We find out more about The Correction Unit, a feature film made and set in Nottingham, that issues a stark warning about how, very shortly, AI could potentially be misused in the education of vulnerable young people...
Winning art competitions, writing essays for students, sending Taylor Swift’s legal team into meltdown… The debate around AI and its use, or misuse, has been raging blindly since the technology first started to enter common discourse a few years ago. Artificial Intelligence is nothing new; the term has been around since the mid-fifties. But more recently, the prospect of AI being a significant, tangible part of our everyday lives has become a reality.
Enter The Correction Unit, a feature film made and set in Nottingham, that issues a stark warning about how, very shortly, AI could potentially be misused in the education of vulnerable young people.
“It’s part sci-fi, part thriller, and has elements of films like Get Out, Ex Machina, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Scum”, explains Derry Shillitto, the Nottingham-based writer/director of the film. “I don’t have a Luddite approach to AI – but the idea that people in power could harness it to manipulate vulnerable young people was a really interesting one to explore as the basis of the film.”
Set in a near-future dystopian Nottingham, The Correction Unit follows a group of young people who are trapped in a seemingly endless cycle of crime and violence, being bounced between Young Offenders institutes, care homes and alternative education facilities. Hand-selected for an experimental educational facility, they’re presented with the opportunity to start again at nTrac, a futuristic new AI educational facility. But, despite a promising start, nTrac starts to exert more influence with invasive and manipulative AI, the true intentions of the facility soon become apparent, leaving the students in a race against time and technology to escape.
The majority of the cast are young people from Nottingham. We did a lot of street casting, so quite a few of them have never acted before, but they just had that thing about them where I knew they’d give great performances
“Although it’s set in the future, a lot of the themes in The Correction Unit are relevant today,” Shillitto continues. “Over the last three years there has been a 21% increase in knife crime and violence against young people aged between 10-17 in the UK and, since COVID, behaviour and attendance has taken a pretty significant drop in schools.” Having written the film to explore what level of responsibility online media, and the lack of personal teaching, has had on young people, former Confetti lecturer Shillitto saw the opportunity to learn directly from some of the young actors he cast.
“The majority of the cast are young people from Nottingham. We did a lot of street casting, so quite a few of them have never acted before, but they just had that thing about them where I knew they’d give great performances,” he explains. “And more importantly, they bought so much of their own lived experiences to the roles they were playing, and helped shape the depth of the characters. A large number of them have been affected, directly and indirectly, by gang violence and crime, so working on the film has given them the opportunity to share and explore those experiences.”
As well as a platform to share their experiences, The Correction Unit has given young actors like Sonny Middleton, 16, Elleese Bradshaw, 17, and Zak Hopkinson, 16, (all from Nottingham) the opportunity to get paid experience on a feature film, something that is increasingly rare in an industry increasingly dictated by class boundaries.
“Acting is a really hard industry to break into, and you can count the working-class success stories from places like Nottingham on two hands,” Shillitto says. “We were really clear from the outset with how we wanted to treat the young actors we cast: we were going to pay them, make sure they enjoyed the experience, and help them use the footage to build showreels for their future careers.” With The Correction Unit having already been picked up for international distribution, there’s a good chance the actors’ hard work will pay off, and people all around the world will get the opportunity to see their performances.
But the film is still in production, with around 80% of it being shot, as Shillitto explains: “We split filming up into three stages to work around school term times and raise money. We’ve finished stages one and two in 2023 and earlier this year, and are currently in the process of raising funds for stage three and post-production, which will take place in March.” As part of this final push, The Correction Unit team have launched a crowdfunding campaign on Greenlit, a platform designed for raising funds for creative projects. With an aim to raise £10,000, they’re offering a range of different incentives, from online ‘thank you’ messages and original film props to tickets to private screenings in Nottingham and Executive Producer credits on IMDb.
“Everyone has worked so hard to get this film to where it is today – particularly the young actors,” Shillitto concludes. “We just need help to reach the finish line, which is so close.”
To check out the trailer, find out more about the film and back the Greenlit campaign, visit:
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