by Elliot Davies
Derby’s Five Lamps Films challenged 15 teams of film-makers to shoot, crop, and cut a three minute film in the space of 24 hours. The entrants were screened – and the winners were announced – at the close of the 2015 Derby Film Festival.
Matt Groening may have disowned it, but A Star is Burns remains one of my favourite episodes of The Simpsons. It’s the one where Springfield hosts a film festival, the enduring legacy of which is Hans Moleman’s immortal Man Getting Hit by Football.
The Springfield Film Festival is remarkable, in that, rather than playing host to carefully curated selections from across the world, the people from the local community are instead invited to submit their own entries. Mr. Burns’s self-serving autobiopic doesn’t go down too well, but Barney Gumble stuns the panel with his devastating account of his alcoholism, Pukahontis.
The closing event of the 2015 Derby Film Festival felt a little bit like the Springfield Film Festival. Gone were the big names and the prestigious previews. In their place were a selection of mini-epics made by people in the local community and beyond – most of whom were sat in the audience. It made for a wonderful atmosphere, one in which everybody applauded each other’s efforts, and in which everyone was made to feel welcome and appreciated.
It’s the sixth annual Five Lamps Films 24 Hour Film Challenge. On Sunday May 3, 15 teams of film-makers were given 24 hours to shoot, crop, and cut a three minute film. There were no rules concerning theme or tone, but all entries had to feature a certain action (a character looking for something, but not finding it), and a certain line of dialogue (“It just doesn’t add up”).
Of the 15 teams that entered, two went missing, and are yet to be found. The 13 remaining entries were screened, in no particular order, in a single 40 minute session. The winning film will be screened before the main feature at the forthcoming Summer Nights Film Festival, and will also be given a theatrical run, screening before a TBD main feature at The Quad.
High stakes indeed! But first, the winner of the 2015 Eat My Shorts competition had to be announced.
As part of the Derby Film Festival, film-makers from across the world had submitted short films, all of which were screened as part of a programme called Eat My Shorts. It was unanimously agreed that the best in show was Urban Edge’s Beverely.
I didn’t see any of the other entrants, but having watched Beverley, it’s easy to see why it won. Indeed, it might be fair to say that no other entry stood a chance. With a compelling story, a fantastic set of performances, an uplifting soundtrack, and perfect production values, Beverley is easily up there amongst the best things to have been screened throughout the entire festival.
Set in 1980s Leicester, the short film follows a mixed-race ska-loving teenager who yearns to be a two-tone rude girl. But in her efforts to blend into the local scene, she runs afoul of the National Front – imbecilic thugs who are too thick to see the irony in unashamedly loving black music whilst simultaneously hating black Britons.
Producer Cass Pennant gave a short talk after the film. He spoke of the vital importance of championing voices outside of London, and mentioned how he had insisted upon casting and filming entirely in Leicester – even though it would have been cheaper and easier to do things in London. Kudos, Cass. Kudos.
A list of upcoming Beverley screenings can be found here. If it’s playing anywhere near you, go out of your way to see it. This is a film that deserves to be seen by as many people as possible. Hell, with the disturbing rise of English nationalism in recent years, perhaps Beverley is a film that needs to be seen by as many people as possible.
Next came the 24 Hour Film Challenge entries. Sadly, there were no men getting hit in the groin by footballs. But we did get some sentient chewing gum, magic tattoos, a psychotic infomercial, a deadly Eastern European game show, a confused private dick with a bizarre accent, and a bleak post-apocalyptic world in which there are no more salsa classes.
13 entries, but only three winners. In third place was Authentic, by MonoStereo Productions. These guys didn’t waste a second of their allocated three minutes, which they used to spin a gritty yarn of love, crime, and betrayal. It takes considerable skill to set up a plausible scenario and a clever twist in such a short amount of time, and it’s nice that this skill was recognised and awarded.
In second place was The Dress, by Triskelle Pictures, in which a bereaved bride dyed her wedding dress black, in preparation for her lover’s funeral. It was a simple idea with a very powerful central image, expertly filmed and edited to convey the sheer debilitating weight of grief. Again, a worthy win.
The overall winner was Cuddling a Monster by Mark Duggan Films, in which a young girl clings to the titular toy to help her through her parents’ divorce. I must say, this one didn’t really make an impact during my initial viewing – most probably because it was sandwiched between much louder and more ridiculous fare. But I’ve since watched it again, and I’m struck by its elegance and economy.
We’re presented with a series of beautifully filmed, meticulously directed scenes, and we’re left to draw our own conclusions from what little we see. It’s worlds apart from the rest of the entries, which were all defined by their direct approach to storytelling. And when you throw in a number of convincing performances, it really does feel like the best film won.
This evening was preceded by a talk from Adam Buss, Chief Executive of the Derby Quad. He mentioned how it was always the intention that the Derby Film Festival should inspire people do things.
Whether you want to act, produce, direct, score, script, or even simply blog about films, The Derby Film Festival was specifically programmed to be inspirational – to let you know that no matter who you are, or where you’re from, you can do this.
And that’s why this 24 Hour Film Challenge is given the considerable honour of being allowed to close the proceedings. It sends a strong message that anything is possible. If you want to do something, don’t talk about doing it – do it!
All entries to the 2015 Five Lamps Films 24 Hour Film Challenge can be viewed on their website.