EVER SINCE WILLIAM LAURIE DICKSON arrived in Worthing in 1898 with a horse-drawn camera and a plan to capture English seaside scenes in motion, our town has been in love with films and film-making.
These days, you don’t need a cart to drag your camera around, and film-making has come on in leaps and bounds. As local filmmaker Luther Bhogal-Jones of Faster Productions points out, “You probably hold in your hand a piece of technology which completely overrides pretty much the first 20 years of me making films.” It’s a far cry from the days when BAFTA grandee Sir Sydney Samuelson started out at the Art Deco Luxor in South Street in Lancing.
The famed cinematographer mopped up after the builders before moving on to train as a ‘rewind boy’, rewinding 35mm reels of film from one spool to another with a handle. As Sir Sydney says, “You just had to start at the bottom, claw your way up and hope for a bit of luck.” And luck he had: he became a newsreel cameraman, going on to be the first British Film Commissioner and a permanent trustee of the BAFTAS and fellow of the BFI.
But making films still requires learning the ropes, and then some hard graft. If you don’t know where to start, head over to the South Downs Film Makers (SDFM), who meet at Ferring Village Hall twice a month. The club began thirty years ago when members decided to investigate the new format of video; and what they may lack in youth they more than make up for in experience and expertise.
“Now we are reaching out to younger filmmakers, especially 18-30 year olds who need help to develop their talent,” says filmmaker and SDFM publicity officer Alan Cross. “For those unable to afford film school or struggling to fund a film on their own, SDFM is happy to offer the use of their semi-professional equipment, including cameras, lighting and microphones.”
There is plenty of moral support from fellow filmmakers out there as well.
“It feels like there’s a bit of a community coming back in the last year or so, thanks to the Cellar Arts Club creating a focus point for creatives, especially with the help of Dick Douglass running the Close Up short film nights with local filmmakers,” points out Luther. “You’ve also got the Worthing Area Actors and Creatives Facebook group and meet-ups started by Christophe Philipps which has helped bring people together again.
“Some of us have been here for quite a few years now, plugging away at it, growing in ambition, plans and scope which I think creates an encouraging environment for all of us and hopefully for the next generation.”
Alan Cross, who also set up Worthing Screen Actors, enthusiastically agrees. “Wewelcome not only actors but filmmakers of all ages, abilities, shapes and sizes – just like real life!” The group is focussing on making films from 2-3 minute dramatic scenes to 10 and 30 minute shorts in 2019.
“In the end film is about taking audiences on an emotional ride, bumps and all,” explains Alan. “We want to make films that do that mostly by getting it wrong at first but learning fast as we go.”
Out of these chance meetings and networkings grow all kinds of community projects. Adam Seaman of As Described (the name behind the interactive Geminate Project that had us all dancing around in front of Colonnade House two years ago) has formed so it goes with Sam Bournerof Persistent Peril and Colonnade House’s Richard Manders.
Their first event launches at the Films on the Gallery Wall festival in January with British experimental director Andrew Kötting’s Lek and the Dogs followed by a Q&A and discussion with Andrew at Colonnade House. Together they plan to run an irregular cinema arts club in Worthing.
Films on the Gallery Wall will also collaborate with longstanding supporter of independent films Worthing Film Club for a screening of Blow Up, with a varied programme that also includes short films by local filmmakers, including Jason Davison, Bob Burke and Gabi Oda, Mark Jones, Dan Skelt, Richard Dunford, Honour Mission and John Fox.
Joining them on the bill will be Simon Messingham and Mark Tew of award-winning Worthing-based Button Pressed Films. As Mark points out, there are many opportunities to get involved with local film.
“Button Pressed is always looking for talented like-minded souls willing to give up their time. We are rather selective, but if someone is desperate to get involved, we never turn them down.
“Our big project for 2019 is our debut feature ‘Disco’, which is a heated 70s comic love story,” continues Mark. “Our main need would be for extras willing to dress up in silly clothes and dance around in front of a camera.
“And the other thing most filmmakers need is a script. So write!”
However, none of this is possible without an injection of cold hard cash, and independent films are made on a shoestring. Colonnade House holds regular sessions on how to apply for Arts Council funding; the next one is on 22 January.
“Some kind of financial help is always helpful,” says Mark. “We regard Button Pressed as a commercial company, and arts funding is not traditionally inclined to support such ventures. We are not mainstream but there is definitely a niche market in Adur and Worthing for our work.”
Low budget films therefore often rely heavily on the support of local communities and businesses. Mark explains, “The Cellar Arts Club kindly offered itself as our main location for Disco, which turned an impossibly expensive project into a very doable one.”
“I think the community and businesses are more willing to offer assistance compared to Brighton,” agrees Luther. “Luckily we have a variety of supportive locations and venues, most of which are coming from creative backgrounds or an interest in the arts.”
Additionally, Adur & Worthing Trust is looking to commission works of art for 2019, including films. All work must be newly developed, shared with the public, and promote the creativity of Worthing and Adur. The scheme launches at Colonnade House on 30 January, with an application deadline of 3 March.
Karen Simporis of the Trust explains, “We are particularly looking for people who haven’t received funding in the past or might have had trouble accessing grants so that we can try to give them a step up. We know people aren’t always keen on paperwork so we’ve tried to make applying a quick simple process that’s accessible to all.”
“Adur and Worthing Trust’s financial support was invaluable in getting my splatstick puppet horror short film off the ground,” says Luther. “Their patience and faith in my film has been wonderful. Many of the more high profile bodies would not have supported such a film, whereas their help hopefully puts me in good stead for applying for funding elsewhere in future. I’m looking forward to submitting Snore to film festivals worldwide and spreading the Worthing word!”
By Zoe Rhodes
If you’re involved in local film in any way and we left you on the cutting room floor, please give us a shout at and let us know what you’re working on! We will be revisiting film in the future so we’d love to hear from you.
Heads up! It’s theatre next month. Please get in touch if you’d like to be featured in the article.