How to win at straight 8
With the places for the Nature edition of straight 8 Shootout going fast, and with teams gearing up to film their masterpieces, we decided to get some top tips from those that have already conquered the notoriously tricky film competition.
If you've ever taken part in straight 8, in any capacity, you'll know it's a brilliantly fun, highly rewarding, but devilishly difficult challenge.
As the Nature edition of the company-focussed straight 8 Shootout competition continues to fill it's 20-team capacity, we decided to speak to some of those who've already taken up the straight 8 mantle and came out on top.
Below is insight from five directors who shot five brilliant straight 8 films, and they give their hints, tips and warnings to those who are about to take the 8mm plunge.
If you would like to enter the straight 8 Shootout Nature edition, there are a handful of places left and you can find out more by clicking here.
Above: Jamella, entered by The Wagon and co-created by Rory Bentley.
How did you approach the challenge conceptually and/or technically, and how did you find an idea?
Rosco 5: We thought it was best to go with a stupid gimmick - keep it simple and go all out on one piece of nonsense! For us it had to have a story, but since you only have two-and-a-half minutes, it helps to be nice and simple.
Ideas that lean into the format or the constraints of the competition feel cleverer than those that are just nice films.
Lou Bogue: For me, the best straight 8 films are those that could only be for straight 8... so, ideas that lean into the format or the constraints of the competition feel cleverer than those that are just nice films.
Chris Read: I think that looking at the technical restrictions as an attractive challenge is really exciting. Almost reverse engineering one's usual creative process and approaching concepting from a new angle can be really refreshing. I'd recommend it to any filmmakers as it stimulates a part of the brain that most other briefs, commercial or otherwise doesn't. That being said, ours was a full team effort and credit should really be shared with everyone at Pundersons Gardens.
How did you handle shooting the straight 8 way?
Rosco 5: We had to be more organised than we ever were! We timed every shot properly with a stopwatch, and made sure our idea was simple enough to easily shoot chronologically.
Lou Bogue: Plan, plan and plan... the format and the rules of the competition are so unforgiving, you need to go over every little detail over and over again.
Plan, plan and plan... you need to go over every little detail over and over again.
Anna Äärelä: With Teenage Girl Killed I didn't even try to make the sound and image be in sync. It seemed like an impossible task, so I decided to have the sound and image be their own separate timelines of the same story. I like it when things feel impossible - that's when you usually find a way you usually wouldn't take. I feel like straight 8 is all about finding those different and unexpected ways to make films.
Rory Bentley: We shot in one location, luckily in a house we could ‘destroy’, and spend ages improving in. Remove as much pressure on yourselves as possible [so you can] have fun. Improv can be your friend. The name ‘Jamella’ came to me as we were shooting. It was a sort of nonsensical word, not really a name, kinda made me think of some strain of grapefruit, but it hit a chord with all of us instantly and sort of fitted in a beautiful way with the silly piece we were making.
Above: I Am Justin Waite, directed by Lou Bogue, Creative Director at iris London.
What did you learn?
Rosco 5: To be precise with what you want with each take, and to make sure to re-focus for each new shot.
Lou Bogue: After you’ve planned, planned and planned, plan some more. We thought we’d thought of everything only to find on the morning of the shoot we couldn’t find the camera’s on button. So, we lost a bit of time not knowing how to turn it on. The time we lost put more pressure on our shoot, plus we had the anxiety of not knowing if we’d used up any frames on the reel trying to turn the camera on.
The short film format does best with simple, absurd ideas.
Chris Read: Don't hand your EP their credit card back and warn them that it 'may be a bit hot'.
Above: Electric Eye, directed by Chris Read through Pundersons Gardens.
Peter Grasse: I credit straight 8 for our good health! We kicked our lockdown lows by making a film, and our little film, Shoseph, is still giving good cheer with recent selections at film festivals in London, New York, Brazil and Berlin. Yet, nothing is as thrilling as watching your straight 8 film for the first time alongside your peers and soon-to-be friends. It's a worldwide community of positive people eager to create”.
Rory Bentley: Firstly, there are no rules… our success was really testament to having an incredibly talented lead, so if you can beg borrow or steal yourself someone funny, do it. The short film format does best with simple, absurd ideas, so read some magical realism or poetry if you’re searching for something.
Above: Shoseph, directed by Andy Kasi Nagashima and produced by Peter Grasse and the team at Mr+Postive Tokyo, won Bronze in The Isolation Edition.
Would you do it again?
Rosco 5: No way! Finish on top, baby.
Lou Bogue: In a heartbeat. straight 8 is an incredible competition that calls for creative thinking from conception right through to the last frame of your film clicking through camera.
straight 8 is an incredible competition that calls for creative thinking from conception right through to the last frame.
What short piece of advice would you give to others taking on straight 8?
Rosco 5: Come up with a simple, original idea, and don’t take it too seriously, ya loser.
Lou Bogue: I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned planning.... but seriously, plan everything.
Rory Bentley: Shoot 35mm photography if you want to practise light metering/exposing film - that helped me a lot. Sound-wise, try and remember the emotions you want to get across at specific points to give whoever is doing the score (blind) a vague idea of what direction to go in. Most importantly, keep it simple and have fun.