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By midlandsmovies, Mar 16 2020 11:37PM

New short film Exhibit by Isobel Richards released online

Isobel Richards is a film production student from the Midlands whose new short film EXHIBIT has been released online.

EXHIBIT tells the story of Peter who follows friends Dan and Alex into a closed museum after a drunken night out. After becoming trapped, the short film asks whether they can find their way out before it's too late.

The full short can be watched on the YouTube link below:

Check out further news, updates and future films at Izzy’s social media channels:



By midlandsmovies, Jan 22 2020 09:10PM

Midlands Review - Smoking Kills

Directed by Jacob Gates Orgill


Wicket Films

Shot in artistic monochrome, Smoking Kills is a new 5-minute short from Derby-based director Jacob Gates Orgill.

With coffee brewing and the hub-bub of customers, we start the short in a small café as a man frets over an unfinished newspaper crossword.

As another drink is passed to him by a waitress, he continues with his word puzzle but pauses to change a nicotine patch under the sleeve of his shirt.

The stark black and white visuals are a nice touch in Smoking Kills. When money is limited and colour grading a luxury on some local films, a bit of creative thinking can help turn lower budget affairs into a classier production. And this works well here.

The story continues as the man later breaks open some nicotine gum as we see his stress levels go upwards. Is it his cravings? Or the frustration of a particular difficult clue in the newspaper?

Nearby, a group of men chat nonchalantly but one well-coiffed gent with a cigarette tucked behind his ear attracts our protagonist’s eyes. The director here slows down the visuals when the gent heads outside to smoke and the absence of sound focuses the lead’s attention (and our own) on this obsessive act.

And as his friends join him outside for a “toke”, the man back inside at his table begins to sweat and the music swells to heighten the tension as we become fixated on the tiny details of the café: A slowly dripping tap. A bead of sweat. The fun and laughter of the men enjoying their snouts.

One thing to note at this point is that the shots in Smoking Kills are well composed and the filmmaker uses a lot of varied camera angles to keep the small location interesting. Without colour, the excellent use of shot depth definitely helps keep the short visually arresting.

But as the man becomes fixated on these small things, we begin to ask ourselves "will he finally snap"?

Well, you’ll have to watch to find out but Smoking Kills is a terrific film about infatuation and addiction with an added dash of dark humour. Although the subject matter isn’t wholly unique, the excellent use of colour (or lack of), clever film editing and some effective cinematic flourishes all help light up the screen in this very satisfying short.

Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Oct 15 2019 11:32AM

Midlands Review - Shame My Name

Directed by A R Ugas


AR Ugas’ short film Shame My Name is a first part in a series called “Chronicles" and is about a young man and his Albanian girlfriend. It centres on him meeting her father and trying to make a good first impression. The girlfriend initially resists and grows weary of her boyfriend’s repeated requests for him to meet her dad; and we all know how nerve wrecking it is to introduce your partner to your parents.

The opening scene is shot near a window inside a flat. I assume the use of natural light was beneficial for the camera crew, but it read a bit like a student-made short and too basic. Watching it a second time, I could see the girlfriend was standing near the window to keep an eye out for her dad and appears quite bothered that the boyfriend is still hanging around before her dad is due. Their relationship to her father is still secretive even after them being together for a good few years and the boyfriend felt it was time to make himself known to her family.

The atmosphere seemed a little flat, even subtle body language movements such as the girlfriend biting her nails could show a jittery tone without anyone saying a thing. The writing 100% drove the story and that was it. Something visual was needed and I would have enjoyed seeing more of the flat and the potential for different settings. The bedroom is a perfect environment for an intimate and caring scene between two people who love each other. Or maybe show a playful moment in the kitchen with some light-hearted banter. Any interaction with their surroundings is ten times more interesting than a 2D conversation facing each other near a window.

As mentioned before, the script was heavy with detail and in the first five minutes you find out the dad works for a security camera company, he’s Albanian, the couple have been dating for a while and on the surface, and everything seems to be pretty stable.

Before even watching the short, I was expecting a bigger influence of Albanian culture to be present. The title alone is nicely curious as it plays with identity, and considering AR Ugas’s rich life experiences and ability to speak four languages fluently, I was surprised to see a lack of culture identity that the father seems so obsessed with.

