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Top 10 Charlie Chaplin Films November 13, 2009

Posted by Daniel Stephens in : Comedy, 1940s, 1950s, Drama, Top 10s, Film reviews, Short Film , add a comment

In my latest Top 10 list I look at Charlie Chaplin’s best films from his early short silent work to the longer feature-length “talkies”.

Charlie Chaplin was not just a silent movie actor, he was an icon of early cinema. Chaplin was a writer, director, performer, producer, as well as composer, and the co-founder of revolutionary studio United Artists.

He learnt his knack for comedy working in travelling vaudeville shows, performing with musicians, magicians, dancers, comedians, and even animals. His live material would be honed directly for the cinema when he started making films for Keystone Studios in the early 1910s. Early two-reel films, which Chaplin wrote and directed such as “The Tramp” and “Easy Street”, showed plenty of potential in the man who had yet to see his thirtieth birthday. His films were based on slapstick routines that were very carefully orchestrated and performed. His unique talent had a richness of character and a rebellious yet caring heart. Read More

Castle Keep’s Ghosts - short documentary June 7, 2008

Posted by Daniel Stephens in : Horror, Artfully Deranged, Short Film , add a comment

I’ve been locked in the editing room with some raw footage of a paranormal investigation at Castle Keep in Newcastle, making a Most Haunted-style film about possible ghostly activities. I watched The Exorcist to get in me in the right frame of mind which, essentially, made me me simply terrified and constantly looking over my shoulder.

Anyway, my first cut is complete and ready to view HERE.

Short Film In The UK: Future Shorts November 12, 2007

Posted by Daniel Stephens in : Short Film , 1 comment so far

I remember Dawn Simpson telling me today’s audience were into ‘snacking’ when I interviewed her about the Propeller short film channel. It’s very true as there’d be no audience for You Tube if it wasn’t. We want our media delivered to us at any time, during any situation, and on whatever medium suits the moment. Short film has prospered over the past few years because it’s finally found a commercial audience who can invest five minutes of free time, not in the morning Metro while on the bus, but on film, television clips, and podcasts. They can do it because the technology makes it easier than reading a paper. Just as You Tube couldn’t work without snacking, the IPhone and Ipod wouldn’t without this new phenomenon either.

For me, short film is a fabulous form of cinema because it allows new filmmakers to hone their craft, and an audience to see film with all the frailties and raw beauty that cinema used to possess. Recently, I’ve been very impressed with the output of British-based Future Shorts (www.futureshorts.com). Unlike Propeller or Ronke, you don’t need Sky to see their films as they’re available via My Space (http://www.myspace.com/futureshorts) and their You Tube channel (www.youtube.com/futureshorts).

My favourite at the moment is Oedipus (Click Here) by self-acclaimed makers of ‘stupid comedy’ Rong, a UK-based group of cinema fanatics who won the BBC new filmmakers award in 2005. The warped but genuinely amusing tale begins with the title-card ‘The following featurette should not be viewed by anyone who has, or has had, a mother and/or father’. It proceeds to fit a left-of-centre modern day tale of masturbation into the ageless, but equally warped, psychology of Freud’s Oedipus complex. The film, made in 2004, features an rhyming narration that works particularly well, but it’s the perfect pace of the film that really sets it apart. It may be raw but Oedipus examples the virtues of short film with enthusiasm and obvious skill.

Certainly, for a more accomplished and less risqué piece of cinema look no further than Japanese film Right Place (Click Here). This comedy-drama looks at a Tokyo worker’s obsession with neatness and perfection. It features some stunning cinematography that perfectly encapsulates what the film tries to portray. The rigid, static camera shots and balanced frame set the film’s tone, a correctness that has to be maintained. Indeed, Right Place is cinematic art at its most inspiring, with superb use of sound and lighting, and a rhythmic flow to the editing.

Other very worthy films to look for are the brilliant animations from Yev Yilmaz (check out Procrastination: Click Here), Gokhan Okur’s Last Train Ride (Click Here), and the multi award-winning Heap Of Trouble (Click Here). Also, check out Pierre Olivier’s beautiful Can We Kiss (Click Here), a film set in a French café about a girl who wants to practice her audition lines with a complete stranger.

Links to my short films:

Sundown (2005) - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4

Trouble With Mr. Goldman (2006)

Home (2006)

This Ball’s Life (2006)

Bad Dream (2002) 

Further Reading:
1. Short Film: A brief critical history

2. Short Film In The UK: Screen Yorkshire and the Independents

3. Short Film In The UK: Film Festivals and Competitions

4. Short Film In The UK: Technology and the Tiny Screen

5. Short Film In The UK: Availability, Audience, and the Future

6. ‘Okay, we’re done’: The story of my first short film

7. Short Film Take II: The Trouble With Mr. Goldman

8. Short Film In The UK: Recommended Links

Short Film in the UK: Links May 2, 2007

Posted by Daniel Stephens in : Artfully Deranged, Short Film , 2 comments

This article is written in conjunction with several others and is best read in conjunction with them. Click the below titles to read/navigate between each individual article:

1. Short Film: A brief critical history

2. Short Film In The UK: Screen Yorkshire and the Independents

3. Short Film In The UK: Film Festivals and Competitions

4. Short Film In The UK: Technology and the Tiny Screen

5. Short Film In The UK: Availability, Audience, and the Future

6. ‘Okay, we’re done’: The story of my first short film

7. Short Film Take II: The Trouble With Mr. Goldman

8. Short Film In The UK: Recommended Links

For new filmmakers trying to produce their own short films, there probably hasn’t been a better time to do it. Two reasons: 1) that digital technology has made it easy and accessible for most people to film and edit their own films (whether that be with a mobile phone camera and an Apple computer, a DV Camcorder and any number of free/low-cost edit software suites, or rented higher-level equipment); and 2) internet distribution - with My Space, You Tube, Trigger Street, Atom Films, and many other distributors, there’s a massive audience waiting to be had.

Recommended websites:

UK Film Council - general information about filmmaking in the U.K.

UK Film Schemes - find out what funding is available.

Regional funding - contact details for funding agencies in your area.

The BBC’s Film Network - an internet distribution site for the best short films made in the U.K. over the last few years.

Screenonline’s How to… - This informative piece provides the basics about creating a quality short film script.

Channel 4’s Making Movies - this excellent section of C4’s website is a great place to find out about film - past and present, as well as being a good place to find inspiration.

Other distribution:

All Day Breakfast - ‘Our shorts are all original and small enough to watch in one sitting. Yum. New bits are posted regularly, so check back often. Enjoy!’

ifilm.com - One of the most popular and user-friendly film sites, ifilm.com lets the audience decide what it likes and posts reviews and ratings.

Inetfilm - ‘Our website is built to showcase the artistry of independent filmmakers. Whether you’re a film buff, net surfer, or someone in the film industry we hope you enjoy the site.’

The New Venue - A curated exhibition space for films made specifically for the internet.

Reelmind - REELMIND is a FREE Internet community offering filmmakers, animators, writers and composers global promotion through streaming media and personal websites.

Short TV - The internet arm of ShortTV, the world’s first network devoted entirely to screening short films.

Production Assistance:

British Film Institute - gateway to lots of information and links to helpful websites.

