Charlie Cracknell, 14, has a passion for filmmaking and has used his skill to create a short that he hopes will raise awareness of safe driving.
The teen director and student of GEMS World Academy Dubai has been making short films and entering competitions since he was ten years old. He took part in the Dubai 48 Hour Film Project in 2014, where his entry, Mission HXK, was one of the top ten films shown in Vox Cinemas at Mall of the Emirates. He also took home awards for Best Use of Prop, Best Costume, Best Writing, Best Directing and Best Film Runner Up, and was the youngest director taking part.
Cracknell’s recent production, Safe Driving Saves Lives, is less than four minutes long and has been nominated for Best Picture and Best Editing at the The Hague International Model United Nations (THIMUN) Qatar Northwestern Film Festival, which will be held on Thursday April 2 to Saturday 4 at the Qatar Foundation in Doha. THIMUN is a not-for-profit educational foundation that has links with the UN. It brings young people from a wide variety of cultural and national backgrounds together and encourages students to use their skills to become advocates on global issues.
Shot in his neighbourhood using a cast of his friends and family, the mini promo highlights the impact of texting while driving. According to figures from The Ministry of Interior, last year, there were 265 reported road accidents in the UAE caused by inattention.
The festival, which is aimed at students, is a platform for young people to showcase their work to a wider audience – Charlie’s entry is available to watch on YouTube. The competition requires each entry to focus on a message that will benefit the community. Charlie’s choice of safe driving has proved popular with online viewers and he is hoping it will strike a chord with the judging panel, too. ‘I wanted to make a film about something that had a real-life impact,’ he says. ‘To begin with, I couldn’t really think of anything. Then one day we were driving and I looked over and saw a woman texting while she was driving. She had children in the car, and I thought, that can’t be very safe. I went home and researched texting while driving and found out lots of facts – it’s currently the leading cause of teen death in the world, for example. So I thought it would be a good topic to make a film about.’
It took Charlie three days to make the movie and he hopes that it will make a big impact. ‘I’m 14 and should have been in the youth group, but my film is actually in the senior category. I’m very proud and really happy that it’s good enough to be there,’ he says.
Charlie wanted the video to have a wide reach. ‘It’s a really big problem that has to be fixed,’ he says. ‘I didn’t make my short gory, because I noticed that some other films on the same issue focused on such details, but this means younger viewers can’t watch them. My aim was to target a wide age range.’
At the awards in Qatar, Charlie will be among more than 20 young nominees vying for the top prize. His short film sends a clear message. It is also the first time the young filmmaker has made a picture focusing on an advocacy issue – and not on the usual subject a teenage boy would make a video about, either. ‘I’ve made mockumentaries and comedies, but never a serious advocacy film,’ he admits. ‘Making the short was a great experience, and I’d definitely like to make more of these kinds of films. It’s different in terms of the way I made it. The techniques I used certainly differ from how I usually make films, which are more often comedies and documentaries. But I enjoyed this process and I’m interested in developing my skills in this area.’
Charlie is taking part in the New York Film Academy Summer programme in Los Angeles and aspires to be like Steven Spielberg. Though while Safe Driving Saves Lives may not make him an Oscar winner just yet, it may drive home a message and set Charlie en route to a prosperous filmmaking career.
Search Safe Driving Saves Lives in You Tube to watch Charlie Cracknell’s THIMUN Qatar Northwestern Film Festival entry.