On Sunday the 30th June 2019 I did two of my favourite things. I took a long walk through the city of London and watched loads of short films.
London is obviously a very busy city and hive of activity during the week. However, on a Sunday it, despite there still being traffic, is way more peaceful. Well, especially from eight in the morning until around lunchtime. Indeed, until I got to the tourist trap that is Westminster it had been a pleasure to walk down the Thames Embankment and through the city of London.
I set out to walk from Clapham to Hackney and my destination was the Yard Theatre, Hackney. I made the walk of around ten miles in good time and the event was The Shortest Nights 2019 – Short Film Festival.
The Shortest Nights is an annual celebration of British short film. They bring you five cutting-edge programmes across a range of themes and genres featuring new works from emerging British filmmakers.
The people running the event are so enthusiastic and put on a great array of different British short film productions. Overall, there were thirty-nine short films and I watched all of them. It was a great day and I was especially impressed by the: comedies, horrors, documentaries, dramas, animation and art-house films on show.
There were low-to-high budget short films of brilliant quality and the programmes were broken down into five categories. So, if you ever get a chance to go to their film events I recommend it to all filmmakers and film fans alike.
YOU HAVE A NEW FOLLOWER (2020) – A NEW SHORT FILM PRODUCTION
While my most recent short film production Tolerance (2019) has yet to be released online, I am still hopeful of further short film screenings. It was recently screened at the Unrestricted View Festival 2019 in London and was also nominated for an award for set design and art direction.
Tolerance (2019) will be released online in the next few months. Details of the film can be found HERE.
Also, the trailer can be seen here:
Over the last year I have been working with the excellent Swedish actress Tilde Jensen on a new short film. It has been a fascinating process as I was ready to film in February 2019. But, after shooting a test video I decided the film wasn’t dramatic enough. So, I re-wrote the script to try and make it more cinematic. I finally settled on a script that was an improvement in our view and rather than just be voice-over based, it now has a lot more suspense, energy and mystery.
You Have a New Follower is a mystery thriller set over one fateful day. Astrid Nilsson is a freelance writer, pitching to clients around London. However, she is unaware she is being followed. Only when she is surprised by her follower do events take a twisted turn.
Inspired by filmmakers such as Hitchcock and DePalma, of all the scripts I have written I was say this is the most ambiguous and mysterious one. I have deliberately not filled in the narrative gaps, so I’m hoping that the audience will still feel the fear our main character does from her predicament. Thematically, the story is about the threat of being followed by the unknown and how one would handle such a situation.
Choice of shots, music, performance and editing style will be paramount. I am relying on the cinematic style to convey the emotion rather than explaining the story in the dialogue. I like to think that I have exhibited interesting style in the previous short films but I always closed any narrative or story gaps. In this film I take more of a creative risk.
We shot over two days during the recent May 2019 Bank Holiday. I assembled a small but fantastic crew. We were a truly international team with crew from: Greece, Italy, Denmark, Sweden and England. Low budget filmmaking can be incredibly difficult but very rewarding. As with my prior short films the whole crew worked together brilliantly and I was very happy with the shots we got.
In order to make any shoot work smoothly I had prepared a scene-by-scene breakdown and shot list. I had also done reconnaissance on the London locations at: King’s Cross, London South Bank and Leake Street Arches, Waterloo. The locations were important and integral to creating the city look I wanted for the film. I wanted the character to feel trapped by her surroundings but also use locations which looked impressive. Despite being moved on a couple of times by security staff I believe we achieved this, despite some compromises.
The internal locations were shot on the second day. Here is where the main drama of the story unfolds. We find the character of Astrid in a very stressed state and as she recounts her day to her boyfriend, David. Tilde Jensen and Mitchell Fisher gave great performances and I think our rehearsals prior to shooting really paid off.
TO BE CONTINUED. . .
You Have a New Follower is a very contained story full of enigma, but it hints at a larger scale universe. However, mostly it is an isolated character story about urban paranoia and the fear of being followed and watched. In the subtext it’s also about that existential anxiety we all feel in life and why we sometimes feel afraid and just don’t know why.
The film will now move into post-production and the editing, music and sound production will form a bond to make it another decent low-budget short film. Here’s hoping!
