By Billy Stevenson
My name is Billy Stevenson. I am 40 years old. I was admitted to ANA
treatment centre, Portsmouth in 2016 for alcohol addiction. There I was
detoxed and spent 7 months in their primary and secondary rehabilitation
It was during my time there I was encouraged to seek out volunteer work as
part of my integration back into society. I searched around for places to do
with movies, an industry I am passionate about but have never been involved
in. I came across Portsmouth Film Society and arranged a meeting with
Aysegul Epengin, the founder. I was honest about my situation and Aysegul
said PFS would be happy to give me the opportunity and help me get back to
My first experience at PFS was to help set up the ‘Big Screen’ a large
inflatable cinema screen that showed movies at various locations around
Portsmouth. During the winter months I helped out at their indoor screenings
showed at the Eldon Building. It was there that I learned of the ‘I Am Only
Human’ film making course they were offering to individuals of any
background who would never normally get an opportunity to be involved in
such a project.
I jumped at the chance. Suddenly I’d be learning about all aspects of film
making over a 20 week course. Script writing, story boarding, casting,
directing, filming and editing, not only that there would be lectures by local
film makers and a trip to Pinewood Studios in London!
It was a dream come true and I couldn’t wait for the course to start. We
were told the films were going to reflect upon important issues such as
homelessness, substance misuse, people in recovery, people with disabilities
and multiculturalism. Subjects I was only too familiar with. It was hard for me
to believe the position that I had now found myself in.
Aysegul was great tutor and very proficient. There was a good group in the
class all from different backgrounds and ethnicities. It was amazing to meet
like-minded people I would probably never meet elsewhere. The class was fun
but the learning was serious and on important and invaluable lessons in film
We were to come up with stories would eventually be turned into film and
shown at the New Theatre Royal. The idea of this blew me away as I already
had a story in mind. I have enjoyed creative writing in the past and had
written a short story nearly 10 years prior about a homeless man coming into
fortune. The idea that a story I had written almost a decade ago and had sat
with some other scribblings for so long may actually end up on the big screen
was so exciting.
I learned to turn my story into a screenplay and realised my future right
then. I want to become a script writer! I’ve always had a passion for writing
and have dreamt of becoming a recognised author, but I’ve always thought
these dreams far-fetched and that I wasn’t good enough. Getting recognition
in the classroom has re-ignited my passion to pursue this dream.
I was soon to see my story in storyboard form created by another student.
To see my story in drawing form was such fun. When it came to the casting
that was serious, but hilarious, we watched actors read out lines from our
scripts. A few different actors read out lines from my script but I knew straight
away who I wanted to cast.
The real magic came in the filming and to actually be on location and see a
character from my mind come to life on the streets Portsmouth. That was the
defining moment for me and it confirmed my ambition to become a script
writer and work in an industry I only ever dreamed I could.
Amongst all the excitement of the course we were also privileged enough to
be able to visit Pinewood Studios in London and see how business is done by
one of the biggest names in movie making. It was awesome, truly mesmerising
experience. I am so grateful to have been part of the ‘I am only human’ course
which has without doubt changed my life and given me direction.
By Jane Muir
The Recovery Cafe was set up 4 years ago to support people with drug and alcohol
problems who wanted to rebuild their lives.
During the last 4 years I have become passionate about using arts based projects as a
means of engaging “hard to reach” people and giving them a voice and build confidence
and self esteem.
I can personally testify to the benefits of these projects – I have been actively involved in
2 particular projects “Twelve” with Melanie Manchot and the Aspex Gallery and “Diving
Into The Wreck” with Maggie Sawkins and Tongues and Grooves. I have gained
confidence and self esteem and I take pride in my participation in projects of this
The I’m Only Human Project offered by Portsmouth Film Society continues this work
and offers an opportunity for individuals and communities who are disadvantaged,
isolated and disempowered to work together and reveal the people behind the labels.
The films demonstrate that addicts and alcoholics are more than the label – they had
successful lives before addiction and had families and friends who loved them. I hope
that the films also show that we can change and rebuild our lives particularly if the right
support is available.
The group of people who came together last year for the project was incredibly diverse,
from a huge range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, ages and people who embrace
life with all its challenges. All with unique stories.
We began as a group of strangers and ended up as a team and a group of friends.
During this process we picked up some skills including a range of IT/technical and
camera skills, as well as the ability to work in various roles. We also had to write
screenplays, film, act, direct, problem solve, be flexible, be reliable, punctual and work
‘’Love at First Sight’’ is about 2 people who fall in love at a Muslim wedding. We started
filming in an Indian restaurant in Southsea and ended up on South Parade Pier where
we see the couple rush into each others arms. It’s brilliant!
I’m Only Human After All works on many levels. It brings people together and fosters
tolerance and understanding. It provides opportunities for disadvantaged people and
communities to learn new skills and tell their stories. It was also great to collaborate
with the film students who worked so hard and taught us so much. Also, it was great
This project will culminate in a red carpet event at the New Theatre Royal on 30th May.
We hope that this becomes an annual project giving ordinary and extraordinary people
in our community an opportunity to come together and tell their stories through film.
Text: Jane Muir / Film student and founder of The Recovery Cafe
Photo: Anna Malina