Film not to be sniffed at
- Andy Pearson in Clarence Park.
THE long road to success as a filmmaker usually begins with a short feature. director Andy Pearson's Park, which was shot enrtirely in Clarence Park, is less than three minutes long but has had a lasting effect on those who have seen it.
Filming was only completed in February of this year but already Park has been bought by the BBC for a series on short films and leading French channel Canal+ will be showing it this year. The film has also been accepted for a screening by a host of international film festivals and screen legend Robert Redford has seen it.
Andy, who lives in Blandford Road, has long held a dream of being a director of feature films. The 39-year-old gained a grounding as a producer for the BBC, making promotions and trailers for their programmes. Three years ago he left to go freelance and began directing commercials, including the striking and thought-provoking Sony PlayStation ads.
The advertisements brought in finances that funded his first forays into directing his own films. Andy says: "Short films are the entry level for new filmmakers."
Park is Andy's first proper effort at a short film. It was shot over two days in Clarence Park in autumn 2005. Andy describes it as a "surreal comedy" which pokes fun at entrenched British insularity.
He says: "I used to walk through the park every day from my home to reach the City train station to go to work in London. I noticed how reserved people were. It was only the people walking their dogs who interacted as if the dogs gave them an excuse to communicate.
"So my film is full of people in the park behaving like dogs. It is not immediately obvious but it becomes apparent that that is what is happening."
Andy is very appreciative of the "very generous " District Council who gave permission for him to film in the park. Still, there were a few observers in the park who were a little confused as to what they were seeing.
Andy says: "As I was filming there was an old guy wandering around and asking questions. He wanted to know if the film was about the history of . As he was saying it one of the actors was sniffing another's bottom."
Park, which was filmed on 35mm, seems to have the scent of a hit about it. Andy says: "As soon as I was finished filming I sent pre-rushes off to festivals. BAFTA (The British Academy of Film, Television and the Arts) has a list of international film festivals and I contacted them all."
Most got back to him and they were very impressed. This month the film screens at France's international short film festival Festival Tres Courts, but it has also shown at UK-based festival Brief Encounters, Raindance in the US and The Czech Republic's Karlovy Vary. The last has developed real renown in recent years and this year had Robert Redford as its guest of honour. Andy likes to think the one-time Sundance Kid may have been in the audience while his film was screening.
The festival commendations bring a kudos that will help Andy further his feature film dreams. The financial reward for the BBC and Canal+ commisions are welcome but will do little more than cover the outlay for making Park. As Andy says: "When you make a short film you don't expect to make a profit you're just glad to get some money back."
Andy has little in the way of help from lottery-funded organisations such as Screen East and has had to rely on his own modest residue of funds and the favours of friends. Still, despite offering little more than experience as reward, a casting for Park brought out some quality actors keen to get involved. The chosen cast include Alex Newland, who had a lead role in 2002 British crime caper Baby Juice Express and Aewia who appeared in French director Francois Ozon's acclaimed 2003 thriller Swimming Pool.
Andy also gained the services of a cameraman straight from an Iranian Film School who is "really talented".
After the success of Park, Andy is hard at work on a follow-up, which will again draw from his quirky sense of humour. He describes the film, which he is scripting currently, as "Little Britain crossed with Boys From The Black Stuff".
Andy is currently looking for avenues to get his film screened locally.
12:49pm Thursday 18th May 2006
Actress Caridad Angus in a scene from the film Park.