Thursday, 19 February 2015

DigiCult Selected Scottish Shorts 2009 – 2013.

This weeks Film Club took a slightly different course from most weeks, but that’s what should make it interesting. The Robert Burns Centre Film Theatre were showing a series of films as part of a multi-venue tour of award winning shorts the only thing they had in common was that they were all from DigiCult, based in Glasgow, it is Scotland’s internationally renowned new talent film studio. In 2012, DigiCult joined forces with Hopscotch Films to deliver a new slate of Scottish Shorts with support from Creative Scotland. The programme at the RBCFT included five short films from various directors.

Fixing Luka (2011).

Written, directed and animated by Jessica Ashman who was present at the cinema and took part in a short Q&A following the screening. Based on Jessica’s personal experience of growing-up with an autistic brother, this animated short is described as a tale of hope, determination and acceptance and is at the same time clever, interesting and curious and is certainly a credit to the animator. 

‘Rubber ducks lined-up perfectly in a row. A thousand stamps stuck to a bedroom wall. A pyramid of thimbles knocked to the floor. These are just some of Luka’s obsessive routines, a daily performance played-out under the anxious gaze of his sister, Lucy. She thinks Luka needs fixing as every time she disturbs his routine, Luka falls apart. Literally. One evening – battered by his springs and rejections – Lucy finally loses her patience and runs away. Stumbling in the forest, she discovers a clockwork soldier in a shack. When she manages to fix his head, Lucy thinks she’s found the solution to her problems at home’[1].

Sweetheart (2011)

Lou (Jo Eastwood) may have Down's syndrome but is more than capable of looking after herself. She longs to break away from her controlling sister Ashley (Nicola Jo Cully), who always gets what she wants. Frustrations come to a head when a handsome plumber (Iain Louden) calls to mend the kitchen sink waste they soon become rivals for his attention. Written and directed by Scottish born Eva Riley who has presented us with a 15 minute short film that has a bold story line in which it is made quite obvious that Down’s syndrome does not stop you having the hot’s for a married man just like your promiscuous sister! 

A Cuillin Rising (2011)

In a rather dilapidated caravan on the Isle of Skye two teenagers are making love. Sorley (Lorne MacFadyen) and Gaelic speaking Maggie (Annie MacLeod) are disturbed when they relies that someone is lurking outside the van. That someone is the haunting presence of Sorley’s father Hector (Robin Thomson).  Director and writer Catriona MacInnes tells us very little about the ‘situation’ but it seems that Sorley has been beaten by his father, why is not explained, and his intrusion has a marked affect on the young lovers.  The beautiful scenery underlines the loneliness of both the characters and the location.  It’s an absorbing wee film but I can’t explain why?

I’ll be Alright Here (2009)

Wannabe scriptwriter John Moffat (Stephan McCole who played Junior Thomson in The Wee Man 2013) has travelled to Los Angles to hopefully meet his hero Steven Spielberg to present him with a script that he hopes the director will turn into a movie! But the only person he does meet is an aging hotel porter called Michael (Angus MacInnes). 

Moffat’s delusional and deranged behaviour in this ‘twisted struggle for power’ is not particularly convincing and MacInnes, last seen in Captain Phillips (2013) is miscast as the elderly Bell Boy. Filmed in Glasgow this was the debut short for director and screenwriter Gregor Johnstone.  It had its World Premiere at the 2010 Edinburgh International Film Festival as part of the DigiCult Shorts screening.

Foxy and Marina (2013)

Foxy has a train ticket home to Skye where he would like to return, to be with his family whom he needs to help him kick heroin. But before he departs via Glasgow’s Centre Station he needs money. Robbing a bank is probable going to far so he steels a birthday cake from his landlady and hawks it around the local shops without much luck. He ends up at his dealers, but Benito is not in the market for cake, at least not this sort of ‘cake’. Foxy’s there to settle his debt or is he there to buy another fix? Its here he meets the attractive Marina who settles Foxy’s debt with Benito and scores him another hit. They both go to her flat where Foxy realises that has fallen in love. Will he ever get back to Skye? 

Pollyanna McIntosh.

Described as a ‘lyrical romance set in the not-so-romantic world of drug addiction’ it premiered at the Glasgow Short Film Festival in February 2013 with the street scenes again shot in the city. Directed and written by Zachariah Copping, whose only other work was the 2006 short film Cotopaxi, it stars Pollyanna McIntosh as Marina, appearing for the second time this evening is Lorne MacFadyen as Foxy with Mark Oliver as Benito the drug dealer.  My only criticism of this well made and generally well-acted film is again a matter of casting. MacFadyen, his debut feature film was Ken Loach’s The Angels Share in 2012 and who has moved to America to appear in 185 West Princess Street set for general release in December 2015, is not quite right for the part, a little light weight for a heroin addict? And if the short is ever extended into a full-length feature film casting may like to rethink the role. But the part of Marina is a different kettle of fish, Pollyanna McIntosh is totally convincing in her role. She appeared in her first feature film in 2005 and has since appeared regularly on the TV as well as a string of features including 2013’s Filth.  

The primary reason I would imagine for producing short films is twofold, firstly to hone your skills as a filmmaker and secondly to impress someone enough to provide the finance for making a full-length feature film. Out of the five films shown tonight in my humble opinion only two of these would warrant further work. These would be Jessica Ashman’s animated drama Fixing Luka and the final film Foxy and Marina.
Jessica Ashman.
On behalf of the RBCFT Film Club I would like to thank the very sociable Jessica Ashman for travelling to Dumfries to tell us a little about herself as a filmmaker and to give us some insights into the animation process. We were glad to hear that her film, which received its international premiere in 2011, had gone on to be selected in over 30 festivals worldwide, picking up a win for Best Animation at the BAFTA in Scotland Awards (2011) and a New Talent BAFTA Award for Best Music (2011). Jessica got her big break animating on BBC Scotland’s children series Ooglies and went on to be selected to participate in DigiCults talent pool on Scottish Digital Shorts in 2010 which resulted in tonight film. She now resides in London, after having completed a master at the Royal College of Art’s prestigious Animation MA course. She is currently freelancing as a director, as well as conducting animation workshops and teaching.

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