Film Festivals.com - Distribution gateway

Keep Writing.com - help with script writing and tutorial

UK Screen - find actors and extras

Recommended Blogs:

Tree - an excellent blog about the making of British short film <i>Tree</i>. This is a good source for new filmmakers to see how the production process works, and the time and effort put into such a production.

Fund My Short - an interesting initiative.

Phil Dale - see what an independent filmmaker has done to promote their work.

Short Film Center - compilation of quality short films

Short Film in the UK: Availability, Audience, and the Future May 1, 2007

Posted by Daniel Stephens in : Artfully Deranged, Short Film , add a comment

This article is written in conjunction with several others and is best read in conjunction with them. Click the below titles to read/navigate between each individual article:

1. Short Film: A brief critical history

2. Short Film In The UK: Screen Yorkshire and the Independents

3. Short Film In The UK: Film Festivals and Competitions

4. Short Film In The UK: Technology and the Tiny Screen

5. Short Film In The UK: Availability, Audience, and the Future

6. ‘Okay, we’re done’: The story of my first short film

7. Short Film Take II: The Trouble With Mr. Goldman

8. Short Film In The UK: Recommended Links

This article is written in conjunction with my essay - Screen Yorkshire and the Independents, accessible HERE

Availability

Exhibition is all-important if short film is ever to succeed on a mainstream level. With the creation of Propeller TV and the widespread use of the internet, short film has found a basis to prosper.

The internet has been vital for young and new filmmakers to get their work showcased beyond just family and friends. Chris Patmore says ‘one of the easiest ways to get your film seen is to put it on the internet.’ He continues, ‘well-established sites, such as triggerstreet.com, have a huge audience, mostly of other filmmakers, improving the chances of your movie being seen by the right people.’

Triggerstreet.com aims to discover and showcase ‘new and unique talent.’ ‘Based on the principles of creative excellence, it provides industry access and exposure to help build the careers of notable new filmmakers’ Yet, triggerstreet.com is not just a website designed to exhibit short films. It aims to assist new filmmakers learn their craft by allowing users to comment on and review each others work. This idea of reviewing other people’s films seems to have been inspired by the work of Francis Ford Coppola. He created a writers workshop for his short story magazine Zoetrope: All Story, which quickly grew to become the Virtual Studio, and is a web-based application allowing writers and filmmakers to showcase and critique each other’s creative endevours. Patmore believes this sort of ‘workshop’ is a vital tool to improve the work of a new filmmaker. ‘This is especially true of triggerstreet, as all newly posted films get a chance to be reviewed by other filmmakers as part of the conditions of posting on the site. Getting feedback from your peers is always a useful way to find out if what you have is any good.’

Triggerstreet.com was formed from Kevin Spacey’s production company. The site’s purpose is based on Spacey’s belief that the ‘path to his own success would have been much rockier without the support and encouragement of many outstanding mentors.’ He now believes it is his ‘earnest duty’ to ‘sought out a way to inspire, nurture, and help bring exposure to new and undiscovered talent.’ Such sites as this, as well as Kevin Smith’s moviesaskew.com and atomfilms.com go someway of alleviating one of Andrew Quinn’s criticisms about Screen Yorkshire’s assistance in filmmaking – the non-existence of an easily attainable help network. Quinn states, ‘I think some sort of easily accessible advice or support network would help a lot more people. Just someone to ask where to look or to answer questions when you really don’t know the answers.’

Now, with the creation of Sky television channel Propeller TV, Ronke, Future Shorts, MySpace networking, and Youtube.com, short film has never had a better chance to attract a wide, mainstream audience. Propeller TV’s Dawn Simpson said, ‘the idea is that it’s a showcase – a platform for young filmmakers. What happens most of the time is that short films end up gathering dust on a shelf somewhere, and apart from the film festival circuits, there’s no life to it. What we’re trying to do is bring some life back to it.’

The channel broadcast not just in Britain, so it opens up the audience for new filmmakers:

‘We actually transmit across Europe so the opportunities are there and you never know who is watching. What we are trying to say is that there is a lot of new hidden talent there. We want to give it some life and hopefully by the end of our three year funded period we’ll have a lot of films where someone has said – that’s a great piece of filmmaking, or that’s a great idea – that’s what we really want to do, to help filmmakers.’

Audience

As Patmore says, ‘The whole point of making a movie is for it to be seen, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either trying to fool you or is fooling himself.’ Therefore, there has to be an audience for short film, and with the potential of both Propeller and the internet, that audience may now be being found.

Simpson believes this will cause a knock-on effect to entice the government to put more money into the industry. ‘Filmmakers who do the festival circuits don’t get the opportunity to show their films to a wide audience. We are saying to the government - this is now public viewing. Everyone has seen this, it’s got a wider audience. Therefore, more money should be injected into the film industry.’

Simpson clarifies just how important Propeller has the potential to be:

‘When you go for funding, they say to you, ‘well, who is going to see this?’ and the answer is ‘well maybe 30 at the screening, or if it gets to a festival 50 max!’ If I’m the U.K film Council and I’m giving you £10,000 to make a film and only 50 people are going to see it, how do you justify money coming from tax payer’s pockets? Now, you can say it has potential to attract 16 million viewers across Europe and suddenly you equate that £10,000 and its minimal expenditure. It could have a big effect on the type of funding, and the amount of funding that is available.’

Simpson tells me that the BBC want to have access to the best short films screened on Propeller, which examples the type of industry professionals who are interested in this new channel.

Theoretically, if more people had access to short films, then popularity would grow. With new mobile technology and the likes of Lisa Roberts’ ‘Pocket Shorts’ scheme, the mainstream arena is available for short film to utilise. Now, despite big cinema chains not exhibiting short films and smaller independent exhibitors struggling to find a large audience, the basis for both exhibition (television and the internet) and distribution (mobile phones, new technology) are in place.

Simpson believes people are into ‘snacking’ – ‘if it’s on a mobile telephone, for 5 or 6 minutes while you’re on the bus, or you’re just waiting for your friend to turn up, people, because of their lifestyles are more into ‘snacking’, which is your 5/6 minute short.’

She also adamantly believes that the measures that are being put in place will push short film into the mainstream. ‘I think it’s because people haven’t had the opportunity to see them and I think what we’ll do is introduce the whole short world on a national basis, and yeah I think they will come into the mainstream.’

Chasing Rainbows or Rain Clouds

Propeller TV is funded by the same agencies as Screen Yorkshire and therefore the same criticisms could be levelled again. Propeller claim to want to showcase new talent and provide short film with a platform, but their major funds come from ‘Yorkshire Forward’, an agency whose chief goal is the economy of the Yorkshire region. Again, if short film is merely a treasure trove of talent, ready to be moved elsewhere in the industry to maintain jobs, increase skilled workers and fuel the economy, then short film will forever remain a niche cinema market. Largely because the skilled filmmakers are constantly being pushed into other areas of the industry, namely television and commercial cinema, leaving short film a testing ground, flooded with amateurs.

