In conversation with Birmingham Film Festival’s First Time Filmmaker winner: Jane Webb

18 December, 2020

Screen and Film School Birmingham were thrilled to sponsor two prizes for the Birmingham Film Festival last month- Best Screenplay and Best First Time Filmmaker.

We recently caught up with Graeme Keeton, winner of the Best Screenplay Award for his feature screenplay, Crashing Down. This week we were so excited to connect with Jane Webb, winner of the Best First Time Filmmaker Award for her film It’s Just a Boy, to discuss her journey in film so far.

It’s Just a Boy is a short film highlighting the dangers of children using social media. Based on Jane’s own family’s experience of online grooming, the story follows the journey of over protective mum Penny and her 13 year old daughter Amy. Penny, who oversees her daughters social media activity, discovers inappropriate messages from a boy on one of her accounts and worryingly Amy has arranged to meet up with the boy. Penny tries to intercept the meeting and things take a dramatic course. Penny and her husband Dan do all they can to protect Amy from what could potentially be somebody trying to groom her.

Congratulations on winning the Best First Time Filmmaker Award! What initially inspired you to enter the Birmingham Film Festival?

I was over the moon when I saw the announcement! I was inspired to enter the festival as last year I’d seen how amazing the awards night was- Dean Kilbey who was one of the actors in my film actually won at last years awards and it looked like it was an amazing night. Even though we weren’t able to celebrate our win as a team this year, I was lucky to be on the set of another film at the time of the announcement and I was able to celebrate with some of the cast and crew I was with at the time.

What made you take the leap into filmmaking?

I’ve been lucky enough to have some behind the scenes experience for the last 6 years after chaperoning my daughters who are child actors- although I didn’t take the leap into filmmaking until the summer of 2018. So I would say my daughters were my inspiration, as if I’d not seen them at work and seen the workings of how film productions work, I’d never have had the confidence to tell my story.

How did you approach the process of creating your first film?

After writing the screenplay I approached a number of filmmaker friends with my story and they encouraged me to produce it. They advised me on how to fundraise so that I’d be in a better position to pay for a more professional team of cast and crew. I felt it was extremely important to pay my crew and main cast as they provide such a valuable service and I wanted them to feel valued. After 2 Indiegogo campaigns and our official sponsor; iNet Guardian coming on board, we were lucky enough to raise our budget. I was also extremely lucky to work with a very hard working assistant producer, Alex Stroud, who not only helped with pre production but was also a big part of post production too.

My favourite part of the process was searching for my cast and trying to match up the actors that would play myself, my family and the other characters, but in particular the actor that played my character Penny (Sarah Eastwood). As soon as I saw her showreel I knew she was perfect for the role. Her natural acting ability, as well as the ease of being able to show fear and emotion without over acting, came across perfectly and I knew she was the lady for the job. The most challenging part for me was trying to find the locations to film in. It’s not as simple as rocking up to your local park to film; you have to apply for permission to relevant councils and that was a long process. We didn’t actually secure the Park location until about a week before we filmed, and we also weren’t able to apply for child performance licences until we’d finalised our locations so that was all quite a challenging part.

What will you be spending the prize fund on?

I’m so grateful to be receiving the prize fund. I have a number of screenplays that I’ve written so I’ll be entering some of them into screenplay film festivals so some of the prize money will go on that. I’m hoping to produce a short film called Mean Teens very soon- this is a coming of age film and covers a number of teen issues. I’d planned to start raising funds in the hope of filming this summer but due to the pandemic this didn’t happen. I won’t be attempting to film this until we can make it look as authentic as possible and with the current Covid restrictions this isn’t possible yet, so hopefully the rest of the funds can go into pre production of this.

What advice would you give to other first time filmmakers?

I’d say write every single idea down, even if you think its silly at the time it might eventually blossom into something amazing. Plan ahead as much as possible. And make as many industry connections as you can. The power of social media can work wonders!


A huge thank you to Jane Webb for taking the time to chat to us!

You can keep up to date with news about It’s Just a Boy on Twitter, Instagram & Facebook.

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