How Media Trust Films let us create an award-winning story of acceptance and empowerment

Posted 5 April 2023

Action for Stammering Children took part in our Media Trust Films Programme and produced the award-winning ‘Me & My Stammer’, alongside their Volunteer Director Simon Matthews - a delightful story of hope and empowerment, which showcased an important message and their vital work.

Action for Stammering Children (ASC) are the national charity for children and young people who stammer, their families, and the communities who support them. They provide advice and information, champion research, and campaign for policy and societal change. 

As a beneficiary City Bridge Trust, ASC was eligible to take part in Media Trust Films – our innovative, award-winning programme that matches up great skills with great causes. We work with volunteer directors, producers and more, to produce powerful, engaging short films that demonstrate important causes of charities involved. And this is exactly what ASC needed! 

Connor Tregunna (Digital Communications and Project Coordinator at ASC) was able to jump right into the training workshops that are run as part of the programme, which he found thoroughly “enjoyable and informative”. These sessions cover a range of topics, which included looking at examples of other volunteer films, how to build a narrative arch, establishing different shots to tell our story and how to promote and publish the film once it was finished.  

The team went to their Youth Panel (a group of young people who stammer, who advocate for greater understanding and acceptance of stammering in society) to find out what themes they’d like explored in the film – boiling it down to one simple, powerful message: “If someone has a problem with my stammer, it’s their problem – not mine.”  

My vision when pitching our film was that it needed to be hopeful and fun, but with a serious message. I think the end product hit that target completely.

ASC logo Connor

With support from our Media Trust and our Creative Directors, ASC began to construct their narrative and the structure of the film – which was also an opportunity for Connor to get creative and learn new skills that he’d take with him throughout his career. From the very first draft, he wanted this film to feel hopeful. As a person who has stammered his whole life, he also wanted to stray away from a narrative that made stammering seem like a constant feeling of suffering, stating that, “Granted, having a stammer is tough – but the message here is one of acceptance and learning to embrace our diversities.” 

Then ASC was paired with their director, the talented Simon Matthews. Simon brought a wealth of experience, creativity and ideas to the project and “was so much fun to work with”. What’s more, Simon also brought with him a lived experience of stammering.

Elliott and Ed together on set of 'Me & My Stammer'

Elliott and Ed together on set of 'Me & My Stammer'

“We really couldn’t have asked for a better match”, says Connor, I found it particularly special that Simon catered to our wish of having ‘the stammer’ character represented by a real person. This was quite a challenge and presented hurdles for Simon, but ultimately, through his connections we managed to get the brilliant actor and comic Ed MacArthur who was the perfect fit for the role.

I’m grateful to Simon for going above and beyond with the concept.

ASC logo Connor

Through ongoing collaboration, they built the film script, booked the talent and began to prepare for filming. The day they shot ‘Me & My Stammer’ was quite possibly the hottest day of 2022, and to make matters just a little more complicated – the council had decided they would carry out incredibly noisy construction work right outside the primary filming location!  

This was the first experience of acting for Elliott Hall, the young star of the film. Connor discovered Elliott after his mother, Natalie, sent Action for Stammering Children a tweet to show them the videos her son had been making on TikTok to raise awareness of stammering. When this opportunity arose, Connor knew he had to try and get Elliott on board and, to his delight, he and his family accepted! 

Once the film was completed, ASC held a private event for stakeholders and friends of the charity at the Prince Charles Theatre in Leicester Square, so they could see the film early, followed by a Q&A with Elliott and Ed Balls (who stars in the film!). This event proved to be remarkably successful. It was an opportunity for the charity, particularly after the pandemic, to bring everyone together and in one room to show them what they’ve have been working on.

Elliott and Ed Balls

Elliott and Ed

This event was a highlight of 2022 for us, and it would not have been possible without the Media Trust Films programme.

ASC logo Connor

The film was publicly released on International Stammering Awareness Day – a perfect way to celebrate the day! 

ASC received a great deal of positive feedback from this film. Elliott, a young person who stammers, has created a positive wave of representation for young people who stammer that feels fresh and new, as the focus of our film was about acceptance of one’s stammering, told through loveable characters. 

They’ve seen first-hand the impact Me & My Stammer has had already, and the future impact to come as schools use the film as an awareness raising resource.

The message of this film has been particularly important because of the feedback we’ve received from Speech and Language Therapists across the nation who have been able to share it with the children they work with and their families, further pushing the messaging of acceptance and learning to love one's stammer.

ASC logo Connor

Of course, the film has also had a significant impact on the brilliant Elliott. As a result of the film, he has grown in confidence and been able to access media opportunities, including an appearance on BBC Radio Wiltshire. This is particularly exciting since he has stated that his dream is to be a radio host!

Elliott being interviewed at BBC Radio Wiltshire

Elliott at BBC Radio Wiltshire

In March, the film won the People’s Choice Award in the ‘Between £350,000 and £1M’ category at Smiley Charity Film Awards and was featured on Good Morning Britain and in The Express. In addition, ASC’s social media and newsletter following has noticeably increased.

Elliott, Connor and our Volunteer Team at the Smiley Charity Film Awards

Elliott, Connor and some of our Media Trust Team at the Smiley Charity Film Awards

It means more people, particularly parents and guardians, are discovering our work and the ways in which we can support them and their children.

ASC logo Connor

 Connor has a message for directors considering giving their time for the programme

“You have a unique and special set of skills. Being able to gift these to a charity is admirable and very appreciated by not only the charities themselves, but those they support.

In our case, we ended up getting nominated for what is the biggest award a charity film can get – so the chance at having that under your belt is great too. It is also a chance to learn about the charity you are working with and to enter a world that might not be familiar to you initially.

A charity film exists to do good, raise awareness and drive positive change. You really cannot go wrong!”

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