Student uses his experience of homelessness

Martin Read, documentary film

A Documentary Film student used his own experience of being homeless to make his debut television programme aired on the BBC.

Martin Read made the documentary entitled ‘Where am I sleeping tonight?’.

The hour-long programme takes viewers onto the streets and into the real lives of the young homeless in Bristol and London.

Describing how his experience spurred him on to make the programme, Martin said: “in 2012 I found myself homeless on the streets of London – sofa surfing, riding buses, sitting in 24-hour MacDonald’s – anything to avoid being out in the cold.

“I’d been pitching ideas for TV programmes but getting nowhere, so I ran away to Stockholm which wasn’t much better – I’d just swapped an English sofa for a Swedish one!

“Then I received a Facebook message from Drummer Television in January 2013, telling me that the BBC were looking for ideas on homelessness and that I should give it one last shot at making it in TV.

“So I came back, found a place to stay thanks to a homeless charity, and spent my time meeting characters and finding stories.  I submitted a treatment and pilot, and received a reply a few months later saying my film hadn’t been chosen and that I should keep trying.

“My next move was to apply to university, and I started at the USW film school to train in documentary and (hopefully) change my life! Then, in my third week of university, I got a call inviting me to re-pitch my idea. I went to London for a meeting and secured £2,000 to make another pilot. I made this with the help and support of my lecturers over Christmas 2014 in Bristol.

“Again, I heard nothing until May 2014 when I was told the idea had been commissioned and filming would start within a month. I actually shed a tear. My course tutors were brilliant and gave me lots of valuable advice.

“Having not really worked in TV for five years, I was so scared that I didn’t have the skills to pull this off, but within six weeks of filming my searching and volunteering paid off; the characters flowed, my confidence, my gritty eye for stories and – most importantly – my mojo – was back.

“There were times where I was walking home on my own on a deserted road with no lights, with five bags on my shoulders at 3am, feeling so tired but knowing that I’d just captured some really amazing footage. There is no better feeling that knowing you’ve got a story in the bag.

“I was so upset when the job ended as I loved the experience so much, and the amount of knowledge and confidence I’ve gained from this opportunity is immense. I am a completely different person to the one who started university two years ago. I know my strengths and weaknesses, and I now have confidence in myself.

“The doors that are opening for me right now are tremendous. I have been speaking to Vice TV and have been offered a casting director role for a new documentary for Rondo Media, where I’ll be working all summer. This film – and the film school at the University of South Wales – has changed my life forever.”