The Encounters Short Film Festival, held November 18-23 in the UK town of Bristol, is a leading international short film event and a key hub for talent discovery. It has previously screened the first shorts from directors such as Lynne Ramsay and Simon Beaufoy.
"Encounters is the highlight of the shorts calendar in the UK," says Rebecca Mark-Lawson of Lifesize Pictures, which manages the UK Film Council's short film initiatives. "The programme is outstanding, giving the film-making community some much-needed national and international perspective. Encounters is a place to meet our peers and debate best practice in the short form."
Now in its 14th year, Encounters focuses on the best live-action and animated short films, both from the UK and overseas. Over 300 shorts from 30 countries will screen at this month's event, with guest programmes from Ireland, Poland, Russia and Scotland. There are four UK programmes - including one dedicated to films from south-west England, the region in which Bristol is situated - with entries vying to win the Best of British prize. Other trophies include an international award, the 4mations newcomer in animation award and an audience award, sponsored by the UK Film Council. The festival also runs DepicT!, a unique competition that challenges film-makers to produce original shorts of 90 seconds or less.
Mark Cosgrove, the creative director of Encounters, says one of the unifying things about this year's films is their cinematic imagination. "What I'm seeing is really strong visual cinematic work," he says, "so they really do stand up to big-screen scrutiny."
Events this year include a premiere of early animations by Alexander Shiryaev, to be presented by Aardman Animations' Peter Lord, a two-day post-production film school supported by Skillset and a focus on the opportunities offered by digital platforms.
With guests set to include film-maker and actor Paddy Considine, Oscar-winning animator Richard Williams and former Channel 4 commissioning editor for animation Clare Kitson, Encounters functions as an event both for audiences and the industry. Last year, 550 industry delegates attended, of whom around 60% were film-makers. "The reason why we get so many film-makers coming is because they need to have that environment to share the experience of seeing their film with other people," suggests Encounters managing director Liz Harkman. "Which they're not going to get on the internet. They may get a few comments but it's not the same as hearing somebody laugh when they're supposed to laugh."
The engagement with audiences, and the networking opportunities and development of relationships are key to Encounters' enduring industry appeal. "It is the experience of coming that brings people back," says Harkman. "There is such an atmosphere and you can meet people and talk to people and have that kind of engagement that you don't get at lots of festivals. And that's what makes it quite unique."
Films to watch
THE RAIN HORSE
Dir: Sebastian Godwin
With his brother Hugo producing, director Sebastian Godwin is building a reputation for adapting literary works into stunning short films. The Godwins' previous film, The Girls, was based on Joyce Cary's story Growing Up and was nominated for a British Independent Film Award in 2007. Sebastian, who is a graduate of the prestigious Polish National Film School in Lodz, also directed an adaptation of Graham Greene's The End Of The Party in 2006.
The Rain Horse also has a strong literary pedigree. Based on a short story by Ted Hughes, the film tells the story of a father who takes his two young children on holiday to Wales where they are attacked by a wild horse in the torrential rain.
Contact: Hugo Godwin, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dir/scr: David O'Neill
The first drama from renowned television director David O'Neill, Tenner tells the story of Homer, a seemingly dysfunctional teenager who makes a bet with his eccentric bong-smoking grandfather that could spell danger for a local shopkeeper.
Produced by Darren Bender and Andrea Bigger of Bigger Pictures, the 11-minute film is sophisticated and inventive and brings a fresh perspective to the coming-of-age drama.
O'Neill's credits encompass diverse subjects from Fathers for Justice to Amsterdam's sex industry and London's tower block drug dealers. He is now directing episodes of the BBC TV series Casualty while developing future film projects.
Contact: Andrea Bigger, email@example.com
INTO THE WOODS
Dir/scr: Matt Taabu
Produced by Alex Usborne and Rob Speranza, Into The Woods is about a misunderstanding between a family and a stranger that has far-reaching consequences.
Shot on location in Sheffield earlier this year, Into the Woods is Matt Taabu's second film backed by the UK Film Council's Digital Shorts scheme and continues his exploration of contemporary political themes through tense thrillers. The film stars John Barber, Penny Capper, Bradley De Cruz and Branko Tomovic.
Contact: Rob Speranza, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dir/scr: Deena Lombardi
Off Season is a dark comedy about a man who, after losing his wife in a car accident, tries to overcome his capacity to attract disaster and simply be a good dad to his young son. A mature, complex film, Off Season showcases Deena Lombardi's deftness of touch, mixing laugh-out-loud humour with moving yet understated character-based drama. The film was produced by Lou Spain and Casey Herbert of Whistling Thorn Films.
