Wednesday, 22 September 2021

I want my movie to help victims of child abuse

A MAN who suffered sexual abuse as a child is making a film to promote greater awareness of the subject.

A MAN who suffered sexual abuse as a child is making a film to promote greater awareness of the subject.

Jonathan Taylor, from Henley, is producing the semi-autobiographical film called Long Live The King.

The 42-year-old, who grew up in foster care, hopes that the film will help make other victims of sexual abuse feel confident enough to speak out about it.

Mr Taylor, who is now a father himself, says: “I had to deal with a lot in my life, which I’m only really understanding now.

“The film is a process to deal with some of those issues like sexual abuse, drugs and alcohol. It’s about how we, as a country, tend to cover up all these things.

“What we’re beginning to see is people who experienced sexual abuse as children and had to deal with it all their lives are now saying, ‘enough is enough’. We’re beginning to stand up and come forward and talk about something which in many ways we’ve been intimidated to keep quiet about.

“These people walk among us and they live in plain sight. It’s time someone stood up and did something about it. I can’t keep quiet anymore and I’m not going to.”

Mr Taylor has set up a film company called Coram Films, named after the Thomas Coram Foundation for Children, which was his legal guardian when growing up.

It was the world’s first children’s charity and provided the inspiration for Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist.

Mr Taylor was sent to live with a foster family when he was just two. His mother Dorothy was unable to look after him after his father walked out but she used to visit four times a year. She died when he was in his twenties.

“She was a vivacious, lovely woman and she loved me very much,” he recalls. “As I’ve got older I have thought a lot more about her.”

As a teenager, Mr Taylor used to work at the Henley Videotapes shop in Greys Road, so he grew up learning to love films.

He says: “I would work there stacking shelves when I could and it was a great experience. Quentin Tarantino always said he learned all about films by working in a video shop.

“I watched an awful lot of films as a child and pretty much every genre. It was an exciting time for film back in the Eighties with people experimenting.” Mr Taylor attended Henley Grammar School and then worked as a reporter at the Henley Standard from 1989 to 1991.

He then worked in the City and travelled the world working for a number of financial companies, including Markit where he became vice-president.

He and his wife lived in a five- bedroom house in Hambleden until they were divorced after 10 years and she moved to Los Angeles to work in the film industry.

Mr Taylor was left to bring up their daughter Alicia, now nine, so he quit his job and moved to a flat in Greys Road.

He says: “I knew I was doing the right thing. I wasn’t quite sure what was going to happen and it was a case of asking myself, ‘what now?’

“I know the important thing is to be with your child. From my own experiences you have to put your children first. Growing up the way I did and seeing what I saw just makes me a natural father.”

Mr Taylor wrote the screenplay for his film, which he describes as “Oliver Twist meets Star Wars”. It will be split into three sections and the first part has been given the working title of The Lost Foundling And The Cry Of Chan Chil Eye.

It is about a boy called David, who comes from a similar background to Mr Taylor’s. Then he discovers his foster father is a direct descendant of Oliver Cromwell. As he grows up, David realises that the English Civil War is still going on and the Roundheads, the supporters of Parliament during the war, control London while fear and greed have taken over the world.

Then David suspects he is a descendant of Charles I, Cromwell’s enemy, and he has been sent by the Ancient of Ancients to restore Britain.

Mr Taylor says: “The story is about the rise of the cavalier in society where there’s the notion that everyone, regardless of personal wealth, can strive for personal greatness.

“It’s set in modern times but has got an 18th century feel to it and it really shows what we could do in this country if we pulled together rather than put one another down. It deals with issues like child abuse in an accessible and sensitive way.”

Mr Taylor hopes Coram Films can work alongside the foundation to offer work for youngsters and adults who grew up under its guidance.

He believes there are thousands of children who are suffering in silence and he would like to help by offering them jobs either as actors or in small roles on set, such as runners and assisting the sound and art departments.

Mr Taylor says: “What Coram Films is trying to do is include children or young people who have had difficult childhoods, who have perhaps suffered abuse themselves, either physical or sexual. We want to work with people who understand what we’re talking about and want to build their confidence in the transition to adulthood by getting them involved in the film.

“For many young people today, that transition can be extremely fraught, especially if they’ve had a difficult upbringing.

“A lot of people turn to drugs and alcohol as a quick fix to much deeper problems. We want to build their confidence, give them a chance in life and get them working alongside the cameramen, director and artists to make a difference.

“We’re not a charity but we’re here to help children.”

Mr Taylor has already begun to assemble a team and has recruited the likes of Martyn Read, the actor who played Captain Birdseye in the Birdseye commercials, and Henley Players actress Angharad Jones, both from Shiplake.

Also on board are Mr Taylor’s friends Andy Wallace, a musical director who has worked with both Robbie Williams and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, artistic director Filiz Tunali, from Henley, and producer Keri Powell. Robbie Mills, a storyboard artist who has worked for Disney and 20th Century Fox, has put together the prologue in a storyboard.

Mr Taylor has also sent the script to Hollywood actress Carrie Fisher, who may reprise her Star Wars role as Princess Leia. “She’s a bit like Hollywood royalty and is known to get behind things,” he says. “It’s all quite exciting.”

Mr Taylor says the ethos of the film company is authenticity and this will be reflected in some of the casting choices. For example, Adam Knight, a former student at The Henley College and a parachute regiment sergeant of nine years, will play Sgt Kite.

Filming will take place in the Henley area and in Africa and Mr Taylor says he is in talks with a number of film companies about financing the production, for which he has set a £5million budget.

Mr Taylor will begin writing parts two and three in the coming months.

He says: “We will see what happens but it has been very well received so far. The people who have read the script have said it’s interesting.

“You can’t really put it into a genre — when people see the poster I want them to say ‘what on earth is that?’ It’s not like anything you’ve ever seen before.

“Luckily, I’ve got some great people who can put a film together. I’m lucky enough to know people who have experience wanting to get involved and there’s a great feeling around this project. There’s an air of expectation and excitement.”

Anyone interested in getting involved with the project should call Mr Taylor on (01491) 524001.

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