Two Southwark teenage boys have turned their back on a life of crime and are pursuing a career in the film industry instead.
Jordan and Karl, aged fifteen and sixteen, have written a script for a short film called The Escape Plan, about two aspiring rappers who commit a robbery to avoid getting evicted – but are then given a recording contract, and are worried about losing everything they have worked so hard for because of their criminal activities.
‘Write what you know’ is advice commonly given to aspiring writers, and The Escape Plan’s subject matter may be not too distantly related to some of Jordan and Karl’s own previous experiences.
Karl, who lives in the area around the Aylesbury Estate, was referred to Roadworks Media, the company that is producing the film, after being released from a young offenders centre last year. Jordan, who is from Bermondsey, was also referred to Roadworks after being charged. Both said they had been involved with “numerous” things, without going into more detail.
Now they have written this script, which Roadworks is making into a 20-30 minute film with support from Theatre Peckham. Casting is currently underway, and producers hope to start a two-week shoot in mid-August, finishing on August 26. All being well, the film will be screened first at Theatre Peckham on September 30, and will be then be shown around Southwark.
Discussing the script, Jordan said: “It was important to show the two different paths, sometimes people are more serious, like they just want to get out of the hood, but some people just like it. I sort of wanted to show how it played out.”
Karl added: “What I wanted to show was – there’s always room and there’s always time to change your ways. It don’t matter how old you are, it don’t matter what stage or position you’re in. Like, from experience – I’ve been through some stuff and I’ve been able to change my ways. I just wanted to show other children that are disadvantaged, to show them that there’s hope out there.”
Roadworks is run by Quince Garcia, a Camberwell man who himself managed to escape a life of crime – punctuated by spells in prison. He said his experiences helped him work with children and young people who are having a similarly difficult time. Roadworks also does projects with podcasts, creative writing, photography and other creative activities.
Quince said: “This is what helped me start it up, for me I saw the power of being creative, coming up with ideas, to empower you to think more broader than what is going on in the streets. I asked ‘what sort of support would I have wanted?’
He added that he is “able to share [his] story with young individuals, get them to relate to me.
“As much as stuff is going on in the streets, a lot of the time there are issues going on at home. Those are the things that I can help young people navigate. Then it becomes a juggling act that those young people are managing, dropping every item… It’s my way of saying – look I get it.”
Discussing the film, Quince said: “Really, in effect, what we’re hoping is that it will help to reduce crime, deter some young people away from gangs and violence. It provides an opportunity for marginalised young people to take part in a creative activity.”
Karl and Jordan are interested in carrying on making films after The Escape Plan ends, but also have other strings to their bow.
Karl said: “I’ve got a lot going on for me. I ain’t just focusing on movies, I’m focusing on music, I’m focusing on college right now.
“For me, I look at stuff really different. Like right now I know by the time I’m 20 I’ve got multiple sources of income, you get me.”
“I want to be the person that shows people like me or black youth in the community that anything is possible. Yeah obviously because man went jail and school wasn’t that great for me, but there’s still hope out there.”
Jordan is also a musician, going by the name Loomz. He said: “It’s important to say it’s not drill.” Drill is a kind of music that some, like police and politicians, have linked with gang activity and stabbings because of lyrics that often discuss violence.
Others, including some people in the industry, have argued against that, saying that the music is a reflection of artists’ circumstances, rather than encouraging violence. Jordan said his music was “more lyrical” than drill.
Quince was full of praise for his two young charges, describing Jordan as “a real shining light to youngsters” with “really good ethics”.
Jordan has had previous dealings in Peckham, which, according to Quince, means he is putting himself at risk even taking part in the film production there. Quince and other members of the production team meet Jordan at the station to avoid anyone attacking him.
“Jordan has shown a lot of dedication, putting himself out and travelling into areas where he is putting himself at risk,” Quince said.
Meanwhile Karl has overcome lots of challenges, Quince said and is “still being challenged today.”
He said: “He’s fallen off but he’s got back on. He remains committed, he’s resilient.”
Filming is starting in under two weeks, and the production team are still looking to fill some roles in the cast. If you are interested, or know a young person who might be, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.