A film-maker scooped £25,000 from M&M's after winning a competition to challenge stereotypes and boost diversity on screen.

Monique Needham had to pitch an idea for a film based on Twitter suggestions for Hollywood 'Films You Want To See,' which challenge LGBTQ+ and ethnic minority tropes.

Taking up a Tweet to "tell a story about someone from the LGBTQ+ community where they don't have to suppress who they are," she made a trailer about a girl enlisting her grandma's help with her quirky family when her girlfriend comes to dinner.

Ham & High: Sunday Dinner is Monique Needham's film made with £25,000 from M&M's Films You Want To See campaignSunday Dinner is Monique Needham's film made with £25,000 from M&M's Films You Want To See campaign (Image: Courtesy of M&M's)

"It was a challenge because I am not from that community, but I knew I needed to speak to people from it to understand what does that actually look like?" said the 37-year-old. "Coming from the Black community I know how frustrating it is when people don't do that work to understand the community they are trying to represent.

"I thought 'why not tell a story where they don't have to suppress themselves in their own home and it's not rooted in someone's sexuality, but about a girl who wants to bring her girlfriend to meet her family for the first time and worries they are a bit chaotic and will scare her away'?

"It's that relatable thing of wondering how your family is being perceived by this person you want in your life; is my cousin going to embarrass me or my aunt say something crazy?"

Ham & High: Sunday Dinner by Monique NeedhamSunday Dinner by Monique Needham (Image: Courtesy of M&M's/Mars)

Monique, who grew up Wembley and now lives in Willesden, wanted to "put a bit of me in there" and set the story in a British-Jamaican family. 

She beat three other finalists for M&M's #FilmsYouWantToSee, winning funding to bring her concept to life. Shot in a house in Barnet, 'Sunday Dinner' will be screened exclusively on Amazon Prime.

"I am glad there's a piece of me in the story, a reflection of the Caribbean dynamic I grew up in," says the former Alperton Community School pupil. "I have been able to interweave two communities within the film - those are the stories I am passionate about telling."

Needham worked in TV as a runner and researcher on the likes of Big Brother and Come Dine With Me, before moving to New York to work in advertising. Despite not going to film school or coming from a family that was in the media, she made a short self-funded film that did "better than expected at festivals" and then a second.

Ham & High: Monique hopes Sunday Dinner will be a calling card for a film careerMonique hopes Sunday Dinner will be a calling card for a film career (Image: Courtesy of M&M's/Mars)

Now "the dream" is for Sunday Dinner to be a springboard for a film career.

"I want it to propel me, to prove I am able to do it to the world and also to myself. I know what it's like to not only be the sole woman in the room, but the only Black person period. The confidence you have to have to step into these rooms is huge, I had imposter syndrome the whole way through, but making this gave me the confidence that I can make something of good quality. I feel proud of myself to have done it."

The campaign sprang from research by M&M'S which found that 43 percent of Gen-Z Brits felt they couldn't relate to characters on the big screen, and more than half (57 percent) felt stereotypes are offensive and overused in film. Their #FilmsYouWantToSee campaign aimed to offer resources, mentorship, and financial support to ensure people have access to the arts and entertainment.

As Monique says: "It's about giving the talent the opportunity to tell the stories the way they want to."

Kerry Cavanaugh of M&M's owner Mars said: "We are absolutely thrilled for Monique. It has been a pleasure to see ‘Sunday Dinner’ develop from a 90-second trailer to a brilliant short film. Monique’s film is fun, witty, and gently breaks down LGBTQIA+ and ethnic minority stereotypes. We hope it will spark important discussions around belonging and representation in film. The M&M’S FUNd initiative was created to help grow a world where we all feel like we belong."

Watch Monique's film at https://www.mms.com/en-gb/films-you-want-to-see