CAST AND CREDITS
Written, produced and directed by: Paul Laight Cast: Tilde Jensen, Mitchell Fisher, Lue Henner Sound: Marina Fusella Cinematography: Petros Gioumpasis, Sakis Gioumpasis Production Assistants: Lue Henner, Melissa Zajk Music: TBC Editor: TBC
Between the years
of 2008 and 2011, I did some screenwriting work for the Mountview Film Academy;
a filmic extension of the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts. Based in London,
they would produce a number of student acting projects including many low budget
short films. Writers would be shuttled in and given a remit to create short
films using specified actors, locations and length of film. Thus, I wrote a
number of scripts which were adapted on very low budgets. Here are the three I
wrote for the year 2011.
2011 was an
interesting year. Britain faced countrywide riots in London, Birmingham,
Manchester and Liverpool. The reasons for the violent outbreaks were mixed and
included social unrest due to government cuts, police brutality, hot weather
and youth discontent. British courts meted out severe justice and law and order
was restored, however, the protests in Tunisia, Jordan, Egypt, Yemen and
Bahrain gave 2011 what became known as the ‘Arab Spring’. Here the people of
the Middle East didn’t just riot and loot but actually took power back from
In other news Vladimir Putin held onto power in Russia while in Britain, again, the News of the World lost its power and position as the major Sunday newspaper. This was due to the phone hacking scandal and heads rolled and injunctions followed. More legal ramifications occurred for a number of MP’s sent to jail for fiddling their expenses. While, in more frivolous news Charlie Sheen has a complete meltdown; Hugh Grant became a father at 51; Adele’s star went stratospheric as she sold millions of recording units; but sadly the pop and soul singer, Amy Winehouse passed away aged only twenty-seven. Meanwhile. . .
BEST LAID PANS (2011)
short comedy is about a guy who gets trapped in a restaurant toilet when striving
to propose to his girlfriend.
This has some great work by the cast, director and crew and my script has a lot of comedic promise. I think it suffers from being over-written for the eight minute running time. With a slightly increased budget and, say a few more minutes, it would have been even funnier. Nonetheless, it’s still quite an entertaining little farce.
short comedy-drama concerns two friends who bump into each other having not
seen each other for years.
I think this is one of my favourite scripts and it is executed to perfection. The story of a too-shy and over-confident couple of buddies trying to “pull” a work colleague is full of twists and dark humour. The acting by the Mountview students is really good and the pacing of the story handled expertly. All involved bring to life my script very well.
I am pleased to announce that the second Star Trek fan film I co-wrote has now been released online. It’s a brand new story with new characters set within The Next Generation era of the show.
The Holy Core (Parts I & II) finds Starfleet assisting on VITA II, a planet which is recovering from half a century of war. Attempting to clean their atmosphere of harmful radiation begins a chain of dramatic events which explore the very nature of science, faith and religion.
THE HOLY CORE
CAST & CREW
Director: Gary O’Brien Editor/FX: Gary O’Brien Producers: Paul Laight, Gary O’Brien, Alexander Mayer Writers: Paul Laight, Gary O’Brien Cast: Hannaj Bang Bendz, Alexa Brown, Rachel Dobell, Drew Elston, Arjun Khera-Bhullar, Paul Laight, Philip Wolff
Star Trek and all related marks, logos and characters are solely owned by CBS Studios Inc. This fan production is not endorsed by, sponsored by, nor affiliated with CBS, Paramount Pictures, or any other Star Trek franchise, and is a non-commercial fan-made film intended for recreational use. No commercial exhibition or distribution is permitted. No alleged independent rights of copyrighted elements will be asserted against CBS or Paramount Pictures.
Between the years of 2008 and 2011, I did some screenwriting work for the Mountview Film Academy; a filmic extension of the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts. Based in London, they would produce a number of student acting projects including many low budget short films. Writers would be shuttled in and given a remit to create short films using specified actors, locations and length of film. Some work better than others and here are three I wrote in 2010.
What an interesting year. Personally, I had my fortieth birthday, changed jobs and my son turned ten years old. I am still at that current job and my son is now eighteen! Yikes: time is a relentless bastard!
