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North East film makers' work to be shown at Baltic

A double-handful of short films will be playing on a loop at Baltic for the next three weeks. Sam Wonfor has the details

A scene from the short film Still Life by Ben Jeans Houghton
A scene from the short film Still Life by Ben Jeans Houghton

Back in the spring, Channel Four laid down a shorts challenge to North East film makers. In partnership with Northern Film and Media and Baltic, 10 slots would be made available as part of the broadcaster’s Random Acts strand - a daily arts transmission known for showcasing bold expressions of creativity - and submissions were more than welcome.

In the summer, the 10 successful and talented applicants were revealed and commissioned to get cracking.

And this week, the filmic fruits of their labours will available for consecutive viewing at Baltic.

Three-minute films, (which will also be seen in the coming weeks on Channel Four), by Reuben Jacob Abraham, Michelle Fox, Maxy Neil Bianco, Ed Carter, Ben Jeans Houghton, Andrew Coats, Heather Phillipson, Ian Cottage, Lesley Ann Rose and Lyn Hagan will run on a loop in Baltic’s ground floor gallery during opening hours.

Exploring drama, dance, live action comedy, animation, archive, opera and music, the project aims to collectively represent the talent within the region and demonstrate how this talent is being developed through partnerships between the arts and creative industries, outside of London, as well as offering a nugget of national profile and audience to the film makers, of course.

Artist and film maker, Ben Jeans Houghton believes projects like Random Acts provide an “invaluable opportunity” for artists and film makers to reach a wider audience.

“The fact that it supports experimental endeavours that punctuate more stable programming ensures it’s audience a variety of experience whilst helping new talent gain exposure,” he adds.

“There are so many wonderful short form films out there that people never see, I think having random examples of alternative ways of making film and video is somewhat of an antidote to the established conventions we come to habitually accept.”

Ben is happy to give succinct synopsis of his film, Still Life, which was shot in October in a custom built studio and on location in Jesmond Dene, Newcastle.

“I wanted to use Jesmond Dene as I have been exploring it since childhood, and it is a landscape born of Lord Armstrong’s dreams. In that sense it’s already a fictional landscape,” he says.

“The film is about folklore, the Internet, sculpture and responsibility among other things. A young man collects mud from a river bank in the early morning before walking home through woodland while listening to Vietnamese folk poetry recorded in the 70’s. Once home he get sets to work continuing to sculpt a figure from the mud that is sitting in a paddling pool in his bedroom.

“After he falls asleep the figure comes to life.”

I have cut his description short for fear of being labelled a purveyor of spoilers. You’ll just have to watch it.

Other films in the line up include Maxy Neil Bianco’s Pig the Dog about a Staffordshire bull terrier with a special talent; Michelle Fox’s dark comedy Baby Zominic which sees new parents Rachel and Toby share the joys of having a bouncing zombie boy; and Ed Carter’s The False Lights of Durham, which is inspired by the intriguing social and architectural history of the county’s treacherous coastline, and the tale of unexplained lights that caused so many ships to wreck in the 1860s.

Agnes Wilkie, deputy director Baltic, says: “Baltic’s involvement in Channel 4 Random Acts marks an exciting new phase in our digital ambitions and has created a fantastic platform for artistic talent to work alongside the very best creative industry practice.

“Due to the calibre of talent in the region we commissioned 10 films – five more than we originally set out to do - and because of the quality of the films produced through this commission, we are proud to present them here.”

Random Acts will run at Baltic from today until November 17.


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