Film-makers: come out of the closet

There are now hundreds of film clubs and short film festivals vying for new material. So if you're looking for your 15 minutes (or less) of fame, look no further
Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
IT USED to be said that everybody had a novel in them. These days, what with our three-second culture, the creative are more likely to turn to a more instantly gratifying form. Whether it's a grainy mini-drama shot on Super-8 with a hand-held camcorder, or an attempt at something slick and stylish, short films are the new medium for aspiring story-tellers. The results, though, still tend to be squirreled away in drawers. But now shy film-makers are being asked to come out of the closet. More and more clubs for short films are being formed. The number of festivals is also on the increase: many, like Cinergy, opening in London next month, are particularly keen to show new work.

"Everybody does have a short film in them," says Damian Spandley, Cinergy's organiser. "Making short films isn't a talent particular to a certain type of person. Film is a universial art form and everyone has ideas, often based on personal experiences, which are filmic. Transferring them to a short film can be done quickly, easily and cheaply - 10 minutes of Super-8 can cost only pounds 8."

Bearing this in mind, Spandley, a 22-year-old film buff studying at the Courtauld Institute of Art, began asking around his friends, plundering film school showreels and pestering production companies. His aim was to put together a long-running film festival showing an eclectic mix of short films in the hope of showcasing some previously unseen gems. In doing so he has succeeded in flushing out an enormous amount of unsung British talent. Many films, he says, have been lying around for years, their makers too unpushy to get them shown. "Some people are victims of self-consciousness,'' says Damian. "They may have made a good film just running around with some friends and think its not worth showing to anyone else, but we're interested in showing anything.''

The films now piled up in Spandley's sitting room vary in length, subject matter, production quality and film stock. Some have been slickly shot on 35mm and have obviously received some kind of funding. Others have been shot on video and suffer from bad dialogue and "experimental" camera work. Some have specific effects, others are either animated or attempt to combine film with dialogue plaques, word bubbles and other kitsch or surreal film gimmicks. Spotting the now famous cameo part or credit is added entertainment: John Hurt, Roland Rivron and the Guardian film critic Andrew Pulver were just a few names and faces I noted on my private screening.

Hilary is a sad but ingeniously plotted (and animated) story within a story about a dejected musician who tells his child about his unhappy marriage by way of a fairy-tale bedside story. The Bug, a Barton Finkish all style but no content film, tells the story of a pest control man trying to kill a fly. No Such Thing, shot mainly in Notting Hill, is a portrait of urban violence and angst ("What's new and violent, mate?'' says a punter to a video shop owner in one scene). Cosmopolis, a grainy team effort, is about a girl who propositions a man in a bar and then asks him to chain her up (even if she begs to be released) when they get home.

But Spandley isn't the only short-film enthusiast committed to ferreting out good, bad and mad hidden talent. One Pinc Tuesday, a bi-weekly arts club which germinated informally over the summer in a gallery on the Harrow Road, has become a popular venue for short films. Run by photographer Joshua Briggs and Matt Whitley, the man from the recent Rollo ads, the club attracts a crowd of local arty-bohos who all have a friend who sings, writes poetry or just happens to have made a short film.

"We want to popularise and demystify the filmmaking process,'' says Whitley. "The secret of the art of film-making needs to be blown apart and exposed as an accessible medium to everybody.'' Like Spandley, Whitley thinks short film-making should be something anyone can do. "I saw a film recently which was made by two people alternately holding the camera. It had the effect of there being an invisible ghost in the movie - which was funny. It wasn't a very good film, but it showed how easy it is to be creative.''

While the boys aim to show a wide variety of films, Whitley admits that his personal taste is for the raw - and the rawer the better. "Nobody films on Super-8 anymore,'' he complains. "But I think films made on Super- 8 can be beautiful. Crappy Super-8 always look better than film made on video, the colour depth and definition is more powerful and three dimensional. The cleverest thing anyone could do, would be to make a three-and-a-half minute Super-8 on one entire spool, editing as you go along. If you can tell a simple story in that time without too many duff shots, then you've made something fabulous."

Their aim is to encourage people to have a go. "We want to amuse people, not frighten them off by showing them a film that is so amazingly good they feel they can't compete.''

But their Tuesday night line-ups always include one or two brilliant but under-exposed early works of some now-established or award-winning film-maker. The evening, therefore, pans out to be a grafting of the grainy and the good. In the intermission there are acts. Last week, Phil Dirtbox recited his poetry to a hushed crowd, next week Bojo Champman will sing. The atmosphere is relaxed. There's always an exhibition on the walls, with a well-stocked bar selling either beer or cocktails and a wholesome hot meal thrown in. "We want people to walk away entertained,'' says Whitley. "If you have a film that's good, bad, wonderful, interesting, or funny - we want to see it. If it moves people, we'll show it."

8 Cinergy, a short film festival will run every Friday night from November 24 at the Kinema, tel 0171 235 4226. For details, see panel, left. One Pinc Tuesday is on 17 October and every other Tuesday at Pinc, 605-9 Harrow Road, W10. For details, see panel, left

FIND AN AUDIENCE FOR YOUR SHORT MOVIE

CLUBS / VENUES

LONDON

Exploding Cinema Tel: 01956 823712

Halloween Society Tel: 0181 297 0250 / 0181 852 2826

ICA Cinemateque Tel: Simon Field, 0171 873 0056

One Pinc Tuesday; Tel: Joshua Briggs or Mat Whitley, 0181 960 0855

Peeping Tom's Tel: 0181 830 3145

Soho House Tel: Laurie Vausa, 0171 267 1300

Uncut (part of the ICA's educational wing) Tel: Lizzie Barker, 0171 930 0493

MANCHESTER

The Kino Club Tel: Tel: John Wojowski, 0161 448 0878

Vision Collision Tel: Joff on 0161 707 5736

FESTIVALS

Birmingham Film Festival (12-22 Oct 1995). Tel: Samantha Shinton, 0121 634 4213 or 0121 634 4909

Co-op Young People's Film and Video Festival (Bradford) (13/14 Oct 1995 - under 21s only). Tel: Russell Gill on 0161 958 1412

Drambuie Edinburgh Film Festival (11-25 August 1996). Tel: 0131 226 4051 (submissions by April/May)

Edinburgh Fringe Film and Video Festival (April 96). Tel: Becky Lloyd / David Cummings, 0131 556 2044. Last entries by 30 November.

International Celtic Film and Television Festival (27-30 March 1996). Last entries by 1 Dec. Tel: Frances Hendron, 01463 226189.

Leeds International Film Festival (12-27 Oct 95). Tel: 0113 2478398 apply now.

LONDON

10th London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival (21 March - 4 April 1996). Tel: Jane Ivey, 0171 815 1322. Last entries by 23 Oct Cinergy (24 November onwards). Tel: Damian Spandley, 0171 580 4877

Clapham and Battersea Film Festival Tel: David Ingram, 0171 228 8576.

The British Short Film Festival Tel: 0181 743 800 ext 62222/62-52.

The London Film Festival (2 - 19 November 95). Films by post to Jane Giles, c/o NFT, The Southbank, SE1 8XT.

Tyneside Film Festival Tel: Briony Hanson on 0191

232 8289.

Southampton Film Festival Tel: Tim Webb, 01703 635335

Comments