Strive: Manchester and Independent Film

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MANCHESTER is home to many local filmmakers who are pioneering small scale film that shows many aspects of the city. Rather unlike the major films that screen across the country and the world, this industry of filmmaking has a good history of Mancunian representation.

The latest in this long line of films is Strive, a new film by Manchester filmmaker Charlie Watts. The film is centred around Idris, a Somalian refugee who came to Manchester with his family to escape dangers in his homeland. The film released online yesterday, after a battle to acquire legal rights to stock footage.

The project was born out of a previous project that Charlie and his camera operator Matt had been working on previously, where they met Idris and found the potential for a further story to be told.

Charlie said:

We were out one evening shooting in Rusholme and we got speaking to this set of lads with hoodies, we mis-recorded them so we had to go back to film again. When we went back Idris was the only one there and the others were running late so we just started chatting and we thought he was interesting.

From there, Charlie and Matt began talking to Idris on a regular basis, and felt that there was scope for a short film about Idris’ life so far. Charlie said that it is precisely this type of filmmaking that makes Manchester the perfect place for an up-and-coming filmmaker.

“Manchester has always been a perfect creative hub,” he said. “It’s relatively small and condensed, it’s easy to identify the right places and there are plenty of people in Manchester who know each other.” The 26-year-old said that nearly all of his personal films are born out of the previous one, much in a similar way that Strive was born out of People.

Cameraman Matt also said that Manchester is perfect for these types of films. “Manchester has some very photogenic areas,” he said. “Famously the northern quarter area, which has been used in big budget feature films and dramas.

Credit: Charlie Watts

Credit: Charlie Watts

“It means you can get very creative with your shots and I feel like the architecture has its own stories, which add another layer to that of the people’s stories, It’s a very special city embroiled in years of history and human achievement.”

Idris himself has been elated with the exposure of his story through Matt and Charlie’s efforts with Strive. He said that these stories are important for people to understand different people.

“I couldn’t have being more grateful for meeting Charlie and Matt,” he said. “For helping a young boy with dreams and begin his story, and yes this is just the beginning. I plan on actually getting my full story out and inspire a lot of people all across the world. I enjoyed every minute and I hope to do more in the future.”

Strive came from Charlie’s previous personal project People, in which he films various people throughout the city and asks them about their concerns and anxieties. It is a film rooted in the city that expresses how many feel around the world.

From People, Charlie has received work offers from companies as far flung as America and Scandinavia, and been able to advance his career greatly. It is this type of film that put events like Manchester International Festival on the international agenda.

“I was overwhelmed with the response to People,” Charlie said. “Within a day it had 15,000 views on Facebook. It was just two guys who had no work at the time and who wanted to make something. So much, including Strive, has come off the back of it.”

Such a daunting prospect of asking strangers in the street was quickly assuaged for Charlie, and he realised that the people of Manchester were very open to this creative project. “We had less than 10 people say no out of around 80 people,” he said.

Matt also remembers the project fondly. He said:

Shooting People in Manchester was great, the reactions we got for the public were unexpected in the best possible way. The stories that people were willing to share with us and their patience whilst we got the shots was amazing, they must have had better things to be doing with their time!

As with Strive this was all about travelling light, being fast and ready on camera so we were ready for any opportunities to film. It changed my perspective on people in many ways, it was so nice just chatting to people and hearing about their lives.

Manchester has a burgeoning independent cinema scene, with filmmakers such as Charlie and Matt at the forefront. Cheaper production costs and even screening costs are making Manchester the ideal place to begin a career in film.

As both Strive and People show, Manchester is also a place of incredible diversity, which lends itself to storytelling. Idris said that this type of film is important in today’s world.

Credit: Charlie Watts

Credit: Charlie Watts

This films represents a lot of things, he said. “Truth be told yes I came from a struggling background but this film shows you that I am willing to move forward and actually get somewhere in life.

“This is something anyone can relate to, we all have a problem somewhere and we have to be able to move past this obstacle and move forward in life.”

The growth of independent cinema companies in Manchester is pronounced, with the likes of Jack The Lad Films, Chief (of which Charlie is part), and Crocodile Media, Manchester is becoming a destination for independent film production.

Despite his growing success as a filmmaker, Charlie said that Manchester will always have a special place in his heart. “I love Manchester,” he said. “It’s my home and it always will be.”

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