BAFTA-winning filmmaker to shine light on Belfast charity Lighthouse
A Bafta-winning film maker has helped put the spotlight on a Belfast charity
Heidi Greensmith turned her camera on Lighthouse to highlight the struggle for funding faced by community groups.
For the award winner it was a big change from filming pop videos for Fatboy Slim, Paul Weller and Reef. Heidi has also picked up the coveted Bafta for a Dispatches documentary.
And she’s admitted that she was so moved by the stories from volunteers in the north Belfast charity which helps people affected by suicide and self-harm she had to take time out to calm herself.
The film maker was asked to film the charity’s work by Aviva, which gave Lighthouse £5,000 last year from its community fund.
Heidi says going behind the doors of the group was life-changing.
“I did have to go and have a bit of a cry,” says Heidi.
“I’m a mother of four children and most of the people I spoke to had lost a child. When you see that person sitting in front of you it’s hard not to be affected by it.”
The movie maker shot the short film, Community, on a camera phone as part of a trilogy of shorts, and says she was welcomed by the volunteers.
Lighthouse was established in 2003 as a response to the high incidence of suicide in North Belfast, but its core funding from statutory and other agencies doesn’t cover the scale of services needed locally.
“Nearly all of the people there have been affected by suicide themselves so they were all incredibly passionate about the work. They all have first-hand experience.
“And the people they help really benefit from it.
“I used a camera phone because you want to be as unobtrusive as possible, but I also wanted it to look beautiful.
“I’m used to working with big cameras and a crew but working on this I felt so free,” says Heidi.
She says it was also a revelation that a relatively small amount of money made such a difference to the charity’s work.
“The people in Lighthouse said they couldn’t believe the difference it made to them, and how much longer it would keep them running.”
Her film is available to view on YouTube and Aviva are encouraging community groups to upload their own films with their funding applications.
Heidi says her work in Belfast was part of an unforgettable year which will also see her first feature film, Winter, released.
She’ll be going from north Belfast to the New York Film Festival when the movie, with Sons of Anarchy actor Tommy Flanagan as a grieving widower, is launched there on April 30.
For Lighthouse founder Jo Murphy Heidi’s film and the insurance company’s funding are a major boost.
“We were delighted when we found out an established film-maker was coming to Lighthouse to tell our story as part of the launch of the Aviva Community Fund. Anyone with a local project should go for it.
“We’ve been with people during some of the saddest times that they’ll ever experience in their life but we’ve also had the privilege of being there when they’ve smiled. Even years later, we bump into people who admit that if they hadn’t had that support at that time they wouldn’t be here. You can’t put a price on that,” she says.