I turned my life around – so can you

LIGHTS, camera, action… Andrea Manning shows off the film-making talent that earned her a top national award. The 16-year-old’s short film documents how she transformed her life after she was bullied at school.

A TEENAGER who suffered at the hands of bullies has used her experience to become an award-winning film-maker.

Sixteen-year-old Andrea Manning, from Rochdale Road, Edenfield, scooped the top prize in the under 18s Digital Storytelling category in a national competition for first-time film-makers.

Her two-minute film, ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’, documents how she transformed the anger and suffering in her past into enthusiastic ambition and positive determination to help others.

The film shows a narrated montage of pictures of Andrea though her childhood to the present day.

Together with her sister Jesamine, now 19, she had been moved round countless foster homes before they found the love and stability of a family. Ken and Sandra Manning adopted the girls 12 years ago.

Early traumas left Andrea barely able to speak when she arrived at four years old.

She said: ‘I had massive anger problems due to never feeling wanted, but I could only express them through tantrums and throwing furniture around.’

She only stayed at Haslingden High for two years because of constant bullying. Ken and Sandra decided to educate her at home instead, and this was a major turning point. She discovered a love of the media, and threw herself into as many projects and opportunities as possible, including acting classes when she was 14; she also discovered volunteering.

Andrea, who also has a foster brother Tom, said: ‘I wanted to help others, it lets you forget your own problems and puts them in perspective.’

She spent a year volunteering on the wards at Rossendale Hospital and went on to co-host a radio show. This led to a weekly spot on Northern Air radio at North Manchester General Hospital.

‘I can combine my interest in media with helping others; it’s perfect,’ she said.

Her prodigious talent and prolific CV impressed staff at Salford College so much she is now on a BTEC national diploma in moving images, despite not having any GCSEs.

She also attends the weekly film group at Community Action Rossendale, where former BBC producer John McManus teaches students editing and filming skills. She has helped to make 12 films for local community groups and now teaches newcomers at training days. Mr McManus said: ‘I’m very pleased for Andrea, she’s done really well, although I’m not surprised as it was clear that she had great potential.’

Although she loves acting and radio, Andrea plans to go to university and focus on film production.

She said: ‘I’d love to win more awards and achieve recognition for doing what I enjoy – and make lots of money from it.’

Her dream is to buy Ken and Sandra a luxury house abroad.

‘It would be a way to say a huge thanks to them; I owe everything to my family; the support they have given me has made all that I’ve done possible, I am so grateful to them for seeing me through the bad times and the good.’

Ken said: ‘The whole family is so proud of what she’s achieved since she came to us; this award was the icing on the cake.’

She received her award in London on Tuesday when her film was premiered at the Curzon Mayfair cinema in the West End.

The top five winning films will be screened at 11 regional cinemas across the country over the next week.

The Volunteer Britain competition was organised by Community Service Volunteers (CSV) and the BBC to mark the Year of the Volunteer.

Damian Radcliffe from CSV said: ‘These films can help change perceptions about volunteering and inspire more people to make a difference.’

Andrea added: ‘People shouldn’t dwell on the bad things – the past might suck, but the future – that’s a different matter entirely.’

Reprinted c/o MEN Media. First published here.

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