Film highlighting child poverty in Leeds hits our screens a year after pandemic threatened to ruin screenwriter Jason Lumsden's six-year project
It is six years since Katie Germaine, Ajay Megson and Alfie Lumsden started filming their debut acting scenes in a film about child poverty in Leeds.
The young actors were given their first roles by writer and producer Jason Lumsden in a project aimed at shining a light on the city's reliance on food books to feed its poorest children.
The project was in danger of being shelved just over a year ago as the pandemic struck just as the final scenes were being put together.
Determined not to let years of work come to nothing, Jason, 49, from Rodley, salvaged the project thanks to some clever editing and camerawork during lockdown to get round the problems of social distancing.
Now on the verge adulthood, Katie, Ajay and Alife saw their efforts come to fruition when @ Rock Bottom when it was released on Amazon Prime on Saturday (May 1)
It is a heart-warming tale about three kids struggling to survive in Leeds and trying to support their parents in the midst of poverty.
The story is seen through the eyes of a radical school headteacher who has the notion of putting kids on work experience to grow their own food and educate them through his pupil referral unit.
The film is set entirely in Leeds with many familiar locations across the city providing a familiar backdrop to the production.
Filming began as long ago as 2015 and the script and characters have evolved with the changing social and political landscape.
Jason is a former director of ACHE - Action For Children Who Need Help in Education.
Discussing the project in December 2019, Jason said his inspiration came from his frustration with the way local government departments tackle issues of child poverty and their attitudes to the most vulnerable youngsters
He said: "I ran the business for ten years and have seen kids literally sleeping on the streets of Leeds.
"The system had let them down badly.
"Mainly for financial reasons, the kids who are at the bottom suffer the most. They get left out. They get left behind."
The amateur cast is made up of youngsters from The Hunslet Club, Red Ladder Theatre Company, Burmantofts Boxing Club and Farsley Film Academy.
The film's head teacher, David Hartill, will be a familiar face to many Leeds United fans, whose day job is an official tour guide at the Elland Road club.
Former Grumbleweeds star Robin Colvill stars as the school gardener and handyman alongside his daughter and first-time actor Janine Lewis.
Leading roles are played by Katie and Ajay.
Jason added: "Covid-19 changed the field of play a bit.
"I had to find a way of getting around the re-shoots and edits, as we were all locked down and the kids were growing that fast.
"My lad Alfie was starting to use my razor and Katie and Ajay were applying for their driving licences!
"Add to this a computer software crisis, a failed hard drive, lost scenes and time ticking away, and it all looked like it was going south.
"As my wife and kids were busy watching Netflix dramas I started to play around and develop my editing skills, and then it just came together.
"We now have 70 minutes split into four episodes filmed over five years."
"I am happy with the outcome as the whole thing was run as a community project where first time actors got to apply their skills in a documentary style format which engaged homeless people, including ex soldiers who were sleeping on the streets of Leeds.
"However, the real credit goes to the cast and brilliant commitment and performances from Katie, Ajay and Alfie.
"Whilst I am to the film industry what Farsley Celtic are to football, the Kids At Rock Bottom actors put on Premiere League performances which are both believable and entertaining but more importantly now showing on Amazon Prime globally alongside some of the biggest stars in the industry. "
Jason's first film, Boy Called Bremner, was premiered at Vue Cinema in 2014
The plot follows the life of 17-year-old Bremner in his desperate bid to impress his Leeds-United obsessed father by making a better life for his baby daughter.
The film is also available on Amazon Prime.