As a multi award winning international Christian filmmaker, Jeremy Higham’s career has had its high points and low points. 53 year old Jeremy has been to over 25 different countries and filmed in most of them. There have been times that he’s felt broken, tackling subjects like suicide, terrorism, and one film he made was about an orphanage where young girls were regularly dying of starvation.
Jeremy has also made many feature length documentaries about celebrities, including world boxing champion Prince Naseem, presenter Ulrika Johnson, and racing driver Eddie Irvine, and whilst he was making this film he got to stay on Eddie’s multi million pound yacht.
Jeremy, known as Jez to his friends, had quite a privileged upbringing. He was the son of millionaire parents who ran a business making sheets for the NHS, and his family employed four-thousand people. He grew up in a very large country house in Lancashire, with a five acre garden with a tennis court and swimming pool. Although Jez’s parents were wealthy though, he sensed an unhappiness between them.
At the age of seven Jez had been sent to a private boarding school. He found this estrangement from his family upsetting but was glad that the headmaster there, Mr Molloy, was a loving father figure, who took Jez under his wing. Jez stayed in contact with him as friends for nearly four decades, until Mr Molloy sadly died last year.
At the age of 14 Jez started going off the rails a bit, rebelling and getting very much into heavy metal music and drinking and as he got older he experimented with soft to medium strength drugs.
Jez got into filmmaking in an unplanned way. He’d failed a module of his degree course at Aberdeen university, then a friend of his suggested that they buy a video camera and make sporting videos, approaching places like ski resorts and gold clubs. Jez says that his friends enthusiasm for these ventures was contagious and really motivated him to get involved.
Jez and his friend got their first break when they were offered freelance work, making films for North Sea oil companies. They then found themselves flown out in helicopters to oil rigs, where they stayed for up to a week and Jez found this exciting, even though they were often just filming things like pipes being welded together. It felt glamorous though to be travelling and working with cameras. Jez’s passion for documentary was then born.
Jez then decided to go to London, as most media breaks happen there. He got offered a job with a company called Black Rod, which was ran by Michael Rod, who was a famous TV presenter on shows like Tomorrows World. He then made high budget videos for various companies. Budgets of up to quarter of a million pounds, for just ten minute videos. It was a chance for Jez to further learn his craft, firstly as an assistant producer and then as a director.
Break followed break, and Jez ended up in Northern Ireland, working as a director for Ulster Television. He was then responsible for making three minute productions which were screened as features after the news.
Jez was then offered a commission to make a feature length production for Channel 4, as part of The Lonely Planet series. He set off for Vietnam with four-thousand pounds in his pocket, the petty cash for the production. He was told by the producer to not come back without something special. He went on to direct a total of five Lonely Planet programs and the series was a great success.
At Channel 4 Jez later found himself working with the likes of Chris Evans, Rory Bremner and Joe Brand, to mention a few. He went on to make single documentaries where he would live with famous people and Jez had once had to wake up racing driver Eddie Irvine when he’d overslept and he’d almost been late for a Grand Prix in Malta.
The documentary about Eddie Irvine brought Jez acclaim at national level and the heads of many TV companies started bombarding him with numerous offers of work. One day he got so many offers and contacts on his pager that he had a panic attack. He was unable to go into the production office where he was working and he asked a colleague if she would come out onto the street and walk around the block with him whilst he calmed down.
The most significant film of Jez’s life was soon about to happen. A phone call from the Belfast production company he’d previously worked for introduced him to an orphanage in Moldova, in Russia. He’d been sent photos of emaciated children. When he got there he witnessed first hand that the girls were starving and dying at a rate of one a week. The girls were often in the dark and some of them were sleeping on bin liners, laying in their own faeces.
Jez then became personally involved, which he feels is always a mistake for a filmmaker. He remembers going to the house of the director of the orphanage and nearly physically assaulting him and Jez begged him to open up the food stores that the production crew had brought for the children. Moldovan law had required that every tin first be counted and labelled by officials before the starving children could actually eat it. Jez was so overwhelmed with anger that he felt like he was ready to shoot someone.
When the children of the orphanage were finally able to eat, Jez describes it as a memory he’ll never forget. The joy on the children’s faces as they stuffed themselves with fresh cabbages and baked beans.
The completed film called Convoy to Moldova was bought by the BBC and won three awards at the Monti Carlo film festival. During the making of the orphanage film Jez also had another powerful experience that would change his life for ever. He became a born again Christian.
