SQ Magazine

The UK's Leading Independent Youth Culture Publication

INTERVIEW: Fully Focused

Posted on Friday, 17 May by

Riot From Wrong

After riots swept through London in the summer of 2011, mainstream media organisations set to work in painting a picture that criminalised young people and didn’t tell the story that needed to be told.

Fully Focused is a youth led media organisations that wanted to change people’s perceptions. Their film ‘Riot From Wrong’ cut through the propaganda and told the story of those affected by the disruption, breaking down the social issues that no journalist wanted us to see.

We spoke to Rowan Carnihan, Chevoy Edwards, Eddis Ozcelik and Alex Simpson on a miraculous journey that took them all the way to Parliament.

SQ: To begin, tell us about Fully Focused. What is it about and what are its aims?

RC: Fully Focused Community (FFC) is a youth led media organisation that uses the power of film to raise awareness, challenge perceptions and transform lives. FFC brings together film industry professionals with young people from some of the most disadvantaged backgrounds in London. The young people are trained, recruited and supported by a small group of industry professionals.

Through participation in industry standard film and documentary making we strive to inspire and empower young people to realise their potential, while engaging with, and tackling issues that they feel are relevant to them.

What’s the story behind the company’s formation?

RC: The organisation was formed back in 2010 when the founder Teddy Nygh went into partnership with Nick Bedu, who after developing successful careers within the media and creative industries, decided they wanted to focus on their work with young people. Other contributing members have since joined, each bringing a wealth of expertise and skills to the table. It’s a very close-knit organisation, with nearly all members having attended the same secondary school in Haringey in different years throughout the 1990’s!

Tell us about the concept behind your film ‘Riot From Wrong’.

RC: ‘Riot from Wrong’ was not planned as no one could have predicted what took place during the summer of 2011. As a young peoples production company we didn’t feel we had any choice, the riots happened, we met as a group to discuss what was going on, the young people who form our steering group were rightfully angry, so we decided to take to the streets.

AS: Our mission was to have a deeper conversation about the issues within our society that contributed to the unrest, while also carrying out a vital search for solutions. The media reaction to the riots was so one-sided; we wanted to talk to people whose voice is often dismissed. All of us have many years experience working with young people so we knew it wasn’t as simple as branding them as ‘feral’ and ‘immoral’, there was much more to it than that and we wanted to expose the truth and provide some positive perceptions of young people amidst the propaganda.

Are you surprised at the success that the film has had?

RC: On some levels I guess we have been surprised by its success and the response it has received, but at the same time we know we are sharing a very thought provoking and balanced perspective that genuinely addresses both causes and solutions. We really didn’t know how the film would evolve and what it would become, but from the very first screening we have been overwhelmed by the feelings and discussions it evokes every single time it is screened. Each audience has been completely different and although questions raised have varied, the response has been pretty similar each time and that makes us know what we have reacted is a powerful social tool.

We’ve heard that you’re setting off on a UK tour with the film in 2013 – what’s the thinking behind that?

RC: Yes and we are really excited about this. After a year of sold out screenings across the country, we felt very strongly that the film still needed to reach a younger audience. We therefore applied, and are pleased to say successfully, for funding to run an educational tour across the UK. The tour will visit a combination of 35 educational institutions reaching approximately 2500 young people. 25 of these institutions will be in London and 10 spread across the other major cities of Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool.

You took ‘Riot From Wrong’ to Parliament and had a screening there. How did politicians react to the film?

EO: It was an incredible feeling to be invited to Parliament and the whole team really enjoyed the experience. We were a little bit disappointed by the turn out from politicians, because we invited well over 100 MPs, Councillors, Lords and Ladies and only a handful made it. The screening was still standing room only, but we felt like we literally brought the film to their doorstep yet still so many of them didn’t come. We have to thank Bite the Ballot and Lord Roberts for their support in making it happen.

Do you feel that this government is doing enough to respond to the social problems in the UK?

AS: No. In fact we feel they are making them worse. The riots demonstrated just how many underlying social problems there really were in the UK, the recession alongside the continued cuts and increasing gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have not’s’ the coalition have instilled, are creating a very fragile and uncertain environment. There are a lot of disheartened people out there.

You’ve done some really exciting work with the BBC last year, how did that come about?

RC: A couple of people from the BBC London News team had seen the film and really supported what we were doing. Having developed relationships we were approached to develop our own news piece on knife crime in response to the 20-strong group who were to appear in court for the tragic murder of 15-year-old Sofyen Belamouadden in Victoria Station in 2010.

CE: We were the first ever group outside of the BBC to be commissioned for a BBC News item, so this was obviously a huge deal for us and a huge step for such a well established organisation to value and share the voice of young people. We hope this will be the first of many such opportunities.

We were the first ever group outside of the BBC to be commissioned for a BBC News item…

Just how much of a problem is knife crime amongst young people in the UK?

CE: It is a major problem and from where we are sitting it feels like its unstoppable. The problem is getting younger and younger and the main problem is that it has become a fashion or status symbol, which means it is a really hard issue to tackle, because for many its totally acceptable. For a lot of young people it’s down to a lack of direction and having too much time on their hands, because for many they feel like there isn’t much else for them to get involved in or aspire to.

Tell us about your team and the type of backgrounds that the people you work with come from.

RC: We really are like a family. We have been on a massive and life changing journey together and that really shows in the way we interact. As hard as it was making the film with no funding, the experience of being in it together and making the film because we felt we had to, and then sharing the incredible response, has made us even closer.

Fully Focused is made up of about six ‘adults’, and the young steering group of around nineteen and we are from all over London. We love this fact because it completely dispels the myth that young people won’t leave their own postcode! Most have had their own struggles to face, but being part of Fully Focused has definitely brought a lot to everyone involved. We have a few young parents in the group, we sadly lost one member to a short jail sentence, but equally lost four to University. So we are a wonderful and eclectic mixed bag!

What fresh projects are in the pipeline for Fully Focused?

RC: It’s hard to believe but it looks like 2013 might be even more exciting than last year! The Educational Tour will start soon, with screenings already confirmed at Oxford, Cambridge and Goldsmiths Universities. We are also working on a joint project with the World Film Collective to make a film about Gang Culture from young peoples perspective. And we will be continuing to work on the Million Youth Movement, a network of young people and relevant professionals who can contribute to, share and benefit from our broader mission of creating a 100% youth generated media channel with issue based content devised, shot and produced by young people.

Follow Fully Focused on Twitter: @UKFullyFocused.

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Corey Pellatt
22-year-old editor of SQ Magazine and Media Studies student at the University of Sussex. Freelance writer for clients including BHAFC.


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