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Brit Takes: How a First-Time Filmmaker Became the Buzz of the London Film Scene

Brit Takes: How a First-Time Filmmaker Became the Buzz of the London Film Scene

[Editor’s Note: This article is presented in partnership with Shinola
in support of Brit Takes, our monthly dispatch on the UK film scene. As
makers of modern watches, bicycles, leather goods, and journals,
Shinola stands for skill at scale, the preservation of craft and the
beauty of industry.  Learn more about Shinola handcrafted goods.]

This summer, 350 people packed into the modest-sized Genesis Cinema in White Chapel, London to watch a short film from a young director. It was an unusually large crowd for such a project, but it didn’t come out of nowhere.

A year away from graduation, Ivory Coast-born Koby Adom — a student at the London Film School — has big dreams of taking the London film industry by the storm. So far, festival programmers have said that the director has potential, mainly because his short has such a meaty hook: In just 15 minutes, “Closure” offers a glimpse
into the satisfaction — or lack thereof — offered by revenge.  (Watch the trailer above.) The film explores the uncomfortable angst that a
set of sisters experience towards their abusive foster parent as he lays on his
deathbed.

But there’s more to the project than a catchy premise. The film showcases faces that are familiar to British television
audiences, including Adelayo Adedayo (Channel 4’s “Skins,” ITV’s “Law and Order: UK” and BBC3’s (“Some Girls”) and Eliza Bennett
(“Peep Show”). On top of that, Adom’s name is
spreading throughout the student film world for its crowdsourcing; in only a
few weeks, it raised £6,000 online. “Closure” is a true exemplar of how student
filmmakers can maintain their vision while working under multiple financial and
logistical constraints.

It helps, of course, if you can afford the time to make a movie in the first place. One major distinction between U.S. and UK film schools — and the industries themselves — is the discrepancy between costs. British native and film producer Kate Wilson, who has worked with Jodie Foster’s Egg Pictures and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Ghoulardi Film Company, said that graduates of UK institutions like the National Film and Television School or London Film School have it much easier simply because it’s cheaper than earning a master’s degree from, say, NYU’s Tisch School of Arts or USC’s School of Cinematic Arts.  USC costs as much as $85,000, whereas NFTS students pay just £18,000 (roughly $27,550).

Although all of these film schools offer scholarships, in general, UK film students are saving a lot more money. This makes a huge difference when it comes to how students spend their precious time in film school: They either have the funds to turn their ideas into films or they hustle to make ends meet. That was a big concern for Wilson when she was Head of Development for the London Film School. “It may be a couple of years before students really find their
place, get a dream role or just get a break,” she told Indiewire.

According to Wilson, students of NFTS graduate with graduate degrees in directing, screenwriting or producing tend to leave with more money in their bank accounts — mainly because British and EU Nationals are entitled to tuition fees at the home rate. Also qualifying: EEA and Swiss Nationals, children of Turkish workers, and students with refugee status or with leave to remain.

It also helps that the UK film scene offers more welcoming institutional support beyond the film school arena. “Students leave film school in the UK having top contacts from BAFTA and the BFI, both major institutions with stability stronger than many Hollywood studios,” said Wilson. “You could say that the UK film industry is dominated by creatives, while Hollywood is owned by suits. There should be a middle ground where quality content can thrive with financial help, but right now that can be a rare thing.”
 
Wilson did note one major shortfall of the UK film industry in comparison to the United States: the small scale of its infrastructure. Because it doesn’t have the caliber of studios that Hollywood has, the UK has been pushed into focusing on post-production talents. “The UK is largely deemed the film industry with the best staff for editing and visual effects,” said Wilson.

But directors find their own way. Adom wound up in the UK film scene almost by accident.

“Truth be told, I found out about LFS by typing ‘Film Schools in London’ into Google,” he said. In 2012, he took a cinematography workshop in Van Nuys, CA, where he learned more about the widespread respect for the British film industry, specifically with its connection to the theater, opera and performance arts. It offered a more global and full-scale respect of the arts for Adom and meant that there could be a greater opportunity for him to carve out a name for himself. A couple of years later, he applied. 

Adom said he hoped the momentum his short has already gathered will help it play at other festivals — but doesn’t want the high profile cast to be the only selling point. “The names attached to this short have given
it attention, so I’m very grateful for that,” he said, “but I’m also hustling [for the film], with friends, who are my PR social media team, and looking for word of mouth.”

The filmmaker doesn’t take his position for granted. “I wouldn’t have been accepted at LFS if I wasn’t interesting because I’m from Ghana,” he claimed, noting the mounting pressure for diversity dominating UK culture in general. “I think it’s
going towards the right direction in terms of having a level playing field, but
it’s still not there yet,” he added, expressing a desire to work in the United States.

Before that happens, however, the filmmaker hopes to have another project in the can. He has already written his next short film, “Cut Off My Right Hand,” which analyzes gender stereotypes and mental
health conditions. And then? Hopefully a feature-length production. He brushed off allegations that the UK film scene was a hard one to permeate. “It’s a blessing to wake up with purpose,” he said. “It’s amazing to me that I’m actually doing something I believe in. That’s a total godsend.” 

READ MORE: How ‘A Field In England’ and ‘Philomena’ Represent Two Tendencies In British Cinema

This article is presented in partnership with Shinola in support of
Brit Takes, our monthly dispatch on the UK film scene. Detroit based
design brand Shinola was conceived with the belief that products should
be made by hand and built to last. As makers of modern watches,
bicycles, leather goods, and journals, Shinola stands for skill at
scale, the preservation of craft and the beauty of industry. Learn more
about Shinola handcrafted goods.

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