Comedian Josie Long and director Doug King recently made two short films: Let's Go Swimming and Romance and Adventure. Rather than just send the films off to festivals or hope people watch on YouTube, the duo decided to tour the films round the country with an added Q&A session and stand-up set from Josie. Of the two dates in London, Hackney is already sold out so you'd better get your online booking fingers ready for 28 November at the Lexi in Kensal Rise.
This isn't your conventional method of film distribution so we rang up Josie Long and asked: what gives? "Well, we didn't want to just rely on festivals and it makes sense for me to tour the films because that's what I do. And I have connections with all these venues because of my stand up. We don't know anyone else who's toured their films like this, but it means we get to hear people laughing at them – it's an incredible thrill!"
And what are the films about? "The main character's kind of a version of myself, going off and thinking she'll have a great life in Glasgow and be friends with bands. It's about being clueless and lonely and not knowing how to sort your life out after a crisis. The second film is the same two characters resisting growing up. They're comedies, silly and quite sad."
572 people chipped in to crowdfund the second film, Romance and Adventure. "Yeah, the first film had no budget. I mean, we paid for equipment but for the second film we wanted to be able to pay the crew and caterers. We [Doug and Josie] made the films out of love and for the first film people enjoyed the fact it was a passion project – and we roped in a load of Doug's friends! We're building up a sort of scene in Glasgow and we wanted to give something back."
We also wanted to know about some of Josie's other projects; first, the comedy club night she runs in Camden, Lost Treasures of the Black Heart (at the Black Heart). It's dedicated to the obscure, the unsung and unknown, and also often quite difficult to find out about in advance. "It's quite deliberately not advertised," Josie laughs. "Because it's about obscurity and the under appreciated I quite like that the club is also a bit obscure. It's pretty experimental, people dress up. At the last gig we played sleeping lions and two people 'slept' through the whole gig! People put things on their bodies and they didn't move, that was their commitment to the game.
"Comics come and give presentations, some people write specific bits for the club. I use it to try out new material. We've also got a podcast but it's about a year behind."
Josie is also a co-founder, with Neil Griffiths, of Arts Emergency, set up in the wake of increased student tuition fees and fears for public funding of arts, humanities and social science teaching at universities. "I don't see education as a financial transaction," she explains. "It can unlock a whole life. For people from non-traditional backgrounds, arts subjects are under threat even though they have value to society. We just wanted to fund a few people to go and study something they really wanted to do."
Now Arts Emergency has an 'alternative old boys' network', where volunteers sign up to mentor a student face-to-face, on the phone or by email, become a network contact, or donate to help pay for training and workshops. It's an interesting way for people who work in, or just love, the arts to give a little back. You could always ask Josie a bit more after the screening in Kensal Rise.
Doug & Josie: The Let's Go Adventure Tour is at the Lexi Cinema in Kensal Rise on 28 November, 9pm, £15 / £7.50. There's actually a date for the next Lost Treasures of the Black Heart and it's 20 January 2014.