A short film by first year Brighton Film School filmmaking students has been officially selected at not one, but four film festivals across the globe.

Film festival submissions are encouraged at the film school, but it’s very uncommon for first year’s to receive official selection as well as semi-finalists. ‘ONUS’ is a story about a man who makes a terrible accidental mistake in his youth, and lives with the guilt for a long time, before finally coming forward to the police to confess what he did.

Brighton Film School caught up with Producer and Director of Photography Luke Martin:

Hoes does it feel seeing your film get festival success?

There is a great sense of pride. I consider it an achievement, considering we were first year students at the time. Onus has currently been selected for four festivals, two of which it was a semi-finalist. The film has been screened at festivals in America also. Knowing that your film, something you have created and that was just an idea at one point, has been shown such a huge distance away is a brilliant feeling.
I submitted the film to quite a few festivals, and I’m still waiting to hear back from a large number, so we shall see if it gets selected for any more. But it feels great! We did not have a big crew (there were five of us), so I think it’s an even bigger achievement considering that!
Special thanks go to fellow students Alan Milton (who did sound) and Suzie Jones, who both drove us up to Stanmer Park. We wouldn’t have been able to make the film without them, and Suzie was not part of our crew but went out of her way to assist, so we are extremely grateful.

How were you inspired?

Tom’s (the director) idea intrigued me, but I was conscious that it would be more suitable if the character was burying his own guilt, and not his ego. People tend to bury their guilt deep down, until sometimes it gets too much and they decide to come clean. I had recently read a tragic story in the news about Ben Needham, a young boy who went missing on the Greek island of Kos in 1991. The news report I read was an update, and mentioned that a Greek woman had come forward to say that her father told her before he died, that he accidentally ran over Ben whilst operating his digger on a building site, and hid the body. I found the story very moving, and felt it fit the kind of tale we were trying to tell. Onus is loosely inspired by that story.

How important is it to you to portray the storyline you chose through the medium of film?

I have always loved narrative storytelling through film. For me, when it is done well, it is the best format to tell stories. We had some ideas in our story that we felt could really be translated in the way we shot it. There is one shot where the main character is standing in front of an ominously shaped tree. On our recces at both locations, I noticed that both had some fantastically weird shaped trees, and discussed with Tom the opportunity to incorporate a weird tree as a visual metaphor. Parts of Onus are very surreal, and we used a shot of our main character standing in front of the tree as a visual representation of the strange and surreal emotions he is feeling.

What did you enjoy the most?

From the get go, I wanted to shoot a film on location. The set at the school is great, but I wanted to shoot something that felt different. It would have been easier to shoot something on set, but we wanted to be ambitious and adventurous. Being on location, when we finally got the cameras rolling, feeling as if we were on a professional shoot, is something I really enjoyed the most. I loved working with the crew, and interacting with the actors. It really is a thrill when you finally get down to the crux of the process, begin filming, and in your mind start seeing your story come together.

What projects are you now involved in?

So far this year, I have written, produced and directed a documentary about a friend of mine who loves playing Texas Hold’em poker. That is almost finished, although I need to do some brief reshoots due to sound issues. Also, I was DoP on a short film written and directed by a fellow student. We are currently in the edit phase of that. Towards the end of the HND year, we are required to work on an Independent Project. I have an idea for a short film, that I need to begin writing the script for, with the intention to shoot in the next few months.

How did Brighton Film School prepare you for this short film?

Tom and I had regular meetings with various tutors, about the script and how and where we were going to shoot it. The script needed some development here and there, and it was good to bounce ideas off our tutors. Our tutor mentioned Stanmer Park to us quite early in the process, as a potential location, and it was a good suggestion. It prompted us to visit Stanmer to get a feel for how viable the location was, and whether it would work aesthetically, which I think it does.

Which piece of film equipment did you enjoy using the most on this short film?

We shot on the Blackmagic Cinema, which I think is a great camera. If you want a ‘film’ look, it works really well as it has a washed out look. For me, it doesn’t work great when you go handheld (unless you use a Steadicam), but it really is a good bit of kit. It was the third time I had used it during the first year, and each time it produced some great shots.