One Take Wonder

It’s been an intense week leading up to the filming of ‘Love Thy Neighbour’.

Aside from the usual production headaches just before a shoot – we had one tiny issue to resolve: the script! We loved the concept of the story but had too many script variants.

A few days before filming I had a go at streamlining the latest 16 page draft into a snappier 9 page version. I was expecting Stan to hate it but aside from a few tweaks it essentially formed our shooting script. We also wanted the actors to workshop so they could bring their own ideas and interpretations to the table. Ideally you’d do this before the shoot date but time was not on our side.Slate

It was great to learn that Melissa Dalton (playing Kelly) and Louis Bernard (playing Rob) were traveling together on the same train. They had both bonded during the journey and had already come up with ideas and back-stories to their characters.  This allowed us to hit the floor running!Louis Bernard and Melissa Dalton workshopping

Natalie Martins (playing Michelle) arrived shortly afterwards, it was lovely to be working with her again after ‘Emmi‘.  We all bounced ideas around, fixing issues and occasionally adapting character motivations – it was a really productive morning! We encouraged everyone to improvise so they would react to situations at key moments (the script was more of a guideline), quite an exciting way of working!

After lunch, Daniel Epih (playing Harv) and Jacqueline Dunning (our make-up artist) turned up. We starting to doing some technical run-throughs to figure out how the camera needed to travel (and pick the camera we’d be using). We shot tests on a Canon C300 using a shoulder rig and a Panasonic GH5S on a gimbal. Personally I loved the look of the Canon more, but the Panasonic was shooting wider and seemed to be more forgiving (we settled on that).

Originally the film was going imply more than it showed, but our DOP Danny MacGregor pushed us to get more on screen. This created more headaches: additional make-up effects, costumes and props. Stan and I raced around charity shops and supermarkets sourcing items whilst our make-up artist Jacqui started getting actors ready. During the trip Stan confessed that it was madness doing this as a single shot film (oops – that might have been my idea!).Jacqui and Daniel Make-up

It was almost 4pm and we still weren’t quite sure if it was going to be more ‘Birdman’ (cheating by breaking the film into smaller chunks and matching the cut points) or Victoria (a true single take with absolutely no cuts). After practicing a few times without make-up effects we decided we could do it as a single take (no cheating). Maybe it was the euphoria of being on set, but it seemed to go extremely well – the only concern was it was all moving a little too quickly and we needed to slow things down. It feels somewhat alien trying to control everything in real-time when you are more accustomed to controlling the pace in an editing suite.

It took a few moments to readjust and reset after each take. The second take was better paced but it had a few technical issues. The next take was going really well until an air ambulance started hovering over us (a hazard of filming next to a hospital). When things had calmed we did another take which (wasn’t quite feeling it as we’d lost some of our momentum). We expected that one to be our last take being as light was starting to go and Jacqui had to leave to catch her train back. We decided to give it one final shot (just as well, this is the take we’ll probably use)!

I’m rather impressed with what was achieved in just a single day, the whole team was nothing short of amazing! There was a really excitable buzz on location, we all got along even though we were all being pushed outside of our normal comfort zone. Hoping the end-result will be worth it! The Team

Well done team, awesome work – we did it!!!


Love Thy Neighbour

My latest collaboration with local filmmaker Stanley Mackrell is a short film called “Love Thy Neighbour”. We’ll be shooting over the weekend and I’m really excited to now share some details about the project.

“Love Thy Neighbour” is a thriller set in the flat of a couple (Kelly and Rob). After an altercation upstairs, Michelle bursts into their lives shaking in terror. Dealing with an unprecedented situation Kelly and Rob’s must act fast before the situation escalates. The film will be shot in real time as a continuous take. The film will be a co-production between Midnight Show Productions and Ferny Films.

I’m also pleased to announce the cast:

Melissa DaltonMelissa Dalton/Kelly
Melissa really impressed us in her auditions bringing out a side to Kelly which wasn’t written down on the page. Being a teacher, Kelly is someone who likes to take charge and is used to being the calming influence in stressful situations. Perhaps the biggest mystery is why she still puts up with Rob (it must be her mothering nature). For more information about Melissa visit here or follow her on Twitter.

