A hard-hitting short film created by a Bafta-winning filmmaker working with youngsters from some of Edinburgh’s most deprived was given its premier in the Capital last night.
Journeys draws on the real-life experience of teenagers who took part in a project at Edinburgh College, mentored by Garry Fraser, with themes including domestic violence, gang culture, knife crime and substance abuse.
Mr Fraser, 35, who himself used film-making as a way to escape a life of addiction and crime, believes giving teenagers more control over their own lives – and more faith in their own abilities – is the best way to keep them on the straight and narrow.
The filmmaker, who won a Scottish New Talent Bafta in the factual section last year for Everybody’s Child, said: “The first thing I asked them, in the first workshop we did, was, ‘what do YOU want to do?’ They all looked at each other; no-one had asked them that before. They had full creative control, it was their ideas, their stories, the way they wanted to tell them.
“They drew on their own experiences, and there’s something very empowering about that. This is what you need to do if you really want to help young people – help them overcome their own barriers.”
Father-of-four Mr Fraser, right, feels that being from a similar background made it easier for him to reach young people who would otherwise be overlooked or dismissed by society.
He added: “I can go into these areas, approach groups of teenagers and ask them what they want for their future, what matters to them. I still stay within a half-mile of where I was born, and I still see the same problems repeating. That’s why it was so great to see the dedication from these guys. We worked a lot over the summer, during the heatwave, and they still turned up every day, even staying late.
“To see someone start off not knowing how to work a camera, and by the end know exactly what shot they want and how to get it, it’s a great feeling.”
And he’s proud his young charges have been inspired to take the next step towards realising their dreams, either continuing to learn about film- making at Edinburgh College, making music, or sticking in at school. But he’s hoping to reach even more youths with his next project.
“It was predominantly boys working on this one and that’s something we want to address. I need a female version of me who can relate to teenage girls and the issues they face.”
The premiere of Journeys was held at Edinburgh College and was attended by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.