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Screenwriter wins Bafta award for his debut film

THE champagne corks have been popping for Dartmouth screenwriter Stephen Beresford, who won a Bafta for his debut film.
And his mother Jean this week thanked the people of the town for all their support over the years, which she said had helped him achieve his success.
‘We are very proud of him and all his hard work and grateful, too, to all the people of Dartmouth who came along to watch Stephen in his plays and support him in any way in his younger years. It was such a massive help,’ she said.
‘He loves Dartmouth very much and hopes to come back soon.’
Mr Beresford wrote the highly acclaimed British film Pride – a rousing gay rights romance set during the miners’ strike of 1984.
It was inspired by a true story and is the first screenplay by Mr Beresford, who grew up in Dartmouth and is now based in London.
Along with producer David Livingstone, they received the award for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer at the Bafta Film Awards on Sunday night, beating off competition from ’71, The Imitation Game, Paddington, The Theory of Everything and Under the Skin.
Mr Beresford said it had taken him 20 years to persuade anyone the mixture of gay and lesbian activities and striking miners would make a ‘sure-fire comedy smash’.
‘We do incredible things when we all stand together – unite,’ he said.
Mr Beresford was inspired into acting by a flamboyant Dartmouth character called Judy Lewthwaite and her Strolling Playhouse.
A young Stephen was one of her protégés: ‘And she had a huge impact on me,’ he said in an interview with the Chronicle last year.
Fellow thespian David Kelland is one of those who remembers working alongside the up-and-coming boy actor and giving him lifts to rehearsals when he appeared in a production of Oliver! at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth.
He also recalls Stephen appearing in a production of Bugsy Malone in London.
‘He had great imagination and talent and it was wonderful to see him win a Bafta,’ said Mr Kelland, who is chairman of the Old Dartmothians.
‘We are very proud of him and wish him well.’
District councillor Hilary Baston, who also performed alongside Stephen in the early days, posted on Facebook: ‘Watching the Baftas and yes, Dartmouth has a winner – British Academy Film Awards, Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer – for Pride (2014), went to Stephen Beresford, writer, and David Livingstone, producer.
‘Stephen was brought up in Dartmouth and was a budding young actor with Judy Lewthwaite’s Strolling Playhouse.
‘He went off to drama school and later progressed to writing scripts. Congratulations Stephen. I still remember those plays and pantos!!’
Speaking about the film backstage after collecting the award, Mr Beresford said: ‘I often describe it as a lost story. Many of the real people involved said we thought this story would die with us. So to bring it to the world is a real achievement.’
He also took a moment to discuss the controversy caused earlier this year when references to homosexuality were removed from the US DVD cover. ‘If it gets more people to see the film, I don’t care if they get Kim [Kardashian] and Kanye [West] on the cover. I think it was clumsily done, but there you go.’
Pride, a comedy drama set during the miners’ strike in 1984 while Margaret Thatcher was in power, is ‘more than 80 per cent true’.
It depicts a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists who raise money to help families affected by the strike, at the outset of what would become the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners campaign.
The National Union of Mine­workers is reluctant to accept the support due to the union’s public relations worries about being openly associated with a gay group, so the activists instead decided to take their donations directly to a small mining village in Wales – resulting in an alliance, unlikely for the era but ultimately successful, between their respective communities.
The cast included Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Andrew Scott, Dominic West and Paddy Considine, and the film has been directed by Matthew Warchus.
The award is the latest addition to the film’s increasing collection, having already won Best British Film, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress at the Independent Film Awards last year.

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