Search

Owain Astles

Filmmaker | Actor | Activist

Terror and Trepidation; Delivering a TEDx Talk

The 1st June 2018 was one of the most important nights of my life (so far). I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to deliver a TEDx talk in none other than my favourite city, Bristol. Although this may not have been the biggest event in the world, it felt to me like all the work I’d been doing over the last few years in filmmaking and activism, right from Sleeping Rough in Bristol, the 5 minute documentary I made almost on a whim one Saturday, had been leading up to this point.

One thing I learnt through the process of preparing the talk was that TEDx talks mean different things to different people. For some people, it’s the opportunity to share an innovative idea or invention. For some, it’s a career opportunity, the springboard off which they’ll catapult all their future projects. For some, it’s the chance to tell their own personal story. For me, it was the opportunity to share a simple message, the message I’d been working to spread for most of my short career.

I would find it difficult to recall more than a handful of experiences in my life that were scarier to me than going into that talk. I’ve performed in front of larger audiences, I’ve been in much more dangerous situations, but stepping out on that stage still brought with it that deep knot of excitement mixed with utter terror deep in the diaphragm that only a few experiences in life can incite. I’ve delivered a number of talks, Q&As and panels on homelessness, filmmaking, and my experiences making Sleeping Rough, but these have always been very different. In these circumstances, I always felt more casual, more at ease; my words would be much more improvised and spontaneous, and the topics covered would adapt to the audience and the atmosphere. I always felt comfortable in these situations because I had the experience and depth of knowledge to be able to talk legitimately and coherently about those topics. But such was not the case on the 1st of June.

TEDx Team Photo

Preparing a TEDx talk, I came to realise, is much more like preparing for a theatre performance, but one in which you’re the playwright, the director and the actor. You prepare your ‘script’ well in advance, going through multiple drafts before you end up with one you feel vaguely comfortable with. You rehearse, in small groups, getting feedback on your ‘performance’ and the script itself. Finally, you go out onstage in front of the blinding lights and you have one shot to make a lasting impact in the minds and hearts of your audience. Going through the process, I felt that constant anxiety and trepidation that I used to feel when performing in the theatre as an actor, but there was something altogether more terrifying about this experience. As an actor, when you appear in front of an audience, you’re playing a character and channelling all your emotion through the mask of this fictional persona. Delivering a TEDx talk, rather than baring a character to the world, you’re baring yourself.

I have to say, I doubt that I would have even been able to turn up on the day had it not been for the supportive community that the TEDx team created. The speakers, organisers and mentors were some of the most fascinating, friendly, reassuring people I’ve ever met, and I feel privileged to have been a part of the whole event. I don’t want to say too much about the content of the talk itself, for fear of taking away from the video once it’s published, but in the meantime I’d just like to share a very short clip from Sleeping Rough that formed the core of the message I endeavoured to deliver. Until the next time.

 

How Is It April Already?

2018 has been a terrifyingly fast-moving year, but it’s also been an exciting one.

Sleeping Rough is getting nearer and nearer to completion, and we’ve had a spate of small screenings, with more coming up. Back in February we had our screening at the Watershed followed by a Q&A as part of Homelessness Awareness Week, and while the week was hampered slightly by the ‘Beast from the East’, we pushed ahead with the screening and were humbled by the response we had from the audience. Below are a few photos ts from the event (you can see the full gallery here). We’ve also got screenings coming up this month at the Salvation Army’s Logos House and with Hopeful Traders, and we’ll be posting updates of those over on our Facebook and Twitter pages, as well as the website.

What else has happened? My job in Barcelona finished; it was sad to leave, but I had a really fun 5 months, learning things I didn’t even know I needed to learn, and meeting so many amazing people. While in Barcelona, I also connected with Mind The Cut, a creative online platform and I was lucky enough to be interviewed; you can read the interview here.

It was great to visit my old school a few weeks back as part of Careers Day; returning was very surreal, but it’s always rewarding to work with young people and hopefully inspire future filmmakers.

