Category Archives: Oxford

Film Festival Update November 2019

Film festival organising has been quite a ride so far, this will continue as things gather pace! By now the reality, responsibility and enormity of the task ahead has also kicked in.

I have to begin by thanking all of the amazing filmmakers who have already submitted to our festival – your belief in us is what keeps us going! We won’t forget you were with us right from the start! Both the quality and breadth of submissions has been completely inspiring.

We’re now expanding to include an additional venue, this will allow us to show even more films. Our plan is to theme each of the ‘screening blocks’ to give the audience members options as to the type of films they would like to watch. Unfortunately we aren’t going to be able to show every submission but unlike most festivals – we will provide feedback if a project hasn’t been selected (if the filmmaker requests it). This and our beautiful surroundings are just a couple of the smaller things which we hope make us ‘that little bit different’. We are also keen to promote local talent, so if you are a filmmaker and live in Oxfordshire – please get in contact!

It’s not just the venue which has expanded, our team has also. We’ve got a few new members joining us who are helping to pull everything together!

Original OXISFF team

Our original OXISFF team are now starting to expand along with the Festival

The expansion means we can now also invite guest speakers to give us insight into their filmmaking practices and experiences. One such person is Phil Beastall who’s recently gone viral for his short film ‘Love is a gift’ which has been picked up by the media for upstaging this year’s expensive Christmas adverts. (side note: thrilled Natalie Martins is also getting recognition for her role working on this project). We’ve also received an acceptance from an Academy Award winner who is planning to give a short talk (feel free to speculate who this is). We’ll announce further details nearer the time.

Meanwhile – there is a lot of work to do and lots of exciting times ahead.

To find out more or submit to the festival, please visit our FilmFreeway page here.


Oxford International Short Film Festival

Well, I promised a big announcement today, I suspect the title gives it away! After spending most of last year as filmmakers on the film festival circuit, we’ve decided we should now have a go at organising one! To be fair, we’ve already done this on a smaller scale (we just weren’t aware this was essentially what we were doing!).

The big day will take place on Saturday 23rd March 2019 at St John’s College located in the heart of Oxford’s city centre. Films will be played in the newly refurbished auditorium (recently announced as an Architects Journal Retrofit Finalist). A huge thank you to the College for allowing us to use this beautiful and unique venue!

St John's College auditorium

St John’s College Auditorium. Photo credit: David Fisher

Here is the official blurb from the official website:

‘The inaugural Oxford International Short Film Festival (OXISFF) celebrates the diversity and creativity of short films. OXISFF is located in the heart of the historic university city, on the same road where Inspector Morse, CS Lewis, and JRR Tolkien famously all enjoyed a tipple, a mere stone’s throw from Hogwarts’ Dining Hall.

We believe short films are an art form which deserve to be experienced in unique and beautiful surroundings, on a large screen with an enthusiastic audience. The festival will be held in the beautiful grounds of St John’s College at The University of Oxford in the College’s newly refurbished auditorium. Films will be shown throughout the day, during the evening there will be an awards ceremony before we retire to the College bar.

We are looking for great fictional stories which stir the emotions, have strong characters, and unique voices or evocative worlds. The awards will be judged by a panel of local filmmakers prior to the event across a range of categories. All eligible film submissions will be considered for the Best Short Film award. Submissions can also be entered into 17 additional categories. Film Submissions should be made on FilmFreeway.’

St John's College Gardens

St John’s College: Library and Gardens

If there are any filmmakers out their reading this blog, then please get in contact – it would be fantastic to be able to consider your latest short film.

For more information visit one of the pages below and please do follow us to keep up to date on the latest festival developments:

Cityscape 9

Recently I had the privilege to work alongside Artist Gareth Jones (1965). Gareth studied Fine Art during the mid 80’s before moving on to varied projects such as a new edition of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (with Four Corners Books) and a solo exhibition at the Milton Keynes Gallery. In 2006 he received a Paul Hamlyn Award for Visual Arts.

It was quickly apparent that Gareth influences are Utopian architecture, in particular Milton Keynes where he grew up as a child. In 2011 he produced a short film entitled “Looking for Milton Keynes“.

