Highly commended Film4.0 Scene Stealers director Ross Johnston on making his film

02 Sep, 2012 Posted in: Film4.0, SceneStealers

Ross Johnston’s take on Shane Meadows’ Dead Man’s Shoes was selected by the Film4.0 jury to win a Special Jury Priz. Here he blogs for Film4 on choosing the original film, shooting with some mates and finally finding out that he had been highly commended.

Ross Johnston and Neal Megaw

Ross Johnston and Neal Megaw

Just make it and forget about it. It’ll be good practice but don’t get your hopes up. Cut to a few weeks later, and we’re in London receiving an award from Film4. Funny old world.

When I saw Dead Man’s Shoes on the list of films you could steal from, I knew straight away what scene to do. That first confrontation between Richard and Herby has always stuck with me – it is kind of a microcosm for the entire film; Richard’s murderous rage erupting from below the calm surface when he’s near those he holds responsible for hurting his brother, and then the terrible stillness when he realises what he has done. What Shane Meadows and Paddy Considine achieved with that film is truly inspirational. To me it’s a perfect scene, so it was with some trepidation we approached remaking it. What really struck me about the scene was the look on Herbie’s face after Richard yells at him. Herbie knows he wants to kill him so why not show that? That was the genesis of the idea; from there it was a case of gathering a talented group of people to make it.

Neal Megaw is my DP, editor and best friend so he puts up with a lot, and to him I am eternally grateful; the man’s a saint. I showed him the film, he loved it, we bounced about the idea and the next day we were looking for locations. We both liked the two guys playing pool in the original scenes and thought it might be cool to set it in that environment and incorporate the visuals and sounds of the collisions into the story, so after a few grotty pubs we settled on the pool hall.

We had a great time shooting the scene, it was the first ‘proper’ short film we’d shot this year and it reminded us why we want to do this. It was shot in three hours as that was how long we had the pool hall for, and it turned out to be just enough. All the actors were fantastic, each bringing their own interpretation of the roles and giving it their all. Robbie Beggs who played Richard brought a real intensity to the role and his enthusiasm and support were key to the film getting made.

The edit took a couple of days. The trickiest part was getting the vision element right. Neal kept at it and in the end after many detours we decided to keep it simple, let the sound design take us in and out, and while we’re in it, let it be purely visual. Afterwards we uploaded it and tried to forget about it, with a secret toe or finger permanently crossed, of course. When we found out we made the shortlist we were thrilled – that we won the Special Jury Prize still hasn’t really sunk in.

To have Film4 acknowledge something we made really does mean the world. It has given us confidence that we’re heading in the right direction and has inspired us to learn as much as we can and keep getting better at doing what we love: making films.

A massive thank you to Anna Higgs and the rest of the Film4.0 team for running an amazing competition. I must also acknowledge my huge debt of gratitude to Shane Meadows, Paddy Considine and everyone else responsible for making Dead Man’s Shoes. Finally to all those involved with making our entry, a sincere and heartfelt pat on the back – I owe you all a drink.

Film4.0 Scene Stealers second prize winner Luke Aherne on becoming a filmmaker

01 Sep, 2012 Posted in: Film4.0, SceneStealers

Luke Aherne writes about his journey from first wanting to become a film director as a teenager, to hearing about Film4.0′s Scene Stealers, and finally to premiering his winning film, Trainspotting 2018, at Film4 Summer Screen.

Alan McLaughlin and David McKeitch by Alan McLean

Alan McLaughlin and David McKeitch by Alan McLean

Alan McLaughlin and I are stood in a quiet corridor in Somerset House. We are being interviewed about our Film4 Scene Stealers entry and we are asked to introduce ourselves. I go first. “I’m Luke Aherne”, I start, “And I’m the Director of Trainspotting.” This is obviously not quite true as I’m sure Danny Boyle could tell you. As I realise what I have said, everyone laughs.

I remember when I was a fifteen year old boy at school. We were being given careers advice in a group. Each of the boys was asked in turn what they wanted to do. They said things like lawyer, dentist, accountant; it was that sort of school. It came to my turn and I was asked the question. “Film Director”, I answered without any hesitation. Everyone laughs, (mainly out of surprise not ridicule – or at least that’s my memory of it!). The careers advisor smiles kindly and replies she doesn’t have an answer for that. She says she imagines that “sort of thing is”, to use her words, “in the lap of the gods”. Some of us have to make their own fate.

I remember this one night – I was sat on the edge of my bed, naked, in the dark at 4am in the morning. I was about to turn 30 in a few weeks time and I was thinking about what I had achieved; I had a good job, I had a nice girlfriend, I had a decent lifestyle. But something was missing, there was no sense of a milestone reached or an ambition realised. I wasn’t thinking about being a filmmaker at that time. Somewhere between the ages of 15 and 30, that had been forgotten or misplaced. Perhaps there was a connection, perhaps I had a sense of a fate unmade – I don’t know. I just remember feeling lost.

