'1 Year' is our latest Film of the Month winner

27 Sep 2019 in Film of the Month

8 mins
'1 Year' is our latest Film of the Month winner

We are delighted to announce that the latest winner of our Film of the Month competition is 1 Year, a documentary from Ben, aged 18, in Greater Manchester. See the winning film above!

1 Year (engaging for 11+) is a moving, funny and personal documentary that sees a young man writing a letter to his younger self, recounting the hurdles and triumphs of his experience as a transgender person and the important milestones in his school life and relationships.

I loved this film. It's a really touching story, told in a powerfully personal and beautiful way.

Film of the Month Judge on '1 Year'

We got in touch with Ben to find out more about his film.

Congratulations on winning our Film of the Month competition! When did you start making 1 Year?

Thank you so much! I started making this film in early November 2018 and did different shots in the space of a month so that I could release the film on the 21 December, my anniversary of being 1 year on testosterone.

What gave you the inspiration to create a video letter to your 14-year-old self?

Looking back, it was during being 14 years old that I started to question my gender and sexuality. Mixed with the bullying I faced on a daily basis, I was in a very dark head-space a lot of the time. So much so, that I just made very flippant plans for the future as I didn't think I would make it beyond 16. 

Often I reflect on the person I was and how, if I'd have known who I would become and what I would achieve, I could've done so much more with myself back then and actually really started thinking about my future and my identity. I know everyone has these wishes of talking to their younger self but I think, when a person is transitioning, it's much harder, as I only fully came out in 2016 because I didn't know I had the support in place. 

That's why I wanted to make something for my 14 year old self (in a long-winded way of answering), because if I'd seen and heard me now, maybe I would've felt more hopeful rather than hopeless.

How did you plan what to film to illustrate your letter?

I sort of had a plan but also took things as I went. I purposefully filmed myself doing day-to-day activities as I wanted to show audiences that I live my life just the same as any other student, I just have this add-on to my identity which accompanies me in everything I do. 

So I knew I wanted to get shots of me cooking and dancing around with my flatmate (which was a frequent occurrence in our student halls - we did nothing but dance whilst cooking!) as well as shots of me walking to uni as that was my day-to-day life! 

The other shots that show my medication, a postcard written to me from my college drama teacher, and my university were each meant to be motivational, to show that if I can gain these things and work towards my achievements, anyone can - regardless of their journey! I tried to plan with friends as well and it helped that we all lived a few metres from each other as I'd bump into them whilst filming! 

During editing I really enjoy just piecing different elements together there and then with a rough plan to see what I can do creatively on the spot. I knew what shots I wanted to start and end with and the ones that I wanted to feature at certain points, but I just tried to arrange them in a way that made the rhythm and pace make sense.

What message would you like audiences to take from 1 Year?

I want the audience to realise that - especially in today's society, where LGBT people are often reported on negatively in the media and are frequently shown to be victims of hate crime and injustice through law making - that we are generally happy. Just like any other person, we laugh, we cry, we hang out with friends, we go to uni, we just need a little extra support to be who we are! 

In my case, I live a totally normal student life. I hang out with friends, I'm in a number of societies, I make films, I just have another story to tell or different things to joke about with my uni mates. I want audiences to also feel that they should not view being trans as something that inhibits a person or excludes them. Yes, we still face many barriers and we still deal with a lot of gate-keeping through different institutes and organisations, but we work through this and help change happen so that we are all on a level playing field. I love being trans! And people should love that for me too!

If you received a video letter from your 24-year-old self today what would you hope to see/hear in it?

I'd like for him to say that surgery was fine (I have my top surgery December this year, and have never had any surgeries before!) and that I recovered well, that I did well in university and got a good job or started to progress in a career I loved. Maybe that I own a dog? That I'm settled and have a good relationship with everyone around me. Just that I'm doing okay and living my best life. Oh, and that I can get married without being registered as a 'wife', that NHS waiting times for younger trans people have been reduced dramatically, that me and my partner as gay men, can donate blood, and maybe that the planet is recovering? I don't know, I just want to be happy

Are there any filmmakers or films that influenced 1 Year?

My main influences for trans films are the people behind My Genderation. They're a super cool bunch of trans and non-binary activists who create films on loads of different topics relating to gender identity. I really like what they do and what they stand for and, especially as one of the people involved is from the same town as me. It gives me hope that I can achieve the things they've all achieved!

If you could make 1 Year again what would you do differently?

I'd definitely get better lighting! Student halls aren't good for filming in! I'd probably also use a better camera as, although mine is good, it doesn't have the same range as the ones I can book out from my uni. I mean, I might do another updated version once I've had surgery, and it has influenced some thoughts I'm having for my final project at uni, so we'll see what can come of it.

What three tips would you give to a young filmmaker who's about to make their first documentary?

Three tips hmmmmmmm..... well, if I was to say anything it would be this:

  • Just go and make it! Whether it's on a camera or a phone, go and make your documentary. I am currently making a documentary that I have wanted to make for the best part of 2 years, but I wish I'd done it sooner! Just go and do it, there's no time like the present!
  • Don't worry if you think it's rubbish or there are parts of it that are lower in quality than the others. Every time you film something, you will learn something from that experience. Just believe in yourself!
  • If you want to make a film but not sure what on, use the people around you! They will definitely have an interesting story to tell about something. Use that as your basis, go do some research and interview them. Get some shots together and there you go!

Ben's film will now be showcased to over 300,000 film club members online and all of our Film of the Month films are now on the Into Film YouTube channel, and he has also secured a £100 Amazon voucher to help further develop his future films. Think you could win Film of the Month? Find out more about how you can enter our ongoing Film of the Month competition.

If you've been inspired by 1 Year then make sure to check out the following films:

  • Love, Simon (2018, 12, 110mins) Engaging for 11+
    A gay teenager strikes up and online relationship with one of his peers, helping both towards coming out to their friends and family.
  • Faces Places (2017, 15, 94mins) engaging for 14+
    Wonderful and imaginative documentary in which director Agnes Varda travels around rural France with a street artist.
  • Minding the Gap (2018, 15, 93mins) Engaging for 16+
    Personal documentary about three skateboarders who come of age in different ways in their home town of Rockford, Illinois.
  • Out (2018, Unclassified, 65mins) Engaging for 14+
    Documentary entirely compiled of coming-out YouTube videos from gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender young people around the world.

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