Talking of future filmmakers, Olamiposi Ayorinde, a film student from Bristol, has started Cxption, a magazine for young and exciting creatives and I was lucky enough to be interviewed for the magazine. You can follow Posi on Instagram for updates.

Cxption interview

Finally, what’s planned for the rest of 2018? I’ve got a few things in the works, some that need to kept under wraps for now, but one thing I’m really excited about is that this June, I’ll be delivering a TEDx talk in Bristol. Details of this will be released soon, but in the meantime, stay tuned, and stay safe. ✌️

Casa Asia

 

Homelessness Awareness Week 2018

It’s an exciting week. As we say goodbye to Winter and march into Spring, partner organisations across Bristol open their doors to encourage people to think about the community we live in, look out for family and friends and scoop people up before they fall. Bristol Homelessness Awareness Week (February 24- 3 March) aims to raise awareness of homelessness, those at risk of becoming homeless and the issues people face when rough sleeping highlighting the long process of recovery. The week is packed full of exhibitions, screenings and workshops all designed to educate about homelessness in Bristol, and how we can make a positive change in our community. Read on to find out more.

What’s going on?

There’ll be a range of activities going on throughout the week; of course for myself, the main event of the week will be our private preview of my first feature film, Sleeping Rough, at the Watershed, however there are many more events going on throughout the week. We kick off with two exhibitions at The Vestibules, City Hall. Art4Change will be in The Park Street Vestibule and is a project aimed at giving disadvantaged sections of the community the opportunity to gain self-confidence, transferable skills and to feel valued.

Homeless People’ is an exhibition held in the Deanery Road Vestibule and uses art to delve beyond the ‘homeless’ label, in order to capture the diversity and individuality of the people behind the percentages. This exhibition has been put together by The Bristol Pathway and features artwork from residents and former residents of the Salvation Army and Second Step.

Later on Monday evening from 6pm at the Watershed, there will be a live performance of forum theatre. This show has been devised by young people who have experience of homelessness and mental ill-health and is based on their own real life stories. The performance will be followed by our very own Sleeping Rough, a community-based film raising awareness of street homelessness in the UK, produced in collaboration with Cardboard Citizens and The Big Issue Foundation.

The evening closes with a Q&A panel, which I’ll be involved in, and where we’ll hope to address some of the issues raised in the film and the performance.

On Bristol Homeless Forum’s website, you’ll find information about all these events; if you can make it to any, great, if not, please encourage others to do so!

How can I help?

Aside from coming to the events, we need to raise awareness as much as possible and, as always, social media is the way to do that. We’ve created a short promo video for the week, featuring members of the homeless community in Bristol and some of the work done by Art4Change. This video is intended to promote the week, so please do share it around, along with the hashtag #HomelessBristol.

The link to the Facebook video, which can be shared directly, is here: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1468390809938843&id=663322627112336
And finally the YouTube link, for any internal comms, is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCK57h0q8uU
Homelessness is our problem. We can change that. #HomelessBristol

Sleeping Rough – Our First Review!

More exciting Sleeping Rough news!

So we had our first Bristol screening of Sleeping Rough last week! It might have still been a private screening, but every time we put it on the big screen in front of an audience, no matter how big that audience is, it feels like a huge event; and it is! This film has been two years in the making, and while we’re far from done with the whole process, it’s still huge for us whenever we’re exposing ourselves to people in this way. As a result of that screening, we’ve had our first Sleeping Rough review!

Feedback so far has been fantastic, and perhaps most importantly, it’s provoking reactions. People are talking about it. During the private screening, there were points in the film when people had very audible reactions to some of the events happening onscreen. Sleeping Rough might not be a comfortable watch, but it was never meant to be, and while we want people to like the film, what is most important for us is that: A) It’s true to life, and we’re doing justice to all the stories people shared with us and B) that it provokes a reaction; that after leaving the cinema, people talk about it, and hopefully learn something from it as well.

