Working together to create a powerful Media Trust Films project

Posted 15 November 2023

Dean Moore is an award-winning director who has worked with impressive commercial clients, ranging from Adidas to Virgin. He volunteered on our Media Trust Films programme and was paired with Synergy Theatre Project, a charity that uses theatre to transform the lives of current and former prisoners and people at risk of offending. Dean worked with Esther, Artistic Director of the charity, to create a powerful one-take film.

Growing up in a working-class family in the Midlands, the idea of becoming a director was far from Dean Moore’s mind. After a twist of fate led him to a media production course, he fell in love with filmmaking, going on to gain an MA and start working as a director. He has worked all over the world across a range of commercial campaigns and documentary films for the likes of Adidas, BMW, Budweiser, Formula 1, IOC, LEGO, NBA, Miller, Timberland and Virgin. Dean’s work in the media industry has been recognised by the Clio Awards, Pharma Lions, AICP Next Award, The Drum Awards, and Creative Circle Awards. 

Synergy Theatre Project, based in South London, creates ground-breaking theatre pieces, including touring productions, training, role-play and workshops, with prisoners, ex-prisoners, young offenders, and young people at risk of offending. The charity gives them a voice and builds up their resilience, whilst influencing the arts and criminal justice sectors to make positive changes. Their patron is playwright and director Martin McDonagh.

Why take part in Media Trust Films? 

Synergy Theatre Project came to their Media Trust Films project through their funders, City Bridge Foundation. They wanted a film to capture to promote the creative courses they run for prisoners and ex-prisoners, and the impact those courses have. The film was designed to help recruit new participants, create new partnerships and attract funding.

Originally, we wanted a traditional film, with footage of the projects and interviews with participants talking about the impact of the work on their lives. However, working with the Media Trust Films and Dean Moore resulted in a much more creative and interesting film which captured the impact of our work with more artistic quality.

Esther, Synergy Theatre Project

The programme gave Dean almost complete creative freedom to showcase Synergy Theatre Project’s work to a broader audience, 100% unfiltered and unique. Dean suggested a single continuous shot, with a multi-character story set in a theatre. This approach was not just eye-catching but also on-brand for the organisation. 

Throughout the project, Dean worked closely with actors one-to-one, focusing on performance, dialogue, and emotion. On a personal level, he learned the value of second chances and the importance of making the arts accessible to everyone.

I learned that people who are given second chances can do amazing things and should have that option. Arts should be afforded to everyone, not just the privileged few.

Dean Moore

The filmmaking processes 

Dean and Esther’s collaboration involved plenty of lively discussions and sharing ideas. Esther liked Dean’s ambitious idea of a one-take film with a story passed from character to character. From there, it was just a case of finding the cast, theatre and crew.

Esther believed that the project needed a skilled writer; Natalie Mitchell spent a session hearing ex-prisoners’ stories and blending them into the script to create an authentic story. Esther brought several ex-prisoners into the project, with some cast in the film and others taking on assistant crew roles. 

The Royal Court Theatre was the ideal backdrop for their project. Filming day was both fun and challenging, especially with the one-take format, but the ex-prisoners got invaluable experience and fair income for their time and efforts.

The impact 

There was a positive response to the film release, and it quickly gathered awards: three prestigious Creative Circle Awards 2023, including Best Direction and Best Casting, plus it was longlisted at Cannes Lions 2023. Esther and an ex-prisoner were even invited to speak on a panel at the UK Creative Festival. 

I think I was very fortunate to be paired with Synergy; it was clearly meant to be.

Dean Moore

Together, Dean and Esther crafted a short, striking story that served as a powerful introduction to this charity and its work in the criminal justice system. Using theatre to rehabilitate and support offenders definitely highlights the power of the arts to kickstart change.

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