A DISABLED man who was born 16 weeks early and weighing only one pound 11 ounces hopes to become a heavyweight TV writer after being selected for a prestigious UK Film Council course.

Russell Highsmith, 24, of Thesiger Road, Abingdon, was the lightest baby ever to survive when he was born at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital in 1985.

Being born so prematurely has left him unable to use the right side of his body, but that hasn’t stopped him developing a passion for filmmaking and 14 years after making his first home videos with his parents, he has been selected from over 200 applicants for “The Magic Six”.

Mr Highsmith explained: “The Magic Six is a course designed by the UK Film Council for filmmakers with disabilities, and along with the five other participants I will be involved in the making of a short film from the point of commissioning, casting and directing, right through to completion and marketing.

“It’s an amazing opportunity because along with all the invaluable training I will also be given a mentor from the film and TV business.

“I am hoping it will be Paul Mayhew-Archer (husband of Abingdon town councillor Julie Mayhew-Archer and the co-writer of successful TV shows including The Vicar of Dibley).

“We are waiting to see whether he can make the commitment yet, but if he can it will be amazing.”

Mr Highsmith decided to make his own films after watching his granddad make home movies.

He said: “My first proper film was about a daring sea rescue.

“I was about 10 and used my mum and dad as actors.

“I put them in a dinghy and filmed them in the sea at Broadhaven beach in Wales.

“I used my grandad’s old video camera for a while, but it was difficult to use one-handed so I then got a smaller DVD camera.

“My dad adapted it so I could use it with one hand and then things really took off as I could download all my work on to computer and edit it too.”

Mr Highsmith credits much of his success to date to the OFVM (Oxford Film and Video Makers), with whom he has been making and screening short films since he was a pupil at Abingdon College.

“My last film was shown at Modern Art, in Oxford City Centre in June and was a great success.

“But my most exciting project to date is a sit-com I have written.

“It’s about a family who move from Peckham in London to Abingdon.

“My family and friends are looking at the second draft at the moment and so far their feedback has been good.”

Richard Duriez, course manager at OFVM in Catherine Street, Oxford said: “All of us at OFVM Film Oxford are really proud of Russell’s achievements.

“He has made fantastic progress over the last couple of years developing his screenwriting and directing skills as part of the ‘Shadowlight Artists’.

“The group is having an exhibition at Oxford Town Hall gallery from September 21-30 which will feature a film written and directed by Russell.”

Mr Highsmith’s father, John, 64, added: “My wife Chris and I are very proud of Russell.

“When he was born we could never have believed what he would be capable of. He has had many obstacles to tackle.”

In the next few months, Mr Highsmith will join his fellow Magic Six students on the south coast where they will be casting their film.

The finished production will then be showcased in London next year See Mr Highsmith’s work at ofvm.org/artist