Aspiring actors, writers and directors at Oxford are typically drawn to the ‘thesp’ scene in all its glamour; from tense dress runs at the Burton Taylor to well-dressed launch parties at Baby Love, drama has a very well-established place in student life. Student film-making does not enjoy such an eminent status: every college community has its ‘thesps’, its ‘rugby lads’ and its ‘hacks’ but very rarely do you see a corner of the dining hall being occupied by ‘filmos’ sharing the latest gossip from the ‘film scene’ over their cold peas and beige meat.
However, student film has carved out a distinctive niche for itself here. The Oxford University Film Foundation (OUFF) was founded in 1981, almost a century later than the Oxford University Dramatic Society (OUDS), by Rick Stevenson and Michael Hoffmann, who went on to become successful directors; Michael Hoffmann’s latest film The Last Station starring Helen Mirren garnered two Oscar nominations in 2010. OUFF’s first feature film, Privileged, directed by Hoffmann, starred Hugh Grant and Imogen Stubbs and from then on, a high quality feature-length film was produced each year until 1995.
The Oxford University Film Foundation has recently been revived and ambitiously aims to recreate the ‘Golden Age’ of Oxford student film-making. Whilst OUFF does not make one official annual feature film, it encourages its members to make their own shorts by providing workshops, equipment and general guidance. This term sees the return of ‘Film Cuppers’, a competition which requires students to grapple with technical equipment, to slot filming into daylight hours between essay crises and to remember not to look into the camera whilst saying their lines.
Thankfully, the brave student film-makers of Oxford turn out some impressively high quality material and the cream of the crop will be aired and judged on Thursday of 6th week at the Film Cuppers Screening and Awards Ceremony (previously known as the ‘OUFF-scars’, now nick-named the ‘Ox-scars’). Last year’s nominees and winners can be found on www.vimeo.com. This all forms part of the Oxford Film Festival which promises to be ‘bigger and better’ than before thanks to a collaboration with Oxford Brookes and kicks off on Monday (21st Feb) with a 3 Hour Film Challenge and continues throughout 6th week. Nigel Cole (director of Made in Dagenham and Calendar Girls) and Tanya Seghatchien (producer of the first four Harry Potter films) are among the high-profile speakers coming to share their experiences of the film industry. And remember, ‘filmos’ can go to Baby Love too.