Luke Aherne and Tommy Jay Brennan by Alan McLean

Luke Aherne and Tommy Jay Brennan by Alan McLean

There is a point where everything becomes very real. We enter the courtyard of Somerset House; the lights have dimmed, the music has stopped and all is still – very still, strangely still. You find yourself in the midst of a thousand souls and you sense that every single of one is focusing their full attention on a single spot: the screen. You feel every single of one of them is waiting for something to happen. There is an intensity to that stillness; an anticipation that seems to swell even more once you become aware of it. This is probably a feeling that anyone who has performed in a live environment knows too well – that moment before the curtain goes up, before the stage lights come on, before the starting pistol fires. I start to get a feeling too; I recognise it – it’s called stage fright. But the show has begun and everything has just become very real now…

At what point do you become a filmmaker? Is it when you make your first film? Technically, you have made a film so therefore you are a filmmaker. But I always felt that there was some difference between proclaiming yourself as a filmmaker and being accepted as one. So what do you call yourself then? An aspiring filmmaker, (budding seems only appropriate if I was still fifteen). But these are qualifying terms – they have a sense of being all reach and no grasp.

So when is it that you become a filmmaker? A real one if you like? Well, when the very first frame of our film first flickered into it’s bright life on that screen, in that courtyard, in front of that audience – I think that was my moment. That was the moment I felt like I had really become a filmmaker. And in that same moment, a fifteen-year old boy became a very happy man.

I would like to thank Alan McLaughlin, Mark Loftus, Tommy Jay Brennan, David McKeitch, David Reynolds, Alan McLean, Lauren Lamarr, Alex of SetCompany Glasgow, Robert Harrison and all of the Film4.0 team lead by Anna Higgs. Without you I might still be lost!

Watch Luke’s winning entry below:

Film4.0 Scene Stealers winners The Brothers Lynch on premiering their film

31 Aug, 2012 Posted in: Film4.0, SceneStealers

The Brothers Lynch on their journey from first hearing about Film4.0′s Scene Stealers to premiering their winning film at Film4 Summer Screen

The Brothers Lynch at Film4 Summer Screen

The Brothers Lynch at Film4 Summer Screen


Our heads, slightly sore. Our feet, terra firma (well three out of four – one of David’s is currently being supported by a crutch).  Our twitter followers, increased.  Our egos, just about returned to regular size… ish.

Yes, the Film4 Scene Stealers competition has come to an end.

We first heard about the competition back in May via a tweet from Screen International. The initial attraction being that we’d been on the hunt (in vain) for short film funding all year (having already begged, borrowed but not stolen for our short film ‘Dual’ in 2011, we needed to get proper funding this time around.)  But then when we got a handle on what the actual brief was we realised it was going to be a hell of a lot of fun anyway, and also right up our street. We love the idea of taking familiar stories and turning them on their heads to create something new entirely.  We have actually already written a modern day version of Oliver Twist that is due to go into production next year.

In our very first conversation about the competition, one of the films that jumped out immediately was the mighty Shane Meadow’s ‘This Is England’.  We bounced around a few other ideas but this one rose to the top of the pile.  So we started thinking of the iconic scenes and straight away Stephen Graham’s Combo ranting away to his reluctant followers popped into our head.  This is in many ways a horrific scene but incredibly powerful and filled with energy.

The main part of the rant until Shaun’s intervention is pretty much spot on two minutes long. And what was the max length for a Scene Stealer entry? Two minutes. Perfect.

We discussed in length how we could flip this scene, play on the audience’s stereotyping and assumptions, and ultimately surprise them by the end.  Our first idea was a social-realistic angle, more in line with the original piece but our love of high concept story-telling soon seeped in and we came up with our final take on the scene. Fans of films such as ‘District 9′ and ‘Monsters’ will no doubt see that ‘This Is England’ wasn’t the only film that inspired us for this piece.

We assembled our team, all of them friends of ours as well as multi-talented folk in their own right:

Philip Gawthorne (Andrew Gascoigne MP) – a hotly tipped screenwriter, currently about to make the leap to La La land, but also acts for the love of it when he’s not nose deep in Final Draft.

Ben Mortimer (‘Workers’) – a film blog journo for HeyUGuys, Bleeding Cool and Coming Soon, not to mention a talented aspiring screenwriter as well.

Santiago Burin Des Roziers (Cinematographer) – a brilliant director in his own right, who has a great eye and who we trust implicitly. Santi graciously agreed to shoot for us.

Bill Brooks (Sound Designer) – his first outing in the film world (though you would never know) but an experienced music producer and DJ, known in the music scene as William Breakspear.

We shot our piece in two days, entirely in Essex.  The first shoot was the politician’s speech which we further adapted whilst rehearsing with Philip.  Between us we found a way to turn it into a plausible right wing politician’s spiel that on the surface could be assumed to be about immigrants but also made sense with the final reveal of the short. On the day, Philip totally nailed it.

