Short film focus: Rotoreliefs

If you live in London and have any interest in short films at all then this will hopefully be the start of a beautiful relationship. As an actor/writer based in the capital I have come into contact with many people working in the short film arena and the number of screenings available to watch are enormous. Much like the unsigned band and comedy circuits there is something on most nights of the week in London for you to watch. The short film circuit is a breeding ground for nurturing future UK talent and as such should be supported in all its forms; it is a good place to make mistakes, try out new ideas and get hands-on training to take you to the next level – should you wish.

In this first feature I am taking a look at a well-established night. The Roxy Bar and Screen at London Bridge is the monthly venue for Rotoreliefs; “a networking platform oriented to support and promote the independent art scene…where the artists can screen their films, perform, exhibit their works, talk about them, meet and make new contacts for future projects.”

Rotoreliefs is open to all comers with their no-fee policy. The team decide on which films will be shown on a ratings system, “e.g. cinematography, acting, presenting, narrative, concept, audio/sound etc … each month is curated on a case by case basis.  We try to make sure that each month has a nice even spread of films, spanning a broad spectrum of genres and styles, with some being more slick/highly produced, some being more thought provoking”.

Our compere for the November screening was Sheila Manon from the Rotoreliefs team and as the space filled up to the rafters we all managed to squeeze in and get settled before the films started rolling. In between showings the filmmakers were invited up to the microphone to tell us about their projects and answer questions from the audience, which was packed with filmmakers and the people that support this industry.

There was a good mix of shorts shown; comedy & horror shorts with more traditional narratives, a mockumentary, animations including traditional line drawing and also shadow puppets, a documentary and a music video.

Toothless, directed by Steven Dorrington was a comedy in mockumentary style following the Tooth Fairy; a down trodden alcoholic living on a council estate who notably keeps her mum in the garage. A delightful comedy to kick off the evening we were then treated to our first animation The Goat and The Well, directed by Ben Cady. For this 5 minute film Ben hand drew 5-6000 pictures working over 4 months and putting in 18 hour days; quite an amazing feat for a film that was funny but also had a message about the exploitation by man of his natural resources. Banshee a horror directed by Michael Elkin was an example of a short made for the purpose of a showcase for the actors; with a great soundtrack it used every horror film cliché you can imagine to good effect. Another notable mention was You Only Suck Twice, directed by Richard Mansfield, a 10 minute film using shadow puppets. It was a sequel (part of a planned trilogy) and it was creepy, camp, horrible and very very funny. Richard has been making animated films for 5 years now and has 28 in his back catalogue, obviously a veteran of festivals he was assured in front of the microphone.

By far the most strongly felt film of the night though was Gaza Trilogy, directed by Stuart Bamforth & Rayna Nadeem, This documentary was by and about 3 kids living in Palestine; it was a harsh and stirring look into another world. Save the Children facilitated the filmmakers in getting into the country via the Israeli border under the guise of NGOs and they in turn facilitated the children in telling their stories   As Stuart said “their tragedy is a filmmakers gift”, everyone could appreciate the poignancy of the situation, he explained how the children are desperate to tell their stories because they think they are not being told in the outside world, their logic being if we knew what was going on then they wouldn’t be in that situation. This is a film that should be seen by everyone.

The Q & A sessions between the films threw up some interesting insights. Filmmakers talked about where the inspiration for their films comes from and the stress of being a first time filmmaker. There was agreement that it is a labour of love that can take 6 months or more and that they beg, steal, break windows and borrow to get their visions made. We also learned that actors will apparently work for cake and booze! All of them spoke of more projects either in the pipeline or waiting for inspiration to strike.

Rotoreliefs has a distinct mission; Sheila Manon describes the process of picking films like “programming a channel” in order to “create an interesting and varied event each month, that everyone can enjoy, whether they’re a filmmaker or not…the event is more than just a sum of the films screened …it’s also about the forum we aim to create to facilitate open dialogue both between filmmakers and with the audience. And it’s about inspiring people with films, ideas, methods … as well as providing a platform for new filmmakers to showcase their work.”

For a mere £3 entry fee it is a full night of eclectic entertainment and if you are at all interested in the filmmaking industry it is a must.

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