However, it would be unfair to criticise Propeller because they are still in their infancy and one such idea does set them apart from the rest. As they are not for profit, all money they do make will be filtered back to the filmmakers to go towards new projects. This can only help short film, because it increases the amount of funds available for new filmmakers. Through Propeller’s ‘Gold’ scheme, where people will vote for their favourite films shown on the channel and each film will gain points on the basis of votes, they plan to sell an end-of-year DVD. This will include their best shorts, and this money will be given to the top filmmakers to help them with their subsequent projects.

Citation:

Patmore, C (2005) Get Started In Short Filmmaking London: Quarto

Quinn, A (2006) Interview conducted by Daniel Stephens with Andrew Quinn at Slack Video Hull

Roberts, Lisa (2006) Interview conducted by Daniel Stephens Huddersfield

Simpson, D (2006) Interview conducted by Daniel Stephens with Dawn Simpson of Propeller TV Huddersfield

Triggerstreet.com (2006) About Us [online] available from http://www.triggerstreet.com/gbase/Trigger/HomeMain (accessed 10 March 2006)

Short Film Take 2: The Trouble With Mr. Goldman April 29, 2007

Posted by Daniel Stephens in : Artfully Deranged, Short Film , add a comment

This article is written in conjunction with several others and is best read in conjunction with them. Click the below titles to read/navigate between each individual article:

1. Short Film: A brief critical history

2. Short Film In The UK: Screen Yorkshire and the Independents

3. Short Film In The UK: Film Festivals and Competitions

4. Short Film In The UK: Technology and the Tiny Screen

5. Short Film In The UK: Availability, Audience, and the Future

6. ‘Okay, we’re done’: The story of my first short film

7. Short Film Take II: The Trouble With Mr. Goldman

8. Short Film In The UK: Recommended Links

You learn from your mistakes. Last year I learnt the art of bad sound recording. This year I learnt several of the things I should have learnt in 2005, namely, rehearsals, script editing, production design, and preparation. On my second narrative-based short film, Trouble With Mr. Goldman, we were basically rushing from start to finish, and it unfortunately shows.

Yet, I can’t fault my actors (who themselves would quickly admit their best skills lay in other film and television production departments). They gave it their best shot, learning their lines minutes before each take, producing some idiosyncratic and against-type performances. But the problems of essentially filming a three day shoot over two half days really hits hard when you simply didn’t prepare enough. And that was my fault. The script needed editing and cutting down (we changed a major plot point during a take on the second day) and more needed to be done to make the two main characters more interesting. I attempted to rectify one problem by cutting down the film in editing (the original cut came in at just over 12 minutes; this new version is just over 10) but that’s when I realised I needed a couple of re-shoots (best example - during a scene when Mr. Goldman first arrives, I should have filmed this entirely from one character’s perspective, but I never got the shot).

There were two things I prepared for that worked to some degree. Firstly, the scene where Mr. Goldman tells the two character’s separately, what he has to offer. I wanted to cut the two scenes together so that the conversation would only take place once, but identically to both characters. This way the audience would know they are both being offered the very same thing, whilst keeping the pace of the film moving quickly. The other thing I prepared for was to shoot in widescreen. I wanted to give the film a more cinematic look even if the production values were very low. This involved working with a 1.85:1 blanked out view finder/monitor, and adding a 16:9 mask in post-production. I also added a contrast effect to give the film a more expensive look, and to add to the dreamy sense of the story.

Talking of the story, Mr. Goldman is supposed to be a comedy (I let other people be the judge of that). It concerns this crazy idea that laziness is punished in some way - in this case, by a mad man who thinks he’s Alex from A Clockwork Orange, and calls himself Mr. Goldman. When two slackers get a visit from him one day, they believe they are in the money when he offers them riches beyond their imagination. Yet, secretly he plays them off against each other, evidentally trying to prove or disprove whether they deserve to be punished for their sins.

You Tube channel featuring some of my short film work

Short Film in the UK: Technology and the Tiny Screen April 27, 2007

Posted by Daniel Stephens in : Artfully Deranged, Short Film , 7 comments

This article is written in conjunction with several others and is best read in conjunction with them. Click the below titles to read/navigate between each individual article:

1. Short Film: A brief critical history

2. Short Film In The UK: Screen Yorkshire and the Independents

3. Short Film In The UK: Film Festivals and Competitions

4. Short Film In The UK: Technology and the Tiny Screen

5. Short Film In The UK: Availability, Audience, and the Future

6. ‘Okay, we’re done’: The story of my first short film

7. Short Film Take II: The Trouble With Mr. Goldman

8. Short Film In The UK: Recommended Links

The Technology

Light Blue Optics Ltd. is currently developing a mini projector that would be capable of transferring images from devices such as Ipod’s and mobile phones, and projecting them on to screens in much the same way a theatre projector works. According to Clint Deboer, what is known as PVPro technology ‘overcomes the size limitation of conventional projection techniques, allowing projectors to be smaller than ever before.’ This certainly intrigues Lisa Roberts of Blink Media in Huddersfield who is watching such technological advancements with enthusiasm. Roberts, who pioneered Pocket Shorts’ initiative to create a vending machine for downloading short films to mobile phones, says ‘I am following the developments in miniaturization of projection technologies closely. There is a projector by Light Blue Optics that is the size of a matchbox that they hope to shrink further to be another mobile phone feature within a few years.’

Roberts, along with Andrew Wilson, created the Blue Tooth Vendor. This acts like a conventional vending machine. As Wilson says, it’s a ‘wall-mounted unit which allows people to download films to their mobile phones.’ Through their Pocket Shorts scheme, they hope to attract filmmakers to this new way of viewing films, and they believe the short film is the way forward. ‘A lot of people download short films to their mobile phones now but these come from large commercial media companies.’ Wilson continues, ‘Pocket Shorts is about getting new filmmakers to create independent mobile phone films [that are a] bit more innovative than you would get from downloading clips from Big Brother.’

Andrew Quinn of Slack Video was one of the first to receive a commission for a Pocket Short film. ‘I found it really interesting to work with, personally. The whole idea of being short, sharp and straight to the point was really emphasised with these 4 x 15 second long films, or 1 x 1 minute films. I think as a whole it worked very well, it was certainly a challenge.’ Quinn believes you only have to consider the number of mobile phones that are being sold to see the concept has great potential. ‘If you look at the popularity for ring tones and video ring tones, you can see there’s probably going to be a demand for small media works on these kinds of portable devices.’

They’re certainly not alone in their belief that mobile phone technology is the way forward for short filmmaking. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation has already created a mobile phone entertainment store. Named Mobizzo, it’s ‘a production studio to focus exclusively on developing cell phone entertainment in much the same way that 20th Century Fox creates movies and television.’ According to Holson, the reasons companies are rushing to support such media on mobile phones is because ‘analysts predict that the number of global mobile phone customers will double to four billion in five years.’

Through its global possibilities, Olga Kharif believes it can break down the barriers of national cinema such as Hollywood in America and Bollywood in India, to produce a worldwide cinema that has more cultural influences than ever before. ‘That virtual land is full of possibilities. With 2 billion subscribers worldwide, mobile phones represent a much greater market for film than movie theaters or PCs. No wonder studios, distributors, and independent animators and filmmakers are streaming into this virtual film genre.’ Quinn concurs, ‘by using this new technology there’s definitely an opportunity to get these kinds of works seen by a mass audience who would otherwise never experience them.’

