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18th BFI Future Film Festival, 2024

"Our film is being shown in the Watershed in Bristol the day after its shown in the Southbank which is great as we are all going to rush back to invite friends, family and hopefully some lecturers along to the city we studied at and made the film in."
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Whilst running late for an acting audition, Rachel gets called into work by Charles, her boss. Refusing, Rachel will do whatever it takes to make her audition, Charles will do whatever it takes to stop her.

Hi Owen, thank you for talking to TNC. How does it feel to have The Boss Level part of this years BFI Future Film Festival?

I’m so excited for the film to be part of the festival. It’s such an honour and something I never thought would happen. I’ve enjoyed sharing it with anyone who would listen and my Mum has also done the same - perhaps a bit too much, even her hairdresser seems to know. I’m looking forward to finally visit the Southbank as well, it’s a place I have always wanted to go and to and see my own film on the screen will feel very surreal.

The Boss Level is your final year film from the Film and Television course at the University of Bristol, does this add any extra pressure on you, or are you able to enjoy the process?

We’ve actually already had the film marked by lecturers, our whole crew graduated last summer. It was a pretty stressful three years as we went through COVID, isolating, a whole first year online being told we couldn’t make anything, multiple lecturer union strike actions and a marking boycott to sum it all up. So the process of making the film, or any film in the last 3 years, has definitely been the most stressful and pressured part. It's been nice to finally finish and have the Festival selection be a long overdue reward for the work we put in in our difficult three years.

What has your time been like at the University of Bristol and how much has your time on the Film and Television course help shape your filming journey?

Our time has certainly been difficult I would say with the Covid experience and lots of strike action. I think this has been fulfilling in the sense of working with friends independently from major supervision and guidance. I think we had one official meeting with lecturers as to the development of the film and from then on, for reasons outside of our control, we were left to produce the film into what it is today. The course as well is also quite theoretical, so aspects of this helped in the planning of our film and our influences but a lot of it was our crew pulling our expertise, skills and passions we had developed outside the course into the film.

How important are festivals like Future Film Festival in creating a platform for short films and emerging filmmakers?

I think they’re extremely important. It gives emerging filmmakers something to strive for and important validation on their work. It says “yes we have seen what you have done, you have done something new, something bold, something impressive, go you”. I think such festivals need to be advertised more in filmmaking networks and made known. The BFI Future Film Festival does this really well, and it’s great to be able to talk to and have people from the industry watch our work.

What more can be done on a local/national level in the UK to offer short films more visibility to audiences outside of the festivals circuit?

Social media obviously plays a huge part and online access. My grandparents are hopefully going to be able to watch the live stream of the festival from their home which is amazing. It’s also great the festival reaches outside of London. Our film is being shown in the Watershed in Bristol the day after it’s shown in the Southbank which is great as we are all going to rush back to invite friends, family and hopefully some lecturers along to the city we studied at and made the film in. I think that’s key, finding spaces willing to have these films shown.

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"Im always coming up with ideas which I write down, start writing the script then never finish. So thats something to explore - finishing my scripts I think!"

Can you tell me how The Boss Level came about, what inspired your screenplay?

So the Boss Level came about because for my final film, I wanted to do something quirky and different that I hadn’t seen or done before in a student film. Many deal with heavy themes like mental health and are very character driven but I wanted to do something you could fit into 10 minutes, have a lot of fun with, and showcase some production talent. I floated some ideas to the production team having just rewatched Edgar Wright’s ‘Spaced’, which inspired the final over the top martial arts fight as there is a similar scene in that, and we kind of worked backwards from it. Would it be possible to shoot? After a hungover test shoot in a meeting room - yes. Right, how does she end up there? What does she want so badly? What obstacles does she have in her way? How do we create a sense of urgency and tension? How do we make the ending memorable? What would be funny? All elements of screenwriting that are essential, we had a few idea workshops.


Therefore, the character kind of wrote herself as a disgruntled restaurant worker running late for an important audition and a vengeful boss desperate to hunt her down. I wrote the script in about a day, sent it to the rest of my group who were all happy with it and we went from there.

Was “Charles” based on any of your previous bosses?

Haha, I’ve been very fortunate that I have not had a hospitality boss as bad as Charles but I’ve had plenty of days when I’ve been asked to come in as it’s busy and I’ve felt obliged to say yes. I like to think that after making the film I started saying no a few more times, who knows. I’ve heard of some bosses being that bad, but definitely not the level of sending henchmen after someone and fighting them on a rooftop - that’s definitely part of the absurdist humour.