In the world of culture, society, news and media there were some fascinating stories in 2010. Snow and ice dominated headlines in the beginning and end of the year. Tony Blair gave evidence to the Iraq enquiry while Dennis Hopper and Alexander McQueen sadly passed away. Ash from Iceland burst the air and disrupted flights all over Europe, as the Deepwater Horizon platform exploded off the Gulf of Mexico.
Later, Labour would lose the election to a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition; while Rauol Moat went on a kill crazy rampage in the North-East of England. Chilean miners got trapped underground, while Julian Assange and Wikileaks also hit the headlines. Finally, most importantly of all, Matt Cardle won The X Factor.
DYING AND KILLING (2010)
This short comedy drama centres on a stand-up comedian who wreaks revenge on a heckler who verbally destroys her set.
I would have to say this is close to being my favourite student short film of the lot. It has a great premise and is very funny. The student actors involved are brilliant and it is directed with style by Jonathan Wolff. As a semi-pro comedian myself I know what it’s like to fail on stage and the film captures that emotion well.
A GOOD CAUSE (2010)
This short romantic comedy-drama centres on a romance between a businessmen and a charity worker that takes a twisted turn.
While the actors do their best with this idea I don’t think the story is particularly sharp. Indeed, the premise feels unfocussed and the direction cannot mask the faults in the script. Having said that the actors are pleasant and the twist is funny, if a little bizarre. Overall, a bit more rehearsal and a re-write may have tightened the film a tad.
This short sci-fi drama centres on a ‘Reaper’ (a person who transfers souls to the ‘other side’), having to make a life and death choice.
I basically wrote this in an afternoon as an emergency script was required by Mountview, after another one fell down at the last minute. Clearly riffing on The Matrix, the film looks and feels too generic and the script is pretty weak. However, there is a decent idea in here which could be worth building on. The actors do well with the formulaic material but not one of my better scripts.
MOUNTVIEW FILM ACADEMY SHORT FILM RETROSPECTIVE #2 – 2009!
Continuing my indulgent posts looking back at some of the writing I did for the Mountview Film Academy years ago.
The year is 2009. Matt Smith was made the new Doctor Who. Cristiano Ronaldo wrote off his new Ferrari. The UK had the worst snowfall for twenty years and Natasha Richardson tragically died in a skiing accident. Swine flu spread across the UK and Michael Jackson passed away too. Alistair Darling was taking a political battering as the Chancellor, while Rage Against the Machine surprisingly hit number one in the pop charts at Christmas.
While these were some of the most read stories of the year, I was doing a lowly-paid temp job in Canary Wharf while following my hollow dream of becoming a paid writer. I took a small step toward that by being shuttled into the Mountview Film Academy to provide two short scripts for their students to act in. These are the said films.
THE DAMASCUS ROAD (2009)
This drama concerns two car thieves out on a job with very different agendas.
Looking back I think this is one of the best scripts I wrote for them. The characters have very different personalities and clash both dramatically and comedically. The pay-off at the end is also very satisfying and the dialogue pings along nicely. It was written with two male leads in mind but switched to female protagonists and overall it works due to excellent acting and direction.
THE CUT (2009)
This short dramatic scene concerns a relationship breakdown and love triangle during a power cut.
Looking back this is one of the worst scripts I wrote for Mountview. The idea of a lover attempting to creep out during a power-cut when the husband returns is a solid premise. However, the writing is weak and ponderous throughout. In the end the scene fizzles out to nothing despite the best work of the actors and director.
Last year I produced and directed by second solo short film called Tolerance. It was shot over two days and post-production was completed in November. I have subsequently commissioned artwork and have now produced the trailer below.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Tolerance is a story of obsession, revenge and murder. It concerns a dinner “date” which takes a wicked turn. Inspired by narratives by Hitchcock, Tales of the Unexpected and Inside No. 9, it suspensefully examines both personal and societal issues when a relationship breaks down. On the surface it can be essentially enjoyed as a suspenseful thriller, but within the subtext I attempt to examine the harm people can cause each other with their relationship choices.
CAST & CREDITS
Written and directed by Paul Laight Starring: Georgia Kerr and Patrick Tolan Sound: Marina Fusella Camera: Edward Lomas Lighting: Kato Murphy Make-up: Camille Nava Music: James Wedlock Editor: Jodie Williams Set Designer: Melissa Zajk