Oxford Film Network: Open Screen

Una O’Sullivan is drawn to Oxford’s filmmaking community at a Cowley short film ‘open mic’ night

Tucked away at the very far end of Cowley, Film Oxford seems far removed from university life. Once a month, a varied group of filmmakers meet for Oxford Open Screen. They show their works in progress and discuss and critique each other’s pieces. The meet-up is filled with a diverse array of characters, and an even more varied range of films, from an informational video about bread which has received more than 200,000 views online, to a highly questionable video of a clown-puppet accompanied by maniacal laughter, to a slick music video featuring a very short man and three adoring women. (Much of the discussion on that last one centred around this height disparity, and which shots could make
the man appear taller.)
One of the highlights of the night was an upcoming documentary about a watercolour artist who commissioned the film to ensure her legacy will not be forgotten. Beautiful shots of her paintings were accompanied by interviews with the artist, and it was fascinating to hear from the documentary-maker about the difficulty of extracting information from this reticent character. It was much more enlightening to see half-finished films than the completed works, and every filmmaker gave an insight into their individual editing processes in the Q&A afterwards.
The group was chaired by Dai Richards, a former director and producer of documentaries such as Iran and the West (2009), Why Intelligence Fails (2004) and the Silver Spire-winning TV documentary, The 50 Years War —Islam and the Arabs (1999). He has spent years creating films for everyone from National Geographic and the BBC, and was nominated for a British Academy Television Award for Best Current Affairs. His advice to the filmmakers was thoughtful and practical, offering a seasoned eye for budding filmmakers, and it seemed everyone who showed their film left with ideas on how to improve their work. Most of the group (fifteen or so people) contributed opinions or encouragement, and the atmosphere was generally positive about the films. Richards told me afterwards that the evening in question had films of an unusually high standard, but he’s always impressed by the works people send in and hopes people continue to contribute in the future as the
event grows.
Advertised as Oxford’s “open mic” film night, Open Screen runs on the second Thursday of every month from 7.30pm-9.30pm at 54 Catherine Street. The evening is free; although they encourage people to bring food and drink to share, and if you email in advance, they will be happy to screen any short film under ten minutes.