Prize winner donates fund to future film student
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.
In a heart-warming turn of events, a winner of one of the awards sponsored by Screen and Film School Birmingham pledged to donate his prize fund to a future student of our brand new Birmingham college. Graeme Keeton is a screenwriter from London who’s first feature screenplay, Crashing Down, was awarded the prize of Best Screenplay at this years Birmingham Film Festival. “I’d like to donate the prize fund to one of your students,” said Graeme. “I’ve been fortunate to still earn a living as a copywriter over the past year, and it’s more expensive to make a film than it is to write a screenplay. I’d rather the money be used by a student making a film.” This generous act of kindness and community will see one of our new 2021 students awarded a bursary of £500 to put towards their education and future career in film, and is the perfect uplifting news we needed as we reflect on what’s been a tumultuous year.
We caught up with Graeme last week to discuss a bit more about his winning project, and the film festival experience.
A huge congratulations on winning Best Screenplay! What was the Birmingham Film Festival experience like?
The festival took place online this year, but it was still a great experience. Loads of talented writers and filmmakers. Dean Williams, who runs the festival, got in touch afterwards to say congratulations, which was a nice touch. Birmingham is just cool as well; Tolkien, Steven Knight, Tommy Shelby. A massive thank you to all of the judges there, and to Screen and Film School Birmingham for sponsoring the category.
How did your journey into film begin?
I’m a copywriter, and started out writing short stories before trying to write a screenplay. I just wrote a bit more each time until I was writing every day. Pretty dull, pretty simple, but probably true for most writers.
Can you tell us a bit about Crashing Down?
I’ve written stories about nurses before, because they’re heroes. When it came to Crashing Down, I just wondered what it would be like to combine ‘Call the Midwife’ with Robert Eggers’ ‘The Lighthouse’. Pretty freaky, it turns out. The story follows a nurse, Penny, trying her best to care for a dying woman, Beverley, in an isolated Cornish village by the sea. Problem is, Beverley’s husband, Alton, isn’t taking his wife’s illness well, and starts to become paranoid, abusive, then dangerous. It’s about how Penny balances her commitment to her patient, with her own safety. There are some nice twists in there, too. If you enjoy a tight, dark family drama and rough seas, you’ll enjoy it.
Like most ideas, Crashing Down formed out of different parts over time. Once I had the basic idea, I wrote a little each day until it was done. Screenwriting is just that, just showing up each day and writing something.
What was your favourite part of the process? What was the most challenging?
Favourite part: Finishing and editing. There’s lots of satisfaction in polishing a screenplay.
Most challenging part: Doubting the idea. Every now and then you wonder if your idea is something anyone will care about. Sometimes it’s not, but sometimes it is. Just keep going.
What’s next for you in terms of filmmaking?
I recently finished another feature screenplay, Torrey Canyon. It tells the true story of the 1967 disaster, in which 119,000 tonnes of oil spilled into the sea near Cornwall. It’s told from the perspective of a local hotelier, who because of the spill’s effects on beaches, is at risk of losing both her business (also her home) and her adopted daughter. It’s part disaster movie, part family drama.
In addition to this, I’m currently working on a TV series, Silk, about a young artist who becomes obsessed with designing the world’s most beautiful silk scarf. I’m also looking for an agent.
What advice would you give to other filmmakers writing their first screenplay?
1. Read screenplays of films and TV shows that you like and see how they’re structured.
2. Interrogate your scenes. Every scene must earn its place. If a scene doesn’t significantly move the action forwards or reveal something about a character, get rid of it.
A huge thank you to Graeme Keeton for this kind offer. We look forward to updating our Birmingham applicants on the opportunity to secure this £500 bursary in the coming months!
Crashing Down, alongside Graeme’s other screenplays, are available to read here.
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