A documentary produced by a BU graduate, which tells the moving story of a World War 2 bomber pilot, is achieving a series of accolades on the film festival circuit.
‘Gervase’ tells the story of Michael ‘Gervase’ Peel, who, at 21 years of age was shot down behind enemy lines, travelled on foot across Nazi occupied territory and was eventually captured as a prisoner of war. The film, which has been made by Michael’s grandson Mike Peel, comprises archive footage and interviews with Michael and his family spanning nearly 35 years. Since being released this summer, Mike’s film has reached the finals of the New York International Film Awards, the semi-finals of both the Hitchcock Film Awards and Flickers’ Rhode Island International Film Festival, and has just been nominated for ‘best editing in a documentary’ at the Southampton International Film Festival.
Mike said: “This is obviously a very personal project for me and it is great to see it being so well received. I have been working on the documentary for some time, but the act of being locked down at home earlier this year gave me the focus to complete it. It explores how granddad struggled to come to terms with the horrors of war, including the tension between performing his role to the best of his ability and the reality of having killed civilians in the process. Those ethical tensions are still very topical today and are part of the reason the film resonates with so many people. My granddad also struggled with dementia before his death, and the film shows how his ability to tell the story of his life diminished over time.”
Mike completed an HND at Salisbury Art College before embarking on a further year at BU to achieve a BA (Hons) in Film & Television Production in 2004. After graduating he took on a number of junior roles in the media industry, from operating an autocue to running errands for BBC production teams. He said: “To get your foot in the door of the industry you generally have to start at the bottom. Your degree doesn’t entitle you to go straight into a senior position and my advice to students and graduates today is to take any opportunity to gain experience on set, build your contacts and spend your free time producing work that will help get you noticed.”
As Mike’s own career has progressed, he has gone on to set up a small production company to deliver projects while also developing emerging talent by lecturing in film and television at Regent’s University London.
He said: “My other advice to students wanting to enter this industry is to have a number of projects on the go at any one time. You have to work on the basis that one or two things could fall through at any moment – either due to funding or the commitments of those you are working with. It therefore pays to have a range of projects so that you don’t completely lose momentum.
“For me, gaining these accolades on the film festival circuit is personally satisfying and will hopefully help to set me up for future projects and partnerships which is very exciting.”