My first experience of one shot movies and Hackney, at the One Shot Movie Screening and Awards Ceremony at Hackney Attic.
Despite having spent the day fiercely tackling the unfamiliarity of East London, I became timid as I faced the building on the opposite side of the road, square on. It was difficult to take it all in in one snapshot, it was much bigger than I expected and the giant letters mounted across the front screamed out to me in a wide panoramic view – PICTURE HOUSE – My final destination. I was standing still on the edge of a dark road, my feet over the curb, breathing quite heavily after my rapid walk down Mare Street, and timing the traffic that attacked from all sides. I was unsure of where I was about to be and what I was about to see but in the spirit of adventure I stared deep into the unknown, hurled myself over that curb and sprinted towards the other side…
Well, Hackney Attic, the venue at the highest peak of the Picturehouse, is really quite lovely. You can always sense an atmosphere as soon as you step into it, and this was one of those better ones that invites you into the inner circle straight away, leaving no one on the outer edge twiddling their thumbs like an awkward extra. As I approached the top of the stairs I could hear chatting and laughing and lots of orders being placed at the bar. As I walked in people smiled and acknowledged my existence and that’s when I realised this was a first for everyone. There was no pretense or pompousness, everyone was genuinely interested and supportive of the organisers and film makers. Chairs were set up cinema-style in front of the stage and screen area. I found an empty chair near the front but unfortunately directly behind someone else, giving me a one shot of a head amid the top ten entries and winner of the One Shot Movie competition. Well life sometimes throws a challenge like this your way, and the key is to stay calm and just move your head in the opposite way to the person in front (no time to think and about the poor person sitting behind you).
I didn’t fully comprehend the challenge of making a movie in one shot until the screening began. I found myself feeling tense, like I sometimes feel at the theatre, because I knew the actors, the directors, the camera men, needed to capture their vision in one go, no tricks, no cuts. I could only imagine the length of their bloopers reel. The films were made by local and international directors and as a whole, they covered a wide range of themes, from funny and witty scenarios and motifs, to darker and more philosophical narratives. Apart from the uncompromising ‘one shot’, it was clear there were absolutely no boundaries, which made it difficult to compare one film with the next. Some of my favourites however included, The Fight, Directed by Alex Goddard (UK), which was simple but clever and hilariously funny. It focuses on one man preparing for a fight, uttering a long string of ‘fighting words’, with the help of props. He threatens to ‘Squash’ us as he brandishes a squash (as in the vegetable) in his clenched fist, and a butterfly appears as well as a man dressed as a bee – and credited as Bee.
Owen Marshall’s (UK) Life After also made me chuckle in my seat, presenting the scenario of a man, or at least his voiceover, attending his own funeral. I think it worked well as a concept because it is something we’ve all fantasised about at one point or another. However, in this case it backfires, when he finds his best friend having an affair with his girlfriend, his pain-in-the-arse sister trying to claim his house, and a stranger sitting on his stairs. Korimarka, by Juan Alberto Guerra Alvarez (Argentina, Bolivia), explores death and rebirth, as a young boy speaks with his grandfather in a graveyard. It was beautifully simple as one shot, showing a wide span of scenery and finally revealing a graveyard. It was quiet and thoughtful, and stood out as something quite different. Other films included Liars, by Oscar Nobi, which features a funny conversation between friends who decide to finally stop humouring each other; Conscription, by Jack Bottomly, a dark momentary look at a suicide in 1939; We Are Such Stuff, by Joshua Kohn, an interpretation of a nightmare; Purpose, by Adam Comrie, which tries to shed some light on gang culture and the meaning of life; and of course the winner, Faux Depart, by Shekhar Bassi, a film that tells the tale of Fahim and Hasshid who plan to swim to London to begin a new life.
The winner, Shekhar Bassi said the competition, ‘Made me want to do something [pause] completely different’. I think anything that gives you a passion or a drive to create is a worthwhile thing. Trying to create something different in an industry where creation takes place every day is a real challenge. I’ve seen short films before but the one shot generates a different kind of momentum and authenticity, and tests the directors and actors within the space and time that they’ve got. The organisers, Daniel Birt, Kier Menzies, and Daniel Palmer, mentioned one shot scenes from big blockbusters such as the Dunkirk beach scene from Atonement and the Copacabana steady cam shot from Goodfellas, which demonstrate how smooth and stunning the one shot can be. You could tell the competition had only just been born, it didn’t exactly flow like a Goodfellas scene, but the organisers were welcoming and enthusiastic and got a good response from entrants.
Maybe as the competition grows more popular in the years to come, the one shot movies will push further and become more spectacular.
– Scarlett Hermon
Traveling from Raynes Park to Hackney Central when there’s a football match on and you’ve unfortunately missed one essential part of your route of your planned train journey makes you around 15 minutes later than you originally thought. Sweaty and angry, you trudge mindlessly for ten minutes in one part of a train station and next minute you’re running like a madman (and presumedly swearing like a Jeremy Kyle guest) trying to get to your destination. When you reach said destination with minutes to spare only to be told you have to queue for your ticket. When you have your ticket you’re then told you have to run up five flights of stairs to reach the top. The ‘Attic’. The ‘Hackney Attic’ to be exact. Sweaty and panicky, and regretting wearing a suit, you get yourself a large coke (no ice), find a seat and settle down for the evening ahead… if a movie camera had been following me on my journey to this event, I would’ve been a clear winner for next years competition…
But here I was at the ‘One Shot Movie Awards’, a competition created by Daniel Birt, Keir Menzies and Daniel Palmer, and I was in for a fascinating night. What lay ahead were 10 short films, sent in from all over the globe, with one thing in common; they all told different stories using one continuous take, no cuts, no multiple camera angles… and the effect was extraordinary. After a very entertaining introduction from the three creators, the evening commenced. Ranging from the dramatic to the hilarious, the 10 films in competition were involving and had me astonished at the amount of work and choreography that went into making them. My particular favourites were Oscar Nobi’s brilliantly acted ‘Liars’, a tale of a man inadvertently blurting out what he really thinks to friends, which used the one shot brilliantly to make some very comedic reveals.. and I also enjoyed Alex Goddard’s ‘The Fight’ which featured a guy pumping iron… and other things. I also admired Joshua Kohn’s ‘We Are Such Stuff’, a nightmarish tale which was clearly meticulously planned out and was a frantic, pumped film.
The winner of the £1000 prize was ‘Faux Depart’ directed by Shekhar Bassi. A worthy winner, the story of two men preparing to swim from their country to England in a bid to have a better life.
I managed to ask Keir and the two Daniels some probing questions…
You’ve clearly been inundated with films for this competition, did you find whittling it down to 10 finalists difficult?
Dan P – Absolutely! We found it extremely difficult, not only because of the sheer number of entries