Spending time in Oxford provided him with the opportunity to explore this further. Rather than focusing on the traditional sandstone views of Oxford, Gareth wanted to showcase the city’s modernism, a side often overlooked.

Cityscape 9 - Viewing gallery

The end result is part meditative science fiction travelogue steeped in mid-21st century pop-culture and part art-house (in the style of La Jetée). If you are unfamiliar with La Jetée, its director Chris Marks didn’t have money to shoot on film and instead used black and white photographs to tell the story (with music and a voice over). La Jetée would go on to form the inspiration for Terry Gilliam’s film Twelve Monkeys.

We decided to use a similar stylistic approach but with colour. I admired Gareth’s photographs taken from his tiny Olympus pocket-cam (the way he used composition, geometry and the contrasts between light and shadows). The rest of the film (scripting, sound recording, audio sound-scape, editing) all needed to come together very quickly being as Gareth was planning to show the film with his exhibition.

Hopefully we succeeded in showcasing a less familiar (and occasionally alien) side of the Oxford city landscape.

(Vimeo link: Cityscape 9)

In the Moog for Music

My favourite band of recent times is Goldfrapp, yet I’m an 80’s child at heart. My favourite 80’s band is Tears for Fears. I had no idea of any link between the two until recently (Will Gregory collaborated on saxophone for Tears For Fears). Will is currently touring with his Moog Ensemble – something of a “Super Band” including the talents of Ade Utley from Portishead and film composer Graham Fitkin. The ensemble recently played in Oxford, I naturally felt compelled to attend.

Moog synths are analog with no presets but plenty of twisty dials and buttons to help sculpt sounds. They are also monophonic meaning you can only play one note at a time. As you can imagine, bringing this together takes skill. We thought it would either be complete genius or total disaster (and were extremely curious to know which).

The varied line-up included a number of classical pieces akin to Wendy Carlos’ Switched on Bach – clearly a source of inspiration.

The highlight of the first half was the rendition of John Carpenter’s Escape from New York, the second half was arguably even better once their own material was introduced.  Firstly there was a sublime piece called Swell. My personal favourites of the evening were the tracks written for the film “The Service of Tim Henman”, both extremely catchy!

Topping off the whole experience was the venue: St John The Evangelist church which allowed sounds to reverberate to great effect creating a wonderfully rich ambience.

Will Gregory Moog Ensemble

By the end, the audience were applauding for more despite the fact the band hadn’t rehearsed an encore (hey – we were the first place for the tour). All in all I’d recommend this to anyone interested in retro-synths or looking for something a little different from the norm. The current tour ends on 8th July, further information is available on the website.

Rebecca Hind: watercolours video

Last week I was fortunate to spend time chatting with local artist Rebecca Hind from the Ruskin School of Fine Art. She has a watercolour exhibition called ‘Leaves from a Book of Hours’ which is open to all by appointment (at The Kendrew Barn, St Giles Street, Oxford – running for three weekends).


To be honest I tend to think of watercolours looking pretty washed out, but her work is an explosion of colour influenced by the elements. She kindly allowed me to interview her and film the creation of a sketch-book piece:

If you would like to view the exhibition, please visit the here for further information.

An Evening with Sir Roger Moore

Last night I had the tremendous pleasure of being in the audience for “An Evening with Sir Roger Moore” in Oxford. Before Sir Roger entered the stage few could fail to spot the wonderful Union Jack cushion on stage which prompted me to tweet:

“I want the Union Jack cushion Sir Roger Moore is presumably sitting on tonight. Might be collectors item after tomorrow”.

Union Jack Cushion

Interestingly the cushion and the Scottish vote was one of the first topics he started on. Directing the flow of interview questions at Sir Roger’s biographer and assistant Gareth Owen. The pairing made for some fun banter.

