Spotlight On…Black Mountain Films: Engaging Youth Through Film Making

Map of PYE's youth work
In 2012 we asked our network of facilitators and social artists for help to create a new promo video about our work. Serin Coles and Siobhan Schwartzberg of Black Mountain Films got in touch with a generous offer of help.

Serin and Siobhan are in the process of setting up an independent film company with a strong emphasis on social art and using film as a tool for youth empowerment.

“There are a few different layers to what we do at Black Mountain Films,” says Siobhan. “There’s the community outreach work that we do facilitating projects with other organizations or in schools and we also invite people to come and work or volunteer within the company. At the same time we also work on commercial projects which is where we get our income, as well as on our own creative projects. Ultimately we would love to offer our clients the ability to get good-quality work made with us in the knowledge that they are supporting some really great community projects at the same time.”

For Siobhan, this project represents the chance to start a career that she can be passionate about. “I studied film for my BA degree and I did my masters in current affairs journalism with a view to becoming a documentary maker. Looking back it wasn’t really the right path for me. I’ve learned the importance of being true to yourself and doing what feels right. When I was starting this business I asked myself ‘who am I? What do I want both for my future and for other people’s future too?’. These are the questions that you don’t get to ask if you’re an employee. I think people should look at their careers as a way to fulfill their passion. I wasn’t getting anything out of journalism. I was playing by the rules. I do believe that people should go either own unique way. It’s those people that break ground and are pioneers.”

Siobhan’s latest project involves working with a group of young South London-based women from Bangladeshi backgrounds. “When you look at the social categories of people working in the film industry there really aren’t that many women. This is an industry where there’s a lot of inequality. Pretty much none of the women who make it in this industry are from Peckham, or are of Bangladeshi background. Most of them come from a comfortable background. That’s a product of the way the industry is working. You usually have to spend a long time working for free before you can get a foot in the door. Not only is this bad news for people in the industry, it also results in more formulaic content too – something that falls on naff stereotypes and that is quite narrow. I really want to have an impact on how men and women from difficult backgrounds get into the industry. That’s what inspires me.”

Man filming

But Siobhan is quick to point out that there’s plenty of room for hope too. “I don’t see myself outside of the film industry at all. I love film, I love the industry. I just think it can be better. I grew up on a council estate in Barking and there was nothing there for me. I struggled with confidence and I was really fortunate to find film as a creative outlet, but I am aware that many people are never given that opportunity. Working with young people in schools and giving them the chance to just play with some equipment can ignite something in someone. It’s that simple.”

“We’re in the process of getting the business up and running at the moment. We are working really hard to make sure we create a stable company. If anyone else is doing something similar or thinking about it then I would say be motivated but don’t rush yourself. Developing a business strategy really helps when it comes to looking for funding – and that’s something you will have to do a lot. When I first had the idea of creating the company I was throwing myself into everything and I found that I was running before I could walk. Having a plan and a strategy in place is really important for the long-term success of any new organization.”

“Over the next year I want to be doing a lot more outreach work in schools and colleges, hopefully with some apprentices. If anyone is doing similar work please get in touch – film, community outreach or video work. I would love to hear from anyone who is working in this field.”

Take a look at the video that Siobhan and Serin created for us:

Photo courtesy of Flickr



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