Audience
Cast and crew at our private Bristol screening
Owain
Owain speaking at our private Bristol screening

Our first review!

Gabi Spiro from Epigram wrote a lovely review of the film after the screening last week. It’s our first review, so pretty scary, but it contains some very positive words, so we’re happy! Give it a read here. It’s an exciting time to have our first review, as tickets for our first public screening are going on sale very soon. For Homeless Awareness Week, we’re going to be screening at the Watershed cinema in Bristol, along with a forum theatre performance from Cardboard Citizens. This will be followed by a Q+A, featuring Owain, the film’s director, along with a panel of homeless experts. After working so closely with Cardboard Citizens on Sleeping Rough, and after all the support they’ve given us, we’re really excited to be presenting with them for an evening which we hope will cause ripples in the Bristol community. We’re also working on a promo video for the week with Art4Change, which will be released in February, so keep your eyes open for this!

BBC Radio Bristol Interview
Sleeping Rough director Owain with BBC’s Ali Vowles

 

Sleeping Rough director Owain also recently went on BBC Radio Bristol with Ali Vowles.  They chatted about Sleeping Rough, the process behind the film and the change we hope we can make with it. You can listen to the interview right here (just skip through to 2:08 for the beginning of the interview!).

For more news about screenings, and where we’re at with the film, make sure to head over to the Sleeping Rough project page and scroll down to ‘Screenings & Events’. Stay tuned!

Mumpsimus and Halcyon Discord

Last Summer, I was really lucky to star in this fantastic short film for Channel 4’s Random Acts, by first-time filmmaker Rolf Klein. The film is about Rolf’s personal experiences of homelessness and mental health issues, and aims to challenge media perceptions. I haven’t acted in a long time, but when I saw this opportunity come up, with my background in homelessness and mental health issues, I just had to apply, and I’m so glad I did; it was a great experience to be a part of, Rolf is clearly really talented and the whole team did an amazing job. Plus I got to grow out a sick beard. Make sure you give it a watch!

New Year, Same Me

It’s 2018 now so it feels like a good time to write an update on what’s going on with my life, Sleeping Rough, Pastles, and a few recent memories.

It’s been one of my busiest ever Christmases (it seems like they get busier every year), both in personal and professional life. I was on a plane I think seven times throughout December, flying to and from different events and my job in Barcelona, and the whole month merged into a blur of old and new mates, different languages, handshakes and coffees, and constant editing.

Hardest Fight laurel still.jpg

It’s looking to be an exciting 2018 for my company, Pastles Productions; we’ve just partnered with Bristol Works, to provide employment opportunities and careers advice to young and disadvantaged people around Bristol, which is extremely exciting; representing disadvantaged communities and offering young people a step up into the industry have always been right at the core of what we do, and I feel privileged to be able to take on this responsibility. We also screened The Hardest Fight at Exeter Phoenix’s Two Short Nights Film Festival at the beginning of December, and have more festival screenings coming up next year.

Insta Bristol Works

A video we did with Off The Record Bristol has just launched (and you can watch it below!). We had such a great time working with on this video, and it’s exactly the kind of work Pastles is all about; OTR are a mental health social movement by and for young people in Bristol, and they have one of the most welcoming and friendly teams we’ve ever worked with; we had an absolute blast making this one, and would love for you guys to give it a watch.

Finally, I can’t disclose too much on this just yet, but we have a very exciting short in the works, shining a light on an issue that most people wouldn’t believe still exists; modern slavery. We’re going to be working with the Salvation Army and some other organisations (like I said, I can’t disclose too much) on this, so keep your eyes peeled.

In December, I visited London to see some old friends, and I was lucky enough to be invited to Festival Formula‘s Christmas Party, where I got the chance to meet so many talented people working in the film industry (this is always a bittersweet experience; it’s inspiring to hear about the amazing work people are doing and to connect with them, but it does remind you just how saturated the industry is, and how difficult it is to stand out; it was also bittersweet because my beloved Man United lost to Man City the night before).

