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Seagulls 1

Sheffield Shorts 2020
Documentary // Yorkshire

Interview with director Ben G. Brown

Firstly, tell us about the film and what inspired you to make it?
Our film follows Ruksar, a colour blind paint mixer and ex-prisoner, on a day at work at Seagulls Paint store in Leeds, a social enterprise which promotes the reuse of leftover & unwanted paint to create opportunities for local people. I was inspired to make a film about Seagulls after reading a newspaper article about Ruksar. In the interview Ruksar was so open, charming and full of life, but also had an intensity and urge to help others, as Seagulls Paint store had done for him after leaving prison many years ago. He was such an interesting person with a compelling story to tell.
I had always admired the whole ethos and initiative at Seagulls Paint and recognised a strong bond and community between the people working there. So when they were presented together I rushed to try make a film about them. So the film explores this initiative and the people who work there. But ultimately, for me, the film is about giving people a chance. It’s about giving opportunities to those who may otherwise be marginalised and allowing them to be part of a team, to be part of a family, to learn new skills and to prove to themselves that they can do great things. It’s about the strength of compassion and understanding, rather than ignorance and condemnation. It also shows how important it is to maintain these sorts of social enterprises because many people rely on them. They are lifelines for the volunteers, workers and parts of the communities surrounding them. Without them, many would be lost in a system and become a statistic. So I think it’s essential to try and champion these places and people whenever you can.
Ruksar is an interesting character, what made you decide to focus on his story in particular?
I was instantly drawn to Ruksar. His charm, enthusiasm and warmth really shone through when meeting him prior to filming. He was so open and willing to share with us. His down to earth attitude, good sense of humour and no-nonsense talk was so refreshing, and he was very honest about his past. He doesn’t pretend to be a perfect person and I love that. We’re all a mix of many emotions, made up of many events in our lives and we shouldn’t be defined by the mistakes we’ve made. He is also very curious about life, about people and about trying to help others, so I knew an audience would follow him through the story.
What message would you like audiences to take away from watching the film?
I’d hope that audiences are moved and inspired by Ruksar, his personality and the ethos of Seagulls, perhaps to be persuaded that social enterprises such as these are vital to society and serve as a vital purpose to many. I’d also like to think it might make people stop and question the way they view issues such as mental health and rehabilitation, and to try to empathise with those in such situations and to be willing to listen and understand before passing any judgement. It might also just put a smile on some peoples faces, I don’t know?
Finally, what’re you working on next? Do you have any other projects in the pipeline?
I’ve got a few projects in the pipeline, 2020 hasn’t been the most productive year for obvious reasons, but I’m currently in post-production with a few other short docs. As a filmmaker, I seem to gravitate towards deeply human stories, stories of community, togetherness, humour and hope, so who knows where that’ll lead me? But everyone has a story to tell, so I’m sure I’ll find something.

Follow Ben on Twitter and Instagram

Find out more about Seagulls Paint shop here