University of Salford alumni filmmaker showcases Creative England-funded film

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UNIVERSITY of Salford alumni and filmmaker Mat Johns has showcased his latest short film, A Father’s Day, at the KinoFilm Festival in Manchester.

The zombie-genre short, funded by a partnership with Creative England, shows the emotional connection between a father and his daughter when they are reunited as members of the undead.

Image credit: @AFathersDay

Mr Johns had wanted to create something different with his work, and the short film features no dialogue between the actors. Instead, his team studied the familial behaviour of primates and replicated that in the film.

Mr Johns said: “The idea was to create a film that was more accessible to non-genre fans.

“Zombie films are done all the time, so we picked something that was more relatable. We want to take a universal concept about a father/daughter relationship and place it in a genre narrative.

Our hope is to make a film that breaks down genre barriers and appeals to a wide audience.”

Creating the film wasn’t easy, though.

The initial script for A Father’s Day was written in 2011, according to Mr Johns, but it required funding and so took another three years before it was ever shown to anyone.

Mr Johns explained: “Zombie genre films are usually let down by their makeup and location, so we knew we needed a budget to make this film.”

As part of the production of A Father’s Day, Mr Johns and his crew required a budget of £7,000 – funded through a split of a £5,000 award by Creative England and a further crowd-funded £2000.

Mr Johns’s vision from the outset of the project was to “make a micro-budget independent short film that feels like a big-budget studio blockbuster”.

The team successfully managed to raise £8,080, allowing the film’s vision to be made to a much higher visual standard. Mr Johns spent £500 on the lead actor’s prosthetic alone.

Lead Special Effects Make-Up Artist Shaune Harrison – who had previously worked on the Harry Potter films, World War Z and Avengers 2 – explained: “Generic prosthetics can be used, but if we want our zombies to compete with the best it’s essential to use bespoke prosthetics.”

Mr Johns also spoke of the importance of funding programmes like Creative England’s iShorts were in getting short films produced – a part of the film industry that he felt often goes underfunded.

He explained: “I feel short film screenings are really important, culturally speaking. There are unique voices in the world of film-making in the UK, and short films offer audiences stories that might not necessarily be available in the multiplexes and on TV. The ability to nurture these voices and encourage peer to peer and audience contact is essential.

He went on to explain: “I look at short films like songs. A song can be incredibly impactful in only 3 or 4 minutes. Shorts can do the same. Feature films are more like albums; more movements and emotional beats over a longer period.

“Short film isn’t embraced in the mainstream industry in the UK as it is on the continent; shorts are seen mostly as a stepping stone toward feature films.”

A Father’s Day was being screened as part of Creative England’s presentation at the Kinofilm Festival, being held at venues across Manchester – this particular screening at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation.

For Creative England seeing these films being produced, and then shown in the cities that they were made in and that their creators call home, is a major part of the process.

Creative England administrator Philippa Day explained: “It’s great to see these films up on the big screen.”

“We have a lot of local films and filmmakers here too, so it’s brilliant to see these films here where they’re filmed and made.”

A Father’s Day has been critically-acclaimed and has featured at 90 film festivals, including five BAFTA eligible festivals as well as numerous top tier horror festivals.

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