An enterprising guy with a strong interest in film is working on a piece filmed in Thamesmead, named Streetz. The trailer for the piece is over on Youtube, and also embedded in the fund raising page on Indiegogo, here:
As a small independent film it’s going to have a small budget and the hopes of raising money by crowd sourcing are at least modest.
One of the problems, though, is that this is yet another gritty urban piece showing gang culture, violence, drugs and depravity. When the man behind it all posted his trailer on the Thamesmead Facebook group the reception was not the best. The group is full of people (some 2000 signed up now!) who often feel a lot of nostalgia for the area, remember sunshine and parks and messing around on concrete walkways as kids. They’re not best pleased to see it held up as a backdrop for the thuggish impression that areas of Southeast London emanate. Indeed, the fears of gang culture and violence far outweigh the realities that the crime statistics show in Thamesmead, but brutalistic architecture fits well with a brutal tale and so the problem grows. People fear the violence because people believe in the violence, films depict the violence and enforce the belief, thus people avoid the area and fear the crime and the area is then seen as a great place to draw crime on screen in a believable way.
The film’s main proponent, Mark Windham, was disappointed when the Facebook response was negative, largely coming down to “I don’t think it’s good to glorify violence and drugs and gang culture” and seemed almost bewildered that anyone might think it would do damage to Thamesmead’s reputation. He grew up as a local and had no intention to bring the area down. He pointed out that the location isn’t named within the script, it could be anywhere – but how true is that, really? It’s impossible to separate Thamesmead from “A Clockwork Orange” which is not only set in a place that is not Thamesmead, but also in a non-existent future. Misfits is set in fictional Wertham, but the buildings and the walkways and the look of south Thamesmead pervade. We are linked to what is depicted, and while Misfits is a lighthearted look at delinquents with superhero powers struggling through life, it’s full of murders and attacks and it sits alongside Meet the Guvnors, Clockwork Orange and disturbing music videos. You cannot choose Thamesmead for your location and deny that you will paint a picture for anyone who recognises the tower blocks and jutting maisonettes later. What we need is a bit more Flea, a bit more Beautiful Thing, and a bit less Streetz.
I responded to the Facebook comments pointing this out in a measured and calm way. All the comments were deleted minutes later and Mark has taken to Twitter and Indigogo to raise further funding.