FESTIVAL FOCUS #1 – FROM SHOOTING PEOPLE

Shooting People's Matt Turner caught up with a handful of the filmmakers screening at Encounters this year.....

Arriving at the end of September is Bristol’s popular Encounters Festival, one of the UK’s premiere stages for short film and animation. To get you in the spirit for all things short film, we’ve spoken with five Shooting People members who have films included in the competition, about the paths they took into filmmaking, the films they’ve made, and what they’re working on next. Here’s the first three.

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Offside (2015, Jimmy Dean)

Jimmy Dean is a young filmmaker and recent graduate of the University of Westminster. He’s directed two short films, Offside and Charity, which have both been met favourably and he has been fortunate to enough to travel around the world representing them at film festivals. “I’ve had some unbelievable experiences going to Germany, Israel and France and that’s all through making a short film.”

Jimmy is an advocate of the short film format. “It’s a format where you can experiment, fail, learn etc, which is really important for people like us who are at the start of their careers, and it’s a great platform for sharing your work and meeting people.  Plus, not all films need to be feature-length, I’ve seen some amazing self-contained short films and it’s a format that allows those stories to be told.”

Offside, his second short, “about eleven-year-old Kirsty who struggles to come to terms with her evolving identity as a young woman after learning from her father that she will soon lose her place on the local boy’s football team,” is in Encounters this year. “Encounters has a fantastic reputation as a film festival, and a lot of people who I’ve met at festivals have spoken so highly of it. It’s one we kept hoping to hear from and thankfully they came back to us with good news! I’m incredibly excited to attend in September, it’ll be great to catch all of the other films and meeting talented filmmakers and a number of people from the industry.”

Though relatively early in his career, Jimmy has already come to value the collaborative nature of filmmaking. “I think the community aspect in particular is important – over the last two years I’m so much more invested in the filmmaking community because I’ve met a bunch of people through festivals, twitter and Shooting People – and you become invested in their work, and their success and it’s a really nice support system. You can’t make a film on your own and places like Shooting People allow creative people to find each other. And, more importantly for me, it’s just a good platform to watch and share work.”

As well as catching Offside at Encounters, you can see Jimmy’s work on hissite. Looking forward, “I’ve just finished a music video for up-and-coming band The Theft which will be released in then next six weeks and Ellie and I are developing a bunch of other projects; short films, online content and other music videos. I just want to keep making stuff and hopefully we’ll have the opportunity to do that, and maybe in the future we’ll be in a good place to try and get a feature off the ground.”

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Dawn of the Deaf (2016, Rob Savage)

Rob Savage is a writer/director working in shorts, features and commercials, who has seen a lot of success in a short time. He wrote, directed, shot, co-produced and edited a micro-budget feature film Strings at age 18, which was acquired for release by Vertigo Films and won the Discovery award at the British Independent Film Awards, and was a 2013 recipient of Screen’s International Star of Tomorrow award.

His path has been slightly unusual. “I started my career in the opposite way to many filmmakers, making a feature film before shooting any shorts – it’s only in the past two years that I’ve started making short films (four in total) and it’s been amazing to experiment within the short format.” For Rob, short filmmaking offers a freedom that the kind of time and invested required by feature filmmaking can limit. “Making shorts has allowed me is to try new genres and approaches, and I make sure that with every short film I am pushing myself to try something different and expand my knowledge and ability.”

Additionally, Rob added that shorts “prove to the industry that you can tackle certain material – after Strings, which was a low key relationship drama, I wanted to move into sci-fi and horror filmmaking, but couldn’t have raised finance for a feature film in those genres as I had nothing to demonstrate that I could pull it off. Two horror films and a sci-fi short later, and I am in development on my second feature, a horror film that would not have been picked up without having made the shorts.”

Two of his short films will play at Encounters this year, two films that “couldn’t really be more different from one another.” The first is “a revenge thriller,” Healey’s House, that stars  “Julie McLellan and New Blood‘s Ben Tavassoli”, and the other, the particular intriguing sounding Dawn of the Deaf, is “an apocalyptic horror film about a strange sound that infects only the hearing population, leaving the deaf to survive.” He looks forward to being able to see these films “with an audience and feel them experience the twists and turns. There’s nothing quite like that.”

