2010 BUFTA Winner – Josh Beattie
1. How did you hear about the BUFTA competition and what was your main reason for entering?
I came across BUFTA whilst looking for student film festivals that I might be able to enter To Claire; From Sonny in. I only found out about the competition the day before entries were due!
2. How did you come up with the concept for your film ‘To Claire; From Sonny’ and what steps did you take to turn your concept into reality?
TC;FS was my year 12 graduation film at the Queensland Academy for Creative Industries. I wanted to create a short that had a different meaning on the second (and third viewing). What started off as a complex, psychological and non-linear story (in the spirit of films like Eternal Sunshine and Memento), I realised that I had quite an effective story underneath. Bit by bit I stripped back this narrative into its simplest form and TC;FS was the result.
I was fortunate enough to attend a high school whose focus was the arts – with students majoring in multiple disciplines (art, music, film and theatre) so finding actors, a cinematographer, and musicians for the score was a very simple and organic process.
Production itself entailed three full days of shooting – zero-budget guerrilla filmmaking where we had to be resourceful and exploit the scenery that was available. The music score took about a week to put together (musicians were recorded one track at a time to build an orchestra) and editing took about four days.
3. In your opinion, what do you find is the most difficult stage in the film making process and why?
I find that the real challenge comes in the middle of pre-production and production – having an idea and realising that it’s not feasible to pull off with your budget as an amateur (which is often $0). If you write a fantastic script that features an explosion – how do you make that call? Compositing? Cheating the audience with sound? Or do you work around it and find a different way for the narrative to advance? Sometimes working to limitations can also be exciting and even better ideas can come out of it.
4. What is your favourite stage in the film making process and why?
I’ve always loved anything to do with post-production – editing, foley, sound, music, colouring etc. Being on set filming is the real ‘hard work’ of a production… but I feel that the creativity comes back when you’re collecting your footage and deciding how to mash it together as a work.
5. How confident were you that you might win the BUFTA competition?
Not at all! I didn’t know what to expect of the program as a whole and was very impressed with the variety of genres and stories that other candidates had submitted. I can imagine how tough it would have been to select a winner out of such a diverse pool of filmmakers.
6. What is your advice to students thinking of entering a film into BUFTA and what tips and tricks can you offer to assist them in creating a winning film?
My advice would be to ignore everything in that question. Don’t look to ‘win BUFTA’ or any festival for that matter. As soon as your ambition is to make a ‘great film’ – you’re out to please a panel, win over an audience. Often that can override your instincts.
Make something you can identify with; something ambitious, something outrageous! The BUFTA judges are looking for originality and not production value. I managed to win with a film that used one camera and a tripod. A previous year’s winner was a stick animation! In this contest, a thought-out story will triumph over a film with impressive dolly shots and fifty extras; don’t be intimidated if your school doesn’t have cameras the size of fridges, or if your friends aren’t actors. Just make a memorable, sincere, and unique movie.
Oh, and sound. Don’t dare neglect your sound! It’s half a film, after all. The most beautiful cinematography and performances will be irrelevant if you haven’t spent time on your audio. Student films (even at tertiary level) are always riddled with fuzz, random cuts in ambient sound, clipping dialogue, and rushed music (composers can hear a Garageband loop from a mile away). If you have interesting sound design, you’ll immediately stand out. If you’re not too confident when it comes to sound, make friends with someone who does. Never forget sound!
7. Share your memories of winning BUFTA and explain a little about what opportunity it has given you.
The BUFTA ceremony was a great event – being in a room full of people who share your ambition and enthusiasm for movies- and eating dinner with members from the community and faculty staff who were genuinely interested in young talent. It’s given me the chance to attend perhaps the best film school in the country… and to my surprise, its effects haven’t stopped at the enrolment office. The faculty staff have taken the time to get to know me, listen to what I have to say, and make sure the student body and the curriculum are compatible and running smoothly. I have already gotten to know (and started working on projects with) previous winner Julie Sam-Yue, and 2011 winner Matthew Thorne. I also look forward to being on the camera crew for this year’s BUFTA.
8. What were your initial thoughts of Bond University?
I write this from Bond’s library in my third week here, and I have been overwhelmed! The university is a small, close and friendly community- and I will be in the same class of 29 film students for the next two years! The people who are my classmates now are the same people with whom I’ll collaborate with on graduate Bond films, and projects way, way into the future. Many of my lecturers actually work in their fields while teaching – so I feel very assured that their knowledge is credible and up-to-date.
9. What is your ultimate ambition?
I would love to one day write and direct feature films. And at the risk of sounding predictable, I’d also like to compose music for films and videogames. And… if have time, make television commercials and music videos.
10. In one sentence, sum up your BUFTA experience.
I have come to realise that BUFTA itself is small film festival just for young people, made possible by young people… it’s a great experience and a taste of what the path to being a filmmaker is like; I would encourage everyone and everyone to give it a shot.