A Glimpse into the Cambridge Film Scene: An Interview with the Cambridge Shorts and the CFA

Jungmin Seo 9 February 2019
Image Credit: Cambridge Shorts via Facebook

The Cambridge Shorts is a late-night showcase of the best student-made films in Cambridge, taking place on Tuesday, February 12th. When I meet Seth Jordan (Director of the Cambridge Shorts), Hannah Cesarani (Film Selection Committee of the Shorts) and Lina Fradin (Co-President of the CFA) at the buzzing Café Nero by Market Square on a mild afternoon, we discuss the exciting event itself, upcoming plans for the Cambridge film scene, and Cambridge film deals.

So what should we expect from the Cambridge Shorts? “It’s not just going to be like your average trip to the cinema. It’s a compère and comedy event, led by two hosts [Tom Nunan and James Coe who performed in the ADC’s sell-out The History Boys this January] and with a longer introductory video to the evening” says Seth Jordan, one of the senior organisers of the event. He has an impressive portfolio in the Cambridge film scene: since writing film reviews for Varsity, he became increasingly involved in film-making itself, assistant-producing 100 Days Since and producing The Tortoise, winner of the Lent 2018 Shorts. But right now, he’s snuggling under his oversized dark green hoodie as he sits quite comfortably in a tattered leather sofa.

There are six films on the line-up for the evening of February 12th: “a mixture of documentaries, vlogs and narrative films”. These pieces made it through the competitive submissions process that took place at the beginning of the year, which was open to all students from Cambridge (University of Cambridge, Anglia Ruskin University, etc.). Just from looking at some of the titles – Queer Voices in China (a social documentary) and A Day in the Mind (an aesthetic-and-high-production-value vlog on Cambridge life) – it’s clear that there will be a wide variety on offer. They will also be showcasing Split, an experimental split-screen production that recently won the Shorts/Fletcher Players New Writing Prize. Hannah Cesarani, who has three-brown-paper-bags-worth of bread for Pink Week beside her feet as we speak, who is a Director of the Cambridge Shorts and was a member of the Film Selection Committee for this year’s Shorts. She’s particularly looking forward to re-watching Joshua Harris’ bird documentary, Wildlife of Lundy. I’m a bit sceptical about this at first, but both Seth and Hannah convince me that “It’s just on a completely different level. It has such a personality to it. It’s just so, so good”. And when Seth candidly adds “They even filmed birds having sex on top of the Cambridge University Press building”, that’s when you know these film-makers are really passionate about what they do.*

For this year’s Shorts, there has also been greater collaboration with the Cambridge Film Association: the University’s film-making society. I had the chance to meet one of the co-presidents of the CFA, Lina Fradin, who also heads the Trinity Film-Making Society. She emanates ‘chic’ in her effortlessly coordinated outfit, and smiles as she explains: “We’re looking forward to having more coordination with the Cambridge Shorts. The Shorts is one of the most visible and inclusive events under the banner of Cambridge film-making – it’s such a great way for people to get involved. There’s production design, scripting, sound design, selecting films … It really brings out the complementarity of the different strands of film production.” She adds that the ticket sales from the Shorts contribute to raising funds for CFA events, such as inviting film-industry speakers from abroad, which will be of interest to all cinema-goers. “In comparison to the theatre scene in Cambridge, the film scene is much smaller. I have to say that Cambridge film has grown massively in the last three years that I’ve been here, but there’s still space for more. Hopefully the Shorts will encourage and inspire people to take part in it!”

And after the Shorts – what next for the film community? Seth is already making plans for the next Shorts, as he mentions “It would be great to have a photography exhibition at the ADC Bar on the films we play”. Hannah is keen to improve outreach relations with ARU students who actually study Art and Film, with better access to professional resources: “Communication hasn’t always been the best between us, but we’re hoping to change that and get everyone involved.” Lina is going to hand over the CFA to a new committee at the end of Lent Term. She says “We hope that the new CFA will create a university wide film calendar to centralise the College Film Societies. That way, we could avoid screening clashes and make things a bit more organised and accessible.” Lina is not the only person who will be leaving the Cambridge film scene this year – so will the 2016 founder of the Cambridge Shorts. It’s a period of change; both the current directors of the Shorts and the CFA are looking for fresh members. “We need to branch out”, says Lina. “There’s only one second year on the current CFA team – the rest are third years.” Hannah adds “We can understand why people might be a bit intimidated to get involved. There’s a small group of us, and they might feel like they lack experience.** But we really want to make it more open – we’re organising some more socials this term that will hopefully attract more students.”

The Cambridge Shorts is going to be one of these ‘socials’. Yes, it’s an event designed to appreciate some of the best student-made film productions, but it’s also going to give people a chance to talk to those like Seth, Hannah and Lina, who know a lot about (and – perhaps more importantly – have a genuine passion for) film. They are up to date with the best film deals in Cambridge, like £3 Mondays at Vue (with reclining seats – “proper reclining seats” adds Seth). When I throw in “Best cinema in Cambridge?”, there’s no doubt: “Picturehouse”. I wonder why I even asked.

As we wrap up the interview, Hannah adds “It’s going to be a really fun night, different from a typical ADC Late Show! We want the Cambridge Shorts event to be really relaxed, and we’re looking forward to meeting lots of people – fellow film-lovers, aspiring film-makers – everyone.”

* Give the Cambridge Shorts Facebook page a ‘Like’ for more information – they have been releasing snapshots of each film in the lead-up to the event! Here’s a list of the full line-up:

Split by Josh Cleary
Haze by Daria Hupov
Wildlife of Lundy – Sea Birds by Joshua Harris
Queer Voices in China by Lucy Gilder
Hourglass by Laura Baliman and Scott Partington
A Day in the Mind by Zeb Goriely

** Follow the Cambridge Film group on Facebook for more opportunities to get involved in the Cambridge film scene either as a runner for a show, or to improve your networking!

Book tickets for the Cambridge Shorts on Tuesday, February 12th here.