A dramatic initiative has been launched in the North East aimed at preventing hundreds of thousands of innocent children in the UK becoming victims of crime.

Every year some 300,000 children and young people are the “invisible victims” of a broken criminal justice system and frustrated care organisations dedicated to protecting their welfare when a parent breaks the law and is sent to prison.

The initiative comes in the form of a proposed drama film series I’m Still Ethan which is believed to be the first of its kind.

Documentary films and acres of reports on damaged families of an imprisoned parent – especially the children – have not been embraced with adequate understanding of its social impact and lasting damage. Children’s lives wrecked through no fault of their own.

But drama is potentially a more compelling medium to reach people ‘who would rather shut their eyes and put their fingers in their ears’.

The series was written and produced by actors/film-makers Phoebe Lorenz – raised in Barnard Castle – and Amelia O’Loughlin. Both have key roles in the film which also stars North Tyneside’s actor/comedian Dave Johns who shone in The Fisherman’s Friends movie and won a BIFA award for his starring role in I, Daniel Blake. It also marks the debut of 11-year-old Louie Collibee as Ethan whose father is jailed.

Amanda Lacey, CEO of North East-based charity Nepacs said: “We are delighted that this subject is being brought to the forefront through I’m Still Ethan in such a way that will encourage people to sit up and listen.”

The short was largely filmed in the Teesdale town, which is also home to HMP Deerbolt, a prison for males aged 18-24. Growing up with a prison so close by and then opposite her drama school, inspired Phoebe. She and Amelia crowdfunded the cash to launch this project – with particular help from individuals in the town’s celebrated Castle Players – and now hope growing acknowledgement of Ethan’s nationwide social value will attract regional and national funding for producing the six-part series aimed at UK TV audiences.

Phoebe said: “The North East is the region with the biggest hearts and we hope it will support this initiative in every possible way – including financial backing – to help all the children and young people whose futures are in jeopardy because of lack of community understanding.

“It’s a hidden crisis that has been widely ignored by the media and society and we are thoroughly looking forward to giving this story the justice it deserves.”

Amelia added: “It’s a national story and that’s why we are firm believers in working with brilliant regional creatives and talent all over the country who are committed to bringing this important film to a new audience.”

Dave Johns said: “It’s about time this issue is put on the map and film is a great way to do that as it’s so accessible and relatable.”

The trailer for I’m Still Ethan is available to view on Vimeo or Youtube. The Film is currently being circulated to festivals worldwide.