Having recently announced three new recipients of our Music and Dance Challenge Fund, we thought we would catch up with last year’s recipients to find out about their highlights of the year and any advice they have for this year’s successful projects, starting with Beacon Hill Arts… 

Through our Challenge Fund, Spirit is delighted to be the funder of Viewfinder – a talent development initiative that supports filmmakers with disabilities, autism and additional needs to take their skills and aspirations to the next level. It is run by the award-winning Beacon Hill Arts, based in Tyneside. 

Viewfinder participants attend a regular programme of Filmmaking Surgeries to develop talents in specific production areas, and showcase their abilities by making short films. The sessions also allow budding filmmakers to improve their skills in masterclasses from industry. We recently caught up with Beacon Hill Development Director, Will Sadler.

Hi Will. For those who don’t know, explain Beacon Hill Arts. 

“Beacon Hill Arts CIC is a multi-award winning organisation that supports filmmakers and artists with learning disabilities, autism and additional needs to create and exhibit outstanding work. We are located in Tyneside, UK. We believe that people with learning disabilities and additional needs have an equal right to develop their creative talents as those without. We believe that with appropriate support, our artists can use their unique and entertaining creativity not only to develop valuable skills for life and employment, but to also dismantle stereotypes and misconceptions of disability by reaching global audiences with their amazing work. Project members are supported by industry professionals to creatively lead every stage of the production process, from concept to delivery. Members script, shoot and edit, make props and costumes, compose and perform music soundtracks, and plan and deliver their premiere screenings to audiences of hundreds. 

Talk to other organisations who Spirit of 2012 are funding, see how you can share experiences and knowledge to benefit each other’s projects.

“To date, our artists’ work has received over 70 international festival selections across three continents, won 11 nominations and 13 awards. Project members often go on to gain direct work experience opportunities by making films for clients, and our recent film forSpirit of 2012 was launched at a special event at the House of Lords. We are one of the UK’s BFI (British Film Institute) Film Academy Network Partners – part of the national initiative to support 16-19 year olds to discover and develop filmmaking talents. We are the only Film Academy in the UK to focus on supporting filmmakers with a disability.”

Wow. Ok so a lot has been happening and you’ve been around for a while. How has Spirit funding helped you?

“After our filmmakers take part in their first project with us, there are often limited options of what they can do next. Many struggle to pursue filmmaking at school, college or university, especially if they access special education where these choices can be limited. Some try to make films in their own time, but will be challenged by lack of equipment, or lack of support or mentoring. Our Viewfinder programme aims to address this challenge. Our Spirit of 2012 Arts and Culture Challenge grant is giving us an amazing opportunity to run a film talent development opportunity for people with learning disabilities and autism. Whilst we are very proud of the way our other filmmaking workshops offer a collective approach to filmmaking that involves everyone, the difference with Viewfinder is it enables project members to develop personal goals, pursue personal projects and nurture specific craft skills that none of our other programmes are able to.

“The Film Factory element of our programme means that our filmmakers can put the skills they have developed into practice through a volunteer film commission working with third sector organisations. For our filmmakers, this is provides work experience, and develops invaluable skills for life and work, but perhaps most importantly the Film Factories challenge the third sector, and the audiences that watch the films, to respect the creative talents of our learning disabled and autistic filmmakers and recognise that positive and unique contribution artists with learning disabilities and autism can offer.”

Having been a successful applicant for Spirit of 2012 Challenge Funding in 2015, what are your highlights from the past year?

“There’s been so many but one particular highlight has been seeing how the break times during talent development sessions have become some of the most productive times, as project members get the opportunity to network with each other, share ideas, form collaborations and chat informally to session facilitators. It’s also been great seeing how involved one of our parents became, when he and his son worked together on a film about their holiday – his son used the skills he’d developed in our sessions to work with his father to make the film and pass on learning to him. The film project we made for Spirit of 2012’s second birthday really stands out. It was launched at your event at the House of Lords, which put our filmmakers in the driving seat of the entire commission from initial client liaison to scripting; filming to editing.”

We love that film. How have you found working with Spirit?

“Spirit of 2012 are brilliant to work with. They are a very “hands on” funder – not in a micro managing way – but in a way that ensures we are always reflecting and learning, and that there is some shared synergy between the different funded organisations; that rather than operate lots of different isolated projects in different parts of the UK, projects talk to each other, recognise areas where they can support each other, and ensure that our shared impact is co-ordinated and as significant as possible.”

Thanks Will. Finally, what advice would you give recipients of this year’s Challenge Funding?

“Talk to other organisations who Spirit of 2012 are funding, see how you can share experiences and knowledge to benefit each other’s projects. I met some really inspiring organisations at the partner’s day organised by Spirit of 2012 and had some great follow-up conversations afterwards.”

Further information:

More about Viewfinder 

Follow Beacon Hill Arts on Twitter