THE extent of the thriving community of creatives and filmmakers in the area may surprise those who’ve previously had no knowledge of it.

If, in the future, you fancy meeting some of them or simply finding out what they have been up to, I would recommend starting with Seb Hall’s Red Carpet event.

Seb won a Place to Be Proud of award for establishing a film festival in town (in 2010). His innovation and initiative has meant that local directors, producers, actors and technical crew who would perhaps otherwise never come into contact have collaborated.

The bonds between this small, supportive community are evident - and really impressive.

Having been thwarted from attending previous events by my work diary, I was delighted to be able to be there to see the work in person this time around. The busy schedule listed nine projects in all, including one animation and multiple genres.

The holy grail is emotional engagement, regardless of genre. It can happen in a slasher, a sci-fi or a soppy weepie. My favourite films on the night were, accordingly, those with which I had a connection, those which made me think, or laugh, or feel, or all of those things - and, joy of joys, many of them did. 

Guest panellist on the night was Michelle McClean, Economic Projects Officer from Hampshire County Council’s Film Hampshire, which receives around 40 enquiries a month.

She revealed that she is often privy to information about very famous guests to the area: “In the last 12 months we’ve had Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and George Clooney.

“Imagine the amount of money they bring to the local economy. For example, 400 rooms of a local hotel were booked for three nights when George and Matt were here and that’s a lot of money for a local business. We get around 40 enquiries a month.” 


Nostalgia and Static by Sophie Kenny 

London’s Sophie Kenny works as a first AD in addition to directing her own material. She presented two pieces, the first about a sibling crisis over inheritance and the second a comment on news media and the potential for change. Both were marked by the use of black, white and shade and the former contained one terrific moment of tension.

She said: “I generally base my films on stuff that’s happened to me. I find it easier to direct from my POV and from stories people have told me. I like doing dark work a lot. That’s my kind of style, I’d say.”

Memories by Division Pictures (Joe Goodall and Elliot Burns)

This was a very sweet short, in marked contrast to their usual fare, which Elliot revealed was “usually people getting ripped apart! I wanted to do something different, more dramatic, more emotional, less stabby stabby, shooty shooty.”

Directed by Whitchurch’s Elliot and starring Joe, it was filmed at St Catherine’s Hill in Winchester. Some great shots included the lead characters framed between trees and the gentle soundtrack was perfect too. 

The duo revealed that Memories will be one of a sequence of four related short films, and that they had also recently secured a location from Film Hampshire.

Joe concluded: “He wants to do editing and camerawork; I want to be an actor.“ This pair are definitely heading in the right direction.

Talisman by Tom and Dan (director) Allen. Attending: DOP Tom Allen

This outstanding sci-fi was directed by very young and very talented Essex filmmaker 19 year-old Dan Allen and was made for the Sci-Fi London 48 Competition – which was judged by Benedict Cumberbatch and Guillermo Del Toro. 

It may have been set in a future where 15 year –olds might end up harvested for energy, but its strength lay in the emotional core. Shots of a daughter under duress during her assessment were cut with shots of her mother (Lauren Shotton) enduring an agonising wait in the corridor outside. 

Impressive special effects contrasted perfectly with the banal location, rooting it to the real and ensuring it worked. Perfectly. 

Tom said: “This was the first 48 hour experience we have had and it was a real challenge. I was up to 6am editing and Dan was up for 48 hours!

“We learned to stick with the second idea you come up with, never the first. It normally fails, I’ve found. Or develop the raw idea. Otherwise you are going to get something that could have been better."

Next up is short film Audition and a web series with the Norton brothers (see below).

Angel’s Call by Filmmaking for Kids. Attending: Nick Willoughby with Violet, one of the young team who’d made it.

This short touched on multiple issues affecting many young people – illness, isolation, peer relationships, bullying – appropriately enough, given that it was made and written by young people.

Nick, who runs the company and takes the two-day workshops, reflected: "Every film is always different, from zombies and cucumbers that eat people to films like this which are incredibly challenging.

“The course is a good opportunity to unleash creativity and I am amazed at what they produce.”

Nick is currently working with the Spotlight centre in Popley to produce a half pre recorded and half live film about bullying.   