Mobile People with Mobile Phones

However, if indeed mobile phone films become mainstream commodities, will this belittle the medium with its easy access production tools being used by amateurs? Roberts is adamant this will not happen: ‘I’ve heard a lot of this - how can having more creative product around be a bad thing? Yes, it might take more time to sift through but so what?’ Kharif sees the low-cost nature of mobile phone filmmaking as a risk worth taking. ‘These aren’t big-budget productions. Where a Hollywood production can cost millions, a cell-phone movie can be created for a few hundred dollars and with an investment of, perhaps, only 40 hours of time.

Yet others are not so sure, as Neil Hunt says: ‘To me, it seems that if you’re going to invest your time into enjoying a movie, you might as well watch it on a large screen.’ Even Andrew Quinn who produced a short mobile phone film says, ‘I still think short films look better on television or projection than compressed into a 1″ screen.’ Kharif is cautious, ‘Cell-phones are obviously nowhere near their big-screen cousins in sophistication and popularity. It’s not even clear that wireless subscribers will pay for flicks.’

In a sense there’s a contradiction. In bringing short films into the mainstream, the filmmaker has to take liberties if producing primarily for mobile phone exhibition, such as Pocket Shorts maximum run-time for films of one minute. As Kharif says, ‘Granted, today’s cell-phone flicks are no Casablanca. Take The Life Of A Ringtone, an entry from Louiza Vick, who took first place among student works [at the Zoie Cellular Film Festival]. The movie’s artfully arranged photos and video clips take viewers through a ring tone’s creation. But the flick is more akin to a slide show.’ Is it true then that mobile phone films should not be judged by their lack of quality, but just taken as they are, in the sense that they will never be as good as Casablanca? Zoie Cellular Festival creator Victoria Weston says that mobile films are ‘fast entertainment. You’re not going to be dealing with heavy plot lines.’

So effectively they differ from ‘normal’ short filmmaking. However, Andrew Quinn believes ‘people are very likely to show videos they like to their friends, which again can only be beneficial in terms of ‘getting things seen’, and therefore generating interest in short film as a whole’. Yet he stands by large screen projected exhibitions when he says ‘short film works still obviously need to be shown in festivals and screenings’ Therefore, he implies that short film as whole could be damaged by mobile films having an adverse effect on traditional filmmaking methods. For example, if mobile phone films are primarily between fifteen seconds and one minute, will this mean the end for the ten and twenty minute short? Additionally, if mobile phone films disregard heavy plot lines, will this mean an end for traditional narrative forms?

It is interesting to note that the commercial short film of the 1910s helped form the bigger and longer feature film which ultimately forced it into non-existence. Now a new possibility for commercial short film is getting smaller in size and shorter in length, breaking down the barriers of the non-mainstream modern short film. Fundamentally, it shows how important commercial value is to an art form.

However, with mobile phone-only short film competitions such as Nokia Shorts 2005 and the Pocket Film Festival beginning to come into action, the bad can be seen being filtered from the good. Additionally, with award-winning British film director Shane Meadows becoming the first filmmaker to create a short mobile phone film using a phone’s video capabilities, it would seem the format has the support of the established talent. As well as opening up more possibilities for short films to be made. ‘Meadows praised the technology and raved about the potentials of filming with mobile phones, in particular that ‘they let you get shots which might not be possible using larger camera equipment’’. ‘There’s already great creativity in mobile phone film-making’ says Pocket Film director Laurence Herzberg. As Rory Mulholland says, the Pocket Film festival came about ‘as mobile network operators in many countries are thrusting third-generation (3G) phones equipped with video cameras and internet capability on their customers in the hope of recouping some of the huge investments they made in the sector.’

Therefore, this suggests that the short film has become a marketable, commercial product once again, through this new media form. Given its commercial importance in early cinema, it’s only logical to think this could have far reaching effects on the film industry as a whole. Roberts says, ‘until recently I would say short film was viewed only as a calling card for filmmakers wanting to move onto features. However, thanks to technology and TV programming/commissioning trends over the last 5 years there has been a revolution in all things small and short.’

Theoretically, given the mobility of mobile phones and the fact they can be used and accessed wherever and whenever, the implications on the films themselves could be of vital importance.

This is important since the short film offers one fundamental advantage over the feature film – its length. If short films became mainstream phone accessories, and as Wilson claims, they are used whenever and in whatever circumstances occur, then their shortened length would appear more appealing to mobile people with mobile phones.

Citation:

Deboer, C (2006)Laser Projectors Coming to Cell Phones and PDAs [online] available from http://www.audioholics.com/news/editorials/laserprojectorscellphones.php (accesed 7 March 2006)

Herzberg, L (2005) Festival celebrates mobile phone movies [online] available from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/film/4314894.stm (accessed 8 March 2006)

Holson, L (2006) News Corporation to Tap Not Just Its Film Vaults, but Art From the Street [online] available from http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/27/technology/27mobile.html?ex=1142053200&en=bbc788cdada4e5e2&ei=5070 (accessed 8 March 2006)

Hunt, N (2005) The Movie Theatre In Your Pocket [online] available from http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/jun2005/tc20050622_9670_tc_212.htm (accessed 8 March 2006)

Kharif, O (2005) The Movie Theatre In Your Pocket [online] available from http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/jun2005/tc20050622_9670_tc_212.htm (accessed 8 March 2006)

Mobile Films.net (2005) Mobile Filmmaking – A Birth of a new genre [online] available from http://www.mobifilms.net/scene_heard.html (accessed 8 March 2006)

Mulholland, R (2006) Festival celebrates mobile phone movies [online] available from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/film/4314894.stm (accessed 8 March 2006)

Quinn, A (2006) Interview conducted by Daniel Stephens with Andrew Quinn at Slack Video Hull

Roberts, Lisa (2006) Interview conducted by Daniel Stephens Huddersfield

Weston, V (2005) The Movie Theatre In Your Pocket [online] available from http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/jun2005/tc20050622_9670_tc_212.htm (accessed 8 March 2006)

Wilson, A (2005) A Film In Your Pocket [online] available from http://www.bbc.co.uk/bradford/content/articles/2005/11/24/pocket_shorts_huddersfield_feature.shtml (accessed 8 March 2006)

‘Okay, we’re done’: Story of my first short film April 23, 2007

Posted by Daniel Stephens in : Artfully Deranged, Short Film , add a comment

This article is written in conjunction with several others and is best read in conjunction with them. Click the below titles to read/navigate between each individual article:

1. Short Film: A brief critical history

2. Short Film In The UK: Screen Yorkshire and the Independents

3. Short Film In The UK: Film Festivals and Competitions

4. Short Film In The UK: Technology and the Tiny Screen

5. Short Film In The UK: Availability, Audience, and the Future

6. ‘Okay, we’re done’: The story of my first short film

7. Short Film Take II: The Trouble With Mr. Goldman

8. Short Film In The UK: Recommended Links

Before Texas-born film director Robert Rodriguez rose to fame with his tale of a vengeful vigilante, slithering around sun-smoked Mexico with a guitar case full of guns, he sat in a Medical Research Hospital whilst they took chunks of skin out of his arms, giving him $2000 for his troubles. Here was a young 20-year-old who didn’t just dream of filmmaking – he bled for it. Checking himself into the clinic to undergo testing for a quick healing drug, he was intentionally wounded and then patched up with the medication, left walking around the hospital for seven days to see how it worked. After the pain was over and two scars were forever left on his arms, he took his money and made the award-winning short film ‘Bedhead’. The rest as they say, is history…

