‘Northampton is the perfect location for the film industry’
Film producer and storyteller Tyla Sharp talks to Julia Thorley about his passion for sharing authentic, unique yet relatable stories.
It’s tempting to think that the British film industry is based in London, and perhaps Birmingham or Manchester. For young storyteller and producer Tyla Sharp, however, Northampton is very much a hub of creativity and imagination. As a director of the Northampton Film Festival, he is committed to giving back to his home town through film and the arts.
Tyla’s career as a film producer got off to a flying start when his first film, Keep Off The Grass, was acquired by Channel 4. He was just 19. His latest project, Mr Apple, recently received its worldwide premiere at Cineworld Northampton (a sold-out event) in December.
“Northampton is the perfect location for the film industry. There are some beautiful villages – Mr Apple was filmed in Long Buckby – and a pool of talent in front of the cameras and behind the scenes. The lead had never acted before, but was discovered at a local workshop.”
Even those people who class themselves as regular cinema-goers will not necessarily be fans of short films. There might be a perception that it’s a bit second rate or likely to be rather ‘arty’, so who watches them?
“Good question and I’m not sure I know the answer. Certainly film fans do and other film makers, including students, but there were people I didn’t recognise at the premiere of Mr Apple, and I’m not sure what drew them there. It’s true, though, that we need to overcome the perception amongst some people that short film means low quality and small budget. It’s actually a great way to explore an emotional issue in a short time. I’m very proud of all the films I’ve been involved with.”
Tyla has a real passion for short narrative drama. His work is driven by a desire to break moulds and explore the universal themes we can all relate to; but he says that while he is a storyteller, he’s definitely not a writer.
“Very often the idea for a film will be pitched by a writer, sometimes an outline or sometimes a complete script. Most pitches need a lot of work, but that’s why every film is a collaboration.
“Many people think the producer is just working behind the scenes on the admin stuff, but actually it’s a role that involves having a say in the creation and development of the whole project. The producer has a view on everything, including cast and crew. It’s about keeping the audience in mind, not just the writer’s vision. You’re not making a film for one person. Yes, there is a lot of behind-the-scenes management, but it’s also a creative role.”
Tyla has some advice for anyone who fancies a career in the film industry.
“It can be a struggle to get started, of course, but I’d say the important thing is you must be prepared to work really hard. It’s important to be passionate about it, to stay focused. I don’t come from a privileged background, but I do believe that it is possible to achieve your aspirations with genuine dedication. I’ve been so blessed to have some good mentors and to have been influenced by other amazing people. I owe a lot to Ian D Fleming [who wrote and directed Mr Apple], for instance, and we plan to work together again soon. Above all, though, I’d say it’s essential to be kind.”
Having worked within established production companies and thrived as an independent freelance producer, what’s next?
“I just love what I do! At the moment, I’m busy with Mr Apple, organising its submission to festivals around the world, including the USA. There’ll be a separate tour around the UK, particularly into universities and maybe smaller towns and villages.
“My role as a director of Northampton Film Festival is also keeping me busy, with this year’s festival running at various venues around the town from 8th to 16th March. I’m also a judge this time, for the under 16 and 17–25 categories.
“I’m reading scripts, too. I’m not dismissing the idea of another short film, but I do feel ready to explore working on feature-length films. Whatever my next project is, it will need to be something that has heart.
“In all my projects, I aim to give a voice, lend an ear and shine a light.”
Learn more about Tyla on his website: www.tylasharp.co.uk