Festival Formula Xmas Party.jpg

Now, what about Sleeping Rough? My god, two years on and this film is still taking over my life. In December I had to go through hours and hours of interviews, cutting out snippets and working them into the film, and tweaking the edit ready for our cast and crew screenings this month. It’s been such a slog, but it really is what I love doing, and I’m so lucky to actually work doing what I love. Like I said, we’ve got cast and crew screenings this month in London and Bristol, and we’re going to have updates coming from those events, so stay tuned. I was also really lucky to be invited to talk on BCFm, Bristol’s regional radio show, about Sleeping Rough and homelessness in Bristol and around the UK. You can hear the episode here (it’s the 09:00 episode, 04/01/2018).

BCFm.jpg

We also can’t wait until Bristol Homeless Awareness Week; we’ve been working closely with Bristol Homeless Forum on organising events for the week, and how to raise awareness of all the events that will be going on. It’ll also be our first ever public screening of Sleeping Rough, and we really do hope that we’ll be able to connect with the local community and inspire people to get involved and do what they can to help. You can keep up to date with the week right here: www.bristolhf.org.uk/home-page/upcoming-events.

If you’ve got this far in the post, I’d also be honoured if you’d take a look at the new website launched by Bristol Homeless Connect: www.bristolhomelessconnect.com. We’ve been lucky enough to see this in various stages of development, and if you want to help alleviate homelessness in Bristol, or if you might be at risk of homelessness yourself, this website is the place to start.

Catherine Poster.png

Finally, 2017 ended on a high note, when me and my mates went down to Cornwall for New Year’s Eve. There was no better place to end the year than by the beach, drowsy from too many beers, and surrounded by my best mates.

Happy 2018 everyone; I’m excited for a fresh year, and whatever 2017 threw at you, you made it this far, so I hope you’re excited too.

 

 

Big Sleep Out 2017

23845795_10155052954562344_5872408524384497218_o

Last week, we had our first preview for Sleeping Rough at The Big Issue Foundation’s Big Sleep Out at the Oval, London. The film got an amazing reception, and I was stunned by the positive feedback from both members of the public and Big Issue vendors, who had first-hand experience of some of the events we were depicting. I have to say a massive thank you to the team at the Big Issue Foundation for putting on such a momentous event, and of course our post-production team for pulling it out of the bag and making sure the film was ready in time for the screening.

Throughout the night, we did a series of live streams featuring interviews, speeches and performances from the event. You can take a look at a compilation of all our live videos here:

Stay tuned for more news about the film!

Sleeping Rough – One Year On

Incredibly, it’s exactly a year since we first published our Kickstarter for Sleeping Rough…

 

We’ve come a really long way since then, and it’s entirely thanks to all the support we’ve had throughout the process; from charities, organisations and above all, from you guys, our backers and all the individuals who’ve pushed us to get to where we are now.

So where are we now? Well, the film’s actually finished! It was definitely not an easy process, we’ve had a lot of setbacks along the way, but by pushing through, we did get there. Since successfully reaching our target last year, we held auditions right at the beginning of the year (a special thank you goes to Michael Chandler and Cardboard Citizens), and managed to find our extremely talented cast, including Elle Payne, Nolan Willis, Megan Prescott, David Olapoju, Hayley Wareham and so many others. The cast really are the very core of the film; we put them in some very tough situations, emotionally and physically, and they had to deal with some harrowing storylines and scenes, but I was constantly amazed by the commitment, bravery, and above all, humanity each of our actors brought to the film. Many of the actors involved had lived out experiences just like the ones they were portraying, so for them to relive them in front of the camera, and with such conviction, is something I can never thank them enough for.

