Tyneside's new multi-cultural population is reflected in a new film project from Amber. David Whetstone explains how you can help it come to fruition.
CELEBRATED North East film company Amber are appealing to the public to help them get their latest feature to the big screen.
The new film is to be called Between the Mud and the Farthest Star and it is described as a love story set against the background of a rapidly changing Tyneside.
Amber, who work collectively and in a highly distinctive way, have resorted to the modern phenomenon of crowd funding in a bid to raise the money – $30,000 or about £18,000 – needed to make a 10-minute trailer.
This, explains Amber member Ellin Hare, will enable them to take the project forward to the next stage.
Of the total £300,000 budget needed for the film, Ellin reckons the British Film Institute will provide half, but a trailer will help the film-makers secure the rest.
Amber, based in Newcastle for more than 40 years, have forged a reputation for films made over a long period and involving trained actors and real-life communities.
They pride themselves on the fact that, in the finished film, it’s all but impossible to tell who has and who hasn’t acted before.
Plots are inspired by real life and documentary footage of events such as anti-racism rallies will be part of the fabric of the new film.
In this case, it seems Amber’s working methods have played against them.
Channel 4 had expressed interest in the film. “But in the period we’ve been working on the film the whole policy at Channel 4 has changed and there aren’t really slots for this kind of film any more,” says Ellin.
“They’ve got a new regime because they lost their public broadcasting remit and are now totally advertising reliant.
“They haven’t completely turned it down. They’ve got it on hold but they’ve allowed us to take it elsewhere. We’re now approaching organisations like the BBC and Sky Arts. The BFI are still on board but they can only fund half so we need to raise the rest.” Amber are renowned within the film industry for their dedication and attention to detail, but you can see that Hollywood types might blanch at their singular approach.
They explain that the ideas for the new film started to come together in 2005 when Amber member and photographer Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen was preparing for an exhibition and book called Byker Revisited.
Sirkka, who photographed residents of Byker in the 1960s and early 70s as the old terraced homes were demolished to make way for the Byker Wall, returned with her camera to portray 21st-century Byker residents.
She found a melting pot, with descendants of the old Byker mingling with an influx of refugees and asylum seekers from many corners of the world.
“The stories she started bringing back to Amber were moving and disturbing,” say the film-makers in their background literature.
Nevertheless, they shed light on “the radical changes that were beginning to take place in Tyneside’s cultural sense of itself”.
Sirkka’s BBC4 documentary, Today I’m With You, grew out of her work on the estate, and so did some of the narrative details of Between the Mud and the Farthest Star.
The film hinges on a chance meeting between Shar, a Geordie single mum and would-be singer, and Jamal, a Sudanese refugee who’s a rapper and drummer.
It sets in motion a chain of events that changes their lives and those of people around them.
Amber say: “In the last 10 years, Newcastle has experienced a very rapid transformation from a predominantly white working class culture to a place of many cultures.
“Between the Mud and the Farthest Star is a story that reflects both the hopes and tensions inherent in a community in transition.”
To invest in the project and help it to our screens, visit the website at www.indiegogo.com/mudstar, where there are 13 days left in which to pledge money.