Debs Gardner-Paterson went to school in North Yorkshire, sixth form in South India and university in Cambridge. She has worked in television in Singapore, film production in London, and has video'd and volunteered for charities throughout Africa, Asia and the Middle East. A literature major at Cambridge University (Trinity Hall, 97-00), much of her time studying was accompanied by directing and writing for theatre. Her first dramatic writing effort ?Nightingale', an adaptation of a Frank Harris novella, was produced by the University's ADC theatre in 1999 - making her apparently the first individual female student playwright since Oscar-winner Emma Thompson to be selected as such. The production (which she also directed) was also her first foray into film-making, incorporating narrative flashbacks in onstage projections.
After graduating, Debs' first job was co-anchoring ?Total Football' - Singapore's live coverage of the English Premiership and Italian Serie A - which involved presenting 2 live shows per week, and also gained her a co-producer credit by the end of the year. Debs also co-directed & edited a short documentary Out the same year, about Singapore's first (legal) all-night clubbing event, which was showcased at the Singapore International Film Fest 2001.
Returning to the UK, two years of working in London's film industry followed - assisting prominent features casting director Jeremy Zimmermann, as well as some short film producing and directing (independently and for the UKFC). A serious car accident late 2003 stopped all film-making activities for a couple of years, but proved to be seminal in many ways - allowing a very different and completely illuminating new take on life, love and the universe as a result of her hospitalisation and recovery. Debs married musician and film composer Bernie Gardner a year later, and freelanced in London as a web designer, the DGGB union administrator, lo-budget documentary and corporate promo producer for the next three years. She also began studying for a Theology MA part-time.
Debs' first short We Are All Rwandans (HDV, 25mins) was conceived in February 2007 and shot in April 2007 on location in western Rwanda. Based on a true story, and filmed in the actual locations where the real events took place, with a cast of amateur Rwandan actors, the film was awarded an honourable mention in the best narrative short category of the Pan African Film Festival (LA, Feb 2008) and the Best World Cinema Short prize at the Phoenix International Film Festival 08, as well as playing at LA Shorts 08, and opening the 2008 Rwanda International Film Festival. The RIFF director, Eric Kabera, called the short'an important moment in Rwandan cinema' in his opening night speech, and the film played twice a day every day during Genocide Memorial Week on Rwandan National TV. The production was selffunded initially, but later picked up by Cornerstone Film & Media Trust and given completion funding & post-production support.
Fourth generation Rwandan - but not in the usual package - white European, but with parents working in Asia, Debs' great-grandparents moved to Rwanda-Burundi as teachers and missionaries, and her extended family have lived and worked there ever since. Her mother was born and spent her childhood in Rwanda, and her grandmother is buried there. Added to a childhood spent mostly in North Yorkshire as the eldest of five sisters, Debs has a fascination with the way people relate - especially through perceived divisions of skin, faith, culture or guilt.
UK production company Footprint Films saw We Are All Rwandans at its premiere screening at London's BAFTA Piccadilly, and took the short on for feature development, with the primary team of Debs as director/writer, and Rwandan co-writer Ayuub Kasasa Mago. In preparation for this, Footprint produced her second short Home - fully conceived and produced within two weeks February 2008, for which Debs won a Best Director Award at the 168 Festival (LA, Apr 08). The short received a total of 12 award nominations and 3 wins at its inaugural festival, and is the story of 17 year old Tom's return home after an unsuccessful suicide attempt.
Footprint producers Mark Blaney and Jackie Sheppard travelled with Debs to Rwanda mid- March 2008 for an initial research and development trip towards the Rwandan feature.
During this trip, Debs and 6 Rwandan filmmakers spent a day producing the 5 minute no-budget short Aimé, which won them a place in the final of the Doorpost Film Project competition 2008.
Supraman & the School of Necessity was commissioned and produced for the final round of the Doorpost contest (Sept 08) - receiving the judges' 1st place vote, although missing out on placing in the top three due to an unusually structured public voting factor. The 15 minute super16mm short film was shot entirely on location in Bangalore, India - with four English crew members and an otherwise entirely Kannada/Hindi crew, local Kannada actors and an orphan boy - Surya - cast in the lead.
"Rarely is a short film able to take you from laughter to tears -'Supraman' genuinely amused and moved me... Combining the charm of Amelie with the vision of Slumdog Millionaire, this short punches well above its run-time"
- Shekhar Kapur (Director - Elizabeth, Bandit Queen)
"A charming film - beautifully directed, and full of the natural optimism inherent to the Indian spirit"
- Simon Beaufoy (Writer - Slumdog Millionaire)
?Supraman & the School of Necessity' can be viewed online at www.thedoorpost.com/hope/Supraman
To date, Debs has directed and co-written 4 dramatic shorts, all of which have been successful internationally, picking up both awards and funding. She has an eye for unusual and cross-cultural stories - only one of these shorts was produced in the UK (two were in Rwanda, and one in India),
She has a gift for working with actors, and crossing cultural boundaries to elicit natural and compelling stories and performance - and emphasising the shared humanity between audience and strikingly diverse characters & situations.
Currently Debs is working on the development of two projects: ?Africa United' with writer Rhidian Brook and Footprint Films, and a feature version of the ?We Are All Rwandans' short film also with Footprint Films. She is keen to hear about other potential projects, so please feel free to make contact via the comment form on www.catsiye.com, and she will respond directly.
?Africa United' will be her first feature.