Changing lives through storytelling

Schoolteacher Leo Powell makes short films tackling difficult subjects

Leo Powell
Leo Powell is head of year eleven at St Ignatius College in Turkey Street

An Enfield teacher is helping to educate not just pupils in his own school but young people across the UK – by producing short films.

Leo Powell, head of year eleven at St Ignatius College in Turkey Street, ventured into filmmaking last year after he won funding to develop a story idea he came up with while working at a young offender institute.

The resulting award-winning film, Step Back, has amassed 1.8 million views on YouTube since its release in February and is used as the basis for a series of educational workshops run by Leo, helping young people engage in positive discussions around topics such as knife crime and gangs.

The success Leo had with Step Back led to the development of a second film, Bros for Life, which is due to be released in January. Backed by funding through the Mayor of London’s Violence Reduction Unit, and using students from schools across Enfield as extras, Bros for Life addresses topics such as friendships, choices, dropping out of school, and how violence affects young people. Four students are also gaining work experience on set, shadowing production crew.

Leo told the Dispatch he is “overwhelmed” by the success of Step Back and is excited to have a second opportunity to bring one of his ideas to life. “It’s a good alternative way to reach out to young people, it’s very powerful,” Leo explained.

“It started when I was working at Feltham Young Offender Institute, in 2019. I used to tell a lot of stories, we would be acting them out, and the response from the young offenders was amazing. They said I should turn it into a film.

“When I left the prison, what they said to me stayed in my heart. I knew nothing about filmmaking but I made a few phone calls and spoke to [production company] Little Drops, and secured funding from the Home Office – they believed in it.

“The script was written and I became the producer. After we shot that in October 2020, I developed a passion for filmmaking.

“I have got more ideas and stories – my goal is to change lives through storytelling.”

‘Step Back’ is available to watch on YouTube via the channel Million Youth Media

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