You know that something has struck a nerve when an entire room falls silent. It might be the first viewing of a long lost piece of artwork, the unveiling of a religious artifact, a spontaneous news broadcast, or even an incredible meal that becomes a collective experience that may never be forgotten. In our case, we were all able to share one of the most stunningly moving films to grace The Smalls Short Film Fest – ‘Eighty Eight’.
On September 22st, a crowd of hundreds of people were, indeed, mesmerized about the story of Ralph, who kept revealing – layer after layer – a life that continues to be lived to the fullest. It is a reminder that when done right, a documentary is not merely a record, or calculating journalism, or an attempt at drama. ‘Eighty Eight’ is the type of artful filmmaking that offers a wisp of truth, a breeze of emotion, and an anchor of understanding. One of our judges put it best when she recalled, "Beautifully shot and so moving at the end. I'd love all young people to watch this and realise old age comes to us all but it doesn't change us." Another said “A truly wonderful portrait of a elder man, with humor, insight, emotion and truth. It made me laugh and smile and feel and nearly cry! What a short documentary should really be. Loved it. Brilliantly shot and directed.”
We were happy that the filmmakers, Sebastian Feehan, Josh Bamford and Hannah Bone, took some time to answer our questions after winning the first prize this year.
[From left: Sebastian Feehan, Josh Bamford and Hannah Bone]
If you were to use one word to describe yourselves as a filmmakers, what would word would you use?
How long did it take you to make Eighty Eight?
We had originally set out to make a film intertwining the stories of three different characters from Newquay, Cornwall. Ralph was one of the three, and after spending time with him we soon realised that his story was far stronger than the other two. We were immediately drawn to him, so decided to focus the film solely on him. We probably spent a week or so getting to know him and listening to his endless stories about his colourful life. Inspired by this, a week later we returned and filmed with him for about five days. He has a great outlook on life, and we just wanted to capture his message.
What was your budget?
Probably less than £300. We had our own equipment so the costs were low. We just needed to use the tools and little money we had to capture Ralph’s story, which alone was priceless.
What were your biggest challenges in making the film?
The hardest part was finding a way to ask the right kind of questions about sensitive subjects such as his wife’s death. As documentary filmmakers there is a fine line between wanting the film to be emotionally powerful and being careful not to exploit the subject. It’s easy to get carried away with the filmmaking side of things but we strived to give him the respect he deserved and told his story in a way we were all proud of.
Who else worked with you on the film? Anyone else you'd like to thank or mention that inspired or helped you?
When we were researching for stories, we decided to post a message online to see if anyone knew of any interesting characters that may take our fancy. We received little to no response, however one day an email arrived from our friend Nick Dewey telling us all about Ralph and suggesting that we approach him. We immediately found it a fascinating addition to our other two characters and went on to pursue the story. Without her taking the time out to write to us, we may have never have found Ralph and made the film that has got us in the position we are now, so we would like to thank her. Along with Par Studios who kindly rented out their sound kit for free.
Why did you enter The Smalls Short Film Fest?
We first heard of The Smalls through a screening of our film at BAFTA as part of the Rushes Soho Shorts Festival 2011. We could see from the level of work already entered that The Smalls was going to be a great festival, so we decided to enter and try our luck. The prize money and kit package was also very appealing! To be shortlisted was amazing as we were amongst such brilliant talent. We are very humbled to have been a part of it.
What next (for your film)?
It has been nominated for two more awards at Encounters International Film Festival and the Cornwall Film Festival. It is also currently touring the UK at Picturehouse in nine different locations, paired with some great feature documentaries such as ‘The Interrupters’.
How do you plan to use the cash grant you received from The Smalls?
At the moment we are just overwhelmed with the win we haven’t even made the next move, though we will no doubt reinvest the money into the next project. There is a never ending list of lenses and other bits of kit that we need!
How/when do you plan to use the Panavison equipment hire you have won?
It’s still early days but we have already started floating ideas around. We basically have a year and we want to plan it carefully and make sure that we use it wisely.
Has Eighty Eight won any other awards?
We won the Best Student Doc Award at Sheffield International Documentary Festival and now with the win at The Smalls we are completely over the moon.
Anything else you would like to share with your fans and your fellow filmmakers on The Smalls?
We just wanted to say thank you so much! This is a huge opportunity for us to make something really special and we hope we can come back next year with something even bigger and better.
Make sure to watch ‘Eighty Eight’, before or after, and time and time again: www.thesmalls.com/members/the-smalls/films/eighty-eight.go