'Sick Day' is Our Latest Film of the Month Winner

11 Nov 2021 in Film of the Month

8 mins
'Sick Day' is Our Latest Film of the Month Winner

We are delighted to reveal that the August 2021 winner of our Film of the Month competition is Sick Day, from teenage filmmaker Charlie in Hertfordshire.

Sick Day (engaging for ages 5+) is an inventive modern day silent comedy about a teenager who falls sick on the week of his friend's birthday party.

This was a very cleverly made re-creation of a silent film. A great way to test skills and ability in filmmaking. I was really impressed with the technicality of this.

Film of the Month judge on 'Sick Day'

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

Congratulations! Can you tell us how you got started making films?

Thank you! At an early age I'd made a lot of stop-motion animation films with LEGO® and whatever else I could get my hands on, so that's probably what sparked the interest. But it wasn't until I developed a serious interest in film that I took filmmaking seriously as well. Whilst most of the films I made around the time I was starting out weren't any good, I hope I'm steadily improving!

Sick Day is such an eventful and funny film. How did you come up with the story?

I am a huge fan of silent comedy and wanted to capture its style of meandering plots full of physical humour and slapstick, but I also wanted to incorporate modern pandemic-era themes to combine the old and new. The teenager's illness, the central conflict between the teenager and the mother, and the teenager's attempts to escape were all born out of lockdown. And, given that it was filmed in lockdown, I had to come up with a story that I could film with my family and could take place in just one location: my house!

There's a lot of love for classic silent movies in Sick Day. Which films and actors were your key influences?

The films of Charlie ChaplinHarold LloydRoscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle and Laurel and Hardy all hugely influenced the gags, set-pieces and characters in Sick Day. Even certain ‘talkies' that relied on physical comedy inspired me, like the films of W.C Fields and Jacques Tati. Their characters are simultaneously very clumsy and very indestructible, and were key touchstones for me when creating the central character of the teenager. 

Yet I'd say Buster Keaton was probably the main influence on me. His comedy is intricate and complex, but like the best of silent cinema, has a universal appeal. I think he found the perfect balance between humour and pathos, and I tried to emulate that in Sick Day.

Which silent films do you think are the best introduction for young audiences that have never seen one?

The film I think is the ideal starting point - and one of the first silent films I ever saw - is Buster Keaton's Sherlock Jr. It's technically astonishing, and the stunts are unbelievable even now, so it doesn't feel like you're watching something that's at all dated. It's also a love-letter to cinema, so a must-watch if you love film. 

Another silent comedian who is very accessible to modern viewers is Harold Lloyd, and I would recommend his film Safety Last, where he famously climbs up the side of a ten-storey building. That tense central sequence is so brilliant that people often forget just how good the rest of the film is!

Veering away from comedy, young audiences should definitely watch Carl Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc, which features a very moving performance from one-time actress Renée Falconetti. Every frame of the film communicates such depth and complexity of meaning without dialogue, which is testament to the power of visual storytelling.

In your submission, you mentioned that Sick Day helped you with your visual storytelling skills. How so?

The entire process of making Sick Day - from writing the story, to storyboarding the shots, to acting - was challenging because I could not rely on dialogue to tell the story. This meant I had to use visual language to communicate my ideas and ensure the audience could understand what was going on and know what the characters were feeling. I think this was an extremely beneficial learning experience because the entire medium hinges on visual storytelling. In the best films, it is the images that are telling the story, even when dialogue is used.

How was the experience of making a film with your family?

As I mentioned before, I had to use my family as I shot the film in lockdown and based the narrative around a family dynamic. Luckily, they were very cooperative, and I think they were great! There were a few hiccups, especially towards the end of the shoot when everyone was worn out, but there were lots of perks too. For example, if you realise you need an extra pick-up shot, you can very easily get it, as your family are always nearby. Special thanks to my Mum for doing my make-up as well!

If you got the chance to make Sick Day again what would you do differently?

In general I would plan it more carefully before shooting. For example, I would shoot camera tests, which would save a lot of time fiddling around with lighting and iPhone camera settings during the shoot and would hopefully make the whole process a lot smoother. Had I done this, I would have realised that the lighting was too harsh and that I should have diffused it more.

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

1. Use what you have. All the films I have made - including Sick Day - have been shot on a mobile phone. You don't need fancy equipment, just determination! 

2. Communicate well. If you're working with others, make sure they know what you're trying to do and what you need them to do, and be open to their suggestions. Filmmaking is collaborative, after all.

3. Stop procrastinating and don't let fear that your film won't be good stop you. First films are rarely good. You've just got to keep making them and they'll improve with each one. Get out there and make your film!

Charlie'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 Sick Day then make sure to check out the following films:

  • Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928, U, 66 mins) Engaging for ages 5+
    Silent comedy starring Buster Keaton as the son of a steamboat captain who tries to teach him his trade, without much luck...
  • The Artist (2011, PG, 97 mins) Engaging for ages 7+
    Ingenious and heartfelt homage to silent era cinema, as silent movie star George Valentin must deal with the arrival of the 'talkies'.
  • Bean - The Ultimate Disaster Movie (1997, PG, 90 mins) Engaging for ages 7+
    The calamitous Mr Bean is tasked with transporting a priceless piece of art to America. Classic British humour reminiscent of the silent era.
  • Shaun the Sheep Movie (2015, U, 82 mins) Engaging for ages 5+
    The much-loved farmyard character from Aardman gets a big-screen adventure of his own, where he is forced to head into the big city.

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