Whenever I attend an industry film talk, the atmosphere seems rife with ideas and the seed and germ of creativity, and this was no exception.The last Show Me Shorts film talk I attended was back in 2012 when it was held at the Capitol Cinema. A nervous film-newbie, I listened along with the rest of the audience while film-makers Alan Parr, Richard Mans and Sam Kelly respectively showed us their films and shared their stories of how they took their spark of an idea and coaxed it into a flame.
This time, at the Yoobee School of Design, a slightly more casual environment prevailed, the event chaired by the effervescent and brightly-dressed Festival Director Gina Dellabarca, who lit up the room in contrast to stormy grey weather outside. Although lower in attendee turnout than the previous year (I’m told that at the 2013 talks in the same venue they ran out of chairs and had people standing in the passage way) the passion that filled the room more than made up for it.
The opening film was festival winner Dive, a visual journey about a man coming to terms with loss in his life and in a sense, coming to terms with himself. Director Matthew Saville’s fascination with surreal art is obvious in this beautifully crafted piece. Upon being asked about his writing process, he likened it to chiselling away at a piece of rock or ice: “you’re aware that the story is trapped somewhere inside, and it’s your job as writer/director to free it.”
Saville and producer Julia Parnell also mentioned the importance of collaborating with those you’ve worked successfully on other projects with. They do seem like a very cohesive team, and this would have lent itself to their commendable success.
The next film to be screened was the primarily female collaboration of Abigail Greenwood and Kate Prior. Their film Eleven delves into the fragile and often fickle world of friendship and betrayal in the schoolground, and the performances from the young leads are amazing. Greenwood, no stranger to filming emotionally charged scenes (her performance as a homeless pregnant woman in Piece Of My Heart back in 2009 packed a raw punch) was able to get authentic performances by creating an atmosphere of ‘hanging out on set’ allowing the children to be as natural as possible. Some questioned whether the content was suitable for the youth oriented section of the festival, however Prior struck back at this with the suggestion that it’s important for parents and children to be able to watch the film and discuss it afterwards together because bullying is something that needs to be talked about and closed with something that most of us who are parents know all too well: “Trust me, your kids are seeing this and a lot worse than this at school every day.”
Finally wrapping up the evening was the Chinese film Home by first-time NZ visitor Han Yu. Viewers enjoyed the voyeuristic feel of Yu’s literal hole-in-the-wall pseudo-documentary, which gave us a unique insight into ten years in the life of an urban Chinese couple. With Allan Xia as translator, Yu conveyed that originally he had wanted to make a feature length film, but funding in China can be a precarious business; often the film is never funded up-front, but in bits and pieces throughout production. A change in a sponsor’s financial situation could have meant the film was never finished at all, but Yu chose to shorten it to a slice-of-life piece, and I think it works well. The tension builds slowly, and the film never seems to drag. Yu seemed delighted to be speaking to a New Zealand audience, and it was a pleasure to hear him share his challenges and experiences.
Overall these film talks are a real treat, and it sometimes amazes me they aren’t packed out every single time. I can only imagine that some people (like me, before I went to my first one) may feel intimidated by attending these events as a ‘newbie’, or think they may be expected to be more knowledgeable than they are. The best thing to do is just go. Drag a friend if you have to. You will meet excited, creative, crazy, awesome like-minded people who won’t roll their eyes at any questions you ask, but will gladly dig deep to share their experiences and wisdom.
And if you’re too shy to ask, just go for the sake of seeing three awesome short films for free. Trust me, it’s well worth it.
Article by Barbs Peterson