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Jury Service

Bristol Encounters not only provides an increasingly important platform for short films, it also puts on a great party.

I’ve just come back from Bristol Encounters short film festival where I was sitting on the jury for its 90 second film competition DepicT!

As a jury virgin, I didn’t know quite what to expect. It turned out to be a fascinating process, aided by my illustrious fellow jurors David Sproxton (co-founder and executive chairman of Aardman Animations), Christine Bardsley (head of film at the British Council), director Patrick Collerton (who is working on his first feature with writer Peter Straughan), Gina Fucci (Films at 59) and NFTS head Nik Powell who joined in the judging process via Skype.

Sarah Cooper, Patrick Collerton, Gina Fucci hard at work on the DepicT! jury

Our jury discussion started out ever so amicably although things got slightly more heated when it came to picking a winner - a sign of the quality of the films in the competition, which ranged from an animation about magpies, to a contemporary drama set in a launderette to a ironic take on gun crime.

It was a tough job, but we got there in the end – our winning film was Nick Fogg’s mini documentary Wake, which perfectly captured the spirit of its inspirational and feisty central character - an 87-year-old self confessed chain smoking adrenaline junkie called Liz who very sensibly decides to put on her own wake while she is still alive, so as not to miss out on the party.

Wake

The film was the first documentary to win the £1500 worth DepicT! award, which is not surprising – it’s clearly no easy task to make a successful doc in a minute and a half. But that’s exactly what Fogg did – and if that’s what she can do in 90 seconds, we can’t wait to see what she can achieve in 90 minutes. Meanwhile, we awarded the Special Mention award to a beautiful animation about the horrors of war called Above As Below, directed by Michelle Arbon who will go on to benefit from a BAFTA mentoring programme.

After presenting the DepicT! Award at the closing ceremony, I headed to the festival’s buzzing Brazillian themed wrap party at the Watershed - washed down nicely with caipirinhas (lethal) and Brazilian dancing (boys with their tops off). With a host of talented UK and international short film-makers mingling with buyers, producers and industry bigwigs, it felt like a great place to make contacts, talk business and spot potential stars of tomorrow - albeit in a cool informal setting.

Bristol Encounters

It was also a great finish to a festival which is doing an increasingly important job in providing a showcase for short films in a climate where funding for shorts is increasingly hard to come by, and traditional distribution becomes more limited.

As my fellow juror David Sproxton put it: “Short film-making is not just a practice ground for feature film-making. Short films are where we see the future of film-making and the best are truly pioneering.”

To watch the Depict! shortlist click here

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