Student film in Cambridge appears to be on the up at the moment. The ADC held its first student film screening event in May, and just five months later comes its sequel, on this Tuesday 18 October at 11pm. I spoke to Cambridge Shorts co-producers Ellie Howcroft and Russell Fancourt about what to expect from the night, theatre versus film, and how to get involved in filmmaking.
Can you give a brief outline of who you are and what your job is with Cambridge Shorts?
E: I'm Ellie. I co-produce Cambridge Shorts. The main job was to sort through film applications over summer. Now it's more a case of publicising the event.
R: I’m Russell – the other co-producer. I’d add that a big part of the job is putting together a good event: working out the format of the night, a good running order, basically making sure everything you see that isn’t the films is as polished as possible
Why did you want to get involved with Cambridge Shorts in the first place?
R: I was there from the beginning! A few people had had the idea of a short-film night at the ADC in the past. The problem was there simply was not the quantity of films needed to put something together. Over the past year or so, the scene has really expanded. I personally saw Shorts as something that could give exposure to film-makers as well as raise some money to buy more equipment for the CFA. The platform hopefully encourages more people to get involved if they see an outlet for their films. The equipment enables them to put something together.
E: I just thought the concept of the event sounded really cool and exciting – clichéd as that sounds. Plus I liked the fact that it was a new project – it's always fun to watch something develop from its inception.
Have you always been interested in film?
R: Yeah absolutely. I started at Cambridge a while back now and when I arrived, I really wanted to get involved in making film. The problem was that the CFA was very low key at that point – anyone who wanted to do anything interesting or ambitious really had to do theatre instead. A lot of credit has to go to the recent and current CFA presidents for turning this around, and hopefully Shorts will play a part in encouraging theatre types to give film a go.
E: No, I didn't really know much about short films. I used to be quite into fashion – and I suppose haute couture or perfume adverts are a kind of short film. But no, unfortunately it wasn't really a form I got involved with until I was fortunate enough to act in Niamh Sauter-Cooke's The Spread, which really got me interested in what you could do with the form.
What has been the hardest part of this job?
E: The hardest part of the job is definitely going through the applications – there are far more high-quality films than we could possibly show in one night.
R: I agree. We’re trying to work out ways we can expand screenings so we can show all of the interesting stuff we get sent – watch this space!
What can we expect from the upcoming screening event?
E: You can expect a level of talent that will shock you. I think people genuinely don't realise how skilled the filmmakers here are.
R: Variety. A major consideration we’ve had whilst programming is a sense that we should showcase a range of works by a range of people. Everything in the evening has a very different feel.
Do you think that student film is taken more seriously now in Cambridge compared with a few years ago? And why?
E: That's a nice idea, and I've certainly heard a lot to that effect, but it's just so hard to say. There's such a quick turnover of people here – we stay for three or four years, and are unlikely to be involved in the same activities the whole time that it's difficult to make generalisations. That said, the Cambridge Film Association really is getting bigger and better by the minute, and I hope Cambridge Shorts played a part in that.
R: Certainly – the fact you had over 200 people pay to see a night of student film in the middle of exam term is testament to that. Filmmakers are becoming increasingly ambitious, raising more money to pay for locations and additional equipment.
If you could describe the Cambridge film scene in only three words, which ones would you choose?
E: Creative, exciting, unique
I understand you’ve been involved with lots of ADC productions before now: do you feel that there is a big difference between the skills you need for the theatre, and what you need to bring to the table for film?
R: Similar sorts of skills are needed for both, and a background in theatre will certainly help a lot. Producers will be used to publicising and general organisation. However, fundraising for film is more of a challenge, it lacks the embedded infrastructure that theatre has. Theatre directors will also need to consider structure and characterisation in film, but they will need a bit more technical nous and an understanding that theatrical and film acting are rather different. That said, all of this is teachable, just get in touch with us of the CFA, and we’ll be able to put you in touch with experienced people in order to help you out. The roles of director of photography and editor are a little bit more technically specialised – but again are easy to pick up if you have a sense of what makes a cool image, or of dramatic rhythm.
Do you feel like the ADC is the right home for Cambridge film, and why?
E: Absolutely – it's a great venue. Practically speaking, it's well-known, well-priced, central etc., but then there's also the fact that to some people it has a kind of prestige or glamour attached, perhaps because of its history, which means that it attracts willing audiences, who in turn encourage up and coming artists, writers, and directors.
R: The ADC is a cultural, not purely theatrical hub. It hosts musicals, comedy, and dance as well as straight theatre. Film naturally fits alongside this in their programme.
What is the best way to get involved with student film as a complete amateur? What would you say is the starting point?
E: This is easy. Join the Cambridge Theatre or CFA Craigslist Facebook groups and apply for a job as a runner: you don't need experience and it's a great way to get yourself on set and learning things. Once you're on set, talk to people whose jobs look interesting – be it camera and lighting ops, producers, directors, designers, whatever – and just learn as much as you possibly can about what they do. Also get in touch with the Cambridge Film Association – they run all kinds of events, workshops, and socials during which you can gain the skills you'll need as well as becoming part of a larger network or community, which is really important
R: And get in contact with Shorts too. We’ve talked to a few people about to make their first film, and interested in being screened at some point. We can help point you in the right direction, and put you in contact with people who’ve done it all before.blog comments powered by Disqus