is an ex-colliery town in Durham England that was badly affected by the miners strikes, and the ultimate demise of coal mining in England in the 1980's and 1990's.
Gary grew up with little education in a time of severe austerity, and spent his childhood stealing food and coal to stay warm and fed. Over the years this escalated into a life of crime, and Gary was given two prison sentences for violent crimes against the person. In his second prison term Gary learned to read and write, and eventually began to realise his self worth.
Gary has turned his life around and now uses his respected and influential position in the community he grew up in to discourage young people from taking the path in life he chose.
Since making this short film in 2014 Gary has become joint founder of Positive Directions NE, and has this summer won a two year contract with HMRC Durham. Gary's job is to work with inmates to motivate them to make use of the various training and educational programmes availabe to them.
Gary uses the film we made with him as a unique way to communicate his background with the inmates, and has at times received with a standing ovation. Once the inmates realise Gary was once in their position they trust him, and for many Gary is the only person they've ever met who's been succesful in turning their life around. Gary says our short film was instrumental in winning the two year contract with HMRC Durham.
Since the original film, MadeGood has continued a friendship with Gary and the Bearpark boxing community, and are now about to embark on a more ambitious, feature length project.
Bearpark feature length documentary film will follow a young person at a similar crossroads to where Gary found himself in his youth. In a town so close to one of the UK's leading red-brick Universities, Bearpark's younger generation struggle to find inspiration and opportunity. Where fighting outside the ring is so often a way of life, and where many seek a better future through boxing. In Gary's own words, he tends to be so much more than just a boxing coach, he's their ear, and their guide. But is Gary's lifetime of experience and tireless dedication enough to keep them off the streets and out of prison?
Combat sports are dangerous, and when a fighter enters the ring they put their life on the line. Training for a fight is a search for one's own physical and mentals limits, It takes discipline, dedication, and complete trust between trainer and fighter. We'll follow our protagonist over a 3 to 6 month period as, Gary at Bearpark Boxing Gym, and Paul at the Unity Gym Durham, train them for the fight of their life so far, and the climax of our film.
We are making a much more ambitious film than before to reach an even bigger audience with an inspirational message. In the process of making this film we will create viral clips, interviews and a mini-website within www.madegood.com to host a crowdfunding project aming to raise over £10,000 for Bearpark community gym, that will be promoted by the film and launched at the same time. MadeGood.films is now looking for funding possibilities to make this feature length documentary and crowdfunding project.
Introducing the characters
The Bearpark community boxing gym has a strong relationship with the more professionally run Unity Gym in Durham. Gary accepts everyone who walks through the door in his gym, and those more serious about wanting to fight in the ring will be referred to Paul Hubber for an intensive set period training programme.
Gary & the team
Gary Crooks is a larger than life character that everybody in Durham knows, and everybody respects. He's an honest person with nothing to hide, and though he's not proud of his past it's his openess to talk about it that earns him the trust of those he works to help. Gary works at the gym as much as a personal mentor as he does a boxing coach, and the community he's created is a one of a kind haven for those who attend.
Old time friend and partner to Gary's sister, Paul Hubber works at the higher end Unity Gym in Durham. Fighters wanting a little more are referred to Paul for expert training, though will typically continue to train at Gary's Bearpark community gym. Working like a tag-team partnership, Gary and Paul regularly lean on each other to provide their fighters with the professional and emotional support they need.
Ross Oakes is a former prison warden and Gary's most unlikely business partner, at Positive Directions NE. Gary and Ross work together delivering a programme to prison inmates, motivating them engage with educational and training programmes within the prison. The fact that Gary was once in prison himself, but is now on the other side delivering training with someone like Ross, is an inspiration to inmates.
"Making a clean break was just not realistic. People would still ask if I could beat someone up for money, or if I could buy them cheap drugs. Often people would tell me about an easy robbery or where I could can steal something, but the answer’s no and it’s as simple as that. It’ll continue to be no because I’m just not that person anymore. There have been people from my past wanting to extract revenge on me for the things I’ve done. People don’t believe I’ve changed and they think I’m a police informer, there have been ‘altercations’. But that’s fine, I can’t change how people think about me, or what they say about me. I just changed how I thought about myself. I started a company and we’ve won a contract with HMP Durham to go into the prison and help people in remand to engage with the institution. Often there will be programmes to help the inmates, so our job is to motivate them to actually make use of what’s available to them."
"Growing up in Durham in the 90’s in Sacriston, if someone asked you out for a fight you couldn’t say no. You just can’t, or you’re a coward. Word got round that I was an alright fighter and when someone asked, you’ve just got to go outside with them. There was a heroin epidemic in the area at the time and I didn’t even have a lock on my shed. Nothing ever got touched, do you know what I mean? But I’ve never stolen anything in my life, and I’ve done a lot of good in this community. I wouldn’t class myself as a criminal, I know a lot of policemen who are more dishonest than I am. And nobody really asks me to fight any more because I’ve got a alright reputation as a decent person. My Nanna had a saying before she died, “If you fly with the crows you get shot with them”, and it’s true isn’t it? If I went down the bus station now and started drinking cider, or taking heroin or cocaine, I’d be much more likely to get into trouble than I would if i was sitting here talking with you."
"I received a call from the police about a supermarket I used to manage. When I turned up there was a hole in the wall where somebody had removed the bricks and cut a hole in the metal sheet to get into the cabinet holding all the valuable items. The police dealt with the robbery and I never thought anything more of it. It was only years later once Gary and I had become business partners that I realised it was him who’d carried out that robbery."
