Prospero’s Prison – a modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, by Tom Magill. 

“Revenge is a prison – forgiveness is the key”

Prospero’s Prison is timely in the context of Northern Ireland’s peace process. For so long in the history of Northern Ireland, revenge has been the reply to violence, perpetuating the cycle of destruction. For this reason, The Tempest is a story worth re-telling for the lessons it can teach us about the wisdom of experience leading to forgiveness and reconciliation.

ESC’s Artistic Director Tom Magill is working with the extremely talented Belfast musician Duke Special, and actors Susan Lynch and Nigel O’Neill on the music and development of the film. Watch the extended taster film here.

Mickey B (2007)


This is ESC’s world first! An award-winning adaptation of Macbeth, set in the fictional Burnam Prison. It tells the story of one prisoner’s quest for power through violence, betrayal and murder – and the death and insanity that results. The film was shot in NI’s maximum-security prison, HMP Maghaberry and features 42 characters played by prisoners and prison staff. The DVD includes a ‘making of’ documentary that tells the real story behind the film. You can buy the film here on the site. To get a flavour, watch the trailer here.


voices-of-the-new-belfast-logoVOICES OF THE NEW BELFAST (2015)

is a documentary film project centred on individuals from other countries who have come to live in Belfast. It captures real stories and explores the experiences of people from diverse ethnic backgrounds. The films also deal with the specific issues that affect these people and their communities. The project has its own website where you can watch each of the 9 films that you can visit here.

The filmmaking team consisted of Jonathan Agnew, Gerard Stewart and Stuart Sloan and the project was funded by Belfast City Council’s Good Relations Department and the Community Relations Council’s Media Grant.


Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 12.53.59A short film which we made with young women who volunteered with Barnardo’s Safe Choices NI. We facilitated a week long residential in Corrymeela, Ballycastle, NI to workshop, rehearse and create the film. It aims to raise awareness of Child Sexual Exploitation and tells the story of one young woman’s experience. We worked closely with Barnardo’s NI Safe Choices and the Safeguarding Board for NI to design and produce an educational resource pack with detailed facilitators notes. It is now available for free for post-primary schools and community groups – contact for more information.


Like Minds books picA project in partnership in NI mental health charity MindWise. These challenging and stark short films were made by a group of men sharing their first-hand experiences of mental ill health and the quest for recovery. The results are a testament to the impact of creativity on an individual’s recovery.

Fragments – documents how an expression of love, unrequited, led to self-exile, isolation, breakdown and eventual homecoming.
Like Mindshomeless, angry and isolated, this tragi-comic hero finds comfort, friendship and creative recovery, amongst a group of rebels, artists and outsiders.
My History of Solvents – documents how peer group pressure led to solvent abuse, mental ill health and the long road back to recovery.


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A project in partnership with NIAMH (Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health) – a short film-making project working with young people from NIAMH’s Belfast Connects group. Its aim is to empower young people to find their voice and tell their story, to free themselves from the ghosts from their past and help them move on.

Kindly funded by Belfast City Council.

  • We Take Control – is the story of a young man’s journey carrying the pain of family and peer pressures
  • These Weights – is the story of a young woman struggling to deal with the weight of her own darkness
  • Every Cloud – charts a journey from broken trust into homelessness and onto a new path home
  • Right Now – a visual journey through Ralph Marston’s poem of loss and beauty
  • Behind the Scenes – a documentary charting some key moments of how the stories and films were created.


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This ground-breaking project took ESC into the realms of mental health and the criminal justice system. Generously funded by Trusthouse Charitable Foundation, ESC worked with the Community Forensic Mental Health Team from the Northern Health and Social Care Trust with a group of men with a history of offending behaviour and serious mental health issues. The men had the chance to look honestly at their lives and to tell their stories in the way they wanted to tell them.

Each participant struggled with the labels that they carried and the experiences and traumas that have shaped them. These films include moments of questioning, moments of breakthrough and moments of stasis. They reflect where each individual is at in their journey. This project aimed to help each person move further along in their own journey towards recovery.

The films that are publicly available to watch:

2011 (Year 1)
Echo – The Red Phone should be his salvation. It isn’t.
The System – 4 hours in a young offenders centre. 1 suicide attempt. 1 life destroyed.
Making of the Films – Go behind the scenes to watch these films in production.

2012 (Year 2)
Snookered – Living with what you have done is not easy. You can’t turn back the clock. People on the ward want to know what I’m in for. The health professionals want to know why I’m silent. It’s a game, a waiting game. Sometimes I feel snookered.
Noel v. Nollaig – “I played a joke and it backfired. Big time. Prison is prison is prison. So I’ve no-one to blame but myself.” With music by Duke Special.
Behind the scenes – the stories of the making of the films and the impact on the participants.

