'Light Hearted' is our latest Film of the Month winner

11 Feb 2022 in Film of the Month

10 mins
'Light Hearted' is our latest Film of the Month winner

We are delighted to reveal that our latest Film of the Month winner is Light Hearted, which was made by teenage filmmaker Dylan, from Sheffield.

Light-Hearted (engaging for ages 11+) follows a young man with cardiomyopathy, a heart defect which means that surprises could kill him, as he longs to live a normal life.

As a Graphic Designer I appreciated the attention to detail, even in typography and colours. It looks like a huge amount of preparation and work went into it. Well done.

Film of the Month judge on 'Light-Hearted'

We got in touch with Dylan to find out more about his film. 

Congratulations on winning Film of the Month! Can you tell us how you got started making films?

Thanks, I've been making short films for four or five years now, starting with minute-long videos on YouTube that I'd make with my friends over a few weeks. This culminated in a 45-minute film that I independently funded, shot, and screened with a group of friends. I started looking at filmmaking a bit more seriously during quarantine and made a short film with the BFI Film Academy called Dissonance, which was then shown at two film festivals. Finally, I had the idea for Light Hearted near the end of lockdown, and decided to try and make it before school started again.

Light Hearted is an incredibly creative film. How did you come up with the idea of incorporating so many different styles and techniques?

I originally loved the idea of incorporating digital animation and stop-motion into a film, and I thought that if it was (diegetically) made by a character in the film, it could make up for poor quality, as I hadn't really made animations in the past. 

Another aspect of the film's aesthetic was that I storyboarded a lot of the shots beforehand, which was very helpful for such a visual film. The pre-production of my films has always been one of my favourite parts, as I'm able to have the most creative freedom and put a lot of thought into each individual shot. 

For example, I have had a drone for a year now and take any opportunity to incorporate drone shots into my work. I thought that the Farbrook drone shot was a good contrast to the rest of the film, which is filmed generally with quite close, personal shots to reflect the claustrophobic life Callum lives, to help put the smallness of his life into perspective.

At the centre of your film is a very serious subject - what inspired you to create a story around Cardiomyopathy?

Well, initially I liked the idea of the main character being stuck in their house and therefore not properly maturing, resulting in the internal monologue that we see throughout the film. I thought a fictional heart condition could explain this, and so stuck the words 'Cardio' (as in relating to the heart) and 'myopathy' (as in a muscular disease) together. I didn't know a lot about heart disease and wanted to make sure I knew quite a bit about them so that I could represent them without being distasteful or misinformative. 

During my research, I found out that Cardiomyopathy was in fact a real type of heart disease, that I hadn't just made up, but I chose to leave the disease described in the film as more vague due to the nature of the film being a comedy.

What message would you like an audience to take from Light Hearted?

Although there is an intended meaning to the film, which I tried to remain consistent with throughout its creation, I wouldn't want to say what it is because upon hearing it audiences would be restricted to only that specific meaning. I really appreciate plots that leave the story vague enough that the audience then has to use their own experiences to interpret the film themselves and will come out with a message that is much more personalized to them. At the end of the day, if I can share emotion with someone that I'd otherwise not have that kind of connection with, I consider it a success no matter how they may interpret that emotion.

In your submission you mentioned that Light Hearted was the first film you've made without time restrictions. Can you tell us about how that benefitted you?

As a director, filming without time constraints was a very freeing experience, especially after the previous film I had made with the BFI had had some pretty strict deadlines to meet, which were often very stressful. 

Deadlines can be hard, especially when in full-time education, so when I can I avoid setting myself them, as long as I can remain focused on what I need to do to further develop the film (whether in pre-production, production, or post-production), I do. 

I also had no idea how long it would take me to make a reasonable animation (both digital and stop motion), so giving myself unlimited time was an easy decision quite early in the process.

Are there any films or filmmakers who influenced Light Hearted?

I was definitely influenced by Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Amelie and a lot of Wes Anderson's work, which I think comes across in the colour palette. Taika Watiti's Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Richard Ayoade's Submarine were inspirations for the dark comedy aspects. Finally, I loosely based the ending on the final sequence of Francois Truffaut's The 400 Blows, but tried to subvert the conclusion of that sequence with the final twist in order to make it my own and also hopefully surprise the audience in the (admittedly somewhat unlikely) instance that they've seen both films.

If you had the chance to make Light Hearted again, what would you do differently?

Generally, I'm very happy with how it came out, but as a director, I can't help spot the flaws. Some of the audio reverb is weird, the image quality could be better, and the pacing is all over the place due to cut sequences. The main thing I've tried to take from it was how important it is to have a second or third opinion throughout the process. It wasn't until showing the film to people that I realized flaws that could've easily been fixed in both pre-production and during production, continuity errors, and things that didn't make sense to anyone except me. As an amateur director, I can struggle to keep the entire story in mind when focused on the technical specifics, but in recognizing this I hope to avoid it for the next films I make!

What tips would you give to a young filmmaker about to make their first short film?

Firstly, be able to switch from a writer/director brain to producer brain at many points throughout the process. It's all about juggling optimistic, creative freedom with constructive realism. Think big, but don't give yourself the impossible task of making a humourless, sci-fi feature film on zero budget and expect it to turn out like 2001: A Space Odyssey. On bigger projects, you may have the privilege to have separate writers, directors, and producers, but for most first-time filmmakers you'll have to be every one of them, and that takes practice. 

Secondly, reach out and network with every single person possible. Connections are one of the very few things in the film industry that are free. Utilise Facebook groups, local schemes, friends-of-friends, and help out on as many projects as possible. As much as the independent film industry tries to avoid nepotism, if you're a producer who's approached by two directors to fund their films and one of them has worked as a gaffer on a project of yours, they'll have an instant advantage.

Finally, as cheesy as it sounds, have fun! It's a difficult industry to start off in, but if you begin as early as possible, use your relative financial freedom in full-time education and spare time to make and watch as many films as you possibly can, apply to BFI Academy courses and mentorship schemes, and get your name out there on both a local and national scale, then you'll definitely be going in the right direction.

Although my experience in making films has been small compared to pretty much any adult in the film industry, I've pushed myself to my mental and physical breaking points for film, and not once have I felt like it was work. I could quite possibly be addicted; there's no other thing I'd rather be doing. In conclusion, as a good rule for life, figure out what you love and then pursue it like mad and you're bound to succeed. Film is most definitely no exception.

Dylan'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 his 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 Light Hearted then make sure to check out the following films:

  • Moonrise Kingdom (2012, 12, 90 mins) Engaging for ages 11+
    Swept up in the excitement of first love, Sam and Suzy decide to run away together in this sweet 1960s-set comedy.
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012, 12, 98 mins) Engaging for ages 11+
    The joys and heartbreaks of growing up are beautifully handled in this captivating coming-of-age story that balances emotion with humour.
  • Eddie the Eagle (2016, PG, 105 mins) Engaging for ages 11+
    The life story of Michael "Eddie" Edwards, Britain's first ski-jumper and his quest for Olympic glory.
  • Scott Pilgrim vs the World (2010, 12, 107 mins) Engaging for ages 11+
    Scott Pilgrim finally meets the girl of his dreams but must fight for her affection in this highly stylised, energetic action comedy.

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