Louis BernardLouis Bernard/Rob
Louis brings an element of charm and warmth to the seemingly ineffectual Rob. Rob’s is like a contented house-cat. Whilst he isn’t entirely lazy, he is perfectly happy coasting through life and isn’t anywhere near the ‘go-getter’ his partner is. Under pressure, Rob tends to crumble – so thank goodness he is partnered with Kelly. For more information about Louis visit here or follow him on Twitter.

Natalie MartinsNatalie Martins/Michelle
Playing Michelle is Natalie Martins who some of you might recognise as “Emmi” (it’s great to be collaborating once again). After an apparent one night stand gone wrong Michelle finds herself at the door of Kelly and Rob pleading for help. Whatever happened upstairs has made her scared and  unpredictable. For more information about Natalie visit her spotlight page here, her personal website here or follow her on Twitter.

Daniel EpihDaniel Epih/Harv
Playing Harv, the intimidating tenant in the upstairs flat is local Oxford actor Daniel Epih.

To follow how things progress during the production please follow us on Twitter and Facebook.


Must be honest and say that the year has got off to a bit of a shaky start.

Firstly the on financial side our boiler (original boiler when the house was built) broke and had to be completely replaced at some expense. Lucky we still had hot water from the immersion heater, but I’m dreading the electricity bill when it arrives! Adding to the boiler expenses are the choices we have just made regarding secondary school education for our daughters. Both daughters are on the autistic spectrum and therefore the choice has not been entirely straight-forward or easy. We think we have figured out what the right fit will be for them (in terms of environment and practicalities), fingers crossed we made the right decision!

Speaking of fingers, I’m not just financially broke. Last weekend I slipped getting out of bed and hit the edge of the bed frame. I’m not quite sure what happened (been telling people it was a freak accident in the bedroom which sounds much more exciting than the reality). After falling, I ran my hand under a cold tap (shouting plenty of obscenities) before realising that fingers were pointing in the wrong direction.

Annoyingly it is my right hand – which makes every day tasks I took for granted much harder (writing, typing, putting hands in pockets, getting dressed/showered etc – I also now have a thing against hand-dryers!). At the moment I’m strapped up and it’s 50/50 as to whether I need surgery or not (really hoping not). I’ll find out about this tomorrow. Extremely sore and very frustrating!

Unfortunately this is all happening at the point I was hoping to get my follow-up project to Emmi off the ground. Ah well! The good news is I still have another project which can hopefully distract me over the next month or so until fingers heal and finances have a chance to recover. The project is called ‘Love Thy Neighbour’. It will be a collaboration with local filmmaker Stan Mackrell. Hope to post more about this and the other project very soon!

2017 Review

So here we are at the end of 2017, what a year it’s been – not easy but busy at least!

The big achievement this year was finally getting our short film Emmi out there. This has been quite a ride: we have been selected at 28 film festivals, winning best film at two festivals, being finalists at two, being semi-finalist at two more with a further ten or so nominations.

Emmi Poster October 2017

What is particularly nice is that both of our main performers (Amy Harris and Natalie Martins) have both received multiple nominations for their acting (Natalie winning one of hers at the Gold Movie Awards). In particular it’s been interesting visiting film festivals, hearing reactions to the film, meeting lots of interesting people and watching other films along the way. I’ve seen some really good films but one especially stands out: The Silent Child (just found out it has made the Oscar shortlist, truly deserved), if you get the chance to see it is really worth it!

All the jet setting around has been somewhat at the expense of creativity and this is the area I look to rectify in 2018. I look back to find that prior to this month, I’ve only composed four pieces. One of them was was a quick temp score for this:

Over the last week I’ve already equaled my output from the past 11 months. At the bottom of this post is one of these tunes which was composed one afternoon. This tune was inspired by my children and their mixture of excitement, sleeplessness, incessant badgering and sense of wonder in the run up to Christmas. Speaking of family, it’s been quite a tough year all in all. One of the highlights however has been the introduction of this little fella (great to have another boy roaming the house with me).

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the tune below (let me know if you like it) and hope to have more to share over the next year. Wishing all of you the very best for 2018, let’s make this a good one!!