2013 (Year 3)
Final Hit – Clive is losing the battle in his fight with heroin. Tired of the cycle of stealing, scoring and doing time, he decides to end it with one final hit. Then Fate intervenes…

2014 (Year 4)
Runaway Child: Death of a mother leads to institutional child sexual abuse, resulting in mental illness. Groomed by a criminal gang, imprisonment follows and the battle for recovery.
A Father’s Love – a man tries to build a bridge to his estranged family after finally coming to terms with his diagnosis of mental illness.
A Song to Asylum – The Holy-well, was once a place of healing and refuge, where ‘to comfort always’ was the motto.  This is a brief history of Holywell using music, song and film.

Year 4 was generously funded by the Northern Health and Social Care Trust and Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.

Second Chance for Change Documentaries

Years 1-3 – The final documentary – this 19 minute short film captures the story of the three years of the Second Chance for Change project. It provides insight into the film-making process, the therapeutic value of the work and the impact the project has had on the participants.

WORLD MENTAL HEALTH DAY SCREENING OF ESC’S WORK (2012) – This documentary draws on material from the Second Chance for Change project at Holywell hospital and provides a good introduction to ESC’s work in this area. Watch.

Behind the Scenes: Documenting Creative Impact (2014) – a short documentary charting the impact on the participants, of using storytelling drama and film, as a creative therapeutic intervention.


niall's picThis is an innovative film project working with young people with cancer and their families. ESC worked with the social work department in the Cancer centre of the Belfast City Hospital. They were supported by other staff in the MacMillan Support and Information Centre, the Cancer Centre and the Tower Block of the City. ESC enabled young people battling with cancer to share their experiences through film. The participants were given the choice to make a short film about any experience in their lives. They all chose to talk about their experiences of cancer, in their own words. Three stories grew out of this group and are captured in these films:

Find Your Voice – the whole story – Maura O’Brien from Daybreak News pieces together the story of our young people in a newsdesk format suggested by Nicola, one of the participants early in the project. This includes the following three short films.
Niall’s Story – Niall was a rising young football star until a diagnosis of cancer stopped him in his tracks. Dropped from his team, Niall dreams of writing an alternative ending… with cameos from Barry McGuigan and Martin O’Neill.
Emma’s Story – When Emma was diagnosed with cancer, her younger brother Niall decided to use his artistic skills to make her a plasticine tiger to keep her company throughout her treatments. With interviews with Emma and her family.
Christopher’s Story – His cancer caused him to lose an arm. Christopher was determined not to let it rob him of his main passion in life – driving his customised BMW.


Bad TimesThis film is the result of a five day crash course in film-making. A group of young people from the Newtownabbey Borough Council area came together to make a film with ESC about who they are. They wanted to lift the label on youth identity. The project addressed social exclusion and anti-social behaviour and gave the young people the chance to improve their creative, social and communication skills. The project ended with a graduation ceremony at Mossley Mill, hosted by the then Mayor of Newtownabbey, Alderman Billy Webb.

ucf picYoung People on Smoking, an exciting new educational resource filmed, scripted and acted by young people, capturing young people’s attitudes to smoking. This innovative project was a collaboration between ESC and Cancer Focus, funded by Belfast Health and Social Care Trust. It explores young people’s attitudes to smoking – triggers for lighting your first cigarette, the use of smoking in media, peer pressure and how families are affected when young people start smoking. It tells the young people’s stories, in their own words.

HOW LOW CAN YOU GO? (2010) A film about addiction, rehabilititation, relapse and recovery made by the people who know – the addicts themselves. With The Carlisle House Service User Group.

EXTERN (2008) The Second Course.
The second group of volunteer ex-prisoners and people on probation to showcase a powerful series of short films shot on location in Belfast, at EXTERN’s Graham House. These short films include:

‘Down But Not Out’ – Chris
‘Poetic Justice’ – Gordon
‘Roll Call’ – Tom
‘Behind the Fringe’ – Anon.
‘Figment’ – John
‘Longabbey Project’ – A behind-the-scenes look at the project.

Watch the films here.

EXTERN (2007) The First Course.

ESC have completed an 18-month pilot project at Extern AXIS giving ex-prisoners and people on probation the chance to learn how to make films and to tell their own stories through film. Issues emerged around violence, suicide and addiction – ESC also created a documentary about the process of making the films.

A behind-the-scenes look at the project in its first year.
‘Then and Now’ – Tommy
‘Life After Death’ – Nigel
‘Loving Mum’ – Nat
‘No Invite’ – Pat
‘Wine into Water’ – Tim

You can watch these films here.