The second half focuses on the dad and the boyfriend with their initial meeting set out like an intimidating job interview, with the father asking standard questions like “tell me about yourself". Corey Thompson who plays Michael the boyfriend does an excellent job of performing as an awkward, but sort-of-confident guy as he takes the questions in his stride.

Again, everything is playing out somewhat predictably, so much so that you don’t realise Michael is being lured into a false sense of security. The mood suddenly switches, the camera turns to wide angle for that uneasy feel and it really is a deer in the headlights kind of moment for Michael and us. The immediate transformation to a darker tone is unpredictably wonderful and the story became much more compelling.

Tensions rise and the music is as unsettling as the scene, it is all very intriguing as to what’s going to happen next. What impressed me the most was Thompson’s ability to go from meek and mild boyfriend to knight in shining armour in a matter of seconds. His character went as far as sacrificing himself for the prosperity of his girlfriend and even defending her family’s honour and name. This was a huge jump to switch so quickly and swiftly that it really did take me by surprise, mainly because nothing in the first half of the short indicated that the boyfriend was so loyal and devoted.

There were clues to the dad’s hidden security camera background and a touch upon his Albanian culture, but nothing about Michael being an understanding and courageous man. As far as the audience knew, he was just a young lad trying to make a good impression with his girlfriend’s dad with a slight culture clash.

All of the actors did a great job and I got pulled into the scenes a lot more during the dramatic parts of the short. It was fascinating to see how both Corey Thompson and James Bryhan who plays the father could so easily switch their personalities.

I’m looking forward to seeing more short stories as part of Chronicles as I’m curious to see what links them all. Considering AR Ugas’s own background and interest in many cultures and languages, I’d love to see a bigger impact and influence of this through his films.

Sammy S

Twitter: @IsoElegant

By midlandsmovies, Sep 20 2019 10:55AM

Midlands Review - Death Knock

Directed by Jason Croxall


A man takes a deep breath in a car before exiting his vehicle and bravely walking up to a house in a suburban street at the start of new dark drama Death Knock, from local filmmaker Jason Croxall.

Grabbing his bag he wanders slowly to the door before we cut back to an office where a stern-looking lady (Evadne Fisher) sits behind a desk and says, “I need you to go and do a death knock”.

What’s that? Well, she explains that a family has lost their daughter in a hit and run accident and we discover the man is a journalist who is expected to grab an interview with the grieving family.

The reporter (Ryan J Harvey) tries to offer some resistance, suggesting a phone call would be easier, but the hard-nosed boss insists and indicates she could hire someone who would be willing.

A nice floating camera and cinematic sheen to the image give the film a movie gloss and the awkward situation the protagonist has been drawn into is nicely set up and explained. Whilst at the same time, the film creates mystery from the outset as to what could unfold once the door is eventully opened. If at all.

An inconsolable mother (Cherry Bagnall) answers and we immediately feel a sense of intrusion into this personal space. However, the man convinces her an interview could help her cause in catching the culprit.

Reluctantly agreeing to the suggestion we enter her living room. Here, director Croxall brings attention to the minutiae of the scene. A framed photo of a lost loved-one, a reporter’s notebook and an air of unsaid tension hangs in the air, portrayed excellently by the subtle movements from the actors.

As the conversation progresses, we are steered towards further friction between the two. Increasing the anxiety and stress, a mis-phrased question leads to further clashes at this most difficult of times.

A powerful short, Death Knock has a unique idea and sensitively tackles issues of grief-stricken parents and some of the shady practices of journalists to get a scoop. Leaving us with a sense of ambiguity at the conclusion the short is a successful examination of media morals and individual integrity.

Michael Sales

Watch the full short below:

By midlandsmovies, May 27 2019 06:42PM

Today I Daydreamed That I Killed Tom From Work

Directed by Scott Driver

4am Pictures


Originally produced for the FiveLampsFilms 24-hour Challenge 2019 comes a new short from Midlands filmmaker Scott Driver.

Fresh from his earlier work with drama short Restroom, the challenge itself seems simple - produce a 3-minute film in one day – but there is fierce competition from a host of talented local production crews.

This film’s title however pretty much sums up the content here. We open on a phone ringing and a number of people in what looks like an everyday British office. Colleagues laugh at screens before a female voiceover (Holly Turner as the put-upon Emily) is heard commenting how she dislikes people in her office. But none more so than Tom.

Our protagonist stares in equal parts boredom and anger from her desk before Tom arrives next to her workspace in a ‘perky’ mood trying to alleviate her priorities. Next as she stands rigid at the photocopier we see Tom in the distance, whilst she goes further to explain how she hates how everyone in fact loves him.

Whilst it captures the mundane routine of a regular worker drone, at the same time the film also fulfils a fantasy I’m sure even the calmest of people have dreamt about doing to their boss at one time or another.

Shot well with technical proficiency with a group cast filling an office space, the short unfolds with Tom explaining how company targets have been hit and the team will get a bonus. But as her limits are pushed, Emily gets up from her desk and shockingly smashes her bosses face in with a keyboard - in a scene slightly reminiscent of James McAvoy’s similar act in Wanted (2008).

Not sufficed with knocking her manager out, our lead bludgeons him further as stunned colleagues are splattered with blood.

Darkly comic in tone and with a bit of American Psycho (2000) thrown in for good measure – where office work and ‘dreams’ of killing came together in a similar fashion – the film is a short sharp shock of violence in the workplace.

And with such a brief run time (and short production time of course), it’s difficult for the film to go into much depth so the filmmaker and his team have wisely kept it simple.

So in conclusion, Driver’s ‘Today I Daydreamed That I Killed Tom From Work’ is a well executed (!) effort with a fun, but gory, premise. And it also hits all its marks and clocks off with a surprise ending guaranteed to ensure an even harder day of graft at work tomorrow.

Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, May 9 2019 05:59PM


Directed by Nicole Pott


“Who’s in control now?”

Kaleidoscope is the new 10-minute short from Derbyshire director Nicole Pott showing the preparation of a child’s party by his parents that unwraps a far more sinister side to this suburban family’s life.

We open on a brightly lit day where a child in a dinosaur onesie plays in his room. The camera lightly dances around the boy, Conan, (played by an excellent Harry Tayler) and along with a suitably whimsical piano score brings us into a world of childhood imagination.

As his mum (Cressida Cooper) calls him down to breakfast, he stops playing with his gun and goggles and we see his father (a burley Ian Virgo) arrive with a toweringly big present.

Whilst mother busies herself with phone calls and food preparation, we get scenes of father-son bonding. Conan and his ‘Papa’ pretend to be karate masters before he teaches his son to put on a tie for school and they leave.

Here the film cuts to later in the day with a distinct shift in tone as well. Director Pott subtly moves us from a place of childhood wonder to a darker drama as mother and father begin arguing.

Barbs fly about the father’s drinking habits and Conan moves himself away and retreats into his own world, returning to his steampunk goggles that help him hide from the noisy quarrel downstairs.

However, unbeknownst to the disputing parents, their argument moves into the bedroom he’s hiding in and he witnesses the argument become far more serious.

A verbal assault becomes a physical confrontation between them as their son witnesses the worst of family situations. Musically the audio turns much more melancholic and the film shows some stark realities of domestic violence.

As lonely Conan blows out the candles on his cake, the ending is far darker yet poignant than the frilly beginning. Kaleidoscope therefore leads audiences down surprising yet satisfying narrative paths and the short works tremendously well by contrasting these two extreme elements.

As Conan sees through dark lenses, the film’s kaleidoscopic nature consists of different parts, constantly blurring and fracturing your expectations.

With three strong performances, the actors are very believable during their interactions which move from heart-warming to dark warnings – especially when we get glimpses of a controlling and abusive partner.

Showcasing how domestic violence can be lurking very much beneath the surface of a seemingly fun-loving family, Kaleidoscope exposes a wealth of distorted domestic secrets using a wonderful narrative structure. Skilfully playing with expectations, the short is a great drama showing the unpleasant patterns of cruel perpetrators.

Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Apr 19 2019 08:09AM

Midlands Review - Troubled Waters

Directed & written by Gemma Norton

A tear runs down the cheek of our protagonist Viv in the opening of this award-winning drama from Midlands director Gemma Norton and the audience too will be moved by this fantastic film, Troubled Waters.

Viv is a mother of two – played by Vivienne Bell who won Best Actress at our 2019 Midlands Movies Awards – and her harrowing yet sensitive portrayal of a mum suffering mental health issues is a huge part of the short’s success.

Troubled Waters shows Viv undertaking a variety of household tasks, but she is concerned there’s something wrong with her baby daughter. Her husband Terry (Terry Sweeney) allays her fears but Viv is adamant she is not exaggerating.

With the baby crying, Viv’s stress levels rise and we see her curled up like a foetus on a bed, struggling to cope with the various demands of parenthood. These strong images are beautifully composed by the director and are shot excellently by the film’s cinematographer Richard Staff.

Bell does a great performance of a woman exhausted by motherhood and the story sees her attributing these anxieties ‘onto’ her children. As the strain begins to take its toll on her own health, Viv shouts at the infants before fainting due to the toll its physically taking.

Filmed in a naturalistic way, the stylistic realism and exploration of parental themes – along with Bell’s own slight resemblance to Jessica Chastain – the film has echoes of Terence Malick’s Tree of Life. Like that film, Troubled Waters concerns itself with hugely important aspects of family existence too.

A trip to the swimming baths shows some brief family fun but reveals Viv’s dependency on medication to deal with her worries. And in addition we see her suspiciously spying her partner and children from behind a curtain, suggesting her trauma is far from resolved.

As we come to the film’s conclusion, the disturbing themes come to a climax and extreme exhaustion overcomes Viv keeping the film’s tension high.

Troubled Waters covers a range of post-natal depression (PND) conditions including fatigue, exhaustion, guilt, shame and feelings of hopelessness but director Norton never pushes the envelope so far that we feel that she couldn’t recover from these frustrations. Despite her lack of ability to think through things clearly, Viv is shown bonding with the baby towards the end leaving viewers on a message, albeit a very small one, of hope.

An intense, emotional and thorough exploration of post-natal psychological stress, Troubled Waters is a brilliant film showcasing top talent and excellent high-quality technical aspects. With stunning images, a focused narrative and an affecting premise, the short is unsettling but hugely satisfying as it deals with the risk factors of such an important disorder in a sensitive way.

Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Apr 1 2019 09:17AM

Midlands Review - Cradle

Directed by Joe Facer & Adam Sandy


Dreams of Summer Productions

Cradle is a new film from actors-turned-filmmakers Joe Facer and Mark Wisdom and cinematographer Adam Sandy who were the team behind recent Midlands release God’s Broken Things. (link)

We open on an old spade digging up dirt in the overcast countryside before cutting to a man (Joe Facer) in a bedroom who is looking at a belt on the bedside cabinet. Immediately we are thrown into a world of dark thoughts and quiet contemplation.

Are the man’s thoughts turning to suicide? Well, we discover the man is the same one digging the grave and we begin to contemplate what may have caused his downslide.

Edited in a very slow and measured way the film’s gazing camera focuses on the man’s face as he appears torn by what cannot be an easy decision.

The film uses the natural sounds of the countryside mixed with underlying tonal notes by Mansfield based musician Hamish Dickinson which begins building suspense. Cutting back and forth from the digging to the bedroom the man looks at a child’s drawing of ‘mummy and daddy’ before we’re back grave-side as he scrumples the sheet in his dirty fist.

However, he pauses for a moment in the dirty forest and coughs up blood into his hand. Is the man ill? Dying? Has he lost his family? Perhaps a child? Well, the film leaves a lot of the questions it raises open to interpretation.

Concluding with the man crawling slowly into the makeshift “cradle” we never find out what has caused his spiral of depression and as the camera moves to above his head we get, a little cliched to be fair, a final stare up into the heavens.

The symbolism and subject matter in Cradle is a little on the nose for me but as it’s shot simply and without fuss, the film is also open to a certain amount of audience reading which is a good thing.

Although the content of the film is nothing new in the Midlands film scene, fans of dark experimental drama will enjoy its open questions, vulnerable tone and allegorical influences where a man is pushed to his final resting place in a short meditation on the human condition.

Michael Sales

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