It took about an hour to get down to Southampton, and when we arrived in the wet city, things were wet. This was because it was raining. A lot. Upon arrival at the venue, we were greeted and given a few nice freebies, which we took as a good omen. After all, we were there to be judged - judged on our film making abilities, after being entered into the competition for our film When Harry Met Svetlana:
After receiving a good reaction (And a little gold statue) from an audience the previous week, we were quietly confident that even if we didn't win an award, we would get a giggle - which, after all, is the reason we made it. It turns out, this was not the case. In fact - much to the confusion of us and the audience - this worked out backwards.
Upon arrival, there was free food, with which we gorged ourselves. A nice man came on and gave us a lecture about how important short films are - a fact that really isn't stated enough nowadays. He had nice facial hair, and we applauded him for it. He sat down. Playing along with the cinematic theme of the night, a man who looked a bit like Jeff Bridges in the first Iron Man came on and told us how many amazing pieces had been submitted (Which was true) and how hard it had been to shortlist them (Which I also guess was true, considering how many crap shortlisted ones and amazing unshortlisted ones there were).
The films began, each about five minutes long, and overall they made me happy - whilst there were the confusingly-bad-coursework submissions which seemed extremely out of place, there was an awful lot of good material, which - what with the film industry being in a bit of a pickle at the moment - certainly gave me hope for a creative future.
And then our film played. Well, I say it was our film.
We were being played in the level 2 category, and the mustard was being thoroughly cut by many of the submissions. We cringed as we came up, but then that cringe turned to confusion - there was something not quite right. In fact, 8/9th of the screen was not shown.
The film was originally shot (by accident) on a macro lens, which made it very hard to get the long shots we wanted. During the filming we were often crammed up against the wall with the camera in order to get everything in-shot. However, when screened, this problem was exacerbated - what we were seeing was an extreme close-up, which, as well as obscuring the subtitles and most of what was happening, obscured the punchline of the film. What we were watching was a confusing experimental film that we didn't make. And whilst they clapped at the end, for the duration, the audience were sat in a confused silence.
To put it lightly, we were pissed.
As Ben put lightly put it, it wasn't about winning, it was about having a fair chance. Visibly angry, we were patted down by the judges who reassured us that they would go backstage and rewatch the film properly. We were consoled, for the moment, and returned to our seats. All of a sudden, we were not having a good time.
In the interval, we were shown the films that were not shortlisted. I say this happened into the interval, but in fact it took the orangutans in the projector booth about ten minutes to make this happen. The vast majority of the films we were shown at this point, were great. 'How are these not shortlisted?' I whispered to Ben. 'This whole competition is being run by monkeys.' Before the awards were given, each film was given compliments by the judges. We were not sitting comfortably, at this point.
'When Harry Met Svetlana. Yes. We really liked this.' We were expecting some sort of explanation, or apology. The audience went silent in utter confusion. An ITV producer perked up:
'It was very avant-garde. I liked your use of close ups.' I took this moment to heckle.
'That was your crap projector!' I shouted. The panel looked up very worriedly, and fanned their hands in the air, reassuringly.
'No, don't say that!' they said, as if I simply had a low self-esteem. Ben looked at me, confused. It got to the awards.
'I know people always say this as a throwaway comment, but these awards were very hard to judge.' I knew this man was speaking the truth now, because the judging of the awards didn't actually seem to make any sense. In short, we were given 2nd AND 3rd place. As we made our way down the stalls to get our picture taken with the envelope, the audience were as silently incredulous as we were. I attempted (and failed, I think) to muster a smile for the camera as I shook the hand of Mr. ITV Producer and resisted the urge to headbutt him.
On our way out (A departure which we took as swiftly as possible) we attempted to summarise what had just happened. We came up with three possibilities:1) The judges had seen our film in full backstage, but pretended for the crowd that what they saw was the real thing.
2) The judges had failed to see our film, felt bad, and awarded us the prize as a sympathy vote.
3) The judges genuinely liked the experimental film that we didn't make.
We wandered to the train station in stitches at the unlikely possibility that we had won an award for a film we didn't make. Tired, we sat in the train station. Munching a packet of crisps, we were still laughing, when Ben stopped me and pointed over my shoulder.
'It's Jeff Bridges again!' he whispered. The man noticed us and came up apologising. I asked him what had happened.
'The judges went to try and find your film, but they couldn't find the full version anywhere.' - this I found funny because it's on YouTube. 'But it didn't matter,' he continued. 'They liked what they saw.'
We were incredulous. Number 3 was right.
In a flurry of apologies, he told us he had told his people to pay our travel costs. Ben, who always turns down offers such as this, rushed to say no but I rushed-faster, being the scrounger that I am, to say thanks. Jeff Bridges said goodbye, and it was at this point that I realised that Ben had come down from Newark, racking up tickets costing £120.
Run down, confused, and unable to complain, we sat on the train. In an unlikely turn of events, we had won an award for a film we didn't make.There's a Woody Allen film, the name of which supplied the only thing that we knew to do:
Take the Money and Run.