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York’s film school
Student director Tom Day, whose film Zombie Rehabilitation Project will be shown at the University of York’s Luma Film Festival
This weekend films made in York will be premiered at the University of York. MATT CLARK went behind the scenes for a preview.
YOU don’t often see zombies wandering around Heslington. But on Saturday there will be dozens of them, all doing their best to scare people witless.
Fear not though, York isn’t about to fall prey to an invasion of the undead.
These white-faced ghouls feature in a new movie by Tom Day which will be premiered at the University of York.
Tom is one of the student directors at the university’s Department of Theatre, Film and Television (DTFT) and they are all gearing up for Luma Film Festival, a chance for emerging movie makers to impress industry professionals and the public.
All the films are written, directed and produced by DTFT students and range from photographic stop motion animation and fast-paced music videos to intimate documentaries and powerful character studies.
Take First Night which explores how a woman comes to terms with loss. How she spends the first night after her husband has died, doing the things she would have done with him – but now alone.
An independent panel made up of figures from the UK’s film and television industry had the job of reviewing and selecting 20 of the submitted films for display and Tom’s 20-minute film, The Zombie Rehabilitation Project, was one of those selected.
It’s a ‘mocumentary’ following the lives of Brian and Christine, who look after a recovering zombie called Jon.
“It follows their progress over ten weeks as the zombie gets better and eventually… well you’ll see there is a bit of a catastrophic outcome but I don’t want to give too much away,” says Tom.
One thing he can reveal is that there are 45 zombie extras in the final scene; not one for the squeamish, perhaps.
The university’s studio facilities were made available as part of the students’ course, but the rest of the budget was down to the directors themselves. Tom’s film cost £800; most of that, he says, went on feeding the crew. But it was money well spent to get such an impressive addition to his CV.
“There’s no other time in our lives that we’ll get such equipment for free, it’s the best in the country,” he says. “The festival is designed to bring to the forefront an awareness of our skills and give the course and department a wider name.”
There is also talk of taking it to London next year.
The department opened last July and was immediately hailed as a world-class facility. Alongside the production course is a writing directing and performance course, which comes in handy when you need a few actors.
Greg Dyke, Chancellor of the university and former Director General of the BBC, says he thinks the new festival is a fantastic opportunity for students to show both the industry and the public what they can do.
Danny Carter couldn’t agree more and he’s hoping to impress with his film Two Fires.
Not that it was Danny’s first choice. He intended to make a film in York, but a week to go before filming began Danny was told his big lights wouldn’t be welcome on the city’s streets.
Time then for plan B.
“We had to come up with a completely different idea,” he says. “I heard about these people in Wales who sounded interesting so we got in touch and jumped in a van as a two-person crew.”
They set off to meet a couple who live the good life by making glass and pottery and the result is an evocative fly-on-the-wall peek at an alternative, genteel existence.
“I never wanted to show them speaking, you just hear them the whole way through until she says it’s a perfect life and they just look at each other.
“It’s a nice shot, one I wanted to save to the end.”
Although filmed digitally, Danny added a grainy effect in post production; something he believes adds atmosphere.
“There is sometimes a worry that digital is too clear, too much like real life. I just stick to the age old cinema conventions and adding grain makes it look more like a fairy tale in some ways.”
It’s not only films that the students have been producing and studying. Television shows figure large on the curriculum and Tom says he thinks British TV is strong at the moment with the likes of Sherlock and Dr Who and especially documentaries.
But he also says an in-depth look at programmes such as Big Brother can highlight subtleties that many of us miss.
“I think people too often take reality TV it at face value but there are some really clever manipulations used and decisions made during the production process.”
Maybe these shows aren’t that bad after all.
However, dumbed-down is not an accusation you could level at the Luma Festival, which promises an afternoon of intelligent and articulate entertainment.
“There will be a great variety of films, some funny, some sad and some exciting,” says Tom.
“I can’t wait to see mine on the big screen; to see it really come to life. But it will also be a nerve wracking experience, waiting to see how people react to it.”
• The Luma Film Festival takes place tomorrow from 2pm to 6pm at the University of York’s Department of Theatre, Film and Television at Heslington East. Open to all, admission is free on a first-come-first-served basis by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
• The Department of Theatre, Film and Television is one of four major academic buildings in the first phase of the University of York’s £750 million campus extension at Heslington East.
It is one of the biggest capital developments in UK higher education in recent years and part of a major infrastructure project led by Science City York to extend the assets and strategic potential of York as a leading centre for science and innovation.