A UK-based blog about short films and short film-making.

31 July 2005

Report from Rushes Soho Short Film Festival

Still from Goodbye, Cruel World
If you are in London this week and have any interest in short films at all, then you must catch the Rushes Soho Short Film Festival. There is no excuse for not going, as there are numerous screenings throughout the week at venues all around Soho, and all screenings are FREE!

I went to the very first screening of the festival, which showed twelve short films in the general 'Short Film' category (other competition categories include Newcomer, Music Video, Animation and an award for Titles & Idents). The films I saw were of a generally high standard, and gave me a lot to think about when planning my next short. You can still catch all of the films listed below as there are several further showings this week of films in the Short Films category.

Here is my rundown of the films I saw:

Traffic Warden, produced by Teun Hilte through Clockwork pictures.
A beautiful girl and an illegally parked car space-all you need to fall in love in London.
Stars David Tennant (the new Dr Who). Nice opening credits - using signs in a market to introduce the key cast and crew. This was a device that was used throughout the film - for example, a revolving billboard turns around behind the main character just as he falls for a beautiful woman - the word 'Romeo' appears above his heard. Only when we cut to a different angle do we see that it's an ad for an Alfa Romeo car. Nice touch. A bit slow-paced to start, but picks up about a third of the way through and brings together a major and minor storyline into a great 'feel good' ending. Shows that the director can handle a lot of outdoor action and control the pace of the film. Impressive.

Sock produced by Kate O'Mulloy through DFGW Ltd.
In the heart of Soho, two actors gripe about casting, typecasting and life on the edge of the limelight. They both work but end up back where they started, grumbling in a pub.
Only after the two lead characters have been talking for a while do we realise that they are both glove puppet socks. A good idea that attracted some top comedy talent (Jack Dee, Phil Jupitus). This is well-voiced and has some nice one-liners.

The Deal produced by Sally Oldfield through Bare Film Co.
Two men meet at a mansion house, a deck of cards is placed on a table along with a gun. A game of high stakes about love, loss and guilt will be played but only one man will leave the room.
The best I can say about this film is that it was well lit. Very ponderous, studenty-film, and a bit of a waste of the acting talents of Bernard Hill, who ended up giving a fairly stilted delivery, and seemed to struggle with a couple of the duller lines.

10 Seconds produced by Rachel Drummond-Hay through South West Screen.
A man awakens to find he can see 10 seconds into the future. But is it a gift or a curse?
Shot on a single set but well-designed with good use of subdued colour - quirky, Cabinet of Dr Caligari style room. The main character - The Strange Chap - was very well played. The film is based around a very simple idea, and unlike many other shorts it doesn't take the idea too far or play with it for too long. This is a lovely, funny film which I would watch again with pleasure.

Blake's Junction 7 produced by Film Club (Ben Gregor and Tim Plesto) through Pitch Film & Godman.
Cult Si-Fi group Blake's 7 makes a late night stop at Newport Pagnell services on the M1 with Martin Freeman, Mackenzie Crook, Mark Heap and Johnny Vegas.
A great cast, and it's the quality of the acting that makes this piece (coupled with a lot of deadpan humour in a loving tribute to the TV series Blake's Seven). It's very low key - nothing much really happens - but that's what makes it funny.

Elephant Palm Tree produced by Louise Decoteau through Cinnamon Films & Arawak Films.
When a menopausal Miss Jamaica is shat on by an elephant, she decides to ask her cheating husband for a divorce.
I don't think the one-line synopsis (from the film-makers) quite matches up to the film we see - the main character is not identified as a former Miss Jamaica in the film, nor is it clear that he husband is cheating on her. No matter. This film is very well acted and is about something - a real situation, with the fragile relationship between the two main characters well suggested.

Mercy produced by Emily Man through Emily Man Productions.
Ben is bullied at school and neglected at home. He finds a chilling resolution to his problems.
Natalie Press (star of the Oscar-winning short Wasp) plays one of the lead roles in this film. This felt quite cliched (prostitute heroin-addicted mother does her best for her small son on council estate, but isn't coping). However there is some gut-wrenching cruelty in the film (well acted by the lead boy and by the pimp character). Parts of the film reminded me of Ratcatcher by Lynne Ramsay (there were some nice cut-away shorts and good use of sound in her style). This film improved as it went on and there is a nice turning of the tables to conclude the story.

The Three Rules of Infidelity produced by Jon Sen through Illyria Films.
After a night on the town, Liam wakes up to discover that the woman next to him is not his wife. He follows three simple rules to avoid discovery.
A neat film but not a brilliant one. Reminiscent of 'How to tell when a relationship is over', but not as well executed.

