SOME films spend budgets of £13million. Unicanvey is, at least partially, credited with helping to raise that sort of money.

The 20-minute DVD was made on Canvey last year by film-maker Richard Layzell, from Bristol. It has been used to present both Canvey's plus points and its problems.

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Councillor Pam Challis, leader of Castle Point Council, said: "The film has been very useful as a marketing tool. It may well have played a part in the extra transport funding we gained through the Thames Gateway Partnership in November."

The film emerged as the direct result of a public consultation exercise on behalf of the Thames Gateway South Essex Partnership.

Mrs Challis said: "One of the suggestions put forward was for a film to be made about the island."

Acting on these suggestions, the partnership took the decision to commission an outside film-maker rather than a Canvey resident.

Mrs Challis said: "We wanted someone who didn't have any preconceptions about Canvey."

The task of finding the right person for the job was given to the public art team at Essex County Council. The team knew about Richard Layzell's work from a number of exhibitions around the country.

The fact he had not worked in Essex previously was considered an advantage.

Richard Layzell is an artist and art teacher who uses film as just one of a wide range of media.

"There are many different ways to approach an audience, using one or more media simultaneously," he has declared. He coined the term "visionaire" to describe his approach.

Mrs Challis said: "Part of the reason he was chosen is that he has a distinctive approach of his own.

"He was given some briefing about what we wanted. He added some material at our suggestion after we had seen his first presentation. On the whole, though, he was given a pretty free hand, and I think his distinctive approach helps the film to stand out."

Mr Layzell's initial approach to the film was, he said, "to find a way to engage with Canvey people that could also become a way of extracting their thoughts, hopes and feelings."

He soon learnt that these could be summed up in one short phrase - community spirit.

Like so many other people who encounter Canvey for the first time, Richard Layzell was immediately struck by "this intense sense of community".

"The statement Canvey is unique summed up the mood in everyone I talked to, and stayed with me," he said.

"Here was a community with an exceptional cohesion and sense of self worth. This sense of belonging is so deep because it is rooted in a lasting attachment to family."

Mr Layzell settled for an approach that involved cross-editing scenes of the island with shots of Canvey people talking about their home.

Over two years of making the film, he talked to more than 30 individuals, ranging from schoolchildren to local business people. Individuals are not identified. Mr Layzell pointed out that "you don't necessarily know the names of people you chat to in shops."

Concerns are expressed about a few issues, including overcrowding, the need for a better library, and, inevitably, traffic.

Yet overall Canvey emerges as a contented place where people prefer to accentuate the positive than gripe. Mr Layzell said: "It comes across as a quiet affirmation of a special community."

A typical comment from a Canvey resident is: "The community spirit is lovely. Everyone knows each other, knows your business."

Another opines: "It's a lovely feeling to be part of a community, which is something you don't normally get nowadays, even in small villages."

One older resident even goes so far as to say: "The young people here are amazing."

The film is now given or shown to anybody who might have an interest in investing in the island. Mrs Challis says: "I've been sending it out to all sorts of people. It is a very useful tool in raising Canvey's profile.

"People come to realise just what Canvey offers. It allows the island to sell itself."

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