straight 8 industry shootout

July 7, 2016 / Arts and Culture

By Alex Reeves

Pure, unadulterated filmmaking at its most invigorating.

I often encounter people in the ad industry who claim they are “passionate” about advertising. This claim needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. I have an inkling that people overstate how much they love advertising because they think it’s what they’re expected to say. But when people say they are passionate about film, I trust them.

Everyone has some passion for film. Even if you only watch Mean Girls once a year, accompanied by several bottles of Blossom Hill White Zinfandel, at least you love that one film. If you’re reading this website then your passion for film is probably significantly more intense than that. You’ve probably ranted at 3am about Kurosawa’s style of framing, or something.

Sandwiched snugly between the conspicuous rosé consumption and self-congratulation of Cannes during Lions week, the straight 8 industry shootout (no caps allowed) offered a refuge for those in need of something pure and honest – a film competition like no other.

The task was to make a short film on one cartridge of Kodak Super 8 film, editing only in camera and with a maximum length of 3 minutes 20 seconds, dictated by the roll of film. With no re-takes, no post-production whatsoever, and with original soundtracks submitted ‘blind’. And what’s more no-one was to see their masterpiece until this premiere in Cannes.

Director Ed Sayers, of Seven Productions has been running the competition since 1999 and the best straight 8 films have been screening at Cannes Film Festival since 2003. This year it was brought to us in partnership with the APA and Creature of London.

The entrants for the industry shootout were from adland – 18 creative agencies, production companies and editing houses took part – but the passion on display was all about film.

Hosted on the Thursday morning in the very cosy Cinema Les Arcades, the audience was made up of anxious filmmakers, enthusiastic film fanatics and partied-out wrecks who really shouldn’t have been out of bed this early (there was significant overlap between these groups). We gratefully sipped Bloody Marys in the lobby beforehand.

Having not seen their films at all, the contestants in the room made the anxiety in the air palpable. Their hangovers from last night’s beach parties didn’t help. But when the films started to roll the screening room filled with a warmth that went beyond the lack of air conditioning.

I was curious to begin with, but to be honest the prospect of about an hour of back-to-back experimental short films wasn’t that attractive. I thought it would drag, but I was genuinely shocked when the lights came on.

Every film had done something delightful with the resources they’d been given. Of course there were disappointments caused by technical hitches – it’s a raw, unforgiving formay – but every entry had charm and style. I won’t spoil the delights contained within those three-minute wonders. Hopefully you’ll get to see the films soon. But in my fragile state, I laughed, smiled ear-to-ear, winced, and even shed a couple of tears in the dark (I had suncream in my eye that just wouldn’t budge). There’s no chance I was alone in that.

Winners were announced, cash prizes were awarded to the charities of their choice and everyone was deservingly congratulated. The audience left the cinema into the beating Provencal sun sharing a sense of wonder.

It’s weird. None of the entries were the best film I’d ever seen – the rules of the contest make that nigh on impossible. But I’ve never felt the power of filmmaking more strongly. It was energizing.

Now we’re back in muggy, post-Brexit London that sense of wonder is more welcome than ever. Thankfully you can experience for yourselves on Wednesday 13th July, 9:30am at Picturehouse Central for the London premiere. Tickets are only £10 and all profits go to the Fireflies Tour for charity Bloodwise. Click here to reserve a spot at the London Premiere.

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