A BUSY Central Studio hosted the latest Red Carpet Screenings film festival at the weekend.

The event, ever-increasing in quality and reputation, was as much of an eye-opener as ever, showing fantastic films from both familiar faces and new names, to an appreciative assembled audience. 

After a traditional address to the haggis (it was Burns Night), founder and host Seb Hall introduced the guest panellists Paul Anderson and Mike Read (see end) before seven shorts were screened, commencing with the first episode of webisode Back to Young from the well-known Monkey Dribble films, the company run by Hampshire filmmakers Chris and James Norton.  

One man vainly attempted to extricate himself from his immature mates but ended up being ambushed and cajoled into taking a road trip to see Black Wolf in concert. Amiably humorous, it raised a smile throughout (love the failed bonnet slide) and boasted a great Tristan Noon score. 

DP Tom Allen commented: “With a webisode, we can keep an audience going and if they like it, they’ll pass it on. It can spread, especially with people who might not have the time to sit down and watch the whole thing.”

Next up for Tom is Tea For Two with Pork Chop Pictures’ Mark Brennan, a project which will be directed by Geoff Harmer. Tom added: “It’s a piece you would definitely have to watch several times – a very, very good script. Mark says he’s added something new to it, too.”   

Bournemouth uni graduate Tyrone Lewis brought along Bliss: The Masquerade, a prelude to Masquerade in which the striking Bernice Pike was in action as lead female character Bliss, “ridding River City of liars and cheats.”

Tyrone revealed that he learned a lot during his hands-on course and in his spare time from his video editing job, is writing scripts.     

Great performances from John Marshall and Olivia Busby anchored Andreas Sheittanis’ melancholic Tanabata, a terrific, beautifully lit short which was originally made in 48 hours for Shoot Out 2013 at the Salisbury Playhouse. 
Andreas’ revelations about the title’s meaning proved illuminating, adding another dimension to what we had just watched.

He explained: “The theme of the challenge was worldwide festivals and celebrations and we got Tanabata, a Japanese festival on the seventh day of the seventh month when lovers are reunited.”

No one was surprised when he revealed that this accomplished piece came second in the challenge. Andreas is currently working on his dissertation.

Just before the end of the first half came local outfit Pork Chop Pictures with SoulMatrix. This laugh-out-loud utter tonic was gorgeously shot in Basingstoke and concerned a bit of ‘weird science’ enacted by a besotted office worker on an ingenious app (which hearted the 1980s – “she’s a maniac” and The Breakfast Club, among a few of its references).

In addition to appearances by Red Carpet regular Lauren Shotton (see below) and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him Geoff Harmer, it boasted a triumphant central comedic performance by Paul F. Taylor and great effects.

SoulMatrix had such heart and so many wonderful moments (the cabinet) that it was the only film of the night where the audience spontaneously applauded as the credits rolled, rather than afterwards. No wonder they couldn’t help themselves.

Mark Brennan explained: “Carl [Austin, Pork Chop Pictures co-founder] came up with the idea.

“Short-term, we’re aiming to make people laugh and hope that they like what they see. Long-term, we’d all love to do it full time, feature length, all of that. The collaborative nature of filmmaking is what makes it all worthwhile.”      

After the break, we recoiled in horror – that’s what it was aiming for! – at Dan Allen’s intense and well-executed Audition, which was enhanced by fantastic sound and an eerie score from Christopher Hanson.

A well-cast Carey Thring gave us the creeps as a director whose funding frustrations led him to secure other methods of obtaining his blood and gore (insert maniacal laugh). The scary movie checklist was ticked off throughout as we waited for poor Lauren Shotton’s actress character to meet an inevitably sticky end. Yup, we knew it was coming, but we couldn’t look away. Result.

Attending, Lauren – who is also a member of impro group Chuckleduster - revealed: “When Dan asked me to do the film, I just remember going all the way to Colchester and ringing my mum and saying, this is the address I’m going to. Ring me, every day. I’ve been to a few weird casting calls – not any to do with murders, thankfully."

Another familiar Red Carpet face, Sophie Kenny, brought Tippet, a pensive short made for the 48 Hour Film Festival.

The work of cinematographer Anne Mouli Castillo was incredibly impressive and again, casting was half the battle, the emotion of the piece written all over the face of Robin Brown in the leading role of the childmaker.

It provided much food for thought and Sophie revealed that it had all been inspired by the words they were given in the challenge - ‘tippet’ and ‘panda’.

Last but not least was The Boy With A Camera For A Face, written, directed and produced by Spencer Brown with an evocative narration by Steven Berkoff.

This nostalgic wonder was quite an accomplishment, witty (“she caught his aperture”) and beautifully shot.     

Spencer, who acts and performs stand-up comedy, explained: “It began as a poem in my stand-up and it kinda worked. I cut it down to 40% of what it was and added some more visual stuff. It’s basically a silent film with a poem over the top of it. I’m worried it’s too dense. The big theme is obviously living vicariously through pictures and the television.

"Filmmaking is really expensive. I didn’t realise this before I decided to self-fund a film!”    

Offering comments afterwards, critic Paul Anderson from strangersinacinema.com was impressive, both in his refusal to be sycophantic and in his delivery of intelligent, insightful responses immediately following on from DJ Mike Read’s crowd-pleasing anecdotes (about his imaginary friend or similar).

Despite admitting “On the film front, I know nothing at all – I’ve been in the odd one or two”, Mike regaled the audience with tales of his on-set gaffes (pushing someone into a pool before the director called action) and his forthcoming movie appearance as a Liverpudlian banker.   

Follow the links to watch some of the films now...