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17 October 2019

All the straight 8 Company Shootout winners... ranked.

by Jason Stone

As straight 8 gets ready for the next competition, we decided to look through all the short films that have won gold, silver or bronze at their Companies Shootout events and rank them in order.

For those unaware, straight 8 is a global film competition which began in 1999 and challenges entrants to create a short film using a single cartridge of Super 8 with only in-camera editing. In the shootout version, companies compete for honour and charity.

Ranking the winners is, by its nature, a highly subjective exercise but like the competition itself, our analysis is more about encouraging film-makers who are interested in challenging themselves than any kind of real competitiveness.

19. Meridian - Final Cut

This rumination on self esteem has been flawlessly made, navigates the tricky business of synchronisation successfully, and even uses a special effect to create some visual interest. But it's all a bit too earnest, and it doesn't really hold the attention. It's a film which demonstrates a need to have slightly more ambition than merely to make a Straight 8 film. You've got to bring an idea to the party too.

18. The Chef's Heir - Blonde

In this ambitious but silly comedy telling the tale of a chef who has lost his mojo, the soundtrack is responsible for slightly too much of the heavy lifting - a common occurrence in this fiendishly difficult format. It's all been competently done but ultimately it's unsatisfying, and the comedy doesn't really rise above the level of a CBBC sketch.

17. In Transit - 18 Feet & Rising

This extremely ambitious film demonstrates how much can be achieved despite the limitations of the format. It has slightly too much going on but its heart is in the right place, and it broadly hits its target. It's informative too... educating us about an early refuge for cross-dressing enthusiasts in the US.

16. Bad Timeline - MindsEye

Another hugely ambitious project, Bad Timeline tells the story of a man who was abducted by aliens, and taught to time travel. He achieves this by jumping from one version of the universe to another, taking advantage of the existence of the multiverse. It's one of the few films which attempts to synchronise mouth movements with audio, and thereby demonstrates the pitfalls of this idea.

15. Life is Beautiful - Cine Brazil

This film out of Brazil would probably be much higher up the rankings if it weren't for its fatal flaw… absolutely no sense of motion during sequences where the car is clearly supposed to be on the move. If you can look past this difficulty then you're provided with a chilling warning about the dangers of multitasking behind the wheel.

14. Woman Potion - Moonwalk Films

A lot of the heavy lifting is provided by the voice-over in this amusing examination of what it means to move from girlhood to womanhood. It playfully invokes witchcraft as the protagonist puts together a spell which doesn't go entirely to plan! Then stand-by for the most profanity-ridden ending you could imagine.

13. Lucy - Rock Hound

In this chilling film, a story of marital disaster slowly unfolds through a series of answerphone messages, and footage of the mayhem resulting from dad's brief period in charge. The audience is left to join the dots, and the picture they put together is pretty horrifying.

12. Bless You - Rankin

What would you do if you suddenly discovered that you could make people disappear merely by sneezing? That's the question posed by this intriguing film, and the answer it provides is of course: mischief! As always in morality tales of this nature, the central figure is left with the words 'careful what you wish for' ringing in his head.

11. Répetez S'il-vous-plait - The Producers

In this playful and intriguing film, a man wakes and rushes to the Straight 8 screening where an existential surprise awaits. The attempt to create a sense that this has been filmed in Cannes is laudable but also inadvertently funny, and doesn't detract from the clever payoff.

10. Ghost - Taiyo Kikaku

Because of the risk that any given Straight 8 film will go wrong, it's perhaps unsurprising that there are relatively few animation projects. After all, who would want to spend hours and hours putting something together only to discover that the camera had malfunctioned? Taiyo Kikaku are to be admired then for this splendid example of what can be achieved if you are brave enough to give it a go.

9. Portrait of Shame - Rothco

If there's one quality rarely associated with Straight 8 films it would have to be 'relaxed' but this film from Rothco in Dublin somehow manages a languid telling of a very funny story. You sense that it is true and that makes it all the funnier, even if – as we did – you can guess the payoff before it arrives.

8. Drive Wire - Cab Films

This enigmatic film made in South Africa has a boy improvising toys from the objects he finds in a junkyard. It is a beguiling piece of work with a beautiful soundtrack, and possesses a spirit-lifting sense of joy. It's slightly compromised by a premature ending but not enough to derail it.

7. Beloved - Iris

On first viewing, you can make the mistake of thinking this film is all about its punchline, but there are quite a few other gags to enjoy along the way. It's a perfect demonstration of the value of comedy as there's relatively little sophistication on display here… but that really doesn't matter as long as the jokes land.

6. Electric Eye - Pundersons Gardens

This is a beautifully constructed piece of post-modernism. Advertising companies seem naturally drawn towards making fun of the process they're involved in, but few do it with as much panache as this splendid effort which features an increasingly irate executive producer trying to figure out what his team are up to as they close in on the cinema where the film is being screened.

5. Keynote - Ogilvy X

The gags come thick and fast in this tale of sheer rage as a man faces the end of a precious relationship. The perfunctory nature of the note telling him his relationship is over only serves to amplify his anger, prompting a display of unstoppable petulance. There's a lot of action to capture which increases the chances of something going wrong so it is a technical accomplishment as well up as a comic achievement.

4. I am Justin Waite - Iris Worldwide

In many ways, the greatest challenge faced by those who enter this competition is syncing. Dialogue is more or less impossible. In this film, that difficulty is turned into an asset by turning the challenge on its head and making it a key component of the film itself. Not only is it extremely funny, it means that any mistake will only enhance the idea. Genius.

3. Twelve - Rushes

Not many of the entries into the Straight 8 competitions can have had the emotional impact that this one does. It tells the story of a 12-year-old girl called Daisy who is dealing with serious cancer diagnosis. Her spirited plea for a return to normality is full of good humour but heart-rending nonetheless.

2. Jamella - The Wagon

Comedy actor Jamie Demetriou puts in a brilliant performance in this tale of a man falling apart after a romantic breakup. Desperately trying to maintain an agreed silence with his ex... and failing miserably as he leaves voice message after voice message. The juxtaposition of his slapstick antics and his pathetic pleading makes for a great little film.

1. Teenage Girl Killed - Directors Guild

This darkly comic tale centres on an investigation of a crime where we – the audience – are aware of something that the investigator is not. As he offers his account of events, we get to see what really happened. It's a clever script but the real joy here lies in the execution (if you'll forgive the pun) as most of the film has been shot in one incredibly ambitious sequence. This is the most recent Companies Shootout winner and it demonstrates the enduring potential of this format.

David Reviews is hand-crafted by Lovely Lenzie Ltd, 7 Seven Sisters, Lenzie, Glasgow, G66 3AW. Editor: Jason Stone. Phone: 0141 776 7766. E-mail: jason@davidreviews.com.