Successful Roehampton filmmaker encourages young people to believe in their abilities


Toby Fell-Holden believes some children from disadvantaged backgrounds don’t realise what they can achieve.


By SWLondoner staff

A Putney filmmaker is urging young people living in less affluent areas not to let any lack of advantages destroy their dreams.

Anglo-Indian Toby Fell-Holden grew up on a large council estate, and believes many young people drop out of education because the environment they live in creates self-doubt about what you can achieve.

“I have no doubt that growing up in such an area made it easy for me to fall out of education for a few years as I tried to get through my A-Levels,” he said.

“We had to move to another part of Roehampton because late night partying and violence had become so bad in one of the council blocks.

“My brother was assaulted and robbed on the way home. This incident has affected him to the extent that he is uncomfortable leaving the house.”

Toby later realised he was interested in arts subjects and returned to college to study intensive A-levels, where he achieved good enough grades to study at Oxford University.

Studying English and Philosophy, he considered a career in investment banking, but soon realised his interest in screenwriting and directing was something he wanted to pursue more seriously.

“You have to accept that you might have to try harder to compensate for advantages that initially aren’t so readily available to you,” he said.

“If you can’t get the support you need from your peers or closer to home, embrace the mentorship of teachers and focus on academic success as a means of self-empowerment.”

After being accepted on to Columbia University’s Film MFA in 2008, he earned fellowships and assisted with teaching in order to fund his studies.

During his time on the course, he had several short films screened, and was shortlisted as a Sundance Screenwriting Labs finalist in 2010 based on a true story about prominent politicians involved in a child abuse ring during the late 1980s in the USA.

His thesis short film will premiere at the end of June at Palm Springs Shortfest – the biggest shorts festival in the USA.

Toby’s own life has a big impact on his writing and he sees it as a way of trying to understand questions which he does not have an answer to.

“I write a lot of drama and often find myself putting characters is circumstances which draw upon issues of race, identity and social class,” he said.

“As someone of Ango-Indian heritage who has grown up between homes with different cultural and religious practices, this no doubt informs my writing.”

“I’m currently developing a feature film script set in London which puts a new spin on an arranged marriage between two British born Indians grappling with their identities and their relationship as the products of the more extreme aspects of Western hedonism and conservative Indian culture.”

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