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Homeless people in the Midlands are set to become stars of the silver screen thanks to filmmaker Fabrizio Frederico and his debut feature film, Black Biscuit.
“Black Biscuit is about a guy who wants to be an artist but gets caught up in the sex industry,” says Frederico. “It’s about not letting your dreams slip away - something we all have to face at some point in our lives. People complain that there aren’t enough opportunities, but I believe that you have to make opportunities. I don’t care about money at all. I want this film to be influential and to stimulate people’s creativity.”
Most of the roles in the 120-minute film were performed by the local homeless community in Nottingham whom Federico calls his ‘street superstars.’ “A lot of them are very gifted, very charismatic and it’s a waste that their talents aren’t being put to good use. I know that homelessness is a big issue because I see it everywhere.
“One thing I did find during filming is that some people are afraid of homeless people. They don’t know how to speak to them, but they are just ordinary people like you and me. People’s perceptions need to change. They’re not all violent; they’re not all crazy, as they are often portrayed by the media. They have had some bad luck in life and I found them to be more open than the ‘regular’ person I met on the street. I do recommend that other artists include them in their projects.
“I think this could be a whole new avenue for the homeless to make a living. Unlike some actors I’ve worked with, I found that homeless people were not restricted by boundaries, that they had no fear almost.”
Dubbed ‘gutter filmmaking’ by the man himself, Frederico describes his style as a ‘blissful, bitter, poetic, adrenaline shot.’ “I’m going for the film equivalent of punk and lo-fi music,” says Frederico by way of explanation. “I have a manifesto called Pink 8, which is basically a philosophy as to how to go about making these types of films. I love the whole artistic process. Art gives me a freedom of expression that I don’t think you can get anywhere else in life.”
The shooting of Black Biscuit was also unconventional, being shot mainly on mobile phones and children’s cameras, and despite it being a feature-length film, it cost only £500. “Everyone was telling me you can’t make a feature film for next to no money. I didn’t want to get into debt by going to university, so I tried different avenues of raising some cash.
“Film funding cuts have forced filmmakers to go down unexplored roads to finance their films and I had to life model to raise the budget for Black Biscuit. For my next film I’m going to go from door to door, ask each person for £1 and I’ll give them a producer credit.”
Of course, Frederico understands that this approach will clearly not sit well with everyone but he remains optimistic: “It will be an uphill battle. I’m appealing to the people who are tired of manufactured ideas, and conventions. Advice never did it for me. Just follow your heart.” Turning to future projects, Frederico is considering producing a film focusing specifically on the homelessness issue called The Disappeared, and in the coming months, Black Biscuit will be shown at Raindance (Europe’s leading independent film festival), the British Film Institute, and will also be available on DVD.