London Rolling Film Festival

It was a fantastic pleasure to attend the London Rolling Film Festival this Sunday. There were a number of things I particularly liked when we applied:

1. It was a film festival run by women.
2. It was in based in London and it looked really vibrant. Also had great reviews on FilmFreeway (will leave mine shortly).
3. The film is only screened if the filmmaker or filmmakers are in attendance. The filmmaker also has an opportunity to talk a bit about their project.
4. Unlike many other film festivals – it was free to attend the event.

I must confess I was secretly holding out for this one (it was on my festival planner highlighted in orange – translation: “this festival looks great!”). We had a couple of rejections just before the notification date, I can’t deny my excitement when I learned we had made the official selections. Yay! 🙂 After enthusiastically posting on social media my Godfather contacted me to say he’d like to come along (offering to treat me to dinner afterwards).

Unfortunately things got off to a rocky start! I set off with plenty of time but was greeted on the railway bridge by someone informing me that the trains were cancelled in both directions. The timetable display offered modest hope for two minutes before announcing that train was delayed. A quick check revealed delays of up to 90 minutes. Not good! Thankfully I was early enough to intercept Susie (Emmi’s writer/producer) who very kindly offered to pick me up and drive us to Hillingdon. After what seemed like an age on the Piccadilly line we finally made it to Leicester Square (half an hour later than originally intended)!

We arrived at the Phoenix Theatre Club venue and had our photo taken as we walked in. It was fairly quiet at this point.

Nice and quiet (for now)

I spotted Laura Jones across the room (Laura had helped on the project from the very beginning – turning her hand to anything – scheduling, sound recording, catering, cat wrangling – she did it all! Her cat Marley features in the film). I was excited that both Laura and her partner would get to experience the film for the first time with a larger audience.

Host Ellie Torrez kicked things off and invited all of the directors up to the front to describe their films in three words. I believe I went for “dark and depressing” – probably could have come up with something more creative – but this sets audience expectations. Ellie then explained the format (there would be two awards: “Jury” and “Audience”) and the judges were introduced. A quick summary of what played:

The Fox1. The Fox (dir. Henry Scriven)
An affluent West London neighbourhood is being terrorised by a violent thief once thought to be a vigilante. On a quiet summer’s night, despite the large police presence, the wanted thief stalks the streets in search of an opportunity. But the open door he finds will only lead him deeper into the darkness. What a wonderful way to start! The film builds intensity, offering a brief moment of humour before cranking up the tension again. You can watch the film on Henry’s website here.

Health Kick2. Health Kick (dir. Dipak Patel)
Two health fanatics working in the same office try to out-do each other, but it’s not long before things get out of hand! This comedy was the shortest of all the films played, enjoyed this one also!

3. 5476 Miles (dir. Terry Thomas)
The only animation in the festival line-up. Admire the amount of effort Terry put in to this paper cut-out animation. The tune by his brother Nigel was also rather lovely. Another fine effort and a nice change of style – you can it watch here:

4. The Inuring (dir. James Hughes)
Time for something much darker! A bullied teenage girl finally confronts her sister to drag their fractured past out into the light. I must confess I’ve been wanting to see this short for a while (it’s having an amazing run on the festival scene). It seemed like the nearest companion to our film (ie. bleak teenage drama with a female cast). The high point here is Emily Haigh’s astonishing performance. I spoke with Emily during the breaks and I’ll be rooting for her at Southampton International Film Festival (we are both playing there in October).

We had reached the half way mark and I noticed my Godfather standing at the back with a crowd of others. Wow, actually there was quite a crowd now and all the seats had been taken!

After a catch-up chat/drink (note to self: eat something next time!), we returned for the second half.

Remember point 3 in my list above? The makers of next film didn’t turn up  so their film wasn’t played!

Emmi-Portrait5. Emmi
We were next. Ellie gave us an amazingly generous introduction stating she had seen the film three times now and that the film still retains all of its power – such an amazing compliment (thanks Ellie)! The film played and (as is usually the case) you could almost hear a pin drop by the end. Ellie asked Susie and I a couple of questions afterward. I can’t really recall what was said, but seem to recall talking about the power of suggestion, “less being more” and that the film asked difficult questions but provided no easy answers.

