Cambridge Shorts: Meet the Directors

Image credit: Oliver Kealey

We caught up with the directors of the films set to be shown at the third Cambridge Shorts this Tuesday. We asked them to share stories from their filming process, what to look out for on the night and how they would advise starting your own film.


Patrick Brooks: Depravity

Depravity is a short film about normal young people. Filming mainly consisted of loads of things going horrifically wrong, none of which were funny at the time but all of which seem vaguely comic now. We were attacked by swans, kicked out of a college by a rogue porter, had an actor come down with tonsillitis, and damaged the very expensive camera equipment we were renting when my cinematographer slipped and nearly fell in the Cam. What a fun week!

Cambridge Shorts is a super cool event and the only reliable way to show your film in front of a large audience, so much better than just releasing online


Sam Hobson: Vaudeville

Vaudeville is a film about very different men and the forms of love and hate that bind them together. There's honestly nothing more awkward than having to film a forty second masturbation scene from multiple angles. Cambridge Shorts is a great platform to introduce people to the Cambridge Film Scene who haven't got involved before. The hope is they go and see what we've made and get more involved in other productions.

If you want to get into film here, work on some other people’s films, see what works, what doesn't work, build your contacts, and never stop writing. The Cambridge film scene is all about reciprocity- I'll work on your film, you work on mine. Eventually you'll have a big group of enthusiastic, talented people who can help you make something of real quality. Also, don't rush your film. These things take time to get right, and if you believe your project is worth it, don't take short cuts!


Nick Jones: In Mud and Rain

My film is a story about the past and guilt, set in the flat landscape of Cambridgeshire. We managed to get a 1970s Morris Marina for free which was amazing, so look out for it! Trying to get it shown at Cambridge Shorts, which just seems to be getting bigger and bigger, was a bit of a no-brainer. In terms of getting into film here, it’s all about putting in the hard work in the preparation, before you turn the camera on! It’s here that the difference is made.


Bret Cameron and Charlotte Gifford (writer) : Closer

Closer is a psychological thriller set in a sixth-form college, about a teacher who begins to suspect one of her pupils is sending her unsettling texts under the name of an old boyfriend.  

On the very first shoot, we found out that our shotgun mic was faulty, meaning that we had to record sound in a less than ideal way! Right now, I’m still unsure about whether we’re going to get away with this. On the same shoot, Rhys Locke, who played the police officer, choked dramatically on his tea during the very first take. In another scene, Xelia Mendes-Jones, who plays Anna, was meant to be chopping apples for a short time before reacting to something. She forgot about the reaction part, and just kept chopping for ages. No one said anything because we didn’t want to interrupt the shoot, but we do now have an archive of lovely apple chopping close-ups. 

We also annoyed quite a lot of passers-by. As a team we all looked pretty conspicuous, and when we had to film up and down King’s Parade we a fair amount of comments from angry pedestrians. 

Also one spot where we filmed was a skatepark, and we didn’t really take into consideration the fact that some people would actually want to use it as an actual skatepark. These skaters kind of hung about glaring at us and dived in as soon as we left. I think you kind of have to accept that you’re going to be a bit of a nuisance to the public when you’re making a film!
Cambridge Shorts seems like the best place to get an audience for our film, and to connect with other film makers. It’s a really fun event!

The most difficult thing about getting started in student film is the lack of funding. Even if you are going to spend next to nothing on locations, props, costumes, and so on, you will need a bare minimum of equipment to make it happen. Especially if you are trying film for the first time, you are unlikely to want to invest in all the necessary equipment. We were lucky that Patrick Brooks, our Director of Photography, had everything we needed, though we’ve heard the Cambridge Film Association have some equipment which they’re willing to lend, and that sounds great. 

Charlotte: As a writer, I think it’s also important not to be too precious about the script. From the start, Bret’s been so helpful in the editing process, and actually we were still changing stuff when we were storyboarding and even a few things in post-production. It’s not just an inevitable part of the process, but a really enjoyable part. Everyone has a different vision for how the film’s going to turn out, and you gain way more by embracing the new ideas people have. 

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