Indeed, for Rob, “collaboration is the most important part of filmmaking. I started out as a one-man-band, writing, directing, shooting, producing and editing all of my films, but have built up an incredible team over the past two years whose tireless work has made each film richer and more impressive. Many of my good friends and collaborators I’ve met through online film communities like Shooting People, or at networking events like the BFI Future Film Festival and it’s incredibly energising to feel connected to a wider community of filmmakers.

Rob is currently in development with Creative England, BFI and BBC Films on a horror film called Seaholme for the iFeatures scheme, and in post production on a new short film set during World War One, as well as directing commercials for Outsider.

Alice Trueman

Alice Trueman is a filmmaker, scriptwriter, editor and script-editor, who is also joint-artistic director and playwright of Broken Leg Theatre. Recently, she has worked extensively on the BBC Anim8 competition winner, Mystery Soup, and earlier in 2016, her new play, Three Generations of Women, was met with considerable acclaim, including selection as a Lyn Gardner Pick Of The Week, during its UK tour.

Egg, which plays Encounters as well as at London Short Film Festival and Aesthetica, is her first short film as director. “It’s an odd little script, very much my sense of humour, quite absurd and full of awkward silence. I saw one of my comedy heroes, Sally Phillips, give a talk at a Screenwriters workshop and thought I’d try my luck by approaching her agent with my short script. Amazingly, 5 minutes later, I had an email back saying Sally loved it and was happy to do it. I was bouncing off the walls with excitement and horrifying fear in equal, jittering measure.”

Alice is happy to have her directorial debut at Encounters. “As the UK’s leading short film festival it has been at the top of my wish list from the start. I’ve always had the impression of Encounters as a bold and distinctive festival, unafraid to take risks; I would say that Egg is a bit of a ‘marmite film’, so I was pleased that it was their kind of thing. I will definitely be going to as many screenings and events as possible. It seems to be a festival with real industry visibility with heaps of events and networking opportunities, so I will absolutely be taking advantage of that.”

As a melting pot of some of the brightest emerging talent in filmmaking and more experienced individuals, Encounters should prove a great opportunity for meeting the right people and making new friends. “I had a tutor at Uni who used to say, “collaborate or die”, which always seemed irritatingly over-dramatic, but then it has stayed with me. It’s hard enough to survive in this industry but we are stronger for our connections to one another, whether that is in collaboration over a project, having the humility to learn from one another, in a networking sense in creating new partnerships, or even just having a beer and a whinge with someone who knows firsthand what the challenges of your particular industry are.”

At all levels, “Shooting People and other platforms like it are a great way to find those collaborators at the same stage as you, particularly when you are just starting out and trying to find your feet. In fact I would say that attending Shooting People networking events provided me with one of my first ‘anchors’ in the industry when I first started on this path. You can easily feel isolated as a freelancer and whilst that is quite useful for certain stages of the creative process, it can also be a hindrance to your grounding within the industry landscape, so it’s something to be aware of – not to cut yourself off.”

“Also, in a really simple sense, the minute you work with a team of people you see this thing, this project, this idea grow, simply through a group belief in it as a ‘thing’, before it has actually become manifest – and that’s hugely motivating. I also think that perceived or actual deadlines are massively important to pretty much every creative I know. Having allies and teammates waiting on a draft or the delivery of a certain stage of production is a great way to ensure it actually happens. There’s nothing like guilt as a motivating factor.”

Alice is currently developing different feature ideas as well as entering post-production on her second directorial short film, Jas, which was the winner of the 2016 Red Rock Entertainment Film Competition. She’s also working with numerous scriptwriters as a script editor, editing a couple of Hannah Jacob’s new animations, researching and developing a new piece for theatre company, Broken Leg Theatre “So basically I’m juggling about a million different things as usual, yet somehow remaining impossibly broke. If anyone could put me up in Bristol for Encounters Film Festival that would be amazing.” Take a look at her portfolio of projects on her site (and help her out.)

Matt works for Shooting People, the UK’s largest network of independent filmmakers.Through SP, filmmakers, actors and writers can find collaborators, access funding opportunities, competitions and training, submit short films to key industry talent and meet filmmakers at our events at festivals and the monthly meetups. Matt handles the editorial for SP, curates SP’s Film of the Month competition, and oversees interactions with the membership, as well as representing SP at the events we run and at festivals. When not representing Shooting People, Matt is usually found scurrying between the city’s repertory cinemas trying to make up for lost time, or writing about film at taleofcinema.