90 seconds – a healthy constraint?

There’s just over 4 weeks left until the super short film competition DepicT! closes it’s call for entries. Watershed caught up with James Young, who’s mini-masterpiece Return – which was originally a final year university project – scooped him the DepicT! ‘13 British Special Mention prize and is an unique take on how we think about life and death. We recently caught up with James and picked his brains for insider tips for this year’s DepicT! entrants – especially for those starting out in their careers. Here is what James had to say about getting started, how to improve, and the doors that DepicT! can open…

Can you describe your winning DepicT! film for us and how you came up with the idea?

The idea for my film was influenced by the film Enter the Void and video games Braid and Limbo. The film sees a video game character die during one of the game’s levels. When he has an out-of-body experience and enters a video game limbo between the normal working game world and the dead gltiching one, he has to make his way back to the respawn point as all around him things become more and more chaotic and broken. At the time I felt that many video games treated death as more a consequence of trial and error when solving a problem rather than it having the same level of significance it does in the real world. The act of respawning by and large is instantaneous and I wanted to explore the moment between a character dying and then re-spawning.

What drew you to the DepicT! 90 second format?

The film was actually part of a graduation project in my final year at Bournemouth University, so it wasn’t initially made for the DepicT! competition and its format. That said, the 60 – 90 second mark felt like a good thing to aim for when trying to portray an idea concisely.

How did you find the making of your DepicT! film?

It was pretty challenging and it got me to try some aspects of computer graphics that I hadn’t experimented with before. Having said that, the process was immensely satisfying and it’s a great to have something you can look back on with pride.

What was your level of experience before submitting to DepicT?

In terms of professional experience making film – none. Return was my first! I had gained good CG skills during my first two years of study, but it’s still a very different experience when you actually get down to producing your own film.

What have you been up to since your DepicT! success? Where did the competition take you?

Since winning the competition, my film has screened at some online festivals and at the MIA Animation Conference and Festival in Miami, which I attended in October and thoroughly enjoyed. As part of the DepicT! prize, I’ve also had tutoring sessions with Philip Hunt from Studio AKA and got some great advice on where to improve. I’ve interned at Keyframe Studios in London producing animations for various games and short films and I have just become a Junior Animator at Manchester facial animation company Cubic Motion where I work on upcoming games! I have also just completed a short course at the National Film and Television School and I’ve got a couple of ideas for my next film. Eventually I’d like to take a trip to Japan to find employment over there.

Can you sum up why DepicT! is important to emerging filmmakers?

I think the 90 second limit places a healthy constraint on filmmakers, encouraging them to show their skills in the most effective way possible. Encounters festival itself is also a great way for filmmakers to build good connections, crucial when you’re at the start of your career.

Do you have any advice for this years DepicT! entrants?

Stay true to the theme of your film, but also keep an open mind and explore alternative ways of filmmaking if it feels right. Do what you feel works best whilst also remaining open to advice (and criticism!) about how to improve your film. Someone can rip you a new one, but still make a good point!

So from how to accept advice and make the most of consulatiton during the creative process, to honing your skills and getting your work out there, we are grateful to James for sharing his story and we are proud that DepicT!, now in its nineteenth year, is still supporting talent on the back of its quality and innovation!

Interview courtesy of Watershed / DepicT!