In December 2021, Thomas Allpress (BA Literature and Creative Writing, 2021) won Best Screenplay at the British Short Film Awards for his play Reg. Having now received the award, we've been chatting to him to find out more about his time at Essex and his incredible achievement mere months after finishing his degree.
I hadn't planned on coming to Essex initially, but when I attended an open day, I was really taken by the campus and all it had to offer. I liked how it was separate from the town, so that it felt like its own little community. The Wivenhoe Park area is such a lovely green space, and I enjoyed many a time sitting or walking around the lake with the soothing sound of the fountain in the background.
I was really impressed by the library and student centre being 24 hours access, and they were invaluable for studying, since I would work at various hours on assignments.
The amount of facilities also convinced me to come to Essex, especially the variety of entertainment and food outlets, which are great places for societies to meet and hold events. As a Creative Writing student, the university's association with The Essex Book Festival also piqued my interest.
Then, as a student, I found the Students' Union and its societies also made the experience very enjoyable, I became an active part of the film society team for a couple of years (before COVID put a halt to it!). But my favourite memory is acting out our screenplays in a screenwriting class, which included mine. Each script received a round of applause.
Since finishing my studies, I've continued developing screenplays and poetry, whilst getting into various tutoring jobs, teaching Maths and English. The success of my first short film screenplay at the British Short Film Awards is definitely a highlight.
Along with writing and tutoring, I have also set up a creative writing magazine with two friends from university. It is based on formal constraints and techniques developed by a writing group known as Oulipo, but also other techniques, such as Haiku. It is called O-Lab Magazine. Any writers reading this, please consider submitting your prose and poetry to it!
I wrote Reg during my time at Essex. It is loosely based on my grandparents and that generation. The story centres on Reg, a wheelchair bound octogenarian who is fed up with the hand life has dealt him. He is a former swimming champion and his current circumstances have left him bitter and difficult towards his wife and carer, Linda. He is also difficult towards his daughter, her son (his grandson), and her new boyfriend when they visit. An unexpected shock the morning after gives Reg a new lease of life and renewed sense of purpose, reminding him of his former strength and determination.
The British Short Film Awards are a relatively new awards body established in 2020, with their first ceremony being in December last year. Their aim is to promote British and global filmmaking talent, especially newcomers, which is what I am. The ceremony had to be held remotely on YouTube due to COVID, but they are hoping to include this year's winners in an in-person ceremony this year. I am overjoyed at winning.
I remember watching it live and being so shocked, I couldn't sit down or stay still! My speech had to be pre-recorded but of course I didn't know if I had won when I did so. If I'd have had to do one when I heard my name read out as the winner, it would have been very different. Winning this award is like a ticket to get it made into a film, so that's definitely the next step. I'm currently contacting filmmakers and producers about developing it.