THE Borders staged its own ceremony recognising excellence in film-making on Monday night.
But unlike the weekend’s Golden Globes or the Academy Awards still to come, the event in the Heart of Hawick was notable for its absence of A-listers and long-winded acceptance speeches.
Instead, the stars of the show were gutsy and talented young Borderers who, for the past four months, have been taking part in a unique initiative.
The occasion was the premiere of three short movies, conceived, produced and performed by the teenagers who have all been referred to the Galashiels-based Chance 4 Change project.
The lottery-funded befriending scheme, which aims to help children and young people leaving primary and secondary school who are already facing additional challenges in their lives, formed a film club at the beginning of September.
Conceived by Chance 4 Change co-ordinator Lisa Cowan, the idea was to bring the youngsters together as a team, behind and in front of the camera, to improve their confidence and life skills and, in the process, inspire them how to think creatively and raise their aspirations as they go through a period of transition.
Monday’s ceremony, at which the three short films were shown for the first time on the big screen in front of a 100-strong audience, was proof positive that the club, initially involving teenagers from Hawick, Selkirk and Jedburgh who are about the leave high school, had achieved its aims.
“We wanted to stretch the young people out of their comfort zone and develop a can-do attitude and the results have far exceeded expectations,” said Ms Cowan.
She acknowledged the assistance of the VOMO (Voice of My Own) film production project in supporting the club and it was fitting that VOMO’s film-maker Robert Sproul-Cran was on hand to present special Oscar-style statuettes to every participant after each group’s film had been screened.
Rory MacLeod from Lauder, director of the Community Learning and Development Standards Council for Scotland, proved an excellent compere for the event.
“His understanding of the issues which affect young people made him an ideal host,” said Ms Cowan. “He has a great way of entertaining the crowd while ensuring the spirit and message of the club shone through”.
The first film to be shown – Arson Around – came from the Jedburgh group, comprising Aimee Ferguson, Ashleigh Watson, Kate Marley, Melissa Chippendale, Ross Oliver, Ryan Crooks and Sophie Hutchison.
With supporting players, including actor Edward Martin, it was shot over two days in December at the Spread Eagle Hotel in Jedburgh and tells the story of a group of teenagers as they harass a recently widowed hotelier who has seen his fair share of tragedy. A fire, which was blamed on local youths, took the life of his wife, but revenge is in the air as the teenagers protest their innocence.
Next up was the The Perfect Robbery: Bag It and Go! – the presentation of the Hawick group (Callum Cassidy, Jason Riach, Jordan Simpson, Markale Hall, Ryan Stockman and Rhys Thomas). Shot in a variety of locations in the town and featuring cameos not only from established actor Matthew Burgess, but also local police officers Stevie Sutherland and Lorraine Matthews, it focuses on a band of hapless would-be robbers who decide to hold up a local sandwich bar to hilarious effect.
The evening concluded with the effort of the Selkirk group – Ashleigh Macrae, Emily Forbes, Justin Deans, Liam Ramsay, Macaulley Hislop and Sophie Grieve.
Family Portrait was filmed in the town’s Palladian mansion, the Haining, and the ghostly tale achieves high production values, not least from the appearance of two spectral horsemen from Lanton-based professional equine stunt team Les Amis d’Onno.
After the show, one parent observed: “It has increased my daughter’s confidence and given her a real sense of achievement”, while another said: “It has made a huge difference to the way my son looks at life.”
Lisa Cowan told us: “The smiles on the faces of the audience and the constant applause throughout the evening said it all. After this successful first run we are hoping the project will continue across the Borders.”
Any community group wishing to organise screenings of the three films should contact Ms Cowan on 01896 754613.