'Lift Off' is February 2021's Film of the Month

25 Mar 2021 in Film of the Month

8 mins
'Lift Off' is February 2021's Film of the Month

We are delighted to announce that February 2021's Film of the Month winner is the astonishing Lift-Off, from filmmaker Max, in Essex. See his winning film above!

Lift-off (engaging for ages 11+) is a moving and creative reflection on growing up, family and grief that follows a young man remembering his connection with his father, who is an astronaut. 

I really loved this film. Such a touching story, made beautifully. It's amazing that this was acted, written and shot by the same person AND made in lockdown - a great achievement!.

Film of the Month Judge on 'Lift-Off'

We got in touch with Max (who previously won Film of the Month in 2020 with the outstanding Short of Perfection) to find out more about his latest winning film.

Congratulations on winning Film of the Month for a second time. How did you get into creating your own?

So I've been making films for around four years now, but only really been doing it seriously for three. I started out doing skits as a joke, thinking I was funny (this was when I thought I could be an actor), and I've never created a film on my own. Films are a collaborative process and even if on some projects I didn't receive any help physically, it's still the incredible support, love and friendship around me that made it possible.

 What inspired you to create Lift-Off?

I wish I could say that I got inspired by going to space, or speaking to an astronaut, but I'm not that cool. Lift-Off was inspired by three things; the developments of space travel, my old NASA toys that I found during lockdown, and a YouTube video. During lockdown I did a daily vlog and one of the episodes was a challenge to create a 15 second short film in one day. Everyone's films were incredible and I realised that I had filmed way too much, and my original cut was 3 minutes long, so I decided to write a monologue to put behind it. And that's how Lift-Off was born.

 The effects in Lift-Off are incredible. How did you create these?

I wish I could take credit for the crazy VFX, but they were made by my good friend Charlie, so I thought I would pass this question over to him: "We used a 3D model of the NASA shuttle, as well as a particle simulation for the smoke trail and some procedurally generated lens flares. It was all composited inside Adobe After Effects. With some colour grading and camera tracking, it all came together nicely to fit into the scene".

You mentioned you had support making Lift-Off. Can you tell bit about who assisted you and what they did?

I mean, where to start? Following on from the previous question, Charlie really made the film come to life in ways I didn't know were possible. Then we obviously have the score, which was created by another friend in Alex. Again, I have no clue whatsoever how he did it, but I can't wait to work with him again.

Then there were the amazing readings from voice actors Oliver and Alex. Being able to work with actors and actresses must be my favourite thing when it comes to directing, and having two future stars be a part of a project was such a pleasure. Also thanks to Joe for watching through the film and making final changes... and for putting up with me! I can be a bit of a nightmare when I have an idea, so having a friend who listens is brilliant.

What were some of your inspiration points for the monologue?

The monologue was something I had wanted to write for a long time. When I wrote it I was getting ready to leave for university, which is obviously a big part of my life and growing up. So of course that had some influence on the words. 

I would say my biggest inspiration for the writing was my sister Abbie. I lost my sister in late 2019 to cancer, but she was and still is my biggest influence to this day. I would say I use my films as a form of expression, even if it's not overtly obvious. It's still a big part of how I like to write, and Lift-Off is an example of this, as my favourite movies are ones that are personal to the creator.

We're so sorry to hear that. Would you like to speak about how Abbie continues to influence you?

Abbie and myself used to make films and videos together. We both loved going to the cinema growing up and she was really into producing theatre at university, so it worked brilliantly. Losing your sister and best friend in one go was hard, but I promised I would keep doing what I love, and I think by doing that it definitely helps. 

I'm sure if Abbie was still here today we would be making films together, but I'm lucky to have had the best 17 and a half years with the most amazing person ever, and I definitely cherish that time that we had together, as we not only had fun but I also learnt a lot from her. 

I love thinking about the brilliant times we did have together, and I like to put that through everything I do. My favourite stories are the ones that are personal to the person who's telling them, and I love incorporating the good memories I have with the best sister anyone could ask for.

 Are there other filmmakers that have influenced your work?

Throughout studying film I have found many filmmakers that have had an influence on my style. Edgar Wright and Ben Wheatley are fantastic examples of British directors that have inspired me, but also the works of Greta Gerwig and Oliva Wilde have been notably instrumental, especially when it comes to delivering a story.

 Do you have any other projects lined up?

I've got a bunch of films and content coming out. Sourdough is about a bread cult formed in a university dorm, and Redwood is about the disappearance of Simon Helsby. Both films will hopefully be screening at festivals this summer. There are also loads of smaller projects, so stay tuned for more upcoming films by an amazing collection of people.

What three tips would you offer to young people about to make their first film?

  • Have a good breakfast. Every good day starts with the most important meal. My personal go to is eggs and potato waffles with sweet chilli sauce. 
  • Be prepared to make a film and make sure the people around you are equally excited. Surrounding yourself with equally enthusiastic filmmakers is the best experience. A good time behind the camera shows in front of it.
  • Be creative and break the rules. The best part of student filmmaking is not having any limitations, budget, investors or people telling you what to do. You can afford to experiment. Even if it doesn't work, you don't have to use it, so allow yourself to be free with how you want to make it, because you can.
  • Pick up a camera. It doesn't matter how good it is or even if it's your phone. Stories don't depend on picture quality, they depend on who tells them, and with a brilliant cast and crew made of friends, classmates or family around you, it's possible to make anything you imagine. 

Max's film will now be showcased to over 300,000 film club members online and all of our Film of the Month films are now on the Into Film YouTube channel, and he has also secured a £100 Amazon voucher to help further develop their future films. Think you could win Film of the Month? Find out more about how you can enter our ongoing Film of the Month competition.

If you've been inspired by Lift-Off then make sure to check out the following films:

  • Gravity (2013, 12, 89 mins) Engaging for ages 11+
    Known for its ground-breaking visuals, this epic story is set in space above the Earth, and follows two astronauts as they try to survive an unprecedented accident.
  • Ad Astra (2017, 12, 94 mins) Engaging for ages 11+
    A stoic astronaut is sent on an expedition to the far reaches of the solar system when his missing father is implicated in a threat to the universe.
  • Lady Bird (2017, 15, 94 mins) Engaging for ages 14+
    A coming-of-age film that focuses the challenging relationship between a 17-year-old girl and her mother in Sacramento, California.
  • Lilting (2014, 15, 86 mins) Engaging for ages 14+
    A gentle British drama that explores grief. After the untimely death of a young man, his lover and mother attempt to grieve together, despite having no common language between them. 

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