HARMONIOUS film crews are often referred to as “one big family”, but the term proved almost wholly accurate in the case of the short film Beached.

The story about a boy with Tourette’s Syndrome and the lonely girl who finds a way to break through his shell, won the short film (fiction) prize at this year’s Southend Film Festival.

The film stands out in particular for the performance of 17-year-old Alexander Abineri, of Ramuz Drive, Westcliff, who plays David, the Tourette’s victim.

Twitching and jerking, randomly effing and blinding, lurching through life in a series of physical and verbal spasms, David is the ultimate, pitiful teenage outsider. The character is the diametric opposite of the outgoing young actor who took up the role.

Alexander says: “It was certainly a challenge to play the part honestly.”

Still, at least he didn’t lack for reassuring support and back-up, thanks to the extended family which surrounded him on location.

The film was directed by Alex’s mum, the actress Sally Millest, featured actor dad Sebastian Abineri in a supporting role, and even landed a scene-stealing job for the family dog, Daisy the labrador.

Other teen parts in the film were played by Alex’s friends, and the film was written by his godmother, Elizabeth Heery. The cast and crew credits then coil into a whole series of interconnected family links worthy of an entire Scottish clan.

Elizabeth’s sons Louis and Joel Davison play youngsters who help to add to the misery of David's existence. Editing and sound effects work was provided by Elizabeth's husband Peter Davison, remembered as the fifth Doctor Who, and as the vet Tristan in All Creatures Great and Small.

David’s young befriender, Kez, is played – extremely well – by Southend girl Adelaide Percy. Adelaide’s mother Gemma plays David’s mother.

Adelaide’s dad Robert (Gemma’s husband) composed the film’s score. (there will be a test on all this at the end of the article).

The seeds that became the film Beached were laid down years ago when Sally and Elizabeth became friends at drama school.

Elizabeth says: “We followed our own careers, but remained friends. I’ve moved from acting to writing, and Sally has moved into directing, and we recently agreed we should work on a drama together.”

The notion of creating a character defined by Tourette’s came to Elizabeth after she had watched a documentary on the subject.

“I enjoy writing about relationships and about people finding a place in the world as a result of coming together,” she says. “The subject seems to provide a voice for the disenfranchised.”

Alexander, who plans to follow his father, mother and grandfather into the acting profession, says he was determined to sink himself into his part.

He says: “I know somebody who has the condition, though not as severely as David in the film. But it wasn’t enough just to mimic the mannerisms of Tourette’s, I really had to become the character,” he says.

Working with his mother as director did not cause any problems.

She says: “He’s very professional. He calls me Sally when we’re working, but back home I am mum again.”

Beached was filmed on Canvey seafront last summer.

According to Elizabeth, the “family and friends” nature of the shoot “helped our confidence”.

There was also another advantage, of course. “It helped to keep the budget down.” she says.