Do you need to complete your UK short?

After weeks of fund-raising producers do well to get all the money together to make their short films. There are so many little expenses that mount up. No day arrives without an invoice from some unexpected place. Suddenly the shoot starts, and everyone works for 24 hours a day until all the footage is in the can. In the following weeks producers work with directors and editors to get a rough cut…

Then a new set of problems arise. The film cannot be submitted to festivals unless it is finished. What about those effects that can’t be done on the editor’s home rig? Does anyone have a £8,000 grading-quality broadcast monitor and the grading suite with the 50% grey walls and expensive kit to do the grading in. How about doing a proper audio mix? What about doing a film out to 35mm?

If you’ve run out of funds, maybe the UK Film Council Short Film Completion Fund may be able to help. They take submissions from film makers who have got to the rough cut stage. Many producers have problems raising the next thousands of pounds to get the film to a releasable stage. The Completion fund has been set up to get them over that hurdle.

Twice a year the call goes out to producers who need that extra help. Each round up to seven shorts are supported. The current deadline is January 5th 2009. To find out more, go to The UK Film Council (the web page shows the wrong date for the deadline for applications).

The fund is administered MayaVision International, a TV documentary production company. It must be a tough call on which films to support. They need to assess the potential of the film based on the rough cut and the people who want to finish it. Is the film any good, and will the money available improve its prospects? I would say that based on the London Premiere of the six most recently completed films I went to last night, the current crop of films succeeded in both counts.

Ralph – 13 mins (dir. Alex Winckler, prd. Olivier Kaempfer) is the tale of a boy taking a chance on love in France. It started slowly and finished a little too quickly, but showed a sunny aspect missing in many recent shorts I’ve seen. Although the story was small, I ended up caring a lot for the characters.

Hatemail – 12 mins (dir. Frazer Churchill, prd. Mark Murrell) shows how childhood trauma can people do the strangest things. This story was brave enough not to paint its protagonist in too strong a positive or negative light. The tale is told in an exciting way, but we are left to make our own conclusions.

Unborn – 13 mins (dir. Justin Trefgarne, prd. Francine Heywood, Laura Giles, Ernest Riera, Sarah Parfitt) is a horror mystery: a couple can’t conceive, so who is that crying in the attic? This film is still mysterious to me, I’m not sure what the resolution was. However the tension was built up very effectively. It is said that one of the most frightening shots in film happens when the camera creeps up on a closed door. This film proves that adage.

Domestics – 7 mins (dir. Rob Curry, prd. Colin McKeown) is a time jumping impressionistic illustration of how far a domestic argument can go. There’s a lot of style supporting an interesting idea, and the intrigue doesn’t overpower the excitement.

The Hero’s Journey – 6 mins (dir. Jack Herbert, prd. Barrington Paul Robinson) We go on a journey of discovery as a little boy records his Star Wars fantasy. A deceptively ‘low-tech’ film that fits a lot into six minutes in real time.

Dead Dog – 6 mins (dir. Edward Jeffreys, prd. Loren Slater, Kerry Kolbe) An impressionistic tale of a young man seeking justice. The most avant garde of the six, yet it has clear compelling story.

The film that stays in my thoughts the strongest is Hatemail because it tells a story that doesn’t make a clear moral judgement on the anti-hero. The audience is left to make up their own mind.

The reason why the UK Film Council supports short films isn’t only to produce entertaining films that stand on their own. They want to support films that demonstrate a specific way of telling a story, an original story, professional production ability and post-production quality. This makes these films calling cards for directors, writers, producers and post-production facilities. Which will support more British Film industry activity in the future. I would say that the films I saw last night succeed at least three out of four of those criteria.

Watch for these names, you saw them here first!

I think it’s a good use of my tax funds and lottery ticket proceeds.

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