How much flexibility did you allow yourself and your actors with your screenplay once you started shooting?

A: So, we used two student actors due to budget restraints who gladly did the film for free and they were great. I like to direct fairly close to what I write - if it’s a particular line or movement I think is key I mention it but if they ad-lib a few moments and it works then I trust them. Myself and one of our crew co-choreographed the fight scene at the end which in the script is very vague in description and certain comedic moments like the chef’s running and Charles shouting at an employer were all ad-libbed and decided what to say and do on the day and by the actors. I think it’s important to have that sense of collaborative freedom but also some restraint.

What was the experience for you making The Boss Level with your co-filmmakers Joe Astill, Oscar Harris, James Havill, Sammy Garrett and Jack Basley?

It was a fantastic experience, the highlight of my three years at University. We are all very good friends outside of the film which helped. I had worked with Joe, Oscar and James on another film a few months earlier and we clearly hadn’t driven each other insane enough to not work together again and we had Sammy and Jack ask to join us after that. It felt seamless at times, we all clicked and did what was needed of us - the shoot days were particularly gruelling but again, we’re all good mates and we were all passionate about the film that it was a laugh and enjoyable - even standing in the freezing, pouring rain on Severn Beach, two hours behind schedule, ringing tech support as the camera had done something weird, turned into a fantastic day out in the end.

The film would not be what it is without any of them, the whole process was brilliant.

Now you can be reflective what would you say has been the most valuable lesson you’ve taken away from making The Boss Level?

A: Have faith in what you are doing and what you want to do. Our lecturers said that the fight scene would be impossible - we had faith we could do it, we test shot, rehearsed, prepped, double prepped, double rehearsed, edited, re-edited, re-re-edited and achieved it. Even the somewhat disheartening final mark we received on the film but the subsequent festival short listings we have had, has given me faith that we have made something funny and unique and that is recognised by people.

I think also the lesson is plan to your budget and resources. We only had just under £200 most of which went on a day hire of a camera stabiliser because our university equipment stores are not the best. We didn’t have a gimbal so had to factor that into shot selections, we had no battery powered lights so had to rely a lot on natural lighting for outdoor scenes. We had no budget for actors, makeup or costume so had to use students, friends, and our own clothes. That’s part of the fun and the exciting challenge, but I learnt you have to work within that.

Where did your passion for filmmaking come from and what types of film genres are you looking to exploring with future films?

I’ve always been into theatre and acting from a young age and music, my Mum is a music teacher and I was in theatre groups so creativity and the arts has always been ingrained in me from a young age. I used to make little home movies of me dressing up with my brother, usually re-enacting Star Wars so I could hit him with a lightsaber on our old camcorder and Lego stop motions of course.

I’d say though my passion really came from my A-Level I did in Film Studies. I had the two most unbelievably supportive, inspiring teachers. I made my first, I would say “proper” short film to be proud of on my phone called ‘Egg’ which they gave me praise and feedback for and supported me when I said I’d love to take it further at University. From then on, it’s been just improving and learning.

As for the future, I’ve binged Hustle recently and loved it so I'm thinking about a short film about an out of depth con-artist I could do on a low budget. I love the British film aesthetic as well, I’m always coming up with ideas which I write down, start writing the script then never finish. So that’s something to explore - finishing my scripts I think!

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What would you say The Boss Level says about you as a filmmaker and the stories you want to tell?


I would say the Boss Level says I am a pragmatic filmmaker, in terms of using the resources I have available to me and the challenges ahead but that I want to tell stories that are relatable, humorous and have distinctive quirks and nuances.

Best tips you’ve been given as you went into making The Boss Level and what tips would you offer any students thinking about taking the Film and Television course at the University of Bristol?

Best tip was “always think about tension”. That was a big one I had to integrate into points in the script, shoot and edit. That and “allow space in the budget for meal deals for the actors” - keeping your actors fed and happy is apparently very important. Tps for people thinking about the University course I would say is: make strong firm friends, fill your time with what you are interested in in Film, and knowing how to fill out a Risk Assessment is one of life’s greatest skills!

And finally, what do you hope you audiences will take away from The Boss Level?

I hope they laugh and enjoy it. Nothing in it will change their world and perceptions of life, but for 10-ish minutes I hope they will be entertained!

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