Elephant in the Room6. The Elephant in the Room (dir. Mark Singer & Jamie Terry)
After the double bitter pill of ‘Emmi’ and ‘The Inuring” together, this comedy provided a welcome lift (it was about as different from Emmi as you could possibly get). A young couple attending a house-viewing might be getting more than they bargained on. The real standout here was actress Louise Green (and “Tyrone” – this is an in-joke to anyone who was present at the screening).

7. Another Home (dir. Khanh Dang Xuan)
Finishing up was this lovely reflective piece. The film explores the meaning of home through the encounter between a young girl who recently moved to London and a young British man. It is a story about the uncertain and disorienting nature of living far from home, about love, loss and hope. It finally asks – how hard is it to let go and move on when all you feel is loss? In terms of cinematography this was my favourite (filmed on a Sony A7S II camera, proving not everything has to be shot on RED or Alexa).  The film’s producer/writer Quynh Nga (Anna) Vu also came over from France especially so the film could be played. A beautiful way to end the official selections.

The judges were now deliberating for the Jury award and the audience had their chance to vote. Both winners would receive a one year subscription to iPitch (and the Audience award would also receive a small cash prize)! I decided not to vote as it felt terribly unsporting (everyone said I was crazy not to vote for my own film!). I still couldn’t bring myself to do this, so I put some money into the Rolling Film Festival Guinness hat instead to say thanks (this felt far more appropriate). Two things went through my mind at this point:

1. I was really enjoying it, this was fun! The venue was full to capacity and there was wonderful buzz in the air. Like most festivals you had a number of filmmakers showcasing their films (indeed this was a rule here), however the majority of creative people I spoke with didn’t have a film playing in the line-up. There were also lots of genuine audience members. This mix can perhaps be attributed to the fact that there was no entry charge.
2. This was also the first festival where I can honestly say I really enjoyed every single film and any one of them was a worthy winner!

Susie went off to see the “out of competition” film in the VIP area, I confess I was chatting too much and missed this. This was followed by something called “Feature Corner” – a Q&A with Director and Producers on the main stage. The feature in question was “Winters Ridge” which I’ll try to catch in the cinema when it is given a limited release next year. This film gets brownie points for filming in both Lynton and Lynmouth (I am a Devonian after-all)! Here is a behind the scenes featurette on the film:

Next up was “Pitch corner” where three projects had five minutes to pitch to their project to the audience (one feature and two web-series’). All three had sizzle reels to sell it to the audience. I felt for everyone who did this, pitching is brutal! I hope all of them found some of the support they needed during the festival.

Finally it was time for the awards part and judges came up on stage to announce their decision. My Godfather (somewhat mischievously) set my expectations exactly where they should be: “It’s apples and oranges – they are all so different, not sure how they will decide. I’d probably go for The Fox! I’m not sure I saw many audience votes for Emmi!”. I thought: “fair enough, at least we walk away with one fan who sat through the film three times!”

Host Ellie popped a bit of fun at the judges for all being male at a female run festival (fair point) – Barry got a free pass though for “flying the LGBT flag”. It was apparent that they struggling a bit with the decision – each judge had their favourite – but in the end only one could win. They gave the Jury award to the first film played “The Fox”. Congratulations to Henry, well deserved!

Now on to the audience award. Susie and I were convinced that either “The Inuring” or “The Fox” were going to walk away with this. “And the winner is… Emmi”. Took me a moment to process it! Hang on – that’s our film? Susie and I looked at each other completely stunned! After a moment we then hugged! I’ve never seen Susie lost for words – but this was perhaps as close as it would get. The emotion was immense so I hugged her again! We also invited Laura up to join in the moment.

Audience Choice Award #LRFF8
Can’t remember a word of what we said, but I really hope we were able to convey our shock and how much this moment meant to us. Clearly we didn’t do this for the money because we walked back to our seats without taking the winnings! 🙂

I still hadn’t eaten – but had a couple more celebration drinks (oops)! It seemed I was getting business cards left, right and centre. It was especially nice to learn that Emmi was affecting some of the male members in the audience (generally we thought Emmi would resonate with women more). All of the “officially selected” filmmakers were invited into the VIP area to record a few short interviews on Facebook Live. You can see us all talking here (Emmi begins around 7 minutes in):

In between interviews we chatted to one of the judges at this year’s Fish Eye Festival  (thanks for selecting us – really looking forward to playing there next month) and to “The Fox” winner Henry about the difficulty of establishing the correct tone. After a final bit of mingling and some last-minute selfies – we all went off in our different directions!

