THEY are working with some of the biggest names in the world of cinema. But Damaris is a small charity, based in a residential street in Southampton.

The educational charity was founded some 12 years ago but it is in the last year that it really stepped into the spotlight, when it started working with big film companies, producing educational resources for community groups around certain films.

Since then the charity’s founders, Nick and Carol Pollard, have found themselves rubbing shoulders with the likes of Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway and Billy Connolly.

But more importantly for them, they have helped people in community groups to explore spiritual and moral issues through the latest movies.

Damaris works with major film distributors such as 20th Century Fox and Paramount to produce featurettes and other materials to allow community groups to discuss the issues raised by certain movies.

They have produced resource packs for a number of big films, including Les Misérables, Life of Pi and Quartet.

Nick explains that although Damaris has a Christian foundation, it is an educational charity and its resources are suitable for those of any faith or none.

The idea came about through a desire to help people.

“I trained as a psychologist and my wife trained as a teacher,” he says.

“We are both interested in the way people think, learn and grow, both as individuals and communities. This idea came about partly in response to the quote from film director Quentin Tarantino that ‘cinema is the new church’.

“The church is still the biggest community group by far but it is true that a lot of people who in the past did their cultural and spiritual thinking in the context of the church now do it in the context of cinema.

“Films raise questions for them and they are often left to think about them on their own. We formed to help people to think about those issues.”

Nick explains that the idea is that community groups, such as Women’s Institutes, can use films in a similar way to books in book clubs – watching them together and then discussing some of the issues raised, with the help of being able to re-watch certain key scenes as well as interviews with cast and crew in their own group.

Nick and Carol had to persuade film companies to work with them in the first place but now are in the situation where they are so in demand that they can only work with really big film distributors, who foot the bill for all the resources, meaning community groups get them for free.

“What really put us on the map was when we created the official resources for The King’s Speech,” says Nick.

Today, distributors provide them with a list of forthcoming releases and they pick the ones they think might be most suitable for community group discussions.

They now employ some 40 people, including parttimers and freelancers and are also working with the University of Winchester to establish a local centre to help people explore the relationship between spirituality and culture.

Ironically, although the scheme has been a huge hit, both with film companies and community groups, Nick isn’t a big film fan.

“I still prefer reading or listening to music but we both felt that for so many people, cinema is shaping their passionate about helping other people.”

Nick does admit that the glamour of working alongside the film industry can be fun, though, including going to red carpet premieres.

Damaris also often give away premiere tickets to community groups.

“A young woman who was given a ticket through the Diana Awards, who has spent most of her life struggling with cancer came along to the premiere of Life of Pi.

She said that it was the best evening of her life!” he says.

“Another girl came to the premiere of one of the Twilight movies and she said ‘I can’t believe I’m breathing the same air as Robert Pattinson!”

But for Nick and Carol, the best thing is the feedback they get.

“It’s very rewarding when you’re helping people to engage with good films and think about them,” he says. For more information about Damaris and to find out about accessing free community resources, visit