Many people have dreams and aspirations and are afraid to jump for fear of failing, but Silvano Griffith-Francis is not one of those people.
Silvano, winner of the Wise Women Award 2013 and finalist of the Baton Awards 2018, is an actress and filmmaker based in Barking, East London.
Her latest project, Unity’s Quest, is about building bridges between communities, and has been produced in the middle of the global pandemic, without the cast needing to leave their homes.
Set to be released in next week, it was commissioned by Creative Barking and Dagenham and Imagineer Productions as part of the Bridge Project to bring people together across their differences.
Silvano said: “I’ve always been creative, I’ve always loved writing and acting.”
Creative BD said applications were open to creative practitioners throughout the borough.
In the film, Unity and her dog, Oneness, discover the bridge between her village and the next is broken as a result of the villagers’ unkind words to each other.
The public sent clips of themselves holding kind phrases by 12 November to help Unity repair the bridge.
Unity is played by 20-year-old Ashleigh Martinez, Silvano’s neighbour, who found filming during COVID easier than expected.
Ashleigh said: “I genuinely think in this borough we have unity in our community.
“I’m excited for part two, to see what people have sent in and to see the bigger impact.”
Of the 30 plus responses Silvano received, the ages ranged from as young as three to the over-80s, from as far as Barbados, where her family originates, and the USA.
People didn’t even have to leave their homes, meeting the brief which required community involvement while staying safe.
Silvano added it was not a coincidence to be working on it this year, with the global Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death highlighting the importance of treating others with respect.
On producing virtually, she said: “It’s pushed me as a creative to a different way of working, but also for the community, a different way of responding.”
The playwright’s creativity did not begin here however.
She wrote and produced her first play at church, Why God, Why? at 17, exploring the existence of God in a world of suffering.
Silvano said: “I’m really an advocate for churches supporting the youth in that way- it was a safe and encouraging environment.”
After studying Creative Arts and Journalism at university and while working at the BBC, she wrote scripts during train journeys and lunch breaks, sometimes coming home at 10pm to balance it all.
She officially started SVG Productions when she left the BBC in 2013 to help amplify marginalised voices.
In July, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport announced a £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund due to COVID’s impact on the industry.
Of that £1.57 billion, £257 million is already supporting more than 1,300 theatres and arts venues as of October, according to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden.
The Broadway Theatre in Barking, where two of Silvano’s plays have featured, was a recipient.
Silvano said despite her films having a Christian basis, they explore social issues anyone can relate to.
Family Secrets covers domestic violence and homosexuality, and the playwright emphasised these are not always discussed in a helpful way.
Nicole Kerr, living in Bristol with her husband Benjamin Kerr, acted in the film.
Silvano noticed her back-up singing for a play and thought she would be good for Family Secrets.
On Silvano setting up SVG Productions, she said: “It’s so brave of her to take the passion that you really love and then make a career of it. Those are two very different things.”
In Silvano’s upcoming film, Pastor’s Wife, Wimbledon-based Daniel Harris, 33, plays Josh, who pursues the pastor’s wife, played by Silvano herself.
It was due to be premiered in March this year, but COVID prevented this.
Harris said: “Working with Silvano was a really positive experience. She wrote the film, she ended up doing a lot with assisting and directing and producing, and she was the lead as well. It’s inspiring!”
Silvano is currently looking for a producer for her next film, based on three characters not looking forward to the new year.
She said: “Many things have happened this year that have the potential to make people feel there is no hope, but regardless of your situation, there is always, hope.”
Email [email protected] to contact her.
You can also read about a Zoom performance of Macbeth, here.
Featured image credit: Silvano Griffith-Francis