In March this year, a student film crew from Ravensbourne left for Nepal with the intention to produce a film that would raise awareness of the plight of Nepalese street children.
“I don’t want to spoil the story but it is all about the hopes and dreams of street kids,” says director Veemsen Lama of his new short film Maya. Now, he and the team intend to raise $50,000 (£33,000) to help street kids affected by the earthquake.
The crew consisted of four digital film production students* as well as local Nepalese people. Led by Veemsen, an ex-Gurkha, they spent one-week filming in Nepal and returned to the UK just a couple of weeks before the earthquake. “All my team are emotionally connected to this, because we’ve captured those places on film and met so many people who are now suffering. It’s just haunting,’’ he says.
The film was made to a tight budget funded by the crew, friends and family. Written by Ravensbourne student, Tayo Odesanya, the script was based on real-life events and translated into Nepalese by Deepesh Poudel from Kathmandu.
The 3 child protagonists were cast by one of Veemsen's friends in Nepal. “The casting director who found the kids for us, his house is gone now but the children we filmed are OK’’ says Veemsem.
Veemsen, 34, grew up in Nepal and his first job was with the Gurkhas, a prestigious Nepalese military unit. He received his infantry training in the UK (see image left, Veemsen during basic training) but due to redundancies he left the elite force in 2013, signing up for Ravensbourne’s BA (Hons) Digital Film Production course the same year.
His move from soldier to filmmaker was also the inspiration for Maya, he says, “I was in Thamel in 2009, which is a tourist area, and I took a picture of 4 boys sleeping with dogs in the street. I thought ‘I have to make that film'. I want to let the world know that there are still street kids surviving, they don’t have the money but they still have their hopes and dreams.’’
“Everybody should do their best, I’m good at filmmaking so I should try and collect money from filmmaking. If I don’t do this sort of thing now I’ll regret it for the rest of my life."
Veemsen, together with producer Tom Collingham, will personally ensure all the profits raised by the film will be handed to local agencies supporting street kids. ‘’We’ll go there and distribute on the ground and make sure it goes directly to the people who need it,” he says, ‘’I want to go now. I’ve seen many things, I’ve been to war but I’ve never seen anything like this before. I’m just heartbroken.’’
Contributions are being received at Indiegogo. The website details that ‘the top contributor will receive two VIP passes to the première of ‘Maya’ in London and a Photobook of production stills signed by Joanna Lumley who is supporting our fundraising efforts.”