Originally from Northern California, Lombardi studied film and television at Ucla and film directing at NYU. Now based in Brighton, Lombardi's previous shorts have screened at international festivals and aired on Showtime, NBC, and PBS in the US.
Contact: Lou Spain/Casey Herbert, email@example.com
Dir/scr: Andrew McVicar
In Lamb, a teenage boy, visiting a farm in spring, is excluded from the sexuality his friends are exploring. Alone in the unfamiliar house he is frustrated, until a chance encounter draws him out into the wilds.
Bold, intensely cinematic and thematically resonant, Lamb is Andrew McVicar's second film made under the UK Film Council's Digital Shorts scheme. His previous film, Breathe For Me, screened at Edinburgh last year.
McVicar's films are produced by Samm Haillay and Duane Hopkins of Third Films, which saw its first feature, Better Things, directed by Hopkins, premiere in Critics' Week at Cannes this year.
Contact: Andrew McVicar, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dir/scr: Esther May Campbell
In an in-between world of flyovers, grass verges and dead ends, where the motorway hum serves as a constant reminder of the speed of other people's lives, thirtysomething Marvin is not going anywhere. Into this forgotten corner of ancient English countryside and motorway services arrives an extraordinary adolescent, changing Marvin forever.
Atmospheric, imaginative and unexpected, September was produced by Stewart Le Marechal. Director Esther May Campbell worked in theatre and as a photographer before moving into film and TV. She has directed numerous music videos, while her drama work has been commissioned by Working Title, South West Screen, the London Production Fund, HTV West, Channel 4 and the BBC.
Contact: Stewart Le Marechal, email@example.com
THE SURPRISE DEMISE OF FRANCIS COOPER'S MOTHER
Dir/scr: Felix Massie
Felix Massie's graduation film, the animation Keith Reynolds Can't Make It Tonight screened at festivals around the world and marked him as a talent to watch.
His follow-up, The Surprise Demise Of Francis Cooper's Mother, has its world premiere at Encounters. Produced by Sarah Jex (Aardman Animations) and Sarah Cox (ArthurCox) the film is a black comedy about three characters who change their outlook on life following personal disasters.
Massie presently works as a director at Arthur Cox studios in Bristol.
Contact: Sarah-Jane Meredith, South West Screen, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dir/scr: Amanda Boyle
Amanda Boyle's 2004 debut short, Hotel Infinity, established her as a talent to watch and illustrated her ability to combine unconventional high concepts with touching human drama. Pop Art tells the story of an unusual friendship between Toby, a bereaved and angry 12-year-old, and his classmate Art - a wise and witty kid who just happens to be plastic and filled with air. The film, which was produced by Tracy Brimm and Kate Myers of Forward Films, played at the London Film Festival and won the audience award for narrative short at the Austin Film Festival.
Boyle, who also produced the Bafta-nominated short Heavy Metal Drummer, recently finished the 30-minute Channel 4 drama Imprints and is developing a feature documentary and Generation, her first fiction feature.
Contact: Kate Myers, email@example.com
The Magic Hour
The UK Film Council's first scheme aimed at disabled film-makers, The Magic Hour, will produce four short films each with a budget of up to $15,800 (£10,000) and one animation at $20,500 (£13,000).
"The idea is to encourage disabled film talent and to put disabled voices and people on the screen," says director Justin Edgar, whose company with producer Alex Usborne, 104 Films, runs the initiative. Applications open mid-November through 104films.com and close early next year. Ten projects will be shortlisted and developed with script executives before the final films are chosen. They will then go on a Script Factory national digital shorts training programme and the films will be made, with delivery planned for next autumn.
Preference will be given to films that put disability on the screen. "We feel there's a new generation of disabled film talent emerging," Edgar says. "We're looking for stories that are a bit edgy or funny or controversial that will surprise audiences and show disability in a new light."
The application must come from a writer or director who has a disability. Films should be no longer than 15 minutes. One short will be an animation made in collaboration with 4mations.
"With this scheme we are looking to work with exceptional film-makers across the UK to make a diverse body of work," says Rebecca Mark-Lawson of Lifesize Pictures, which administers the UK Film Council's short schemes.
The UK Film Council has teamed with Channel 4's new online animation channel 4mations to launch 4mations Digital Shorts, a national search for ambitious, original and thought-provoking animated shorts from new and emerging talent across the UK. The initiative will fund 13 animated shorts with budgets ranging from $15,800 (£10,000) to $23,700 (£15,000). The films are intended to play at international film festivals, online at 4mations and possibly also on Channel 4. The call for entries closed on November 10.
Launched earlier this year, www.4mations.tv is a collaboration between Channel 4, animation specialists Lupus Films and Aardman Animations. The video-sharing site is aimed at anyone interested in animation - from audiences to aspiring animators and professionals.