I don't do Selfies well!

It’s only fair to say a huge thank-you to Alida at this point for all of the co-ordination. She has put a tremendous amount of effort into running this festival behind the scenes (not lost on me, I’ve been a conference manager – this would have been a colossal amount of work). Stefania – you also deserve a shout-out for all your help too. Last but by no means least – Ellie you were a lovely and gracious host/interviewer, always keeping things lively. You really did champion our film during the festival and we appreciate that so much! I hope you will all stay in touch!

Topping off the whole surreal evening was a lovely meal at Chelsea Arts Club with my Godfather and his family. It wasn’t until coming home on the train the following morning that everything started to sink in (exhausted, really proud of the whole Emmi team and profoundly grateful to the audience for picking our challenging little film).

Thank you so much Rolling Film Festival!

Right, back to reality…

Strange Days

It’s been a surreal week or so!

Emmi has been selected for three more festivals (exciting):

Emmi Award OnirosPerhaps our biggest news is that we won the award for “Best Drama” at the Oniros International Film Awards. We’ve been focusing on getting the film in front of  an audience rather than winning awards, so this came as a genuinely lovely surprise (thanks Oniros)!

We were also thrilled that Oniros recognised Amy Harris’ performance in the film (so both Amy and Natalie Martins have now received nominations for Best Actress!).

We also screened at two festivals.

On Saturday we played at the Women Texas Film Festival which  sadly we were unable to attend (pleased Emmi featured in the “Strong Female Characters” category). If anyone went to this we’d love to hear more about how things went down!

We also played at the London-based New Renaissance Film Festival in Shoreditch two days before on the Thursday. Susie (on holiday) was unable to come but Alex (Emmi’s runner) and Kevin (Emmi’s post-production sound engineer) provided some moral support (thanks guys). In a curious quirk of fate, Adam (Emmi’s production designer) was also having his stag do in Shoreditch during the same weekend as the festival (Alex was acting as “Best Man”). Coming to the screening would allow him a chance to scout the area in advance. After a reasonably smooth journey from Oxford to London we arrived at Liverpool street and walked to the venue taking in a few of the sights along the way.

Shoreditch SkylineShoreditch Artwork

The venue for the screenings was a lovely chilled out cafe/bar/cinema called The Close-Up Cinema– an absolute treasure trove for film aficionados.

Close-Up Cinema

The cinema itself was an intimate place with around 30-40 seats. The screening had around 25-30 members in attendance. Below is a list of films which played during our block (apologies if I missed one, I feel like I’m missing one):

This Swiss film (translation: Emergency) started the block off with a bang. Set in an emergency call-centre, a misunderstanding leads to an unexpected result. Short and snappy – I really liked it! For more details and the film’s trailer, visit here.

The Immaculate Misconception
Sinead is underage, pregnant and a virgin who lives with her grandparents (stick with this!). Her grandmother, a pious Catholic and the matriarch of the dysfunctional O’Reilly family, will stop at nothing to get the birth proclaimed immaculate. At 25 minutes this was the longest film of the session but the film flew by. It deftly balances drama with light-hearted moments and features exceptional performances from Orliath Feenan, Niall Cusack and Helena Bereen as the O’Reilly family. Michael Geoghegan’s film was originally intended as a feature film but sadly the film’s co-writer Simon Riley died before this could be realised. The film is dedicated to Simon and it seems a very fitting tribute indeed. For more information, read Michael’s Interview.

