Circus Freak by Sam Wells and Matt Hooks
Forgive me Blogfather, for I have sinned: it has been 23 days since my last post. I’ve been working literally day and night on a bunch of different journalistic assignments. Still am, for the next week. But I couldn’t not write about this.
My son Sam has directed and acted in his first short film, Circus Freak (above). Aww! But actually, if you watch it, you’ll see only two of those letters are correct. The response should be “Wow”.
Am I biased? You betcha. So see what you think. Once you’ve watched it, let me tell you a bit more about it:
As part of his AS Level Film Studies, Sam was told to make a 2.5 min short. No more. His initial script idea would, I worried, run to nearly five. That was pretty much my only input (that, and the pizza phone call joke). Everything else he and his collaborator Matt Hooks worked out themselves.
Eventually they stripped out the character of the annoyingly eager younger brother who makes the protagonist realise, at the end, that family is what really counts. It ate up valuable screen time, and never quite rang true. Instead they substituted a terrific visual ending which still makes me laugh every time I see Sam’s goofy grin.
Is it a coruscating commentary on talent-show dreams of instant gratification? Or a paean to boundless optimism and the hope that springs eternal? I favour the latter, but either way it’s a great lesson in narrative economy.
Every second was pre-planned and storyboarded. Note the details: the shot from under the bed; the camera following the ball as it bounces along the pavement; the close up on the balls in the air before the long shot of Sam juggling; the tight shots on feet, hands, eyes and mouth when preparing for his public show. It’s nice to know that a lifetime of being shown film classics by myself and the estimable Frank Wynne (www.terribleman.com) has been put to good use.
The action is amazingly well edited to the music. This is how precise it is: Sam showed me a near-final cut in which the transition from initial voiceover/montage to live action seemed too abrupt. He thought that carrying the music over by two more notes would solve the problem. It did.
My final take-home from this? If a pair of 17-year-old kids can make a good-looking short with a digital camera and a laptop, so can we all. You don’t need a big budget. You don’t even need a big idea. You just need a tight script, a lot of planning – and boundless optimism. Get out and do it.