This project was funded by Peace II from Proteus in partnership with Prison Arts Foundation.

INSIDE JOB (2003/4) – A 15-minute drama about a bank robbery organised from within a prison with the unlikeliest of suspects. This film won a Arthur Koestler Award for prison drama in 2004. This drama was made by Tom Magill and Simon Wood in association with Prison Arts Foundation.


A TOUGH TIME FOR EVERYONE (2007) – we worked with Barnados to produce an animation showing the realities of imprisonment for the children of prisoners, drawn by a life-sentenced prisoner.


CATEGORY A MICKEY B (2006) – The real story behind the making of Mickey B told by prisoners and staff. Available on the Mickey B DVD or watch this trailer for a flavour.

THE BIG QUESTION (2005/6) – A documentary commissioned by the prison about the effect of incarceration on prisoners’ families won the Arthur Koestler Award and the Royal London Society Merit Award 2006 for prison documentary. (This documentary was made by Tom Magill and Simon wood in association with Prison Arts Foundation).

TWO SIDES OF THE COIN (2004/5 with The Prison Service Trust) – Twelve medically-retired prison officers and widows work through their traumas of: being kidnapped and tortured, being shot, having a partner murdered, having a partner commit suicide and witnessing a hanging.

Training Films

PBNI TRAINING FILM (2008) – ESC worked with the Probation Board’s Learning and Development team using drama and film to improve how probation officers are trained.

SEEN BUT NOT HEARD (2008) Queen’s University Social Work Department. This documentary tells the story of what happened when social work students were brought face to face with a group of service users from within the criminal justice system. ESC used their Safe Remote Dialogue tool to unpack the preconceptions of both groups before bringing them together to discuss how they can improve social work practice.

THREE MEN TELL THEIR STORIES (2009) First hand testimonies about the impact that making films with ESC has had on these men.

Youth Project Shorts

Bridging The Divide Project

This project was a four-year partnership between Queen’s Film Theatre, Belfast and ESC. This project brings together young people from divided communities in NI to make a short digital film. It uses filmmaking as a metaphor for teamwork, creativity and personal development. The project empowers young people to transform their own lives by turning their unique stories into films and documentaries to share with an international audience. These films have received Impetus Human Rights Awards.

WE’VE GOT TALENT (2009 – Bridging the Divide IV) – This QFT Learning/ESC Production worked with young people from Donegall Pass Community Centre, Lorag and the Chinese Welfare Association. Three young hopefuls are in the finals of the auditions for a talent contest. The production co-ordinator finds a magic torch that can control people’s movements, so she is left with the moral dilemma of how to use this magic power.

TUNNEL VISION (Girls in the re:mix!) (2008 – Bridging the Divide III) – This short film sees girl power figure out how to use the creative strength of dance to challenge the boys fighting. Mornington Community Project and Donegall Pass Young Men and Women’s Group feature.

BLOW OUT (2007 – Bridging the Divide II) – Cameron smokes his first spliff at a houseparty, the problem is, the paramilitaries are looking for the drug dealer who is supplying their local community. Cameron gets drawn deeper into this murky world despite his sister’s efforts to save him. Blow Out is a 10-minute short with a 21 minute documentary going behind the scenes, featuring Mornington and Donegall Pass community centres.

BRIDGING THE DIVIDE I (2006) – 3 shorts and a behind the scenes documentary featuring Ballymac youth project, East Belfast Mission and Mornington Community Group.

TURN THE MUSIC DOWN – The story of what happens to a group of young people in East Belfast, who think they are above the law. They soon find out they are not above the law of the local paramilitaries.

HOODN IT – How a group of bored teenagers from Lower Ormeau create excitement for themselves when there’s nothing else to do.

DON’T JUDGE US – A powerful message from Protestant and Catholic teenagers in Belfast, challenging the negative labels placed on them by many adults.

R & J (2006) – Romeo is a Montague whose dad is a UDA leader from the Shankill. Juliet’s dad is a Sinn Fein councillor from the New Lodge. Shakespeare’s tragedy is played out in North Belfast in a very 21st century vein. Should Juliet stay or should she go?

LNR TOR (2005) – This short film gives insight into the girls’ lives, dealing with the hostilities both groups can face going to school in their uniforms. This project brought together two groups of girls, one from the Loyalist Ballysillan and one from the Republic Ligoniel at the interface between the two communities.

GATECRASHED (2003 with The Simon Community) – Homeless youth expose the realities of hostel life – excessive noise, bullying and theft.

AN’ WHA? (2003) – The story of Romeo and Juliet plays itself out in North Belfast. Part of Exploring Conflict Resolution through the Performing Arts. Winner of an Impetus Human Rights Award.