Others Like You (ALTRE)

Ester is a woman who has a strong longing to get pregnant. Following a surgical procedure by Greta – her family doctor and long-standing friend – she is diagnosed as sterile. Ester’s original desire thus becomes a growing obsession, and she embarks on a series of one-night stands hoping for a miracle. After a casual encounter, she shows early signs of a pregnancy and a positive test result restores her hope of becoming a mother. When Greta, herself barren, learns of Ester’s pregnancy, events take an unexpected turn. This Italian film contained some stunning cinematography and a wonderful atmosphere, although I must confess the story wasn’t always the easiest to follow (although it is memorable). Kevin particularly liked this one because he knew some of the locations where it was filmed.


It was clear that a theme was emerging, so it wasn’t a huge surprise to find that Emmi was next in line! Shameless trailer plug:

98 Street Playland
Reeka, a recovering drug user, seeks out her ex-boyfriend in order to save his life and their relationship. Much like Emmi in our film, Reeka isn’t a character who elicits too much sympathy (despite trying hard to escape the circumstances she finds herself in). The performances in the film are good across the board, in particularly Daniella Alma as Reeka. I do recall thinking that the look of this short film felt like a David Fincher movie and there was some excellent and evocative use of colour grading. By the end I found myself strangely detached from the story and the ending beach shot was particular jarring (no doubt the intention).


At the end of the films Michael Geoghegan and I did a short Q&A. I can’t honestly remember much of what I said (hopefully I didn’t come over too nervous/dull). I did hear a few audience members talking about Emmi afterwards which was lovely. After a quick drink at the bar Kevin and I went in to watch the next block of films and Alex went off on his Stag-do recce. The films played during the next block were:


William Stack is a former child actor who went off the rails just prior to his teenage years. After a shocking fall from grace and now an adult he is attempting a comeback. However before he can do this he will need to face the demons of his past. This was in many ways was the “Hollywood” entry in the bunch. It features Whoopie Goldberg and was executive-produced by James Franco. Glossy, very well produced if a little predictable in story terms.

One in a Million

Kevin is an orphan and autistic teenager living in the South East. Kevin obsesses about becoming a millionaire and escaping the shackles of his seaside hometown. This was the most emotional film I watched at the festival (I live with an autistic family). The film is impeccably shot in black and white, I recall the opening scenes being particularly atmospheric. The greatest asset of the film is Eddie Chamberlain as the protagonist Kevin (a real standout – glad I got to opportunity to chat with him during the festival). Christopher Laws is also extremely effective in his scenes as Kevin’s odious and bullying foster-brother Leo. The only real criticism I can throw at the film is whilst the other supporting roles are well-played, they seem less developed – as a result they don’t always ring true (Charly’s sudden attraction to Kevin and the utter naivety of the foster mum spring to mind as examples – but perhaps these aspects were lost in the editing process). With that aside, this was stirring stuff and director Patrick Ireland is definitely a talent to watch out for in the future. To find out more watch an interview with Patrick here.

Seeing Him

When Sophie and her younger lover James find their relationship being challenged they are forced to confront a truth they have both been hiding from. I must confess I was curious to see this being as it was made by Chris Jones (whose masterclass I attended a few years back). As expected this was polished with a strong performance from Vanessa Bailey as Sophie. Vanessa also wrote the screenplay, so I hope we will get to see her step behind the camera and direct at some point in the future!

Food First

Food first, then morals! A comedy about two couples in a stylish Berlin Tapas restaurant. The initial light conversation starts to intensify and tension increases as each dish is served. Many of the films shown thus far had a serious tone, so this was a welcome change (and the most entertaining film I watched). The performances were great, for me the real gem was listening to the off-screen chefs gossiping about the couples to shots of “food porn” which wouldn’t be out-of-place in an advert for M&S. The good news is that you can watch the film online here:

This animation is based on a Turkish legend: Mankurt is a mindless slave who has had his memory erased after being tortured. This profound animation had clear parallels with events currently happening in the world and served as director Ermina Takenova’s graduation project. The project took her eight months to make.

I Just Disappeared Into You

This music video was directed and performed by Roxana Vilk. It was shot in Scotland and Iran, the dance/film explores our relationship to nature and the nature of movement. In Iran dancing for women is banned, so the video explores contrasts the movements of dancer/choreographer Skye Reynolds, with the movements of an anonymous actress in Iran. Sections of the dance/film are also made up of thousands of still images woven together, exploring new ways capturing elements of the choreography and the ‘energy’ of the dance. The video was hypnotic and it somewhat reminded me of Goldfrapp (albeit more mellow and jazz inspired) – really liked the track also! To find out more read the festival interview with Roxana.


