Eyes on the stars, feet on the ground

11 March 2013

Arjun Sajip charts the fascinating ups and downs of this year’s fabulous Watersprite International Student Film Festival…

A chat with Olivia Colman…

I will always love Olivia Colman. Three reasons include, but are not limited to: a) In front of a sizeable audience, she admitted to finding David Mitchell’s autobiography so funny that she (literally) pissed herself laughing in front of a bunch of kids, hilariously miming the horrified reactions of the schoolchildren as they tried to escape the oncoming and unstemmable flood; b) She couldn’t even remember the character she played in hit TV show Green Wing, and had to be reminded by an audience member; and c) She actively encouraged Cantabrigians to prioritise having a great time here above all else: “It doesn’t matter, as long as you had a good time, and got in!” Colman self-effacingly claims that she never did any work at Cambridge, and spent all her time cycling to auditions and rehearsals. She met Mitchell & Webb at Cambridge, and reveals that Mitchell’s Football Rant is her favourite M&W sketch: “it’s pure David”.

Although I was infuriated that the talk’s organisers decided to show one of the most devastating scenes in modern cinema (from Paddy Considine’s masterpiece Tyrannosaur – very few other films have made me cry) to the audience, utterly decontextualizing it and therefore stripping it of much of its power, the audience got an appreciation of her immense skill at handling non-comedic roles. I got to speak to her for a bit at the end, when she was informally chatting with her fans. To my surprise, I was the first person to ever ask her: “Jez or Mark?” “Long-term, or one-night stand?” she asked. Peep Show fans: Olivia Colman would rather have Jez than Mark as a long-term lover. “Good choice,” I replied spinelessly, knowing full well that I’d have probably gone for Mark.

Her other reflections included her love for Considine, her favourite director to have worked with: he expertly provides a “safe environment”, treats his actors with respect but not obsequience, and his nod of approval “is worth ten Oscars”. Oh, and her final piece of advice: “If you ever get to dance with Nick Frost – do it.”

Closing Gala with Eddie Redmayne…

The weekend drew to a close with a ceremony that took place in the opulent surroundings of one of the main galleries of the Fitzwilliam Museum. In this spectacular yet intimate setting, Eddie Redmayne was the main guest speaker.

Redmayne, Cambridge History of Art graduate and star of Tom Hooper’s recent adaptation of Les Miserables, was interviewed by Jack Parlett, the festival administrator, in a two-hour talk that touched upon the actor’s time at Cambridge, his film and television career so far, and the challenges of live singing as required by his role as the young revolutionary Marius in Hooper’s film.

He told the audience about how “weird” it was to be back at the Museum, mentioning that his undergraduate lectures took place there. He credited his time at Cambridge for preparing him for an acting career; his memories of essay crises and weekday nights at Life were met with knowing laughter from the audience. Parlett’s incisive questioning and Redmayne’s comprehensive responses made for a very entertaining evening, and a fitting end to a weekend that saw actors and students from all over the world enjoy the best of the emerging talent in filmmaking and cinema.

Opening Ceremony with Neil Gaiman…

Calm, charming, his hair looking completely chaotic in varying shades of metallic grey depending on the light, Neil Gaiman enchanted his audience within minutes as he pensively answered the somewhat inane questions of the evening’s interviewer.

After a warm drinks reception at Cripps Court, Magdalene, we made our way downstairs, where Gaiman met the first question (something along the lines of, “How did you end up where you are now?”) with the response: “Mostly by accident.” The talk was characterised by such modesty. We learned about his fruitful relationship with Terry Pratchett, which begat 1990’s Good Omens; his mistrust of Hollywood, and the darkly amusing impunity with which execs fabricate and mislead; and about his happy experience with Steven Moffat on his first episode (β€˜The Doctor’s Wife’) of Doctor Who.

I’ve read none of Gaiman’s books or comics, but still found him wonderfully relatable, interesting, and funny. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, his new book for 1-5 year-olds, is next on my reading list – right after I’m done with A Political Economy of the Middle East.

Emily Handley and Arjun Sajip

Photo – Chris Williamson