I certainly wasn’t going to go to such extreme measures. Perhaps that means I’ll never make a $45 million movie, get Salma Hayek to dance half-naked on table tops whilst Quentin Tarantino licks her toes, or live in a house that has its own editing room, sound mixing stage, and cinema. At least, though, I can say I had a good time making my first short film, and that the results were fulfilling if a little underwhelming. There was certainly a moment when freezing my butt off at a reservoir we were shooting at in Barnsley, I began to wonder why we were bothering. Then I remembered what had inspired me in the first place – Rodriguez’s maniacal passion for the art. ‘Get your a**e out there and make a movie because I’m telling you,’ he says in his book Rebel Without A Crew. ‘There are so many creative people out there itching to make something, but they’re too negative in thinking they’ll never get anywhere or it’ll never happen.’ It suddenly became clear – freeze myself to near death today, but tomorrow reap the benefits of unrelenting riches, a mansion in the Hollywood Hills, a black Ferrari, and a sex scandal on ‘The Daily Show with Jon Stewart’. Hang on, back track - you’re still freezing your butt off, you’re losing light and your actors still don’t know their lines.

Kevin Smith, director of the critically acclaimed ‘Clerks’ thinks it’s quite amusing when people tell him his low-budget film made them want to make movies. “I know what that means,” he says, “your movie looks so terrible, if you can do it then I can!” I prefer Rodriguez’s take that if you think you’re a filmmaker then you are one, and you should go make yourself a business card. It’s better than maxing out ten credit cards like Smith did on ‘Clerks’. To make our short, however, we didn’t need any unsubstantiated promises from the likes of Mr American Express. In all, we must have spent less than £50 using a borrowed camera, microphone and editing equipment. The only things we paid for were petrol and some garden lights from the local DIY superstore. I guess that’s why my actors – friends Tony Avino and Nick Tinker – didn’t learn their lines until about ten seconds to ‘ACTION’. What can I say? I wasn’t paying them but they might become famous, and when they did, they could stick this film on one of their DVDs as a special feature. Of course, it helps if both friends have some acting experience. Tony had just finished a stage play in Bolton, and Nick’s claim to fame was a walk-on part in ‘There’s Only One Jimmy Grimble’. It also helps if your girlfriend is willing to give up her car to drive you to locations (in return for a Production Manager credit, or so I told her) and your lead actor can play both guitar and piano, and can wriggle his way into the Music Department at the University to record the soundtrack.

One of the things that bugged us early in pre-production was what we were going to do with it after it was completed. We knew we were making it because we loved movies, wanted to break into the business and wanted to get some experience of low-cost filmmaking, but would anyone see it? Luckily, my home town of Huddersfield (like many others around the U.K.) has its very own outlet for local filmmakers in the form of ‘Short Circuits’, which was created in 1999 by Andrew Wilson and Lisa Roberts, whose main aim was to provide a platform for enthusiastic and talented film producers to showcase their work in the town and throughout the region. Andrew says: “We wanted to give filmmakers the chance to screen their films, gauge audience reaction, learn from their peers and be jealous of them, and have a drink at the same time to calm their nerves.” Andrew thinks new filmmakers should take themselves more seriously. “There are a lot of media courses, and students on them need to make films, watch other people’s films and take the time to submit their work.” He says: “Hit it and hope, then fail better next time. If you stick at it and be brave, you’ll get there in the end.”

In the Yorkshire region it is comforting to note there our people who are willing to help and exhibit creative work like Short Circuits. There are plenty of film festivals including those in Bradford, Leeds, and Hull, as well as the Sheffield Documentary Festival and other smaller events. Short Circuits distributes films through their partners Slack Video, Interruption and Monitor, as well as providing screenings throughout the year at various locations around Yorkshire. Andrew told me about Screen Yorkshire’s four schemes which include a £2000 grant; Caught Short Focus which is an intensive week long production, and Digital Awards which includes a £10,000 production fund, or a £20,000 production budget for serious and more experienced filmmakers. The great thing is, schemes like these are set-up around the country, you just have to look for them. Check your local arts funding body or council website for more details.

We filmed over a two month period, neglecting our study in many ways to concentrate on the script and getting the most out of our limited technical capabilities. The story which I had been chopping and changing for some time eventually became two different films stuck together. Originally I had wanted to make something about what one experiences when losing a very close relative – a mother or father. I wanted to see this person on the lowest ebb of their psyche, contemplating suicide. I wanted to sneak a peak at how someone can become so low they decide to end their life and have the same fate as their loved one. But then, I got all caught up in the ethical and religious debates that would surround such an act, so I moved on. I had seen a film called ‘Near Dark’ which was basically a vampire movie that lost all its gothic roots and ran like a hot-blooded Western, set in the dry, sandy pastures of America’s south. I liked the idea of making a horror movie that wasn’t really a horror movie – it’s only fantasy based on the viewer’s own experiences of the macabre. What I decided upon were two friends who hadn’t seen each other for a few months, meeting at a crossroads in their lives. One, the character from my previous idea, had just lost his mother and couldn’t see any reason to live. The other claimed he had been bitten by a vampire and that he could now live forever. He could taste the fruits of the world for eternity. The dynamic I tried to instill in the story was that one friend thought this life was too hard, he wanted to give up, and the other was just beginning an adventure of lifelong eternal youth. What you didn’t know was whether the vampire bite was a figment of his imagination, a by-product of his over-indulgence with alcohol and drugs. Likewise, it never became clear who was the sane one of the two, who was the grounded one – both were as unhappy as each other, and while they thought they knew the answer to their dilemma, neither was right.

I directed the film, Nick produced it, and we edited it together. We shot on-location in Barnsley, just on the border where Derbyshire and Yorkshire meet. The first time we went location scouting we knew we wanted to film there because it was such a beautiful location with its panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. Partly because of the brilliant location, and partly due to the problem of lighting, we decided to film there during the day and not at night, as was originally scripted. The night shoot would occur back at Nick’s house on Leeds Road in Huddersfield. Here we would film the interior and exterior shots – the back of the house, shot in the right way, was made to look like a location 100 yards from the reservoir, but was actually over 30 miles away.

Our only major problem was with lighting the exterior night shots. We didn’t have the silent generator needed to power the lights because we couldn’t afford one, so the only thing we could do was get the longest power cable possible, attach it to the security lights, and hook it up to the power outlets in the kitchen. That way, we could light an exterior scene, as long as it was within 25 yards of the back door of the house. Luckily, the downtrodden posterior of Leeds Road’s student residencies look as bedraggled and neglected as the script called for.

We devised a cunning way to make rain for added ambience in the exterior scenes by using a broken water pipe from the house which ran every time you used the water tap in the bathroom. We simply ran the water, stuck a board under the dripping pipe, and aimed it where we wanted. It was actually very realistic but if there had been a water shortage, I don’t think the Water Board would have been too happy. Of course, we then had to prevent the power leads from getting wet and electrocuting everyone which was quite a task.

