Bristol has forged quite a name for itself as one of the UK’s most creative cities, what with its masses of independent shops, art cafes, festivals and cinemas. It’s a great place to get some air time, whether you’re a budding writer, painter or filmmaker. My love of Bristol’s independent creative scene is no secret, so I was delighted to be asked along to January’s CineMe film screening by Founder James Ewen, and indulge my love of short films.
I first met James in early January to talk about CineMe. “I set it up in 2008”, he told me over a coffee. “The idea is to provide a platform for filmmakers to a meet, greet and share ideas in a creative environment. It’s also a great night if you just fancy something a little different from your usual cinema experience.” James’ passion for cinema was apparent, and it was great to meet someone so dedicated to supporting independent filmmakers and their work. “We’re always looking for short films between 1 and 15 minutes to screen, and this can include drama, animations, documentary material, music videos and experimental projects.”
When Tuesday rolled around, I headed down to the Tobacco Factory, a big red brick building nestled slap-bang in the middle of Southville, South Bristol’s creative quarter. The hybrid venue is famous for hosting all kinds of arty goings on, from talks and screenings, to markets, workshops and plays. Held on the last Tuesday of each month, the CineMe event is tucked away in a snug, vintage-ey decorated room behind the bar that has just enough space for around 50 people. On arrival, I was ushered in to a room packed with other excited film buffs, directors and writers shuffling around and stealing extra chairs from the venue’s cafe before settling down to a warm welcome from James. The night costs £5 (conc. £3), and for your buck you get a printed programme, two hours of short films complete with Director introductions and a refreshment break in the middle. The evening ends with a message from James, followed by the chance to mingle with aspiring directors, cinematographers, writers and everyday cinephiles over a pint of beer in the venue’s busy bar.
Headliner Mustapha Kseibati started the proceedings with a quick introduction about his fifth short film, the 20 minute, BFI-funded Mohammed, staring Kayvan Novak (Four Lions, Cuban Fury), Sophie Thompson (Harry Potter, Four Weddings) and Jayden Revri. After the screening, Mustapha got the chance to tell us all about his short attention span and love of comic books, as well share technical details about the funding, filming and editing process. This was followed by a lively Q&A session from aspiring directors and producers in the audience. Sydney director Michael Spiccia’s moody short film Yardbird followed, and I was completely blown away by the absolutely gorgeous cinematography. You could honestly play this alongside a million-dollar blockbuster and not tell the difference in production quality. This was followed by my favourite screening of the whole evening, Robert Grieves’ Sausage, an award-winning 6 minute animation about two artisan stallholders battling it out with a fast food vendor. Packed full of light comedy and beautiful animation, it had everything I look for in a short film: charm, focus and a clear message (and of course a healthy dose of delightful sausage-based double entendres.) This was followed by US director Alexander Engel’s kinetic three minute short This Is It, proving that simplicity is king in the world of short films. Three homegrown offerings closed the night, including 15 minute Hypervigilante from Bristol-based filmmakers Varun Ramanand Tom Hancock; documentary duo Aaron Beale and Dan Caulfield’s (Vanilla Bear Films) Beauty Is Freedom, a campaign video for a hand-painted, Bristol based company We Are Hairy People; and JC Ralls’ beautiful silent film-inspired short The Silent Waiting Room. Needless to say, the night was a huge success. One thing that struck me above everything else was the sheer quality of each film. Every single one was as polished and visually complete as any big budget flick you’d see in your local multiplex. Oh, and it’s an awesome budget night out for film lovers: for a mere £5, you get to see an excellent array of high quality short films in a warm and vibrant environment complete with vintage lampshades, craft beer and friendly chatter, all for the price of an Odeon popcorn bucket.
All that’s left to say is thanks so much to James for inviting me to the event, and to all of the filmmakers who made the night so great! If you fancy attending a CineMe screening, then just pop onto their website to see when the next one’s coming up, or have a chat to James about screening one of your own films.