The Queens Suite documentary
I am wondering whether to post this onto Oprah's Angel board! Here is what I've written so far.
Oprah’s story, her engagement with people, the stories we have heard through her have inspired people to be the best they can be. Oprah has inspired me to share the story of a project that has been my life for, at the time of writing, 18 months.
In 2008 I saw an orchestra play in London. As I listened to the incredible music, played with dynamism by the young orchestra, who were guided by world famous Jazz musicians of the calibre of Gary Crosby OBE, and passionately directed by a young man, I was moved to make a documentary.
There was something else that moved me to make the documentary. The musical director was a young Black British man and so too were many members of the orchestra. This ought not to sound odd, but it struck me because at the time the media was saturated with images of young Black men in Britain as gun or knife toting criminals.
Having worked with young Black men as the entertainments manager for the St.Paul's Carnival and as a journalist for Operation Black Vote's citizenship booklet, I know this isn't the full story. But what is true, is the lack of media coverage on young Black British men’swork and achievements.
So I decided to make a documentary about the young musical director and his dream of performing Duke Ellington's the Queen's Suite (written for the Queen of England in 1959) to the Queen. The documentary is named The Queen's Suite.
I pitched the idea to leading English industry giants, the BBC, Channel 4, Britdoc, Channel 5, but none were interested in funding the documentary. Christopher Hird, one of England's leading Executive Producers was interested. At a meeting I asked him if he would mentor me and he said yes, he would give me access to kit, but there would be no funding. So I took up his generous offer. On Christmas day and Boxing day 2008 I wrote the scene by scene and filming started in January 2009.
Without funding the film was made. Technicians would come on board because they liked the story. One friend paid for her boyfriend to fly to the UK to film, and a good thing as he had a camera and I needed two. When I couldn't pay my rent a friend gave me his music studio to sleep in. He also leant me his editing suite.
What enabled me to carry on was my belief in the story. I love stories, especially those that follow the Greek tradition of, 'getting to the truth of the matter.’ I believe we have too many ‘single stories’ about Black British men. Young men are continuously shown images of male violence as normative and ones to aspire. We need more stories to re-dress this situation.
The documentary, by showing a young Black British man, doing the work, and following his passion enables another story of Black male identity to be shared. It existence acts as a counter-narrative.
Recently I was invited to attend a conference on film into education. Here I learnt that the documentary naturally fits under the UK's 'Gifted and Talented' strand. Gifted and talented starts from the premise, 'all children are naturally talented.'
The initiative aims to work with children to strengthen their talents or guide them towards discovering their talents. It's a wonderful scheme and I am hoping the documentary will be used in the UK and globally to spur on young performers or young people who are interested in music and creative forms of expression.
The documentary is now at the stage that it needs further funding to finish it.
I have not been able to raise the funds in the UK to finish the documentary so with the help of a friend in LA I have put the film on Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a scheme that enables creatives to pitch their ideas and raise funds for their project.
The trailer has made a great impression on people. Comments have been, ‘This is hokey, but it means so much to me to see "thug -free" images of black men-especially young black men.’
Tontxi said - 'This features one of the young South East London Musician's I mentored and now is attending Guildhall Conservatory in London.....pass it on and lets get this off the ground for Corine Dhondee & of course a fresh generation of World-Class London Musicians.'
Another person, who has seen the documentary said, ‘I really enjoyed your film, Peter is a lovely guy, and the music is brilliant.’
The Queen's Suite is on Kickstarter until the end of August.
People can support it by donating as little as $3. Or just by getting the word out. Part of the funds will go to Stoma baby, a charity being set up by my friend, Charlotte Westmorland-Stubbs for babies and children with the condition.
Thanks you for your time and please support.
Here is the link to Kickstarter.