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Straight 8 (2004)

TV Movie  -   -  Comedy | Drama  -  4 November 2004 (UK)
6.9
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Ed Sayers and Ben Gregor came up with a novel idea for making films and engaging the film community. They bought a load of old super 8 film cartridges and sent them up to various filmmakers... See full summary »

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Title: Straight 8 (TV Movie 2004)

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James Lewis ...
Yorkshire Rapper
Sylvia St. John ...
Heartbroken Girlfriend
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Ed Sayers and Ben Gregor came up with a novel idea for making films and engaging the film community. They bought a load of old super 8 film cartridges and sent them up to various filmmakers. The challenge to each was to make a 3-minute film without any edits or post-production and not to see that film until it is shown in front of a live audience and on television. Attracting well-known directors and students alike, the project spawned quite a following as well as this short television series, showcasing about 10 of the shorts over two episodes. Written by bob the moo

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4 November 2004 (UK)  »

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A clever but risky idea that, on the basis of some of these films, has really paid off
26 November 2004 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Ed Sayers and Ben Gregor came up with a novel idea for making films and engaging the film community. They bought a load of old super 8 film cartridges and sent them up to various filmmakers. The challenge to each was to make a 3-minute film without any edits or post-production and not to see that film until it is shown in front of a live audience and on television. Attracting well-known directors and students alike, the project spawned quite a following as well as this short television series, showcasing about 10 of the shorts over two episodes.

When I heard about this project, the reverse-snob in me mentally scoffed at it as being a bunch of arty students messing around in front of an old video camera. The limitation of the 8mm cameras mean that the soundtracks are added on CD, pictures are rather grainy and the film doesn't edit well. The idea of making a film in 3 minutes without doing anything other than releasing or pushing the button is an interesting one but I did think that the films done this way could probably be done better in the normal way and in a way I was right – but that is not to say the films are not any good because some are excellent. Those shown in this two part series are only a small number of the many films made as part of this scheme so I cannot contest to the overall quality, but many of these are very good and I'll try to talk about each.

Episode One The Yorkshire Rapper is amusing and looks at a rapper from Yorkshire. The rap song over the top is quite funny even if the visuals are uninspired, producing a funny little film. Steven's Cat was a hilarious use of Microsoft Sam, with the film just focusing on a black cat supposedly sitting in Steven Hawking's wheelchair and talking about the man himself from a unique point of view. Lesson 2 is a very funny educational film about putting your hand up a cow – it drags a little bit at the end but it is funny nonetheless. Meet Me Here is a personal film about the director's grandparents and, as such, risked not connecting with the audience but it was still interesting and poignantly filmed. I've Been Single Too Long was a brilliant one-take film with a single man walking from his room to the garden with beautiful girls everywhere (in his mind). Gateau is boring and obvious – a woman makes a cake. Jour De Jolies is one man drinking a line of Stellas, one after the other; it isn't big but it is slightly funny. Forced Hilarity was my favourite even if a bit of humour ruins the ending. It has people being forced and overly friendly in a comic tale only for the mood to turn very realistic and sobering at the end.

Episode Two With mostly the same bits in-between the short films as was in the first, this film didn't really engage me in the same way as the first one did and it meant I just fast forwarded to each film individually. Heel was a bit strange to the point that I felt a bit left out by it and never really got into it – a bit all over the place and not particularly interesting or funny. Shoot Off sees a cowboy and Indian with fake weapons having a shoot out. The joke is that the cowboy's bullets are invisible so the judge rules he always misses, whereas the Indian carries his straw arrows into the cowboy, scoring every time. This joke may have worked the first time but it doesn't really do anything after that and I quickly lost interest. Second Hand Smoke is a documentary that looks at the tobacco industry that has its executives dressing as tramps to claim back discarded cigarettes to cut production costs – it is simple, funny, straight-faced and doesn't outstay its welcome. Harry is a bit empty and pointless and I didn't care how many model backdrops the plane was dragged across. Diaboleque is technically impressive in that it was shot at night with very basic lighting (looking at it) however the music works well with the strange images and is interesting enough to justify watching. Hooked sees, as the name implies, a girl leaving her messy flat in London and hitting the streets looking for a score, it has a twist but it is a rather lame one and not one that really did much for me. Gutter spoofs the sort of pretentious arty movies that are often on channel 4. Looking at the life of Gunter, an artist trying to 'sublimate the very paradoxical nature of his physicality'; visually it is pretty straight but the narration is very acerbic and appealed to my sense of humour and dislike of pretension. Evol is simple but engaging for the manner of the telling. It is a love story of sort between two people meeting on the street but, as the title suggests, it is sort of told backwards. Well, actually the film is being played backwards but, the way it was shot, the two lead actors look like they are moving forward – it is very clever and, given the Straight 8 rules, must have taken a lot of concentration to get right. I think out of the two shows, Evol and Forced Hilarity were my favourites.

Overall this was an enjoyable two-parter of short films, not all are perfect but the majority presented here are very good for different reasons and only one or two films were quite valueless and uninteresting. Further films can be downloaded from their website but the best way to try them out is to try and find a copy of this series where they have handpicked those that they like the best. I imagine that many of these films are poor as they were all done in one take with no post-production but on the basis of this series I am willing to try out some more of the films if I get the chance to.


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