Mr Vicious by Nathan Drew and Pork Chop Pictures

This smart, acerbic and contemporary animation had me rolling in the aisles, and it’s the brainchild of local talent and Dead Poet Nathan Drew. A punk rock rethinking of a certain famous series of children’s books, it was entered into a Guardian short film competition but was not able to be selected because of copyright infringement.

It may not have won this award, but its calibre will carry it far – check it out on YouTube.

Nathan told the assembled appreciative audience that he’d been helped a lot by Pork Chop Pictures, saying: “Carl Austin made Little Miss Thatcher’s wasteland look like a fun place to live for three minutes.”

It certainly won’t be the last we hear from Nathan.

“I think it’s important to treat everything, no matter how serious, with a degree of humour,” he finished. “I don’t know where next. I am always working on other scripts so watch this space, really.”

Sea Change by Air and Goldcrest Films, directed by Marinella Setti. 
Attending: Celyn Jones, producer.

Familiar televisual face Celyn (Grange Hil, Above Suspicion 2 and many more) attended to present Sea Change’s important origin story.

Shot on location at Pendragon School in Lewisham in 2012 and anchored by a wonderful performance from well-known actress Jo Hartley, it came about because, fortuitously, Celyn was working with the school when it received devastating news. 

He said: “I went to work with young people there and it was the beginning of a mad creative odyssey - my ambition for them grew and grew. And the school got marked for closure. I thought I could put something out there and give it a legacy. The film was made on location in the last month with the students before they were displaced.”

A crack team was assembled to put a legacy piece together, with Celyn admitting “I thought I’d cash in as many favours as possible”. These favours included an appearance by none other than Toby Jones and enabled the production of what’s both a moving and accomplished final work. It may have begun life as a three minute short but it has ended up as an important 23 minute feature. 

Celyn commented: “As filmmakers, you have to enter into people’s dreams. That’s what has to happen. You can take away a building but the human contact, the relationships, endure and last.”

Karen’s Room by Fraught Productions. Director: Geoff Harmer. 

I couldn’t help being very excited about this, as it’s the latest film from Basingstoke director Geoff Harmer – and I am delighted to report that I absolutely loved it. We sci-fi fans like a dash of sexual tension (Ripley and Hicks, Deckard and Rachel etc) and this had it in spades.

Lead actors Andrew (Andy) Coppin and Lauren Shotton crackled and fizzed in a bedroom for its delightful entirety and I don’t want to give the game away by revealing any more than that. Dappled sunlight glowed behind them as their lips moved closer...

Supporting character Crispin added laughs too, and Neil Thomas deserves awards heaped upon his head for his outstanding script.      

Geoff said: “The thing that comes up the most is how can a woman be attracted to someone who might shoot her dead. As soon as I met Lauren (who played Pansy Parkinson in one of the Harry Potter films) and saw she was a stand up comedienne as well, I knew she was the one.   

“I have worked with Andy twice and I think he’s a fab actor. When I have a male character in my films, the first person I think of is Andy.” 

2013 will see him promoting the work that has consumed his last few years:

“I’m going to concentrate on getting Addict (his full-length feature) and Karen’s Room entered into festivals.

“I’ve got pretty much a clear slate for the rest of the year. It’s a rareity. But I like to, once I’ve made a film, get it out there for people to see.”

Subject A by Monkey Dribble Films. James and Chris Norton

This was another corker of a sci-fi feature, set in 2054, which seriously whetted the appetite for a follow-up.

The minute that video diaries revealed that a female passenger was retrieved from a shuttle craft and that a nasty host creature was involved, we were all thinking one thing, but what followed indicated plenty of potential for a new vision of Alien hell (vomiting their embryos directly into someone’s mouth). 

The brilliant Hampshire brothers told us that it’s actually a prequel to a feature film they’ve been writing and it had been on their minds for a while. It would also help with their crowd-funding as a perfect showcase of what the duo are about / capable of.

Chris said: “We wanted to do something fun to show people what we can do and it’s a big thing doing sci-fi and things with effects. But we have also realised we don’t want to do that yet.” 

They’re launching their funding campaign on June 15 and are off to Bournemouth to do an MA in production and direction, keen to add some qualifications, later in the year.

He added: “We’re completely self-taught - we make it up as we go along!”