The Bet from Brown Bag Films.
Two time travellers journey back into the depths of the past in order to settle a personal wager. The outcome will change the world as we know it.
This is a good joke that is taken too far. The first time the joke is told it is genuinely funny, the second time does not work well for a non-US audience, and the third is just limp. And the closing credits were way too long - almost as long as the film itself.

Get The Picture produced by Adrian Sturges through Picture Farm.
A group of prisoners are about to be executed in front of a photographer and journalist. Are they purely to report, or is their presence inciting the event?
Extremely well acted by Brian Cox and Lloyd OSkilfulilfull creation of atmosphere with very convincing landscape and choice of locations. Genuinely scary at times, and makes a very powerful comment on the role of the media in creating 'shock' scenes.

Good Luck Jeffrey Brown produced by Jacquicouez through JJ Town Pictures.
A man confines himself to a nuclear bunker to hide from the war outside.
This is one of those films that you think could have been significantly better with a bit more time spent in post. Little things like an unconvincing TV broadcast from the US President and poor quality mock adverts let the film down. At times it was almost expressionist rather than narrating a story, which made it interesting. Overall I thought it lacked punch (but it did at least get me to listen to some Nina Simone when I got home, which is a good thing!)

Goodbye, Cruel World produced by Iain Thomson through Partizan Ltd.
Charming, black comedy about a shy boy who is forced to deal with the death of his best friend. By using his fertile imagination and passion for electronics, the boy temporarily resurrects his friend. However, things start to change when the dead friend begins to take on a life of his own.
A really excellent film, a great calling-card for the film-makers. This achieves the 'real but unusual' approach that is my test for a great short film. Takes a great idea and develops it, but - like 10 Seconds - it doesn't take it too far. A great fun film to watch.

Reflections on these films - some of the things I take away with me to ponder are:
  • acting is everything - the quality of some of the acting is what makes most of filmse fims work;
  • you can make a great film with one or two people in a single room (eg 10 Seconds), but if you really want to demonstrate what you can do as a film-maker you need to do something more ambitious - film outside, with several locations, including crowd scenes (eg Traffic Warden);
  • comedy seems generally easier to do than serious drama in short form - eg Sock. Must be something to do with the structure of a short joke with a clear punchline;
  • some of the better non-comedy films still include an element of humour or fantasy to lighten the mood (eg Goodbye, Cruel World); but
  • it is not impossible to make a great drama film that doesn't pull its punches and makes a serious point (eg Get the Picture).

My tip for the prize - there are a number of films that could win (I would point to Traffic Warden, 10 Seconds, and Get the Picture). My prediction would be 'Goodbye, Cruel World' (which is why I've included a still from this film in this post). It's well constructed, ambitious and heart-warming. But what do I know?

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20 July 2005

Rushes Soho Shorts Festival 2005

Now in its seventh year, the Rushes Soho Shorts Festival 2005 runs from Saturday 30 July to Friday 5 August.

The festival offers free daily screenings of all short-listed films in bars, cafes and cinemas throughout the West End, concentrating on Soho, the centre of the UK’s filmmaking and creative industries.

The films are shown in five categories:

the Ascent Media Short Film Award,
the Rushes Newcomer Award,
the Vue Animation Award
the Sony Media Music Video Award, and
the Adobe Title Sequences & Idents Award.

16 July 2005

Trunk monkey adverts

A series of very funny ads made by R-west for the Suburban Auto Group in the US. They all tell a short story in just a few seconds, and I think they're great examples of funny short films. My favourite is 'Monkey bribes cop' - what's yours?

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11 July 2005

New foundation launched to fund documentaries

The Channel 4 British documentary film foundation has just been launched. The foundation is supported by Channel 4 and has at least £500,000 a year to give to filmmakers to make the sorts of documentaries that fall outside the British TV system.

It will be open to British filmmakers based anywhere and filmmakers from anywhere based in Britain (they will also be taking submissions from Ireland). The foundation will award bursaries between £3,000 and £100,000 on a rolling basis.

The foundation will fund everything from short films, particularly by new filmmakers, feature-length projects with the potential to break through, experimental films, passion projects by established filmmakers, documentaries by artists from other mediums such as photography or art through to ambitious development projects. They will fund at every stage - development, production and completion - and can help you to get the other funding you need, as well as training and mentoring - and can help you get your film out there once it is made.

The foundation is not yet open for funding applications, but you can register your interest and will be sent details as soon as they are open for submissions.

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