A DREAM has come true for Chiddingfold resident Guy Thompson after a film he worked on was officially nominated last week for an Oscar in the best short documentary category at this year’s awards.
The nominations for the 91st Academy Awards on February 25 were announced by Kumail Nanjiani and Tracee Ellis Ross last Tuesday morning from the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in Beverly Hills, California, in an announcement that was live streamed globally.
Guy, who grew up in Chiddingfold and attended Grayswood school and St Bart’s, was art director of Black Sheep, a film directed by Ed Perkins and produced by Simon and Jonathan Chinn.
The documentary will be up against four other contenders End Game, Lifeboat, A Night at the Garden and Period. End of Sentence.
The 27-minute film explores questions about ethnicity and identity and the compromises people make to fit in. It won the best short documentary award at the Sheffield Documentary Film Festival in June.
Guy, who started at the bottom of the film industry making teas, has spent ten years working his way up to head of department making music videos and commercials. He is currently making short films and pilots and hopes to move into feature films.
He’s now booking his tickets for Hollywood and will be at the ceremony hoping Black Sheep is a winner. Even if it doesn’t get an Oscar, being nominated and being able to network with Hollywood’s movers and shakers will be a huge boost to his career – quite apart from all the red carpet excitement on the night.
“I’m thrilled Black Sheep is in the official selection,” Guy said.
“I’ll definitely be making the most of it.
“To be going to the actual ceremony is just crazy. It’s been a whirlwind.
“Everyone in the family is so pleased and I’ve already been signed up by Camelsdale Primary School, where my nieces Tansy and Elodie Martin go, to give a talk about it.
“It’s obviously a dream come true to be considered among the best films in the world and have your work recognised in this way.
“I really hope this can be a stepping stone to the world of feature films for me.
“Because we were dramatising a real and very sensitive story I had to be extra diligent when creating the right environment.
“I was very careful to consult on the types of things Cornelius had in the year 2000 in his house and bedroom and even on his person such as the posters on his walls or his personal stereo. Alongside this, me and my team did extensive research into the area and the community at that time to get an accurate representation of the place. Being a docu-drama there is a fine balance between aesthetic and authenticity.
“We made the film in Chadwell St Mary, a small town near Tilbury, in the exact same area where the story took place almost 20 years ago.
“The background cast that we used were kids from the local area, and it was a real honour to be able to speak to these guys and explain what we were doing and engage with them.
“Most of them had no idea that you could actually work in the film industry or how to get into it. They particularly liked my foam bricks and sugar glass bottles which they all wanted to play with. It was really rewarding to see how far the area had come in terms of diversity since the story that we were telling took place.
“It was a fun job for props, I particularly enjoyed using the smoke and mist maker which we used for the last scene in a big open field, and the sugar glass bottles and foam bricks always attract a lot of attention.”
Directed by Ed Perkins, Black Sheep follows the story of Cornelius Walker after the murder of 11-year-old schoolboy Damilola Taylor in November 2000. Cornelius, also aged 11 and with Nigerian parents, lived nearby. His mother, fearing for Cornelius’ safety, moved the family out of London to a housing estate in Essex. Walker suddenly found himself living on a white estate among racists. He confronted a gang of local racists and, after first fighting back, went to extraordinary lengths to fit in and gain their friendship.
The film features interviews with Walker looking back 15 years on from the events he describes, which are re-enacted with Kai Francis Lewis playing Walker. Responding to the nomination, Walker said: “I’m humbled and proud. I worked on this film to tell my story and hoped that it would resonate with people.”