 

We filmed throughout Easter, in a gruelling process involving long commutes within London and Bristol (a special shout out goes to Fergus, who had the unfortunate duty of driving the van, but never once complained), scary moments dealing with members of the public, reshoots, postponements and SO MUCH COFFEE. Once we’d finally shot the final scene, on a busy Whiteladies Road in Bristol, it was pretty weird to actually have the film in the can, after several weeks of filming all day long, and I have to admit a pretty sad experience, after working so closely with all the cast and crew. A mention really does have to go to our crew on the shoot as well, for sticking with the film throughout the whole process; not only did they ensure that the film got done, and to such a high quality, but most of all they brought a warm, comfortable atmosphere to the set, something so important, especially when making a film like this.

Then, we got into editing; always a slog to get through, our incredible post-production team, including Kelsey, Rupert, Rich and Darren have been amazing, putting in countless hours and sifting through terabytes of footage to piece together something that’s moving, and powerful, but above all truthful. Sitting in front of a computer in a dark room for hours on end can be a frustrating and lonely process, but I can’t fault our team for what they’ve done.

 

And now, in just two days, we have our first preview! We’re going to be screening a short section of the film of the film to a massive audience at the Big Issue’s Big Sleep Out this Friday, at The Oval in London. It’s pretty terrifying to be putting the film (or at least part of it) in front of a wide audience for the first time, but it’ll the beginning of the most important part of the entire process; getting the message out to people, telling the stories we’ve heard and raising awareness of the state of homelessness in the UK, and what people can do to help. Keep an eye out, as we’ll be bringing you live updates of the night over on our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/sleepingroughfilm. We also have to thank Justine Tatt over at the Big Issue Foundation for allowing us to screen the film, and for organising such a momentous event.

After the Sleep Out, we’ll begin with our submissions to film festivals, and also organising our tour to schools and colleges, aiming not only to raise awareness of homelessness as it is now, but also how easy it can be to become homeless yourself, and how to be aware of the warning signs. The 16-25 demographic of those becoming homeless is one of the fastest rising at the moment, and hopefully by raising awareness of the warning signs of homelessness, and how to avoid, fewer young people will end up sofa surfing, staying in hostels or temporary accommodation, or even sleeping on the streets.

We also have some exciting news for next year! We’re working with Bristol City Council and Bristol Homeless Forum in organising Homelessness Awareness Week 2018, taking place from the 24th February to 3rd March; during the week, we’ll be holding a special screening of Sleeping Rough at the Watershed Cinema, accompanied by other short films tackling the issue of homelessness. There’ll be activities throughout the week, aiming to raise awareness of homelessness in Bristol, what services there are available, and how people can get involved. For more info and updates on the week, go to: www.bristolhf.org.uk, and we’ll also be posting updates on our website: www.pastlesproductions.com/sleeping-rough-the-story.

 

Finally, I’d just like to thank once again everyone that’s carried us through this process; like I said, it hasn’t been easy, we’ve lost a lot of sleep, weight and sanity over the year, but we’re so glad we decided to take on this film. The response has been monumental, we’ve had feedback from people, not just in the UK, but from all over the world, and we really do hope that we can make a difference, by representing the stories of people that have experienced life on the streets, and working towards a world in which no one is forced into homelessness. Thank you to all the people we’ve interviewed, for sharing your stories with us, and for being so truthful and honest. Thank you to all the charity leaders and shelter workers out there who supported us, allowed us into their worlds and who are already doing such an incredible job of trying to make the world a bit safer. Finally, thank you to all you guys, for listening to us and making the project what it is today. Stay tuned.

sleeping rough.jpg

The Hardest Fight – tickets available now

Not every battle is fought in the ring.

Tickets for The Hardest Fight, my Exeter Phoenix-commissioned short film on mental health in boxing, are available now at the following link: http://www.twoshortnights.com/fri-1-dec-1/

It’s been a tricky shoot, but the campaign is ongoing, and we’d like to thank all the people who’ve supported us, especially at Exeter Phoenix and Empire Fighting Chance.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