Third year Sussex students Saul Abraham, Henry Degnin and Callum Cameron have spent the past months making ‘Exit to Beach’, a documentary about the darker side of Brighton, and why people are drawn to our city by the sea. Ahead of their charity screening at the Duke of York’s cinema, I sat down with Saul and Henry to discuss the film and the motivation behind making it.
I wanted to first ask you what drove you to make the film, and towards the specific subject matter of why people come to Brighton?
Henry: Mainly, I’d say probably our mood at the time. We live quite centrally, in between Churchill Square and Western Road, and our house has a brothel behind it. It’s a notorious place for drug dealing.
Saul: So that, coupled with just getting back in January and it being cold and miserable.
Henry: But before that, we wanted to make a documentary about something to do with the other side of Brighton which we were seeing all the time, so we just started talking to people. It just all sort of grew organically from that.
How did you find people to participate in interviews?
Henry: The guy who talks a lot about life is actually my dad, and he was a big influence, because he’s been in Brighton for about 10 years now. He worked as a substance abuse counsellor for a number of years as well, and through that he knew a lot of people who could help us.
Were you surprised at people’s openness?
Henry: I guess, yeah, at first. A lot of the interviews, they wanted to talk to us. We would ask them what they were up to and then they just got talking, and that’s how we found our central theme.
Saul: But then the West Street stuff – which is probably the only comedic part of the film – that was probably the scariest thing, going out on West Street on a Saturday night with a camera.
What was the most difficult part of the whole filmmaking process?
Saul: Finding the direction, because it’s not a typically laid out documentary. We only had these brief moments with people.We fought very hard about what should go in to tell the story we wanted to tell. Also just balancing the different elements; it was a depressing subject, but I didn’t want to ruin people’s afternoon.
But I think it ends quite hopefully.
Saul: Yeah. I didn’t want to end it saying “things will get better” but it became more of a chance to show people the other side of Brighton.
How did you get the Duke of York’s involved?
Henry: We kind of just thought “let’s just aim as high as we can go, and whatever happens we’ll then sort something out,” and luckily they were really up for helping us out. And we had the charity on our side as well, which helps a lot I think.
And how did you get involved with the charity?
Henry: We had come to a point where we weren’t sure what we were going to do with the film. We decided that we’d learned so much, and that so many of these people had given us so much of their time, wisdom and knowledge, we wanted to give something back, so we found this charity. They’re called Off the Fence and they have a project called Antifreeze, and it kind of mirrors the way that we made the documentary. They’re really frontline – they go out onto the street and they offer support, and we just thought it was a more direct way of giving something back.
Saul: We’ve got screenings next week in hostels and shelters, so it’s become something a bit bigger than just the university.
- ‘Exit to Beach’ is screening at 4pm on Sunday, 24 October at the Duke of York’s. Tickets cost £3 and all proceeds are going to charity.