British Short Berlin 2023
January 16, 2023
A journey through the energy, rhythm and culture of life in Brixton, a district of South London with an African-Caribbean soul.
Hi Shaun, it’s great to get to talk with you, how’s everything been going?
Yes very well. I have just heard that we have received funding to make a new short film called “And, then, they” which will go into production in the summer. The film is a collective story about the life of a character told through multiple audio recordings. It will be made using a mix of pixilation (with dancers) and drawn animation.
Congratulations on Brixton Bustle being at the British Shorts 2023, how does it feel to be part of such an incredible line-up of short films?
Me and the team (Ariadna Fatjo-Vilas – Editor, Angela Alhucema – Composer and David Pringle – Sound Designer) are very excited to be screening the film in Berlin with British Shorts. The festival is an excellent collection of current British films and we are very proud to be part of this showcase.
How important are festivals like British Shorts in creating a platform for short films?
Films come to life in the darkness of a cinema. So, to be able to showcase your work to an audience in the cinema is fulfilling. Festivals also provide a great opportunity for filmmakers to discuss their practice and network with other creatives, which can be enlightening and informative.
Can you tell me how Brixton Bustle came about?
I live and work in Brixton, South London, and in late 2021 my daughter was born. When walking her in the pram, I came across some incredible graffiti work in the neighbourhood and photographed it using a macro lens to capture the shape, colour and texture of the surface. Around the same time, Clapham Film Unit -a local collective of filmmakers to which I belong- started organising a screening of new work made in Brixton at the Ritzy Cinema Picture House, as part of the district’s festival. I took the graffiti photographs and started to construct a film from them.
What was it about Brixton, one of London’s most diverse and culturally historical areas, that inspired you to make this short animation?
The energy, the life, the sound, the music, the vibrancy, the mix of cultures and diversity. It is a place of movement and happenings. It has a unique soul, unlike other places I have lived before. I wanted to capture this experience and produce a film that would become a celebration of life in Brixton.
What where the biggest challenges you faced making this short?
Recording the sound of Brixton was very difficult as I wanted it to be authentic and not staged so I spent some long days hanging around the tube station and Electric Avenue hoping to catch some voices that captured the spirit I wanted to convey in the film and had the right quality to be used as part of the soundscape of the film.
"Another reason is the way I approach filmmaking; I enjoy constructing films and discovering stories whilst making."
Once you started production how much flexibility did you allow yourself with your vision for this film?
The film followed a very organic process. I shot a large volume of photographs and composited them together into shots and edited them to temporary music and sound, this enabled me to structure the film and create the rhythm of the piece. I then spent more days shooting further footage right until the end of the production working in response to the edit, music and sound designer’s work and comments. Both living and filming in Brixton meant I could go out to film any time I had new ideas and come back, animate and composite them.
Do you think filmmakers should continue to push the boundaries of the films/stories they want to tell?
Yes, I believe it’s important to play and experiment to develop your practice. Without looking into the unknown we are in danger of replicating what we have already done in the past. Pushing the boundaries provides new ways of making and constructing structures and ideas.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
I’ve always felt the need to express myself creatively. When I was 16 I went to Art College and during that time, worked on relief paintings, but felt I couldn’t create the movement I wanted in the paintings. It wasn’t until three years later that I was introduced to animation by a tutor who lent me a VHS cassette of animated films commissioned by Channel 4. Whilst watching them, I felt I had found the language to communicate my feelings and ideas. Since then I have made over 20 short films.
As an award-winning filmmaker what would you say your films and the stories you are telling say about you?
I have made quite an eclectic range of films from horror to family to experimental and comedy. One of the reasons for this is my curiosity about life and stories and my interest in experimentation. Another reason is the way I approach filmmaking; I enjoy constructing films and discovering stories whilst making. Quite often I begin films with no story in mind and then discover who the characters are and their journey whilst animating and editing. Looking at my career, I think that this playful approach is reflected in my diverse range of films.
Since your debut film what have been the most valuable lessons you have taken from your filmmaking approach?
To make films that are achievable to complete with the equipment I have and a small crew. Quite often as a filmmaker, you can spend large amounts of time in the development and financing phase, which does not always result in a film being made. So I balance this necessity, with a more independent approach -using a small crew and inventive methods to produce films.
For any emerging filmmakers, writers, directors what would your top three tips you would offer them?
Make, make and make….keep generating work. Submerge yourself into your practice and make work that interests you, that you enjoy making and that inspires and excites you. This passion will permeate into your work and will communicate to the audience.
And finally, what would you like audiences to take away from Brixton Bustle?
I’d like them to feel the vibrancy and energy of Brixton and to see people coming together to create a community with such spirit, energy and togetherness, which is something I hope people can take home to enrich their neighbourhoods.