The first half covered Moore’s early career and seemingly haphazard foray into acting. A lot was made of the number of jobs he was sacked from, to humourous effect by Gareth. Moore counted many stories about the studios, his TV career on shows such as Ivanhoe, The Saint (I had no idea he tried to buy the rights) and The Persuaders!. He also spoke a bit about directing episodes of The Saint and Persuaders!, a side of Moore which isn’t widely covered. It included a number of anecdotes of trying to get Tony Curtis to play ball such as re-recording dialogue.

Then came the interval, when  you could grab some obligatory refreshments.

Vesper Cocktail

Sir Roger arrived on stage early in the second half to announce some terrible news: “Gareth Owen is still in the building”. This half covered the Bond films in more detail. Many of the already documented stories came out (talking about sex maniac Hervé Villechaize antics on The Man With The Golden Gun, working with Maud Adams, Madeleine Smith and the magnetic wrist watch scene, all the friendly torment he caused Desmond Llewelyn who struggled to learn his lines as gadget-master Q, the time when the explosives went off early during the Stromberg showdown in The Spy Who Loved Me leaving him three holes where most men only have one). The evening was peppered with Moore’s impressions of famous actors such as Richard Burton, Christopher Lee, Hervé Villechaize, Michael Caine, Tony Curtis which were all surprisingly good. He even sent himself up, complete with a halo “Saint” moment on the big screen, a masterclass in ‘eyebrow acting’ and talking about the various parodies of himself from the likes of Steve Coogan and Spitting Image (which he loves). Moore was at his finest when riffing with the audience/Gareth or going wildly off piste at a different tangent only to ask “sorry – what was the original question again?”


Despite all the good humour throughout there was also a hint of melancholy for all the greats no long with us (including the recent loss of Richard Kiel who played Jaws in the James Bond films – the two were good friends). There is a sense that Sir Roger is one of the old guard remaining from a by-gone era. The Q&A was also extremely poignant considering the vast distance many fans had travelled to see Sir Roger speak, including one or two old friends such as A View to a kill co-star Fiona Fullerton. The most affecting moment for me was when the daughter of Film make-up artist Eric Allwright asked a question and mentioned that her dad was also in attendance in audience – Sir Roger was clearly moved by this. His recalling of character actor Percy Herbert was also extremely heart-felt.

At the risk of continuing on this downbeat note, both the first half and second half both ended on a surprisingly serious tone: part one ending on the horrific car accident director Basil Dearden who coaxed the most impressive performance from Moore’s entire career in The Man Who Haunted Himself (one of the few times Moore was required to do real acting), and the second half ending on his introduction and involvement with the charity Unicef.

Despite this, however, it was really an evening of celebration, great humour and the time breezed by like just like an enjoyable matinée (in fact it over-ran by some 40 minutes). Sir Roger was in fine fettle which belied his age of almost 87 to prove to everyone in the audience that nobody does it better.

The Big Event

Our fundraiser is now only days away and I’m massively excited! After a short break it’s also fun to re-utilise a skill I once did as my day-job – event organising.

I can now confirm additional details for those of you coming to the event (or perhaps still sitting on the fence):

The event is invite only (if you haven’t received an invite but would like to come, please email me). We are asking for a minimum donation of £10 per person, but believe this is extremely good value for everything you will be getting. The event takes place in the following garden:

Grim Shorts Event Garden

The schedule for the evening is:

6.30-7.30pm Garden party arrival cocktails with live music by Paul ‘Mudslide’ Morris. There will non-alcoholic cocktails for those who are driving.
7.00-8.00pm Food. Indian cuisine, with both meat and vegetarian options available.
8.00-8.30pm Live music by “Peter and the Wulf”.
8.30-10.00pm Film Screenings. All are short films, we’ve tried to showcase a wide-range of locally produced films alongside a few others we think are excellent examples. Not all are suitable for smaller children, but we promise not all are “grim” and there is plenty of fun mixed in.

The event will ends at 10.30pm. You will be free to mingle with others in the garden through-out the evening, the film-screenings will take place in the Coach House. We would recommend you arrive on time for the cocktails.

There will also be a raffle with prizes towards the end of the night (funny story about this – but you’ll need to turn up to hear it!). It would be great to meet some of you there and just in case you missed it, here is the original flyer.