YFN Stories: Alan Bright

From BTEC student to YFP Group Facilitator and Co-Director of Film Thurrock

Portrait of a young man with a space themed background.
Alan Bright is based in Thurrock, Essex. Thurrock Film Festival is a multi-disciplinary festival celebrating diverse culture and creativity.

When I was 17 years old I was offered the chance to do photography for the Thurrock Film Festival. At first, it was a lot to take in as there was so much going on as many doors were being opened at the same time. However, it was the opportunity I had always wanted but never knew how to get before! When I discussed with the director, Hi Ching, that I loved marketing and building businesses, within a couple of months we had set up Film Thurrock and planned to recruit more young film programmers. Over the first ten months of helping with the Thurrock Film Festival, I have worked on multiple projects from the ‘Look Again’ horror season, to dozens of film screenings and events in and around the local community.

Becoming a YFP

For me, the most important aspect of being a young film programmer has been the connections and relationships I have formed with people in and around my community and other areas of the country. The fact that I can connect with this ever-growing group of film programmers in areas outside of Thurrock like Southend, Leigh-on-sea and Rayleigh fills me with joy. I am able to expand my ideas and knowledge into new areas and it has led me to learn new skills (like teaching!) and makes me want to continue building up YFPs to show how much of an impact young people can have in the South East. I also used the YFP bursary to go to the ‘Becoming a Curator’ event at BFI Southbank in December 2022, which had dozens of people from all across the South East of England who all had the same passion and drive for film!  This resonated with me because these days we are all used to big releases in cinema and going to watch the latest Marvel film, but film festivals are still something most young people are yet to hear about, let alone attend. It was so great to meet other young people out there with the same ideas and ambition to get different and more diverse films out to the masses!

Progression Opportunities

In January 2023, with the help of the YFP Network SE and funding from the BFI, we established a YFP group at South Essex College which I was paid to facilitate! This meant getting some training and resources from the YFP Network and then planning a series of live and online workshops to teach the basics of film programming and recruit a small team to help run Film Thurrock. I worked with 14 other students from the college, with support from the film department staff at South Essex, and we have programmed three events for Grays Town Café including JoJo Rabbit for National Holocaust Day and plan to launch a YFP strand at the upcoming film festival in August.

Film Thurrock and Thurrock Film Club

Thurrock Film Festival is a yearly film festival showcasing local talent and films from all parts of the world and aims to highlight diversity which is much needed within the film industry. Their vision is to develop the Thames Estuary Production Corridor with imaginative screenings, discussions, events and extended reality! I became a part of the team in April 2022 when myself and the Director Hi Ching co-founded Film Thurrock and Thurrock Film Club, a monthly film club that takes place in outdoor locations and Grays Town Café in the park

Getting a job in the industry

My first role was as a volunteer photographer and YFP and from that opportunity after opportunity has come to me! The next step for me is to continue building up Film Thurrock and the Thurrock Film Festival, so that the local community have a place where diverse films can be shown to the masses. Film is an art form in itself that needs recognition from people. I also want to continue to build ABrightProduction as a marketing and production company that helps people and businesses reach their goals. This is because I have always been a person who has wanted to succeed, but also help other people succeed with whatever it is that they are doing.

My advice for other young film programmers is to just be you at the end of the day and not let anyone tell you otherwise. So what if you like anime and others in your school do not! Never feel as if you have to stop doing something you love due to fear of others judging you. I fell into that trap and for years could not do what I loved until now and that impacted me daily. So if you are the only person who likes film in your town, go to a neighbouring town and find others that also like film and build a group from that. It may be small at first but once you have a few members you can build on from there and never let anyone tell you what you can and cannot do.

My role today

Currently I am finishing my Level 3 Business BTEC at South Essex College whilst running the YFP group at the Southend campus, expanding the reach of the festival and freelancing to help small local businesses get the audiences they want. I am also currently working on two classified film projects. So it’s been a lot to organise but rewarding as I can see that I am having a massive impact on the community at such a young age. The most proud I have been with a project is definitely the upcoming short films that I am in the process of making as it has been the ongoing effort of seven years of work, from starting out at age 12 as a stop-motion YouTuber to learning photography at age 14, and now at age 18 creating a short film. There have been high highs and low lows however it has been a journey that has taught me so much and I cannot wait to get the short films completed and hopefully at film festivals next year.

And a motto I follow on every single project or activity I do, whether it be a test or a film project is ‘Never settle for anything less the highest attainable benchmark, as only then you can say you have done a job successfully’ and no matter what the task is, always aim high. A lot of people settle for a pass and will be happy with that and not put the effort in to get a distinction, but by aiming for the highest and only settling for that you are preparing yourself for a life that leads to more success later down the road.

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