Branagh Mentors Rising Film-makers

BBC News, 4 November 2008

An up-and-coming writer and director says he is delighted to learn he will be mentored by star actor, director and producer Kenneth Branagh. Keri Collins, 30, of Cardiff was one of 25 chosen from 500 applicants for a one-year scheme for emerging UK talent.

"All of the mentors are of that kind of level but some are not as well known as others because Kenneth Branagh is an actor as well," said Mr Collins. Branagh said it was "an important and helpful scheme".

Other famous names taking part in the mentoring scheme include Bourne director Paul Greengrass.

Branagh, now 48, was in his late 20s when he starred in and directed the Oscar-winning "Henry V". His other films include "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein", "Hamlet", and on TV lead roles in "Shackleton", about the Polar explorer, and a forthcoming BBC One series about the Swedish detective Kurt Wallander. Branagh also recently received rave reviews for his performance in Chekhov's "Ivanov" in London's West End.

He said: "I'm really looking forward to working with Keri, and to being part of an important and helpful scheme to assist talented people coming into our industry"

Mr Collins said: "I think a big part of it is the respect he has from everyone in the industry. Everyone knows who he is, and his ability and success, so being with him is huge."

Dressing room

Mr Collins, who studied at the International Film School Wales in Newport, was invited to see the play and meet the actor backstage to discuss how the mentoring would work.

"He kindly gave me and my wife two tickets to see the play and we met him after in his dressing room," said Mr Collins. He was asking me what I was working on and what I hope to get out of the scheme."

Branagh is well known for his film adaptations of Shakespeare, but probably had not come across anything quite like Mr Collins's screenplay: a version of the Bard's "Comedy of Errors" set in Baghdad.

"He's going to read my screenplay and then he's going to meet with me and give me comments and notes on how to improve the script," said Mr Collins.

Mr Collins is also working on other projects including a film comedy which has already attracted interest. "I've got a few different projects. One is in development and the subject of a development offer by BBC London and it's a drama about young carers," he said. "I've also got a big-budget comedy set in heaven that was taken to Cannes by the producer who's secured $20m on paper, but that depends on securing another $20m."

'Fantastic opportunity'

Mr Collins would like to work full time in the film industry but still has a "day job" working on graphic design at the University of Wales Institute Cardiff (Uwic).

The Guiding Lights mentoring scheme, which is in its second year, aims to help develop the skills of aspiring talent in the film industry. Project manager Emily Kyriakides said Mr Branagh and the other film-makers taking part were giving their expertise and time free of charge.

"It's an amazing scheme matching people with proven potential talent with some of our best film-makers," she said. "It's a fantastic opportunity to learn from the best and increase their confidence professionally and creatively."

Branagh was in Wales earlier this year for the world premiere of "Trainspotting"and "28 Days Later" director Danny Boyle's film "Alien Love Triangle". It was the last film shown at La Charrette, a 23-seat former railway carriage in a Swansea back garden, before it closed.

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