Brighton Film School first year filmmaking students have won Best Short Drama at UK CineFest and officially selected at two other international film festivals

The short film ‘Papilio’, written and directed by Vonnie Larsson, has received recognition from a number of prestigious festivals across the country. Produced by first year filmmaking students in 2017, Papilio is about two sisters who play a game of word-charade and as the game progresses the younger sister experiences disturbing flashbacks.

In addition to winning Best Short Drama at UK CineFest, the short film was officially selected at the Little Wing Film Festival 2017 and Manchester International Short Film and Animation Festival 2017, an amazing achievement for the film crew who had only been filming together for less than a year.

Watch Papilio

Brighton Film School caught up with writer/director Vonnie Larsson about Papilio:

How were you inspired to create the narrative?

I came up with the basis of the idea during our very first pitch for micro-shorts and developed the idea from there. I took inspiration from origami and origami art when deciding on the backdrop because there’s something very serene about the art of it. The core story arch was inspired by the idea of mental illness and how butterflies are a common theme for the mark often tattooed in support of mental health. I thought of my protagonist as someone who was trapped in a cocoon but has the ability to be a butterfly.

How important is it to portray the issues raised in this short through the medium of film?

I think it’s very important to raise social issues in film overall. My story touches on mental illness and the rape-culture that leaves victims to fend for themselves and “heal” while a perpetrator goes free. It was a conscious decision to focus on the protagonist’s story and shut out the perpetrator visually.

What was the biggest challenge on this short film?

Finding a location was very hard because we needed three locations in one. We did not have time for a location move. We also had quite a detailed set design created around the idea of an origami paper world. It took a lot of time to set it up both before and during the actual shoot.

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

I think the school prepared me very well. Because the course is set up with practical classes before where we learn the equipment and work on various practical exercises, we all felt well prepared on our shoot. We’d also done micro shorts the semester before. I had my teachers Gina and Kate work with me on the script before I pitched it. During post production, our teacher Will, set up time for us to figure out what the story was about and what language we wanted to use. He had a separate discussion about shot composition and choices with me as the director which I found very helpful.

What did you enjoy the most?

I love working with actors and really getting into the heads of characters. I loved the opportunity to have our actors Vera Olin and Emily Prudence in for a workshop where we really delved into the meaning of siblings, support and the backstory of the characters. I also loved the shoot, my production team was absolutely outstanding and it really felt like a group effort. I have since worked with most of them on other productions both in and outside of school because of how well we did.

What would you change?

I would have given our set designer more time for the set. She really had to rush to get the backdrop done and we hadn’t anticipated that it would take a lot more budget than it did. It looked amazing regardless, but I do feel like they had to scramble. I particularly learned to cut my shots from Papilio, I was so worried about coverage that I did the same scene about 10 different ways. Today I would’ve made a more carefully planned shot list.

What projects are you now involved in?

During my second year I did a short documentary called ‘Gloss’. I was also the 1st AD of our great short film of the year ‘One Night Stand’ directed by Kerry Chambers. For my Independent Professional Project I shot a narrative short called Afternoon Tea with a skeleton crew of 3 people (Jess Wood and Kieran Smith) and I was able to do cinematography and editing for Kieran Smith’s social realism short film called ‘They used to call me Blondie’. Outside of school, I’ve been lucky enough to be quite busy, over Christmas Gary, Brighton Film School’s Creative Director, let us use the studio to shoot the first part of a short film called ‘Snapshot’ that I’ve co-written and directed. Finally, I’m working as a script reader for a talented Director called Alex Kalymnios where I’ve learned so much about script reading. This summer I’m shooting two short films one which I’ve written and the other I’ve been asked to Direct.