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Comedian Josie Long shows short films at Star and Shadow cinema

Comedian Josie Long was waiting for something good to write a film about and found it bang in the middle of a crisis as Sam Wonfor finds out

Comedian Josie Long
Comedian Josie Long

Josie Long loves the Star and Shadow cinema in Newcastle. “What a little gem of a place that is,” gushes the comedian, who is as likeable as her widely-known activist motives are admirable.

“I came there a couple of times last year. I just love that venue. Everyone is so creative and the crowds have just been incredible. I’m so looking forward to coming back.”

And tonight she shall, for the first of two screenings representing the realisation of a long-held ambition.

Josie and her relatively newfound friend Doug King, have made a double-bill of short films for our viewing pleasure, and are currently on the road with them.

While Josie wrote and starred in both, Doug, who she met in Newcastle at the Wunderbar festival a couple of years back, directed.

“Making these films was the best time of my life ever,” she says. “I’m so proud that we now get to show them to audiences. At every stage from chatting about ideas, to writing, to rehearsing, planning and realising them on screen, we’ve been powered by massive enthusiasm and excitement.”

Aside from studying English at Oxford, Josie has kept herself pretty busy since her first gig at 14, doing stand up lots of the time (including a big handful of Edinburgh solo shows); founding magazines and live panel shows; running comedy clubs; writing plays - one of which was about an apostrophe; and co-founding charity the Arts Emergency Service... but she says making a film has been on her to do list for a long time.

“I have always had the idea that I would like to write a film, but it took me up until a couple of years ago to find something I thought was a good enough idea to write about,” says the 31-year-old.

“In 2011, I had a bit of a crisis. I left someone and it was such a big deal. I didn’t really trust myself any more. It was so hard and weird.

“I thought I would love to make a film about it.” That film ended up being Let’s Go Swimming. It finds Josie in Glasgow - the ‘indie theme park’ - having left her life in London for what she believes will be a better one north of the border. In Glasgow she thinks she will accepted and finally happy, but sitting in cafes and going to gigs on your own isn’t as fulfilling as one might think.

“There were lots of scenes of me being a bit upset while we were filming that,” says Josie.

“But all of us working together was such a great experience... we wanted to make another one. And making the second film was a lot more fun.”

That would be Romance and Adventure, which shares its title with Josie’s acclaimed 2012 stand up show, and was nominated, along with Let’s Go Swimming for a BAFTA Scotland New Talent Award last year.

The plot introduces us to Darren, Josie’s best friend who is also her flatmate. But while Josie is desperate to have big adventures, her friend is more than content just to have his meals served up by someone other than his mum.

“It’s kind of a sequel-type thing, but not,” she explains, but not really.

“The film is set 18 months on from the first one. Some of the characters are the same, but not completely.”

A similar sort of description comes when Josie talks about the feature which she and Doug are hoping to make in Spring 2014. “It’s sort of imagining the characters if they moved on but it will also be different too. We’re raising money now.”

Having embraced the increasing trend for crowdfunding for the second of the two shorts to be shown at the Star and Shadow cinema tonight and tomorrow night, Josie was thrilled with the response.

“It was really fantastic to think that 570 people were helping us to make it. We didn’t take any of the money for ourselves of course, but it meant the crew were getting paid proper money, which was important.”

Before the screenings, Josie will do a “bit of a stand up-type intro” where she’ll talk about shooting the films and share a couple of deleted scenes. Afterwards, she and Doug will be taking questions.

Both shows start at 8pm. Visit www.dougandjosie.com to book.

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