It is difficult to switch on the news at the moment without being inundated with stories about Brexit and the housing crisis in London.

Few towns in the capital and across the country are affordable and it seems that no new council or social homes are being built.

For the past four years, director Christopher Ian Smith, who founded the future filmmaking symposium EMERGE in 2012 as part at the East End Film Festival, has been exploring his hometown for his latest film project, New Town Utopia. Christopher grew up in Benfleet, the town next door to Basildon.

In the 1940s, Basildon was one of eight New Towns created in the South East of England after the government passed the New Towns Act to improve amenities and progress development.

Christopher is concerned that Basildon has not become the social utopia that it was meant to be, as it now struggles to live up to expectations of its fragmented community and failing economy. His promotional material for the film asks: Do people make the place?... Or does a place make the people?

He explains why he has set up a Kickstarter campaign so that he can find out why the area didn’t create a "new type of citizen", with homes by progressive modernist architects, job opportunities, green spaces and a plethora of public art.

Can you tell me about the film?

It’s a film that explores the grand utopian dreams and harsh concrete realities of Basildon, in Essex. The British New Towns were originally designed as social utopias, but I wanted to understand why this didn’t happen.

Can you tell me about Kickstarter?

Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform, so people can back the film in return for rewards. We’ve got some great rewards including posters, personalised poetry and an exclusive Depeche Mode printed photo.

We need to raise £16,000 in four weeks, as this will help to finance post-production on the film, such as the edit, colour, music, sound and archive. If we don’t hit our target, we don’t get a penny!

Where did you interest for these towns begin?

I grew up in Essex and spent a lot of time in Basildon as a child. It always had a sense of ‘otherness’ compared to other towns. This came from the architecture and textures and the intriguing sculptures and public art.

Why the interest in Basildon?

It’s a place (and its people) that I’ve always had a fondness for in spite of its reputation. Basildon is representative of many British towns in its economic and social struggles. The high street is populated with betting shops, payday loan and pound shops. Artists struggle to get funding or support from the people of the town and local government.

What other new towns do you look at – any more around London or Hertfordshire?

The focus is Basildon, but to understand the new town history and experiences I’ve met many people from other new towns. I’ve recently been to Stevenage and Craigavon in Northern Ireland to discuss new towns.

With the housing crisis, you explore some current themes…

Yes indeed, the housing crisis and Brexit are very topical and relevant to Basildon and the other new towns. A significant thing happened in 1979 when the Right To Buy scheme was introduced nationwide. For new towns (that were fundamentally made up of council/social housing) this enabled private ownership and social mobility. However this also created a new divide between those that could afford their council homes and those that couldn’t.

You’ve been working on this for four years…

On and off, yes, in between earning money on paid jobs and having a daughter. It’s evolved as a film over that time and some of the people in the film I only met later in the process. I’m glad it worked that way but now it’s time to finish it!

Have you made any other films like this before?

It’s my first feature documentary. I made one short documentary previously about the musician Imogen Heap. Previously all my films have been low-budget, fictional short films that reflect my interest in landscape, myth and science fiction.

How did you get into filmmaking?

Head down and hard work really. A lot of the things I learnt initially were self-taught, such as camera, lighting, editing. The more you work on different shoots and productions you learn from the talent, advice and experience of other crew members.

Where did you study?

I studied at the University of Sussex, and University of California. I always wanted to go to film school afterwards, but the timing or my financial situation never allowed it. So I just got on with making films.

Have you got any other projects lined up after this?

A few, but finishing New Town Utopia is my focus.

Next up will be completing Sulphur, an experimental folk-thriller that was improvised with cast and crew during the Lewes bonfire festivities. It will be strange and a little dark.