to life, it challenges racism, it brings hope, and it’s a film that the nation should be proud of, let alone Brixton.

I hope by watching it, we will all be encouraged to do a little bit more to help move society into action. I hope it causes all of us to think twice and think differently and I hope it inspires conversation. And I hope that those white people who are inclined to be rude or racist to black young people have a complete transformation of heart and action.

What would you like to be the project’s legacy?

I hope with all my heart that it helps to set these young people on a course where they are able to fulfil their potential, focus on their talents and make difference in a world that they’re called to lead in.

I would also like to think that it could help to increase faith in God and what he has planned for his people. Ultimately, I hope the story of the film points people to the values and person of Jesus!

Photos by Vanessa Byles Photography