Jez had came back to England for a while and had been to a party with a group of Christians and Jez had been intrigued by them and instantly saw them as a group of amazing people who were somehow different. He’d asked to meet them again and went to their church that was running Alpha meetings. On about the fourth week, they asked the people on the Alpha course is anyone wanted to receive Jesus in to their hearts, and though Jez felt a bit resistant to the idea he thought he’d give it a try. A young guy then stood next to him and asked Jez if he’d like to be prayed for, and Jez said yes. The man then said, “Jesus come to Jeremy.”
Jeremy then felt a weight and peace come into his body. It was so overpowering that he couldn’t stand up so he laid on the floor feeling wonderful. After a while he got up again and he went to the gents and looked in the mirror and saw that his whole face was kind of shining bright and he knew something very profound had happened. Jez later prayed the salvation prayer.
As a new Christian Jez now had a passion for God and now had the desire to create films that revealed the life changing and saving power of Jesus, but frustratingly this kind of thing was of little interest to mainstream secular television.
Because Jez wanted to tell Christian stories now though, he set up Cornerstone films with two church friends. Even though the TV world was mainly secular, he managed to get commissioned and make a feature length documentary called God bless Ibiza. The film was about a group of Christians, many of whom were ex drug users and drinkers who’d been into the rave scene, but now as Christians had a ministry evangelising to night clubbers in Spain. God bless Ibiza was shown by Channel 4 at a peak time audience slot.
Another film Jez made was called Exodus, which was a 15 minute film about a group of Russian Christian pastors who had once been drug addicts, bank robbers and gangsters, but were then saved and born again. It’s an extremely powerful film, but it was seen as something outside of mainstream television interest, even though the film was extraordinary.
Some years later Jez then decided that he wanted to be an ordained Christian minister, but was turned down by the Church of England who felt that he would bring too much creativity and spontaneity to the role. It was quite a blow to Jez to have been rejected and he spent a year after licking his wounds.
10 years ago Jez then set up his currant venture with his wife Esther, a business called J & E Higham, where they make short corporate videos for the websites of organisations, businesses and charities. Jez’s business employs 10 people.
Jeremy had become a Christian 18 years ago now and a couple of years after this he married his beautiful wife Esther. When Jez first saw Esther in a crowd of 500 people, he thought, “Wouldn’t it be amazing to be married to a women like that.”
Before Jeremy had become a Christian he’d had dozens of sexual relationships and described himself as a bit of romance addict. He never thought he’d find fulfilment settling down with one person. Not only are Jeremy and Esther married, but they’ve also spent many years working together. Esther has often been the producer behind Jez’s film productions and Esther has also worked at times as a presenter on Premier Christian radio and also on their internet TV site.
Jeremy now humbly describes himself as having been a bit of a nightmare sometimes to live and work with, but over a period of time their marriage has gone from strength to strength and got stronger and Jeremy says that him and Esther are very much in love and they are both parents to their 13 year old son Asher and their 11 year old daughter Daisyella, both of whom they love to bits.
As a filmmaker, Jez has been on a steep learning curve. Not only has he had to learn the practicalities of filmmaking, but he’s also had to learn to cope with the emotional side. He’s had to deal with some harrowing subjects and at the end of the day he’d sometimes went home emotionally drained and exhausted and sometimes he’d just cried. As a filmmaker, Jez gained a passionate heart and an empathy for human suffering and he’d wanted to use his talent to help, educate and make better in some way some of the things he was seeing.
Jez has also experienced extreme highs as a filmmaker. He’s travelled all round the world to some amazing places, worked with celebrities and other extraordinary people. He’s had experiences that will stay with him forever. But for Jez, the greatest thing he’s experienced was becoming a born again Christian.
Another significant thing that happened in Jez’s life, was 11 years ago when he moved from his house in built up urban area of Brixton, South West London, to a semi rural area of Edenbridge in Kent, and Jez describes the move as, “like being let out of jail.” They’d moved to a modest semi-detached ex council house, and they were later able to get a loan and buy the 14 acres of field land that their house backs onto, after the land came up at auction.
When I interviewed Jeremy for this article, I asked him if there was anything he’d like to say to anyone reading it. He replied these exact words.
“What I’d like to say as a closing thought will sound strange to anyone who has not experienced what I’ve experienced, but I can honestly say, the most essential part of my life now is my relationship with Jesus Christ. Everything good and worth having in it, has come from that. I can’t put it more simply.”