Monday, 17 November 2014

Cheesemint at the Limelight Film Awards 2014

Many moons ago, back in 2012, Cheesemint filmed a black and white silent film utilising traditional silent film techniques including painted backdrops, stop motion animation and small scale models shot so that they appeared bigger. Basically, all of the production design-y fun things I love!

This film was Matthew Stogdon's love letter to silent cinema and he wrote, directed, edited and even composed the music for it. The film starred Jenny Swindells, Georgie Oatley and myself in the main three roles and is based on a German opera called Die Frau Und Die Schatten (Strauss) and included themes and inspiration from the comic series, Daredevil. That's how The Erased Line came into being.

We entered it into a few festivals but it was unsuccessful, by then we were already working on our web series Unlocked and beginning pre-production on several other projects so we kind of forgot about it. It was only after an actress I worked with on my short film, You're All The Same, asked us if we had anything to enter to Limelight as the entry fees were minimal that we figured we'd give it a go and entered The Erased Line.

Months later, having just filmed a new short film about insomnia and depression as well as completing a project for a writer who had recently approached us and planning an even bigger production, we received word that we'd been nominated!

It was a great feeling, we had been so immersed in other projects that it felt a bit surreal to be nominated for past work, especially as since then we have progressed as filmmakers, learnt so much more and even moved on to better equipment. Of course I can only speak for myself here, but because of the nomination it gave us the confidence that what we are doing (making films) is the right thing, not because we doubted ourselves but because previous, older work had been deemed good enough for a festival meaning that our current work was at the very least on par with successful festival submissions!

As the festival grew nearer, we were in the midst of filming other things so it took us by surprise, we barely had time to arrange travel, find outfits etc. The week before, I was looking for a dress to wear but I wanted one that was elegant without being overly formal. Of course, I was at a loss searching the high street and decided to wander around charity shops and vintage, antique stores.

I eventually found the dress in an antiques shop called Aladdin's Cave in Norwich, which is significant because we had filmed in there the previous Summer for our adventure serial homage Ace & Swift and the Staff Of T'nim Che. What was also apt is that the dress I found was from the period that The Erased Line was set! I was literally dressing as my character might have!

The ceremony itself was interesting, we arrived on the red carpet and were ushered inside after an issue with the guest list - we had queued in the wrong area and could have walked straight in - oops! It was our first film festival, we had no idea what to expect and certainly had no delusions of grandeur so there was little chance we were just going to walk through as if we were better than anyone else!

The venue (The Troxy in Bow, London) was so incredibly Art Deco looking, I felt perfectly dressed and the decor was beautiful. Once inside, we drank our welcome champagne and had our photo taken in front of the festival sponsors board then we made our way to a table (the seating wasn't allocated so we made our way to an empty one). It was at this point I saw two people I recognised! It was Julie and Anne, both of whom we met at MCM Expo two weeks previously! We had known they had also been nominated but didn't think we would see them, of course we invited them to our table and then spent the evening chatting away and enjoying ourselves.

The lovely Julie D. Dunn and Anne Nicholson
Neither Julie, Anne or Cheesemint won our categories. We lost out to a rather beautifully shot contemporary dance piece on a beach (we later found out the director of said film had won last year and was a bit of a Limelight regular - not that we were bitter or anything.....honest!) and Julie and Anne who were the only female director and female editor in the sci-fi category I might point out, lost out to a rather paint by numbers looking zombie film (that starred John Hannah and Warren Brown). Interesting, no?

Our naivety about the industry had up until this point hidden the fact that for the majority of films that win awards, it's usually about who you know and who you get to act in your film. Ultimately though, the friendship as well the overall experience made us want to work harder and push ourselves to make better films.

Matt's current project, Sariel (which is still in post-production) is going to be huge, it's the biggest project we've undertaken and it features an established actor who, during production, sung our praises which meant more to us than any festival win.

That's when it hit me, it's about your work ethic and the way you interact with the cast and crew. If you create a good atmosphere and maintain a professional but friendly set where mutual respect and understanding is the norm, other people will emulate that or tell other people about their good experience with us.

We are always being approached by people who want to work with us and many actors refer their other actor friends to us. This coupled with the fact that an actor who has been around since the early 80s and still gets regular work enjoyed working with us makes me feel that the path I'm on is the right one. We don't force it, we don't try to create a positive work ethic - we naturally have that.

So a word of advice to anyone who enters festivals but doesn't get accepted or does get accepted but never wins - it ultimately doesn't matter and does not invalidate what you do. What's important is that you keep on doing what you love and that you make friendships along the way. That's real networking. People don't equate to the number of contacts in their address book or the quantity of their followers on Twitter. Don't treat them as expendable or as a means to your selfish end.

And if you don't win an award, make more films, enter more festivals, apply for more funding, keep working hard and never give up. Chances are, if you feel like giving up, you probably will and that will only prove you were never really meant to make films in the first place!

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