Graduate film ‘Death On Our Shores’ set to be screened at Komedia

22 June, 2023

A powerful documentary by a Screen and Film School Brighton graduate is due to be screened at Komedia on Saturday 24th June. 

Josh Westover, a graduate from Screen and Film School Brighton, has emerged as a remarkable filmmaker with his powerful documentary, Death On Our Shores. This thought-provoking film delves into the urgent and complex issue of the migrant crisis, unravelling the harsh realities faced by individuals crossing the perilous journey between the North of France and the United Kingdom.

With an exclusive screening being held at Brighton’s Komedia this weekend, we had the privilege of catching up with Josh, eager to learn more about the inspiration behind Death On Our Shores and his vision for the future as a filmmaker. Join us as we explore the production of his documentary, the challenges faced during filming, and what’s next for this filmmaker who fearlessly embraces challenging subject matter to inspire change.

Hi Josh. First and foremost congratulations on the upcoming screening of Death On Our Shores. Can you tell us a bit about this project and where the initial idea came from? 

I’ve always been creative and I’m always coming up with ideas for films, documentaries and general content. However, I worked as a researcher at a company in Brighton which gave me a good insight into the industry and I was mainly working on series and documentaries. The executive producer told me if I want to become a producer/director at an early stage I should make my own documentary. They kindly then gave me equipment once I came up with the idea. I had one week to research and plan the documentary and a friend camera operated for me.

I contacted Care4Calais as charities are a great path into telling compelling stories that cover pressing topics. I have never been someone to work on paper, I usually direct and produce all in my head, which is totally not what I would recommended, it just works for me for certain productions. I had no idea how this was going to turn out and I could not afford a host so I decided to do this myself. I was on the boat in front of the camera at 7am in the morning with the wind hitting me in the face. We prepared the camera and I got my mic on. We would watch the footage back in the evenings and to my surprise I was a good host and told a great story by filming the charity, migrants and team leaders.

What was your favourite part of the process and what were some of the challenges?

My favourite part of the process was just doing something positive. I want to raise positivity around this subject, which I believe I have done. I also loved being in front a camera which is what I want to do for a career. I met some incredibly strong and brave people and absolutely shed tears on my way home when I was reflecting on some of the migrants I have met living in the worst conditions.

The most challenging part was filming with the migrants. Understandably, not everyone wants to be on camera, especially as they are having a hard time. Some people may be running from something or do not want to be seen in a certain location. We would always ask people before filming and I would always try and get to know them before filming so they felt comfortable and totally understood why we were there and what we were doing.

What other projects have you been a part of recently?

Having this documentary in my showreel, which I have now self-distributed, also got me a job with one of YouTube’s biggest free documentary channels. I applied for a role and within my first casual meeting with them, I pitched 11 ideas and one of them was a series called Poverty in Paradise, which has now been commissioned. I’ve recently been in Vegas for two weeks directing and producing the first episode.

“Although I have so much learning to do still, I have learnt so much already and I’ve got so much drive to make incredible documentaries.”

What advice would you have to applicants considering Screen and Film School?

I started Screen and Film school when I was 27 and it was the best thing I have ever done. The tutors were incredible, fun and great teachers who all had such good experience and industry knowledge. My advice to people would be: If you are good at something, you can make a very good career of it. It is so easy to wait around for people to hire you, for people to notice you, but whilst you’re studying, or out of work, make content – any content. Be creative and take risks. The only reason I got my first job as a researcher was because the Executive Producer could see all my work whilst I was studying. He could see that if I did it for a hobby, I would do it for a career. Build up a portfolio and try and be clever with productions. I also Invested in a Lumix G9 camera when I started at Screen and Film school, and started emailing local companies, friends, and charities to see if they wanted any work doing. Usually I would get paid jobs but some of my friends are musicians, so I made them free music videos. Even today I am still doing jobs for the same companies I contacted years ago in my spare time.

My last bit of advice is when you apply for jobs, always follow up with a phone call to make sure they got the application, don’t be afraid of being under experienced because 99% of the time, you can just learn whilst doing the job. Be confident, be proud of your skills and laugh at your mistakes and most of all, learn as much as you can and get involved in as many projects as possible because employers in this industry always ask, ‘what have you done’, not, ‘what grade did you get.’ So a show reel is basically your CV.

What’s next for you in terms of filmmaking?

Next for me is to continue making documentaries for 4 or 5 years before I go into film. I am going to hopefully go back to the Brighton company in the summer whilst also producing and directing the Poverty in Paradise series. I am always looking for more opportunities and this summer, I will be filming my next self-funded doc – Ukrainians – Our British Family.

A huge congratulations to Josh on the success of his powerful film. You can watch Death On Our Shores here.


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