Coming Up Short
No matter how you view 2016, it’s been a pretty decent year for British filmmakers. David Mackenzie, Andrea Arnold and John Michael McDonagh made their American feature debuts, and Gareth Edwards could be the director of the biggest release of 2016. Like most journeys in life, you have to learn to crawl before you can walk.
Andrea Arnold – Wasp
Andrea Arnold began her career in front of the camera before stepping behind it and taking the reigns. At a meaty 26 minutes long, Andrea Arnold’s third short film is about a young mother of four pretending to an ex boyfriend that she’s actually babysitting for fear he’ll reject her and rob her of her chance of her first date in years. The film won an astonishing 22 awards, including one at Sundance as well as an Oscar. Three years later she would make the chilling Red Road that set her on the path as an indie darling with a unique voice in cinema. Her US debut, American Honey, won her the Jury prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Surely an Oscar nomination will ensue.
John Michael McDonagh – The Second Death
Before his brother Martin picked up an oscar for his debut short Six Shooter, in 2006, John Michael made his foray into film as early as 2000 with The Second Death. The ghost story follows an Irish police officer who hears a voice when walking along the road that confirms he is damned. The character stayed with John Michael and developed into Gerry Boyle, the unapologetic and dubious lead character of The Guard, the film that launched McDonagh as a comic marvel. The Guard, to this date, is the most financially successful independent Irish film.
David Mackenzie – California Sunshine
Back in the days of Tartan Shorts, a Scottish funded short film scheme, David Mackenzie was making waves with short films Dirty Diamonds and Wanting and Getting. California Sunshine (1997) won him a BAFTA nomination; the film follows an artist couple heavily in debt to their drug dealers who mistake two missionaries who turn up at their door as debt collectors and slip them something into their tea. Mackenzie made his US debut this year with the excellent western thriller Hell or High Water, starring Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges.
Gareth Edwards – Factory Farmed
If you’re a Sci-Fi fan, you can’t help but feel a tingle of excitement with what Gareth Edwards is capable of. Already making waves at the BBC, he won a BAFTA in 2006 for Visual Effects on the documentary Hiroshima, subsequently directing a TV movie and TV episodes for them. The frustrations of working in oversaturated companies convinced Edward’s to show what he could do by himself; in 2008, he won the London 48 hour sci-fi challenge with Factory Farmed. The striking about this is that it was made in 48 hours, and was written, shot and edited by him alone. Even with today’s technology, it’s hard to imagine many others achieving a similar feat. The win gave Edwards’ the kudos and credibility needed to begin his debut feature, 2010’s Monsters. After giving a resurgence of credibility to the Godzilla franchise, it’ll be interesting to see how Star Wars: Rogue One will fare after perhaps not having the same creative freedom he sought that launched Edwards into the limelight. Regardless, the journey from a 48 hour film challenge to directing what is potentially the biggest release of 2016 is an astonishing journey for a filmmaker.