Sisak is set in a bustling Mumbai local train, where a romance develops between two men who are poles apart. This Indian film addresses the fact that homosexuality is still a big taboo in the country and it conveys the story without a single line of dialogue (no mean feat). Whilst I think the film might have benefited from a slightly shorter run-time (20 minutes), I think it conveys an important message to the outside world who are probably largely ignorant. The film has been touted as India’s first LGBTQ film (Sisak is an Urdu word, which refers to “the sob that’s stuck in the throat”).

Even though I only attended two of the blocks, this was an absolutely fantastic experience. In hindsight one thing became apparent: our film clearly had a far smaller budget than the other films shown, most of which were shot on high-end cameras such as the Arri Alexa. It made me feel happy to think we could punch our weight alongside films with significantly higher production values (hopefully a testament to the story and performances in Emmi).

Unfortunately I was unable to attend the other festival days. It was time to swap the film festival experience for an entirely different set of festivities which included zorb football, table-tennis bars, pizza restaurants and culminated in a 90’s theme night. Can’t say I achieved much sleep on Saturday but after a spot of Sunday brunch I was feeling slightly re-energized. This was just as well as it was the festival awards ceremony during the afternoon and I was going with Susie (now back from her hols) and Alex (who probably needed a break after all the organising).

Emmi was nominated for three awards: Best Social Realism Film, Best Story and Best Actress (Natalie). Realistically I wasn’t expecting us to walk away with any of these awards  – it’s just lovely to be considered as a nominee and it would be a great opportunity to hob-nob with other filmmakers and have fun!

We were greeted by afternoon tea and prosecco. During this time I chatted with a music video maker from Birmingham called Andy Rutter (watch his winning Ultrasound video here), bumped into to Michael Geoghegan again and went over to speak with Chris Jones, Vanessa Bailey and her partner. It was quite surreal chatting with Chris who is the person who coached me with the majority of my film-making skills (and it helped to reaffirm how far I have come over the past couple of years).

After the reception we entered the cinema for the main awards ceremony which was hosted by actress Fleur Keith. The full list of nominees and winners are available here. Whilst we didn’t win any of our nominations (as predicted), we were awarded an “honorable mention”.

After this ceremony we retired for a couple of photos and drinks.

Emmi - Susie, Andy, Jan and Massimo Emmi Honourable mention award

Just before leaving the ceremony host Fleur came across to congratulate us on Emmi, it turns out she was one of the audience members attending the screening (thanks Fleur, really appreciated!). I was now caught somewhere between pure adrenaline and complete exhaustion, time for us to head back to Oxford. A huge thank-you to both Jan + Massimo who made us feel so welcome at the festival, we hope to return soon with a future project!

Female Director (Cardiff Mini Film Festival)

Following on from “Fiction Part 2”, here are the films from the Female Director session at The Cardiff Mini Film Festival. I was particularly looking forward to this session being as we really need more female voices in the film world and thankfully the ones showcased here certainly didn’t disappoint! This along with ‘Fiction Part 4’ were my favourite parts of the festival. Please note that any opinions expressed are based off my initial impressions during the screening itself.

01. Ransom
RansomKitty and Kent are in over their heads with gambling debt so they form a plan: kidnap a rich kid and score big time. This US film starts out as a thriller but by the end has evolved into something more preposterous. Whilst this wasn’t a favourite during this session, it’s a breezy five minutes and the film doesn’t outstay its welcome. Film IMDB page.

02.Pillow Talk
Pillow TalkA coming of age film about teenage sexuality with best friends Cara and Lucy on the brink of going separate ways. A vibrant hipster opening gives way to sweet “coming out” film which is well directed by Louise Marie Cooke. If I were to criticise I found the dialogue at the start a little unauthentic, the performers seemed a older than the ages of the characters that they were portraying (not that this mattered once the film hit it stride).

