Sam Burt wins Best Student Film at British International Film Festival
We caught up with Alumni, Filmographer and BFI Award Winner Sam Burt about his recent BFI win and the projects he has been working on since graduating last year! We were interested to hear more detail about the making of Boulder and Pebble, his final year film which was featured in the summer at The Northern Film Festival. You can watch the trailer below.
Read on to find out more details about the film making process, studying at The Northern School of Art and working in the industry so soon after graduation!
Congratulations on your British International Film Festival award for best student film, tell us about the win and the festival (how you found out or applied, the ceremony etc.)
Thank you very much. When I had the final film done I went through film freeway and sent it far and wide to loads of different festivals. This was the first festival that wasn’t screening mid-week, so I was able to attend. I assembled my friends (all of which are featured in the film) and we dispatched in high hopes and in fancy dress (Velma, Willy Wonka, Hugh Heffner and Harry).
Knowing the film was nominated against a couple of other student films, we played with the idea of what the speech should be if we were to win. Should I freestyle? Who should I thank? Should anyone be called out? By the time we arrived we had cultivated a lengthy amalgamation of what the speech would be. We slipped out of fancy dress and into festival attire. When it was announced I’d won, I walked down, collected my award, had my photo taken, then handed a mic. Everyone went quiet. Would I start singing Shania Twain, or begin freestyling, or make the speech we planned in the car on the way there? The pregnant pause of the audience got to me, my speech was a simple… “Thankyou”. Bottled that bit, but good to win.
You won with your film Boulder & Pebble tell us about the film!
Boulder & Pebble was what we shot in the final year of uni. The aim was to create a film that had scale way beyond any student film I’d seen before because I wanted to see what we were capable of. The best shoots were the opening football action scene and the end funeral scene. Though a lot of planning had to be done, finding locations, scene rehearsing, finding extras etc… The benefit to film is if you do it right, you only must do it once.
I loved my time working on it because by trying to go to a different level, the scale and types of problems faced were completely different, and it showed me what was possible. For example, I didn’t think I’d be able to get a football ground, and to be even more picky, I wanted one with floodlights so we could shoot at night because it looked more “dramatic”. We had a rugby club lined up but then they stopped talking to us one day, so I rang and emailed every stadium in about a 20-mile radius, offering to do a club video if they’d let us film there. There were a few Nos, some wanted more money than I could afford but Horden FC said yes. I went there and met with the chairman Chris Cain and gave him the pitch for the film, and then we discussed logistics. On the night 3 volunteers came out, put on teas and coffees and it was great. We also got to work with a professional actor, Graham Saxon. He kindly gave his time and talent bringing a lot of energy and laughs to the set. All in all, it was a very rewarding experience.
Your instagram profile says BFI commended director could you tell us more about this:
The BFI commendation award came from a film called “The Operation” I filmed at the back end of 2018. Back in college I used to enlist my mates in daft shorts and the operation was the one I made as a part of my college course work. It’s a dramatic story about surgeons trying to save a dying patient, the twist being, they’re just playing a game of operation. Cheap shot, but it worked well for me. In the BFI’s moving image awards, I won the “Highly commended” award, my grandma and I went down to London for the weekend in black tie, no one else got the memo though.
Tell us about your job as a videographer for discipline ltd.
In April last year, still studying at uni, I planned to go my own way once finishing uni in may, but I also thought I’d cast the net out to some jobs. I saw Steven Green and Gemma Sharples (My now bosses) were looking at hiring a videographer and media person. I’m from Redcar so I knew of them (Rich house poor house & Double Iron man) so I sent my CV over and made a little video introducing myself. Went through the interview process and got accepted. Steven at the time was training for the Longest Triathlon Guinness World Record (Which he later achieved) and turned up to the interview in his cycling outfit, instantly I knew it wasn’t going to be a typical workplace.
At Discipline there’s 4 arms of the business, there’s a property investment training academy, a business mentorship program, neuro linguistic programming training and a mindset for kids course. On top of all that, Steven is a mindset coach, working with many top athletes, including the British light middleweight champion Josh Kelly. Now Gemma Sharples, my other boss, is training to beat Stevens’ world record in June. So when you’re working for people who live that extreme, it’s a rewarding environment because you’re constantly pushing yourself and raising the bar.
The day to day life could be anything from shooting and editing little adverts to go out online to sitting in Josh Kelly’s locker room right before he goes out to fight. One day I’m doing a photoshoot with Gemma for social media posts, next week we’re off to Leeds to pick up Steven’s new lambo. The biggest task was organising the whole world record event with two weeks to get it done. Steven wanted a stage and a screen. I was in Tesco 10 days before the event asking if I could set up in their car park (they said no). But we found a different area and got it sorted. This time though, we have more time to plan for Gemma’s world record. It’s an equal balance of fun and hard work. Through being here, I’ve created 2 feature length documentaries while working in a marketing team responsible for multi-million pound businesses. Since starting, the last 10 months of being here have transformed me as a person completely.
Let us know about any other projects you have coming up
My next project is with Discipline, I’m not sure if I’m allowed to speak on it publicly yet. All I can say is it takes me back to my roots of stop-motion animation.
What is special about the northern school of art and studying film
There were many advantages of studying film at the northern school of art. I’ll do a little list:
1) The cross collaboration you can do. So down the corridor of the film class, you’ve got production design, upstairs model makers. Acting students and costume students 5 minutes away too. When making Boulder & Pebble, I needed stop-motion puppets, so Hannah Thompson from the model making course sorted the job. Kathryn Fearn made the sports tops look like football kits from costume. Now, after uni when I’ve got all these things on and I need people who can do the things I can’t, I know who to call.
2) The lecturers were always eager to help and assist, even if they were lecturers for other courses. All of them have real industry experience.
3) The film lessons tie in with some of the acting lessons, so if you want to study directing specifically, you get practical workshops rather than theory based learning.
4) Gear cupboard. While at uni you have unlimited access to cameras, lights, mics, green screens etc… so long as you’d filled in the form. At the end of the day, uni is what you make it, but I found the more I poured in, I got twice as much back.