We were guerilla filmmaking at its most basic, that’s for sure. We created what was to look like vampire bites on Nick’s neck using a mixture of flour and water, coupled with mascara and red pen. Believe it or not, it actually looked quite authentic but I only shot it using a wide angled lens. We fashioned reflectors for the lights to create shadow and provide more depth to the cinematography using turkey-foil wrapped around a 6×4 board we found in the garage. We did everything as cheaply and efficiently as possible. Certainly there were some liberties taken in script development to account for this, but I didn’t feel we lost any of the impact from the story. It would have been great to shoot at night on-location but it wasn’t feasible at the time. We’re just thankful that a six figure budget is not what is required to break into the industry. “The quality of equipment has nothing to do with it,” says Andrew at Short Circuits, “We just look for films that show hard work, thoughtfulness, and a willingness to learn. It’s important for new filmmakers to feel part of the scene, where their hard work and talent will be recognised.”

My You Tube channel featuring some of my short film work.

Short Film in the UK: Film Festivals and Competitions April 22, 2007

Posted by Daniel Stephens in : Artfully Deranged, Short Film , add a comment

This article is written in conjunction with several others and is best read in conjunction with them. Click the below titles to read/navigate between each individual article:

1. Short Film: A brief critical history

2. Short Film In The UK: Screen Yorkshire and the Independents

3. Short Film In The UK: Film Festivals and Competitions

4. Short Film In The UK: Technology and the Tiny Screen

5. Short Film In The UK: Availability, Audience, and the Future

6. ‘Okay, we’re done’: The story of my first short film

7. Short Film Take II: The Trouble With Mr. Goldman

8. Short Film In The UK: Recommended Links

Finding Neverland on the Independent Circuit

In 2001, Washington-based producer Mark Ruppert devised the 48 Hour Film Project, where teams of filmmakers had to write, shoot and edit a short film in two days, culminating in a competition to pick the best film. Utilising the ease of use and cost of digital editing and camera equipment, they provide each team with the basic items they require, such as a simple tripod, lights and a Mini-DV camcorder. As the competition’s mission statement says, the project is to help ‘advance filmmaking and promote filmmakers.’ Through the festival and the competitions ‘the Project encourages filmmakers and would-be filmmakers to get out there and make movies.’ In 2004, the ‘Project’ came to Sheffield, South Yorkshire.

To differentiate the competition from venue to venue (the 48 Hour Film Project has toured many countries including Ruppert’s native USA, Britain and France), teams picked genres and themes at random. Phil Parkin, who took part says, ‘The weekend was a resounding success for all the team members, I would recommend others to take part in the future. It was tremendously good as a team morale builder and as a practical and theoretical experience.’

The ‘Project’ aims to get new filmmakers exhibited and through a ‘Best-of’ DVD at the end of each year, can continue to showcase the work they have achieved. Yet, as Parkin says, the competition holds a lot more value than that. Because of the competition’s time constraints it forced his team into making tough decisions which were ‘very worthwhile’ and an example of the ‘harsh reality of the industry.’

Like Charlie Chaplin using short film to forward his career, and George Lucas using it to learn his craft, competitions such as the 48 Hour Film Project are enabling filmmakers the same opportunities. In Yorkshire, Bradford Film Festival has the ‘Shine Award’ which focuses exclusively on the short film, honouring ‘the best short by an emerging director’ that shows ‘innovation and originality.’ Elsewhere, the Hull International Short Film Festival is ‘dedicated to the exhibition and creation of short film as a crucial art form in its own right.

Yet, as Matt Lloyd, film programmer at Edinburgh Film Festival says, it’s not just the competition itself that is important to short films and their makers. ‘Shorts are always popular at festivals because it’s one of the few outlets for people to see them.’ Perhaps the most important aspect of short film competitions and festivals is the exposure they provide. ‘You also get industry interest as people are always keen to see what the latest talent is and what’s up-and-coming.’ As Chris Patmore says, ‘festivals and competitions probably provide the best opportunity to gain some recognition for all your hard work.’

‘Too Rich For My Blood’: The Problem with Elite Competition

The elite film competitions don’t assure success either for short film itself or its filmmakers. Many who use festival competitions to their advantage, do so with feature films. Joel and Ethan Coen won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 1985 with their first film, a feature named Blood Simple. This led to thirteen more feature film credits to date, including their most famous films The Big Lebowski and Fargo in the mid-nineties. Also, Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez won the ‘Award of the Youth’ at the Cannes Film Festival in 1999, leading to widespread publicity for their first film, a feature named The Blair Witch Project. Compare this to Amanda Forbis’ When The Day Breaks which was 1999’s short film winner at Cannes. In the seven years since, Forbis has not directed another film, feature or short.

Given that the most prestigious prizes such as those awarded by the Academy of Motion Pictures in America (Oscar’s) and the British Academy of Film and Television (Bafta’s) will not accept lower quality digital video for their short film competition (Bafta’s rules, for example, state only ‘films finished on 35mm film or Digital-beta will be accepted’, it appears that the low cost nature of short filmmaking and it’s usefulness in getting recognition is a fallacy. If the major competitions such as the Oscars, Bafta’s, Cannes and Sundance, only want large-screen projection-ready prints for competing short films then the cost immediately rises. And, with most success stories coming from filmmakers who won the competitions for ‘features’, it does suggest the short film is a means to another end. As well as being an undervalued type of cinema at both the commercial, mainstream level and at the top of cinema’s most prestigious, recognised awards. Ultimately, this suggests the short film at its grassroots, low-budget level (such as the 48 Hour Film Project) is a means to more expensive filmmaking - namely feature films.

The fact the elite competitions only accept ‘first-quality’ short films, that being they are available to be viewed on 35mm film or high-definition digital tape creates an interesting conundrum. This would suggest the short is the ‘final product’ of a filmmaker’s vision and not something to explicitly progress his or her career. Given the higher budget needed to make films for the Oscar’s or Bafta’s, there is no room for amateurish experimentation, requiring strong financial backing that wouldn’t support filmmakers learning their craft. This would be an example of the type of filmmakers who ‘spend their whole career making short films because they enjoy the format and find it the best medium in which to express their ideas.’ Essentially, this is short film being credited with strong artistic merit, an art form that deserves to be awarded, not as a learning tool but as a finished product. However, if the award is based primarily on the ‘art’ and not on marketability for example, why should the quality of equipment and money on screen have anything to do with who gains acceptance? In the 2006 Oscar’s, the winning short cost £125,000 to make, whilst the 48 Hour Film Project produced twenty films in Sheffield for £50 each in two days. Perhaps there is a major improvement in creative quality and artistic performance when more money is involved, but since the Oscar’s and the Bafta’s won’t even look at the £50 shorts, the world will never know.

The Trouble between King and Pauper

It is interesting how the difference between Screen Yorkshire and the independent exhibitors mirrors that between the highest accolades in film competition and their low-budget equivalents. Effectively, because the freedoms of low and no-cost filmmaking are stifled by the major competitions who won’t accept them, filmmakers either need financial backing or a better established independent exhibition circuit. Therefore, those that do not gain financial support can still exhibit their work, if funds are made available to maintain short film exhibition.