03. Sophia
SophiaThe imaginative Sophia is waiting for her bus to arrive on a bench. Whilst waiting we see her imagination turning everyday events and unfortunate situations into something more entertaining (despite how inappropriate this makes her look). This was a charming Norwegian short directed by Marietha Chopra Helgesen, with simple but well executed concept. My only wish would be for a slightly stronger ending (although maybe I missed something here whilst I was scribbling down my notes). Liked this one a lot!

04. Passing Over
Passing OverA mother struggling to move on after a family tragedy seeks a medium to help her overcome the loss. On a technical viewpoint, it’s hard to fault Natasha Dahlberg’s film. It contains strong performances, some fantastic sound design and is able to convey a sense of isolation, grief and haunting strangeness. However I ultimately found it a little predictable and found myself becoming less engaged once “the medium” part was introduced into the story. Whilst I felt there were a couple of stronger contenders during this session, this went on to win the best international Female Film  so well done to Natasha and her team!

05. Almost Perfect
Almost PerfectHelen is an undertaker who advertises for a  make up assistant for her “clients”. When the interview with applicant Stella gets off to a bumpy start, the film can go one of two ways: is she actually looking for a make up assistant or there something more sinister at work? This won the audience choice award (indeed there were quite a few team members at the session). There is a very Gothic feel to the whole piece thanks to some inventive camera angles, red colour grading with Helen in particular having a vampiric quality. I was hoping the film would end with a different twist, but you can decide yourself by watching the film below:

06. Archway 0173
Archway 0173An antique collecting mother brings home an old phone which her son Tom initially dismisses as “more junk”. However when the broken phone rings one day it connects Tom with a young girl called Isabelle who claims to be from 1940. Becoming friends after sharing conversations, Tom soon makes a frightening discovery which he needs to warn Isabelle about. Can he warn her in time and what will be the consequences of his actions? At around 20 minutes, Pat Knight’s film was the longest film of the session, but it was also one of my favourites. It’s well made and has a strong but simple concept with a nicely handled relationship between Tom and Isabelle.

07. Super Dad!
Super Dad!All Toby wanted was one normal day. This proves to be too much to ask for when your dad is Captain Chaos, the super villain of Milwaukee! Maria Pretzl’s comedy is for the most part a father/son relationship with Toby coming to terms with his dad’s disasterous wedding faux-pas. A fun film with a lovely moment of “realisation” at the end.

08. The Girl In The Photo
The -Girl In The PhotoCharlie, an introverted but curious guy, is troubled by a mysterious girl seen in his dream, even after waking up. This was a short film by Alise Ambaine who appeared to be the youngest filmmaker I saw in attendance at the festival. The film was quite short but had an unnerving and suspenseful vibe. I look forward to following Alise’s future projects.

09. The Chameleon
The ChameleonThe story of a struggling Hollywood actor who is cornered by the industry’s shadow at every turn. Our “Chameleon” desperately seeks to distance himself from typecasting thank to his popular turn as “the guy on the Gusto energy drink ad”, the vapid parties, the lies he’s told to try to “make it big” and ultimately Los Angeles itself. Can he make it and will he ever know who he truly is? My favourite part of Stephanie Phoutrides’s film is when all the alter-egos gang up on our Chameleon. Clearly this film had a larger budget than most during this session, but it was fun despite the rather abrupt/odd ending.

10. Belle
BelleAfter her parents divorce due to her mother’s alcoholism, Belle’s life is turned upside down. Struggling, Belle is often forced to assume the role of the grown up with only her teddy bear to support her. One fateful evening during Christmas the situation spirals out of control with heartbreaking results. We see life through Belle’s innocent eyes making it all the more powerful. Out of all the films I watched during the festival, Belle is the nearest companion to our film Emmi (although the innocent 7 year old ‘Belle’ is a far more accessible character than our difficult and troubled teenager ‘Emmi’). Another similarity is that both are based on true stories! Diana Skarbek gives an absolutely stellar performance as Belle. The only real gripe I have is that the alcoholic mother didn’t seem quite as convincing as Belle or her father. This was my favourite film of the session (and indeed the whole festival), so I was pleased to learn Evey Swayland won the best Welsh Female Director for this film (and arguably she should have also won best film also). The film is available below and I definitely recommend giving it a watch: