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By midlandsmovies, Mar 24 2020 12:29PM


Directed by Maddie Barnes


Filmed in Skegness, Sand is a new drama from local filmmaker Maddie Barnes that focuses on two boys who struggle with who they are and the complications that subsequently arise.

We open on waves rolling towards land before cutting to our two friends, Jamie (Joel Fossard-Jones) and Curtis (Johnny Gutteridge) basking in the sun on a sandy beach.

Director and writer Maddie Barnes has filmed her short in stark black and white giving the film a classical touch yet many scenes are captured in a handheld style ensuring a contemporary feel for the issues it covers.

The young men enjoy themselves frolicking in the sea before coming together in a loving embrace and the film's cinematography looks great as a whole. It sounds good too with a quaint guitar score adding to the air of summer romance. The narrative is slight but the dreamy images have evocative connotations of summer love and a “day in the life” feel.

The two enjoy their time at a local seaside arcade and share professions of love but their situation gets much more complicated with the arrival of Lindsey (Alexandra Stapleton). The two males then discuss the difficulties of first-time love, how they feel and how others may see them.

The dialogue is a little on those nose (“why can’t I just be normal”) but overall its good intentions and subtle performances pull it over the line.

In conclusion then, unlike the ongoing sands of time, the short focuses on a particular moment in time that we can all relate to – the complexities of young love. Tackling issue of young people dealing with sexuality, love and how they are viewed it takes an honourable look at modern adolescence.

Sand therefore ends up being fun and emotional and although a little cliched at times, is as honest as the characters’ emotions it ultimately portrays.

Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Nov 27 2017 08:23PM


In a new 3-part series Midlands Movies will be showcasing a selection of films and filmmakers from the region who have been involved in the national Random Acts programme.

Random Acts is a collaboration between Arts Council England and Channel 4. The short films (from just 90 seconds to 3 minutes long) have been described as ‘bold expressions of creativity’ with each one being individually engaging, experimental and quirky.

For the last 3 years, local organisation Rural Media (click here) has been working with young artists and filmmakers right across the Midlands to create ‘First Acts’. And Midlands Movies will be focusing on a selection of these fantastic films created by local artists right here on the site.

This Movement is Silent (Birmingham)

This spoken word film is from Paul Stringer who has made a film covering the journey of an open mic performer from chair to stage through a crowded, passionate and engaged poetry audience. This is edited alongside a journey throughout Birmingham, past its great landmarks in a bid to show that the local poetry scene is not only the people performing the poetry, but the whole collective community as a whole. Watch his film below:

Re-Code (Birmingham)

Made by Sipho Dube, Re-Code is a dance film exploring themes of dyslexia and empowerment. Sipho is a spoken word artist and dancer and as someone who has both dyslexia and with a profound stutter, Sipho has overcome issues through the use of spoken word. Watch this thought-provoking film below:

One Rogue Santa (Kidderminster)

Another spoken word film, Steven Williams’ short is an account of a troubled home life that led to various stints in and out prison. Through stylised silhouetted sequences, Steve’s story explores the complexities of growing up without a support network and having to deal with the choices we make. Now aged 24, Steven has been homeless from the age of 18 and has been in out of prison 4 times. Yet now with two children he’s looking to become a better role model and is working towards becoming a social worker to help other young people avoid making the same mistakes. Watch Steven’s video here:

Meet Cute (Northamptonshire)

Chris Cosentino has created an animation/live-action crossover comedy where a conspiracy nut shares a "meet cute" with a nice girl but discovers he's actually a fictional character in a short film. View the short here:

Dirty Re-Birth (Derbyshire)

Joey Mottershead explores the part of the human condition where we are required to perpetually reinvent ourselves, to grow and evolve to new forms. “The reality is these moments happen in the darkest of places, where directions have no meaning and internal struggles amount to the psyche being ripped apart”. Joey is a live interdisciplinary performance artist based by in the East Midlands whose work explores gender politics, the human condition and the empowerment of the self. “I take inspiration from the beautiful aspects of the grotesque”, says Joey, “finding light in the shadows and portraying the particular strain of glory only found within sadness”. Watch the film here:

By midlandsmovies, Jan 9 2017 02:05PM

Midlands Spotlight – Filmmaker Jess O Brien launches Kickstarter for Girl A

A sombre new film project has been launched by talented young Leicester filmmaker Jess O’ Brien which tackles the tough subject of domestic violence.

Jess' new film ‘Girl A’ hopes to show how domestic violence in the home can cause young people to also be violent or become a bully themselves. A passion project from the start, Jess plans to tell a story that reveals the reasons behind certain behaviours that can be sometimes seen in young people themselves.

Jess O'Brien made her screen debut in the short PQA film 'Urban Legends' in 2013 before starring in 'Flawless' a short film by filmmaker Keith Allott that has been screened across the world at twenty four film festivals Now aged 15, Jess has also staged two red carpet premieres and been named Into Film's 'One to Watch' 2016 amongst many other accolades.