The important idea to note is that which Matt Lloyd of Edinburgh Film festival pointed out, that shorts are always popular at festivals because people rarely get a chance to see them anywhere else. It is therefore important to maintain a good exhibition circuit so that talented filmmakers can learn and interact with their peers. After all, as Andrew Wilson says: ‘Short Circuits started in October 1999 to give new filmmakers the chance to screen their films, gauge the audience reaction, [and] learn from their peers.’ If a good exhibition arena is established then that will mean more short films are being seen. Theoretically, if more short films are being watched, then the need for product will grow and more people will be interested in participating. Therefore there will be more ambitious talent, and greater numbers for the likes of Screen Yorkshire to meet their targets.

Citation:

Bradford Film Festival (2006) The Shine 2006 Short Film Award [online] available from http://www.nmpft.org.uk/bff/2006/filmdetail.asp?ida=6172 (accessed 9 March 2006)

Imdb.com (2006) International Movie Database [online] available from www.imdb.com (accessed 10 March 2006)

Lloyd, M (2005) Edinburgh is a festival of discovery [online] available from http://www.bbc.co.uk/films/festivals/edinburgh/short_film_programming.shtml (accessed 9 March 2006)

Parkin, P (2004) The South Yorkshire Filmmaker’s Network [online] available from http://www.syfn.org.uk/completedprojects/ (accessed 9 March 2006)

Patmore, C (2005) Get Started In Short Filmmaking London: Quarto

Ruppert, M (2001) The 48 Hour Film Project Mission Statement [online] available from http://www.48hourfilm.com/about/history.php (accessed 9 March 2006)

Wilson, A (2005) A Film In Your Pocket [online] available from http://www.bbc.co.uk/bradford/content/articles/2005/11/24/pocket_shorts_huddersfield_feature.shtml (accessed 8 March 2006)

Short Film in the UK: Screen Yorkshire and the Independents April 20, 2007

Posted by Daniel Stephens in : Artfully Deranged, Short Film , add a comment

This article is written in conjunction with several others and is best read in conjunction with them. Click the below titles to read/navigate between each individual article:

1. Short Film: A brief critical history

2. Short Film In The UK: Screen Yorkshire and the Independents

3. Short Film In The UK: Film Festivals and Competitions

4. Short Film In The UK: Technology and the Tiny Screen

5. Short Film In The UK: Availability, Audience, and the Future

6. ‘Okay, we’re done’: The story of my first short film

7. Short Film Take II: The Trouble With Mr. Goldman

8. Short Film In The UK: Recommended Links


The article features my own personal interviews conducted with Sally Joynson (Head of Industry Development and acting Chief Executive) at arts funding agency Screen Yorkshire based in Leeds, and Andrew Quinn (Creator of Slack Video in Hull) who runs a screening night for new and established short filmmakers.

Short Film the Screen Yorkshire Way

Sally Joynson’s statement that short film is simply not ‘commercial’, that the film industry is ‘all about business’, sheds the most light on the argument that short film is primarily a means to further develop a filmmakers career. The BBC’s Film Network guide to making short films states that only one out of six reasons for even considering making the film has anything to do with money and even this is ‘very rare as [they] don’t usually pay financial dividends.’ Joynson says ‘people make shorts to go somewhere, to lead their career somewhere. It’s all about talent development.’ Given this, it would suggest that short film is viewed as a means to develop skills, and the government’s schemes through the regional arts partners such as Screen Yorkshire would support this.

Screen Yorkshire has a number of initiatives geared towards finding and nurturing new talent based on the idea of a ‘sustainable, robust, skilled industry, with an infrastructure that creates new opportunities and initiatives, and builds partnerships.’ Screen Yorkshire cite short film as a major way of achieving this and through a certain amount of funds each year they prove this belief. Their literature states ‘through our lottery scheme, we will support up to 12 short films per year with a maximum length of 10 minutes and with a financial contribution from Screen Yorkshire of no more than £2000.’ This then progresses for more experienced filmmakers with the Caught Short digital awards scheme of up to £10,000 and Screen Yorkshire will finance one short film a year with up to £20,000.

However, Joynson stresses that while these schemes are in place to find new talent, it is primarily a business decision to increase the skilled workforce. She says, ‘the focus is to increase production to increase jobs and opportunities.’ This is perhaps why Andrew Quinn of Slack Video felt that Screen Yorkshire supported only the business benefits of talent development, and that their focus on this might be ‘missing out on a lot of potentially brilliant work being produced by ‘some guy who just had a great idea one day’. When asked whether Screen Yorkshire supported the development of short film as an art form or for big business and making money, Quinn replied: ‘Directly, they seem to be supporting the latter’, clarifying that ‘Screen Yorkshire (and the Film Council in general) are very much of [the] thinking [that] shorts are primarily a way for new filmmakers to break into the industry.’ Quinn sees their ‘talent development’ as a way to make money. This isn’t necessarily detrimental to the industry on a business level. Yet, since Quinn sees short film as an important art form, he doesn’t believe Screen Yorkshire provide much consideration for this aspect.

Quinn is adamant that short film is not treated as a ‘stop-gap’ between other career ventures. He believes that the ‘cinematic art’ that he exhibits at Slack Video screenings is not a ‘test version for bigger plans’ and says ‘I think very few people in this area of work are interested in a feature film career.’ Theoretically, since short film isn’t commercial, Screen Yorkshire would not invest money in these sorts of filmmakers, since they don’t have aspirations to go on to anything else – namely, a type of cinema that would make money. This creates the question of what type of filmmakers are Screen Yorkshire investing in? Thus, suggesting that the short films that are made with such funding are indeed ‘test versions for bigger plans’ that would ultimately make money and create jobs.

It is interesting that any work that doesn’t fit the Screen Yorkshire criteria of what a short film should be is branded as ‘self-indulgent’. Joynson asks, ‘what aspirations do filmmakers have?’ She says, ‘there’s a danger that short film can become self-indulgent with filmmakers making such films primarily for themselves.’ It would appear that her comments are anchored by the necessities required by the agencies that fund Screen Yorkshire. Skillset and Yorkshire Forward are two of the three funding agencies and Joynson tells me that Skillset’s objectives are for ‘skills development’ and Yorkshire Forward’s objectives are purely ‘economical’. This provides a reason why Screen Yorkshire view short film in the way they do. Skillset’s primary motivation is to ‘ensure that the UK audio/visual industries have continued access to the skills and talent they require’, whilst Yorkshire Forward are ‘the Regional Development Agency behind the economic regeneration of the Yorkshire and Humber region.’ Therefore, it is unsurprising that Joynson cites short film as a way of finding the people who want to work in the industry, and separating the talented and motivated, from the rest. In a sense, their low-budget awards become bait in order for them to meet their targets and continue to get funded.

Short Film and the Independent Circuit

Creating job opportunities and building a skilled workforce are noble ideals but is it at the expense of the ‘art’ itself, as Quinn suggests? If filmmakers want to self-indulgently improve their art and experiment with the medium, as Spielberg and Lucas did without monetary gain, Screen Yorkshire and their affiliated funding agencies seem uninterested.

