With Star Wars: The Force Awakens smashing box-office records, it’s clear that this Christmas is all about sci-fi. Inspired by the new movie, London Shorts this week showcases one of the brightest new talents in the genre, BAFTA-nominated director Jamie Stone.
Like JJ Abrams and George Lucas before him, Stone has a knack for creating captivating characters and using remarkable special effects to conceive indelible landscapes that stay in your mind long after the film has ended. Here’s his remarkable student project, in which he conjures up a world inside the head of a child from nothing more than grains of sand:
And below is his follow-up film, Skyborn, which Stone made while studying at London's National Film and Television School. It propelled him to critical acclaim, being nominated for a BIFA award and for Best Foreign Short at the Student Oscars. In the film he imagines what London might look like if we don’t take care of it. He went on to be nominated for a BAFTA award for Orbit Ever After and is now working on a feature scale fantasy sci-fi that you can read more about in our Q&A below.
What was the genesis of skyborn?
“I've always had a bit of a fixation with flying and post-apocalyptic worlds and at first thought I'd do a reimagining of the Icarus and Daedalus myth. Over time, the idea of a father, son and flying machine stuck, but the story morphed away from a myth adaptation into something more bespoke.”
How did you make the film?
“We wanted to keep the world epic but the story intimate. We put a lot of resources into some wonderful sets and SFX, but balanced that by having only two characters in the whole film — played by the wonderful Bob Goody and Perry Millward. Creating the world was a big technical hurdle. We shot in the studio of the NFTS (National Film and Television School), which is about the size of a tennis court. The fog actually came in handy as we only had to create about 8ft of the world at a time. We shot our flying sequences using miniatures; there's something magical about getting everything in camera using basic tactile elements like fishing line, cotton wool and steam.”
How is the relationship at the heart of it significant to you?
“I wanted the story to be about belief. My father is a director too and an enormous inspiration for me. We are so similar in lots of ways but we happen to have different ideas about how the universe began. It's a question that’s paradoxically mind-blowingly huge and also utterly trivial. I was interested in how obsessing over a question like that might shape a father/son relationship. That's where the fog came from — I wanted the characters to live in a world where they were both stumbling and blind to their surroundings — both guessing.”
How does sci-fi help us look at who we are?
“For me, sci-fi, like fantasy, is this wonderful playground for universe-creation. The amazing thing is you can completely tailor the world of your story to your theme. I think telling a story within an unfamiliar or fantastical setting somehow allows you to tell stories that are more universal. Often fantastical genres can be kind of disarming — perhaps you might not expect to be moved by sci-fi. At first glance it seems like you’re watching something foreign or alien, completely outside your experience, and then if you recognise some private part of yourself in one of the characters, it might affect you in some deeper, more universal way than if you were watching a hard-hitting contemporary drama.
What does the future hold?
“I'm about to embark on a feature length fantasy project for Sky One which will air on Christmas Day 2016. I'm not sure how much I'm allowed to say at the moment, but it has both dragons and tanks. You can't go wrong with dragons and tanks.”
Want to be featured? If you have a London-themed short film that you’d like us to consider for this series, send an email with the subject “London Shorts” to Stu Black and Ioanna Karavela via our email: londonshorts@
To see other London Shorts click here.