Features Joseph Walsh

Special Feature: Bombay Sapphire’s Imagination

Imagine being presented with a one-page script with minimal dialogue, devoid of description and direction, and being told to make a story out of it. This was the challenge presented by Academy Award winner Geoffrey Fletcher in the second year of Bombay Sapphire’s Imagination Series for young aspiring filmmakers. From a “skeletal story”, the task was to build a narrative of their own and for it to be made into a short film. This is the second year that Fletcher has been supporting the Imagination Series with his involvement. “These days it feels as if there are so few opportunities for the abundance of talent out there. The Imagination Series has been among the most rewarding things I’ve done,” said Fletcher when discussing how and why he came on board with the Bombay Sapphire project.

Young and talented filmmakers entered the competition from all corners of the globe. From over 1,300 entries, incorporating 70 countries, five winners were selected: two from the UK, Chris Cornwell and Anthony Khaseria; Spain’s Maite Fernandez; Kiara C. Jones and Allyson Morgan of the USA. The films they created were diverse and eclectic, and above all stressed the power of imagination. Once the shorts were produced they premièred at the Tribeca Film Festival, held in New York in late April. The films that were created by those from our own fair shores took very different approaches. Cornwell’s short, entitled Exit Log, took inspiration from the sci-fis of the 1980s, in particular the works of Ridley Scott. This influence is clear in his feature, which concerns two human engineers in the year 2249.

Whilst travelling through deep-space, the pair discover an emergency message from the past and have only three minutes to decipher what it means. For Cornwell, the inspiration for his take on Fletcher’s script came from a desire to write “an escape movie, but about two characters trying to escape time, rather than a place.” Khaseria, who found out about the series after a friend sent him a link, keeps things Earth-bound but in the realms of the supernatural. His short, Reflections, follows a couple on holiday abroad who discover a strange mirror that has the power to reflect back their true selves. His brief experimental horror explores the idea of a failing relationship and is in the vein of the early works of British director Christopher Nolan, of whom Khaseria is an enormous admirer and fan.

Comedy was on the agenda for Morgan, who plays with the concept of speed dating. Light, jovial and fun, Need for Speed (Dating) undermines the typical tropes of romcoms. “I hate traditional romantic comedies, and I didn’t set out to write one, as I think that they promote the idea to women (and men) that love is easy and always works out in the end.” Morgan admits to having a taste for bittersweet explorations of romance, including the likes of Groundhog Day, Eternal Sunshine of Spotless Mind and Silver Linings Playbook. Keeping things across the pond, Kiara Jones plays with expectations in her tense thriller The Other Side of the Game, where a couple are battling to escape a hostage situation. Jones was currently working on her own feature when she entered the Imagination Series.

Last, but by no means least, is Spain’s Maite Fernandez, whose Graffiti Area is a visual spectacle about two street artists who are preyed upon by their own creations. “I remembered one day I was walking to work and I was thinking of if ideas and suddenly I saw a wall covered in graffiti and I thought: Why not?”, explained Fernandez. All of the features that were made celebrate the visual arts, and it’s a testament to the work of the Imagination Series as to how diverse and creative they are. For those who’re encouraged by the efforts of this year’s winners and their short films, Fletcher offered some advice relating to the secret to a good screenplay. “Inspiration and a lot of hard work are just two of the essential ingredients for a good screenplay. The ability to access truth is the probably the other. That means experiencing life is integral as well. It gives you something to say.”

For more information about this year’s eclectic Bombay Sapphire Imagination Series, visit bombaysapphire.com.

Joe Walsh