Andrew Quinn has run Slack Video in Hull since 2003, with the aim of promoting new short filmmaker’s work and to give people the opportunity to see films they would otherwise not be able to. However, he has run this exhibition outlet without any funding from the major agencies. As they exhibit ‘art’ films and ‘narrative’ films, he says this causes a problem as ‘the film council essentially say they won’t fund art film, and the arts council say they won’t fund narrative film.’ This causes an obvious dilemma as both agencies have their own agendas behind why they release funding. Quinn goes on to say that he applied for funds from the Hull City Arts Council but it was rejected because they don’t fund film, and interestingly, ‘The city arts unit covers art, theatre, dance and music but they don’t [cover] film.’

This displays two flaws in the system. The first is that, if the funding agencies are going to fund films, why is the support not there for the exhibitors? The second is, in funding films in the way they do, it could be argued that it stifles creativity because the freedom of the art form is compromised for new, young filmmakers who might have been given a £2000 grant from Screen Yorkshire. Any filmmaker given such a grant would have to be a first or second time filmmaker (according to Screen Yorkshire rules), and therefore very inexperienced. When put under the constraints of working under such hierarchical pressures, it would certainly put strain on the people involved. Quinn attests to this idea:

‘I’ve noticed there seems to be a bit of fear in applying to such things. I’m not sure if it’s the paperwork, the responsibility of managing a proper budget or maybe the pressure of having to produce something great because it’s your only chance. There must be something intimidating about it I guess. There are quite a few exceptionally talented animators and filmmakers who have given up at the last minute and not put a proposal in for some minor fear or another.’

Quinn believes that under such pressures, talent can be stifled, and creativity and originality can suffer. Andrew Wilson, who runs Short Circuits (a similar venue for the exhibition of short films in Huddersfield) says, ‘We just look for films that show hard work, thoughtfulness, and willingness to learn’ and it is this mentality that frees some of the burden on the creative process that funded filmmakers might have. Instead of the objective being to find more skilled workers and therefore increase productions to increase jobs, for Slack Video and Short Circuits, it is to find new filmmakers, showcase their work, and promote and push short film forward.

Monetary value is of little concern, since the only money Slack Video make is a percentage of that taken at the bar on the night of each exhibition. However, if more money could be placed into exhibitors like Slack Video, Quinn would want to do several things including setting up a video label for short films and artist’s videos, set-up a local community film training scheme, and a local production company. Yet, he believes more should be done before money even comes into the equation. He states, an ‘easily accessible advice or support network would help a lot more people. There appear to be a lot of lost graduates, not sure quite what to do with themselves. I think there are a lot of talented people being lost this way.’

‘Knitting A Love Song’: The Importance of Screen Yorkshire

Any reservations regarding Screen Yorkshire’s motives being detrimental to the freedom of short film as an art form, can be easily dispelled with the fact that for the second year running, one of their funded films received a ‘BAFTA’ award nomination. The film’s producer, Debbie Ballin said:

‘We are really excited about receiving a BAFTA nomination. Screen Yorkshire has really helped make this all happen. Their New and Emerging Talent Manager, Tony Dixon has given us a huge amount of support. As well as providing funding, Screen Yorkshire has helped during the post-production and promotional stages. They’ve been with us every step of the way.’

Clearly if Screen Yorkshire-funded productions are receiving such recognition, they are doing the right things for the industry. Additionally, since they are also given high praise from the filmmakers themselves, it does suggest that not only their funds, but also their support is of vital importance to the nature of film production.

However, as Joynson states, if short film is to succeed it has to lead somewhere, and in effect, it has to be guided towards assisting the industry to support itself. If the medium isn’t commercial, it has to be used in a way that makes it viable on an economic level, and that means creating a skilled workforce in the media industry and increasing jobs. Ballin’s film Knitting A Love Song did just that. ‘The film provided employment opportunities for thirteen regional freelances from the region.’ Joynson says, ‘we insist on getting as many locally based crew on the production as possible which helps in building skills, creating more jobs, building CV’s and means we can make more productions.’ She clarifies: ‘money that comes from productions is very important because it helps different kinds of business. If a big film crew comes to Yorkshire, they need a place to stay, they need food to eat, and that money is put back into Yorkshire based businesses.’ Head of production, Hugo Heppell concludes, the ‘BAFTA nomination for Knitting A Love Song is a great result for Screen Yorkshire and testimony to the work we are doing in developing a wealth of filmmaking talent in the region.’ However, even though Knitting A Love Song won prestigious awards and was nominated for the highest accolade in British film, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is something people want to see.

Effectively, Screen Yorkshire’s use of the short film is more practical than the independent exhibitors, but since they cannot fund every single application they receive, their output is severely limited. Therefore, they require each other to sustain the industry because their collective endevours are supporting different aspects of the film community. The independent exhibitor’s support the experimentation, creativity and freedom of low and no-budget independent filmmaking, whilst Screen Yorkshire assist those more ambitious, to prosper on an economic and society-based level. This is why it is vital that Screen Yorkshire support exhibition, because it is the only way to gain spectatorship and new audiences for short film. They have channelled their funding support of 12 short films through independent exhibitor Short Circuits, who then filter through the possible candidates, but more needs to be done to create a solid basis for short filmmaking to be exhibited regularly. As of March 2006, Short Circuits has only around eight screenings a year in Yorkshire, while Slack Video still has to work from the organiser’s own funds.

In conclusion, short film is seen in two very different lights but both ultimately agree on one thing – that it is a way of finding new talent. Screen Yorkshire from an economic and commercial aspect, see it as a way of meeting their targets (building a skilled work force and helping the region succeed on an economic level). The independent exhibitors see it as a way of finding new work from new filmmakers, who want to establish short film as something worth seeing. Essentially, under the commercial ideals of Screen Yorkshire, the short film has to be a means to something else. However, under the non-commercial ideals of independent exhibitor’s like Andrew Quinn, there’s the idea of just celebrating it for it is, without ulterior motives.

Citation:

Ballin, D (2004) Screen Yorkshire Gets Bafta Nomination For Second Year [online] available from http://www.digitalyorkshire.org.uk/news_1374.htm (accessed 10 March 2006)

BBC Film Network (2006) Why Make A Short Film [online] available from http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/filmnetwork/filmmakersguidewhy (accessed 10 March 2006)

Heppell, H (2004) Screen Yorkshire Gets Bafta Nomination For Second Year [online] available from http://www.digitalyorkshire.org.uk/news_1374.htm (accessed 10 March 2006)

Joynson, S (2006) Interview conducted by Daniel Stephens with Sally Joynson Leeds

Quinn, A (2006) Interview conducted by Daniel Stephens with Andrew Quinn at Slack Video Hull

Screen Yorkshire (2006) Screen Yorkshire [online] available from http://screenyorkshire.co.uk/ (accessed 10 March 2006)

Skillset (2006) Skillset Strategy [online] available from http://www.skillset.org/strategy/ (accessed 10 March 2006)

Yorkshire Forward (2006) Yorkshire Forward [online] available from http://www.yorkshire-forward.com/www/index.asp (accessed 10 March 2006)

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