Guest Blog: SP Filmmakers & London Calling

Posted May 12th, 2017 by Annabelle Amato

In anticipation of the new shorts emerging from the London Calling scheme, we got in touch with some members of SP who’ve had projects selected this year. We spoke with them about their experiences with the scheme, their careers so far, and the projects they are developing.

Director of Baby Gravy, Marley Morrison, tells us that she and her producer, Michelle Antoniades have worked together for three years developing shorts and features at low to no budgets. Previously, they made Sticks and Stones, which played at the BFI Future Film Festival. The team was commissioned by Film London Calling to create their newest short. Morrison explains that Baby Gravy is a short comedy about a same sex couple in a motorway service station awaiting the arrival of their sperm donor.

Writer/director and SP’r, Fateme Ahmadi, tells us a bit about her experience with London Calling, and her project, The Bitter Sea. She came to London in 2010 to study filmmaking at LFS. Her acclaimed graduate film, One Thousand and One Teardrops was screened in 50+ film festivals with four nominations and three awards along the way. Ahmadi tells us that she met fellow SP’r Emma Parsons, her producer for The Bitter Sea while they were both working on an Amirani Media project titled Coup 53. Ahmadi & Parson’s short follows an Eastern European single mother who is forced to hide her daughter from her boss and landlord to keep her job and home in London.

Matt Houghton has worked in short films and documentaries, and is also signed to Pulse Films for commercials. His London Calling film, Landline, is a hybrid documentary about the only helpline in the UK dedicated to gay farmers. He explains that suicide rates are extremely high in both young farmers and gay men in particular, and combining these can be a recipe for tragedy. Candid, intimate, funny and at times shocking, Landline will be a snapshot of a group of people bound together by circumstance but so often isolated from each other.

We asked these filmmakers about their thoughts on short films as a medium. Marley Morrison says that she believes shorts “force us to be really clear on our intentions and making sure that everything in the script has earnt its place.” For Fateme Ahmadi, short film is not necessarily a means to transition to features. “We would undermine short film by considering it only a transitional medium.” Ahmadi also appreciates the specific and niche audience that is drawn by the nature of the short film. Houghton feels that short films are amazing for testing concepts and finding voice and style, but also that they are valuable beyond simply being a stepping stone towards something else. “When I start out on a project, I try to find the best form to tell the story.” And for him, short films are simply another potential way to tell this story.

Morrison claims, “I think collaboration is key to filmmaking.” For London Calling filmmakers, there is no question that a cooperative team is responsible for the success of each short. For Ahmadi, collaboration is crucial in filmmaking. “I appreciate Shooting People and other similar communities for providing a platform to connect film people.” Morrison goes on to address young filmmakers, “Whilst we are all at this level it is important that we build our own communities.” She adds that Shooting People and other such sites are a great way to create teams and build these very communities. Houghton tells us that meeting and working with people who want to make films that push the boundaries and do something different is what he finds so captivating about London Calling. He says, “Ultimately, you’re as a strong as the people around you and so finding the right people is half the battle. Communities like Shooting People are great because they help with that process.”

Marley Morrison is hopeful for the future of independent film, however, acknowledges the fact that there may not be enough funding and support for these emerging artists. “I think it’s equally important to support new filmmakers as it is existing ones.” While Morrison is more optimistic about the future of independent film, Ahmadi has some critiques. She is grateful for the opportunities that BFI and Film London give, but feels that “there are not enough opportunities for independent filmmakers out there.” She notes that these similar establishments have the power to change the landscape significantly for emerging filmmakers. Matt R. Houghton feels that independent film will always be underfunded and fraught with struggle, but also that it is an incredible space to work in because it is filled with committed people who see the value of film. “The guys at Film London are testament to that. It’s organisations like Film London and schemes like London Calling that keep me optimistic.”

Ahmadi is thankful for the roles that BFI and Film London play here, but also notes that they do have the power to change the landscape significantly for emerging filmmakers. Her overall feeling is that “they are doing their best to offer support and opportunities to young filmmakers.”

The filmmakers’ experiences with London Calling have been eye-opening. Morrison notes that the mentors “are very encouraging and supportive, and have some great sessions in place to prepare you for making short film.” One of her favourite sessions was working with the actors, which she claims gave her the chance to explore and develop her script further. Ahmadi adds that the feedback she’s received on her script was truly helpful for the development of her short. Houghton says that “having a group of people in your corner whoa re thoughtful and passionate about the process,” has been the highlight of his experience with the scheme.

In the past, London Calling shorts have been selected and won awards at festivals around the world. We wish Matt, Marley and Fateme the best with their projects, and look forward to seeing Baby Gravy, The Bitter Sea and Landline as they premiere.

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