A Birmingham-made film about a middle class man who wakes up one day to find himself homeless has won the honour of a premiere at one of the world’s leading film festivals.
Filmmaker and fund raiser for the homeless, Steve Rainbow, was surprised when he discovered his fledgling feature, NFA – made on a shoestring budget – would see its world premiere at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival.
Its selection represents a boost for the city as not only was it filmed on location but also stars Birmingham-born actor Patrick Baladi, who played Ricky Gervais’s boss in The Office, and was produced by 104 Films, a production company co-founded by acclaimed Sutton Coldfield filmmaker Justin Edgar.
“I was delighted and surprised when I found out,” said Mr Rainbow, who has won a number of awards for his short films. “But I wasn’t expecting it, to be honest. There are a handful of film festivals in the world that are very prestigious and Edinburgh is definitely one of them – if your film gets selected to play there it’s a clear indication it’s considered to be good.
“What Edinburgh can also offer is a market for distributors to come and see what films the industry says are worth seeing so it’s the next step towards getting it sold.
“To get this stamp of approval from the established film industry is confirmation the film has quality and this recognition may help with getting a distribution deal for it.”
NFA follows character Adam Smith, played by Baladi, as he tries to find his way back to his family and home.
It opens with a scene of domestic bliss but Smith’s world is soon turned upside down when he wakes to find himself in a very different scenario. As the psychological drama unfolds he tries to get by without money, seemingly no trace of his own existence and no sign of his family.
“Imagine you’re a regular middle class guy who ends an idyllic birthday celebration by kissing his wife and daughter goodnight only to wake up the next morning to find yourself in a hostel for homeless people and no idea how you got there,” said Mr Rainbow.
“I used to work at a hostel in Soho and I met people from many different backgrounds with lots of different stories about how they became homeless. It was not uncommon to hear the story ‘I just woke up one morning and I was homeless’. I guess I just took that line to its ultimate conclusion.”
The fact NFA got completed was itself a triumph over adversity. It was shot over three weeks on the streets of Birmingham and saw the actors and crew pushing themselves to the limits to create a fully-fledged feature film with a modest budget of just £25,000.
“At one point I didn’t think we’d get the film finished, when the camera started to melt, a prime location fell through and one of the actors contracted tuberculosis,” said Mr Rainbow. “But we fought on, got it finished and now it’s screening at Edinburgh. It was made on a very low budget and you kind of think films made on a bigger budget are going to get the nod over yours. But, at the end of the day, it’s about the film, and it getting in to Edinburgh is proof of that.”
Mr Rainbow was grateful for the backing of 104 Films, run by Justin Edgar in partnership with Oscar-winning producer Alex Usborne.
The company takes its name from the old bus route from Sutton Coldfield to Birmingham and has established itself as one of the UK’s rising film production companies.
It has expanded to include offices in London and Sheffield and has forged a reputation as one of the world leaders in “disability cinema”. Its first feature film, the award-winning Special People, was released in UK cinemas in 2008 to both critical acclaim and controversy.
104 Films also co-produced the BAFTA nominated biopic of disabled punk rocker Ian Dury, Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, released in UK cinemas in 2010.
Mr Rainbow is already developing his next feature, which he describes as Rear Window for the 21st century, and again is planning to shoot at least part of it in Birmingham.
“This city has a lot to offer, not only in terms of location but support from the business community in helping to get films made,” he said. “Organisations like Film Birmingham are actively working with the business sector to make things happen for the film industry in the city and the region.
“So if you’ve got the right script and production team in place film financing can offer one of the best returns on investment available at this time. So it’s worth considering investing in feature films however small the budget.”
The world premier of NFA will be on Friday June 22 at Cineworld Edinburgh as part of the 66th Edinburgh International Film Festival.