But in 2017, not only is Jess planning to shoot an engaging piece of film fiction, she is aiming to help other young people who may be going through what the lead character of the film experiences too.

With the Kickstarter campaign in full swing, the film has already surpassed its £700 goal with 22 days still left to go but Jess and her team are encouraging more backers to contribute to make this film even more special.

With donations going to classifying the film with the British Board of Film Classification and a red carpet premiere as well as a digital cinema package, Jess hope that the support given can not only assist in getting the film made, but increase awareness of the issues raised.

Using some of the donations to enter the film into film festivals will also highlight the sensitive subject matter and reach audiences to whom the message has the most impact as well.

Currently in post-production, ‘Girl A’ has some audio recording to be finalised along with the film’s score which Jess and her team are confident will be completed well in advance of the film's premiere.

To find out more information about the film and to donate to the fundraising campaign click on the link below. You will also find a short film containing some behind the scenes footage and words from Jess herself about the project:.


By midlandsmovies, Mar 11 2016 10:46AM

Midlands Spotlight - Leicester Filmmaker Receives National ‘INTO FILM’ Award

Young and very talented filmmaker Jess O’Brien who Midlands Movies has previously showcased here (click here) has been named as one of national film organisation Into Film’s ‘Ones to Watch 2016’ for her excellence in film production. Read more about this amazing feat below.

At just 14 years old, Jess O’Brien is already making waves in the region with her work at the Pauline Quirke Academy leading to her making her film ‘Coping’. Written, acted and directed when she was thirteen, the film features three of her friends Yasmin Allen, April Hancox and David Knight and looks at how a young girl recovers from the death of her two best friends.

Given to only three young filmmakers in the country, the awards have been created by Into Film which is an organisation established by leading film education charities. The First Light and FILMCLUB organisations help to inspire young people aged 5-19 across the UK to learn through and about film.

As part of the honour Jess will be invited to a special careers session at BAFTA led by their Director of Learning, Tim Hunter after which she will be accepting her award and delivering an acceptance speech to the full house at the Odeon Cinema in Leicester Square before the day of celebrations is concluded with an after party at Planet Hollywood.

Upon receiving the news Jess said “I was speechless when I heard. A few years ago if someone had told me I would be going to meet BAFTA executives and accept an award for filmmaking I would never have believed them!”

After completing ‘Coping’ Jess showed great initiative by organising a premiere screening at the Phoenix Cinema, attended by 100 guests. ‘Coping’ has also been selected for five film festivals including the Olympia Film Festival in Greece and the Adelaide Kids Film Festival in Australia.

Jess was nominated by her film teacher at PQA and filmmaker at Badshoes Film, Keith Allott who said, “Jess is an exceptional talent in all areas of film. She is a gifted filmmaker and actor and combines that with great determination and a desire to learn. She is currently discovering film editing and showing a real flare for that too. This is a thoroughly well-deserved award for a bright talent.”

Jess has just completed production on her latest film ‘Hinterland’ featuring young actors Jacq Ardron and Tyler Dunnan and will be organising another screening in Leicester later this year,

“This film looks at the consequences of people’s decisions and how we take responsibility for them”, says Jess.

With two exciting and successful projects already under her belt we predict even further accolades will be coming to this bright regional filmmaker very soon indeed.

You can view ‘Coping’ online below:

By midlandsmovies, Dec 10 2014 01:16PM

The Maze Runner (2014) Dir. Wes Ball

Young Adult Fiction is really not my bag. With a big shrug to all things Hunger Games (the first film was a so-so rehash of Battle Royale/The Running Man) and the like, I came at this with an attitude of “so, impress me”. And (in the main) impress me it did. Maybe it was the switch to a contained arena with little backstory which gave the film a more Lord of the Flies literary vibe that helped.

However, we join an unknown boy (Thomas) who is thrust into a self-sustaining prison eco-system called The Glade which is surrounded on all sides by a huge maze which they regularly “run” when the doors open in an attempt to find a way out. Will Poulter (“We’re the Millers”) plays the chief of the tribe and boys mix menial tasks with night time parties alongside their battles against Grievers – bio-mechanic monsters that stalk the maze itself. With a good amount of intrigue and strong performances by the young cast, I was impressed with the pacing of the story (Thomas is seen as an outcast risk-taker disrupting their paradise), the slow revelations and some genuinely scary encounters in the maze which may frighten younger viewers so take that as a warning.

Although clearly set up with a finale to suggest more instalments (there are more books in the series), it could have easily stood on its own such was the character development and design of the self controlled environment. With a mixture of sci-fi, teen angst and some well edited action, the film is aimed at the young - but adults too will find something interesting amongst the literary lore in this labyrinth.

7.5/10 Midlands Movies Mike

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