The second day required being up at the crack of dawn so that Ben wasn’t harassed by the locals of Basildon as he walked around in his full costume. With Santi’s documentary experience and his ability for shooting from the hip we ended up with far more footage than we could possibly use in a two minute piece – never a bad situation to be in!

The edit was, of course, the longest stage of the production.  The assembly was fairly straight forward and was done in a day, but the VFX took a considerable amount of time to get right. A combination of 3D work and After-Fx animation and a lot of hours in front of the Mac – it took some time, but we still managed to finish with a week to spare.

Uploaded to YouTube, tagged accordingly, fingers in upright crossed positions. And then our favourite part of the film industry – the waiting game… And then we made the shortlist!!!… and then back to the waiting game…

And a few weeks pass until we receive that kind of email that literally makes you jump up and down (and then check over your shoulder immediately afterwards to make sure no one saw). We had won the main prize: the £5K short film development budget, the mentorship with the Head of Film 4.0, the screening on Film4… And something else… a screening of our entry before the UK premiere of John Hillcoat’s ‘Lawless’ at Somerset House. For anyone who hasn’t been before, this is an incredible experience.  A beautiful venue and brilliant atmosphere – like a cross between a music festival, a cinema and a historical landmark.  Film fans willing to brave the rain for the love of cinema.  Our kind of people.

It was an amazing night, we got to meet the Film4 folk that we’ll be working with and the other prize winners, not to mention seeing our piece on the big screen.

Which leads us to where we are now… Our heads, slightly sore. Our feet, terra firma. Our twitter followers, increased. Our egos, just about returned to regular size… ish.

Yes, the Film4 Scene Stealers competition has come to an end… But we have a feeling something even more special is about to begin…

Watch The Brothers Lynch’s winning entry below:

Stealing the Scene with Film4.0

31 May, 2012 Productions Posted in: Film4.0, SceneStealers, Talent

Hello – Anna Higgs, Commissioning Editor of Film4.0 here (our editor made me put a picture in here – sorry)!

I wanted to write a post about our reasons behind coming up with and creating what Mike Leigh called “a delightful, totally bizarre and utterly crackpot idea!”

Having worked with user generated content as a producer before joining Film4, most notably on The People vs. George Lucas, I know that there’s a gigantic vein of talent out there, people putting their phenomenal skills to work in so many new ways.

Finding these folks is part of my remit as Commissioner for Film4.0, and the whole Film4 team are constantly scouring all avenues for the best new storytellers. But given there’s now an exponential growth in new platforms and new technologies, this can be quite the challenge!

Then I realised that this is Film4′s 30th year of developing and financing some of the most iconic British films. Having been an independent producer I know very well that it’s no mean feat to clock up three decades making bold films and taking risks on new voices like Film4 have.

So then a thought occurred to me: what better way to celebrate the amazing filmmakers we’ve had the privilege of working with this far, than to use their work as a springboard to find the next generation of talent?

The seed of Scene Stealers was born!

Over the last few months we’ve been working hard to grow this seed into the site you can see here, and the competition you’ll be able to enter until 31st July. You can see our promo for the competition here too.

It’s been quite the task when you consider Film4 has been involved in making nearly 500 films in 30 years, and we certainly wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support of the brilliant directors, writers, producers and partners that have all responded really positively to the idea (as you can see from Mike Leigh’s comment above!).

At one point just after we first sent the request out I reckon I had one of the most exciting email inboxes around (not often you can say that, eh?) with replies from Danny Boyle, Richard Ayoade, Lone Scherfig, Ben Wheatley, Ken Loach, Jonathan Glazer, Martin McDonagh, Shane Meadows and Joe Cornish among many many others all stacking up.

It was also really important to me – having started out like so many do in no-budget short filmmaking – to ensure this was a genuine opportunity with a real route through for entrants to develop their careers, and not a marketing stunt. So as you’ll see the full site will quickly become a valuable showcase for all the entries, allowing everyone to see the films rather than just the jury. We’ll be promoting it across all our channels to make sure there’s a lot of exposure for all entrants.

Then there’s the prizes! Both the UK winner and the worldwide winner will have their film shown on the Film4 channel during one of our key filmmaker celebration seasons – a primetime opportunity that we’re able to do because of our great colleagues at the Film4 channel. Then there’s of course the cherry on the UK cake. The winner in the UK will get a £5000 development deal to develop an original short film with us at Film4.0 and take their talent into new territory.

I’m really excited to see what filmmakers around the world make of the films we’ve got for them to work with. I love the idea that their talent will go beyond mere “sweding” Be Kind Rewind style and will completely re-imagine and retell moments we know so well, all coming from their filmmaking approaches and the meaning they take from the film. After all, we all find our own special connection points to great movie moments don’t we?  And there are so many to choose from…

So if you’re a filmmaker working on your entry or thinking about what to do – go to town, surprise us! The best cover versions of great songs are the ones that bring something new and exciting, so show us what you’ve got. Be it live action, animation or beyond, we can’t wait to see it!

We’ll be announcing our amazing Jury soon so watch this space…. in the meantime good luck to all entrants!