"We work a lot with prisoners who don’t want to engage, because it’s difficult to break the negative cycle of someone who doesn’t want to leave their cell. Gary’s story is an inspiration, it’s a true rags to riches story- an armed robber turned legitimate business leader. We break the ice using the story of the robbery, which the inmates love because it’s funny, but also because they know they can trust Gary. He’s a positive role model and an inspiration."
Let's meet some of the Bearpark boxing community.
"When I lived with my Mum she was never there. She’d pick boyfriends over me, or spend her time monged out on the sofa on medication. We moved from place to place because she couldn’t pay the rent, and if my Dad gave her money she’d spend it on cigarettes or something else for herself. My brother would rob and steal just so that we had money to feed ourselves.
I was fighting all the time, and there always had to be a male teacher there just in case I kicked off. My dad said I should get into boxing, so I started coming to Bearpark. As you can see it’s not the world’s best, it’s a shit hole really but it’s good. Gary’s an absolutely class trainer and he’s always there for me no matter what, so is my Dad and Mandy.
I don’t need to get into trouble any more, what’s the point? I keep my head down and come to the gym. I’ve never been in trouble with the police and I’ve seen the problems it’s caused with my brother and my Dad, so I never intend to."
"If I didn’t have this gym I’d be at the house sniffing coke smoking weed and drinking, if that’s not too hardcore for you? But it’s the truth. There’s nothing round here for men like me in our 30’s, no industry, no jobs, nothing. I had mental health problems of my own but eventually Gary convinced me to come down. Since then I’ve lost weight, my confidence has come round and I’ve learned to interact with people again. I went through a stage of not talking to people and I never left the house for two years, but I’ve made friends here and we’ve all chipped in to make this place our own. I come every day and it’s as normal as getting out of bed and having a cup of tea. I’m on first name terms with everybody here and we’re like a big family, it’s fantastic. Thanks to Gary he’s given me a chance, got me in here, cleaned my act up and I’ve made myself feel better."
"I fit in champion with the lads down at Bearpark boxing gym, I love them and they love us, we’re like a little family. I even had a bearpark badge on my kit last night to show my appreciation to Gary and the group. We’ve got our own little Facebook group and I just fit in, I’m just like one of the lads sometimes.
Gary is someone who wears his heart on his sleeve and he’ll do anything to anyone. He’s more than just a coach he’s a friend, he’s always been a friend and he listens to me. If there’s anyone who I need to thank it’s him for believing in me. I wish I’d gone to him when I was poorly and dealing with the demons in my head, I think he’d have helped me because he’s willing to help anyone.
Gary’s just a legend, everyone loves Gary."
"There’s a lot of good people in here. No matter what walk of life you come from, you can come in here and train. We’ve got cage fighters and boxers, people with mental health problems and physical problems, everyone’s welcome to come and train in here. It means everything to everyone who comes in here. You can mix with people in here that won’t judge you at all, and everybody helps everybody out.
Gary’s a friend of mine from years ago, I’ve known him the best part of my life. He’s somebody that everyone in here looks up to. He helps everybody and he’s put himself out big style to do it, just to prove that somebody can turn their life around like that to help other people."
"We’re in Bearpark community gym that I’ve been coming to for only a short time but I’ve been welcomed with open arms, myself and my little boy. It’s a charity place and all the equipment has been donated, but it’s the people who are fantastic. I came from the country which has a different culture really, but I came here to the city and I’ve been welcomed. Lovely people."
We're looking to fund this film in two parts, first to cover production costs and secondly to cover post-production costs for the work completed after the filming has finished. We're not looking to fund wages within MadeGood.films, and all staff will work for free. Work that cannot be completed in-house such as music, sound design and colour will be sub-contracted to an outside party. Equipment hire will mostly be provided by current in-house stock, but some rental is unavoidable. The scope of the film will depend on the amount of funding we receive, with more funding paying for a longer filming period, with the minimum filming period being 6 weeks.
Timeline & deliverables
We are in constant contact with Gary, Paul and the community at Bearpark so we are ready to begin post-production as soon as the funds are received. The main thrust of the filming will take place in the lead up to their fight in the ring, so exact dates are yet to be determined, though at the very latest this will be no more than one year after the funds have been received. We will reserve a total of 7 days filming for the days following the fight.
Post production will begin during filming and we'll produce a series of 3 minute films intended for online release. Once filming has finished it'll take another 2-3 months to finish the edit to picture-lock. After this we can send the film to our outside contractors for sound, music and colour grading. This will take between 6-12 weeks depending on their availability. In summary, the minimum complete production time is around one year, and maximum complete production time is around one and a half years.
It's not much but it's ours. It keep us of the streets, it keeps us healthy, it's everything really.
Bearpark gym crowdfunding plan
MadeGood.films has experience in running a successful crowdfunding campaign, and in 2015 we raised over £9,000 for our debut feature film, London Edinburgh London. We learned that aside from having and excellent product to sell, there are two more essential ingredients- strong community and quality outreach. This is exactly where we believe Bearpark Community Boxing Gym is perfectly positioned. Along with the Unity Gynm in Durham, there is already an incredibly strong community of boxers, but Gary's influence spreads far wider, and in June this year received the Unsung Hero award in Durham for his continued hard work in the community. MadeGood.films has a strong social media presence with over 4 million video views across Youtube and Vimeo, and thousands of followers on each of Youtube, Twitter and Facebook. We will regurlarly produce 3 minute promotional videos during the production of the film to raise interest, and finally we will launch the crowdfunding campaign at the same time as the film to make the maximum use of the press and promotion the film will be receiving at that time.
In raising money to make this inspirational documentary film, we'll also use the money to aim to raise over £10,000 for Bearpark Community Boxing Gym.