– . – Mike Newell Discusses Virgin Media Shorts
Mike Newell Discusses Virgin Media Shorts
From his early days working in television shows to his breakthrough feature Four Weddings and a Funeral, Mike Newell has become one of Britain’s best-known directors.With a diverse career spanning more than 40 years he was a natural choice to be on the panel of judges for this year’s Virgin Media Shorts competition. “When Virgin Media asked me, they were clearly, and immediately, immensely generous with their time and money. It was clear that [they] were doing something that was genuinely selfless and generous as soon as I read what they were sending me, and when I saw how they were organised, and how seriously they were taking it. They had hundreds upon hundreds of entries and I got to see 12 films.
“A lot of what it is, is a nose for what works,” continues Newell, when asked about how he judged the entries. “What actually works, what takes your interest, makes you emotionally engaged; all that kind of stuff. Then you bring those questions to these movies that you’re looking at, and say, ‘The acting is really good, the script is really good in that; the soundtrack is really sophisticated in that one’. But first off, what has to happen is the thing has to grab you and tweak your interest.”
Apart from the prize of £30,000 towards the winner’s next film, all the final 12 films were given public screenings in cinemas, on TV and other digital platforms. “The idea Virgin Media have had is that this stuff gets to be seen by people,” enthuses Newell. “It’s not just a cheque; the makers really get an audience. I think it is a wonderful, generous, imaginative way of giving people a way of taking their first step.” And this is why he feels this initiative is essential for new filmmakers. “It’s a hugely important thing because you are being taken seriously, you’re being looked at and listened to. You’re not being patted on the head and being told to apply to the National Film School in 15 years’ time. You’re being taken seriously, now.”
Mike Newell was a judge in this year’s Virgin Media Shorts competition. To see the 12 finalists’ films, and find out the winner, visit www.virginmediashorts.co.uk
(This interview forms part of a feature on Film Festivals in the upcoming movieScope issue 19, available soon!)