Manchester University screenwriting student Kelly Fury had an outstanding script but no way to get it from page to screen. Manchester Film School (part of UCEN Manchester) student Helena Glynn was looking for a script to edit and shoot. It was a marriage made in heaven – and their tutors were the matchmakers responsible.
“Our course is very industry-oriented,” says Emma Clarke, lecturer on Manchester University’s Screenwriting MA course, “and our students are well aware that practical constraints force compromises when scripts are in production. But knowing about this is different to the realities of actually having to work within a very tight budget or with strict time deadlines. I approached the Film School to suggest a student collaboration and “Witches and Bitches” is the result”.
‘Witches and Bitches’
‘Witches and Bitches’ is the short film based on Kelly’s script and edited and produced by Helena. The story features two unlikely best friends from childhood; Alice is a witch, Chelsea is a bit of a bitch. Alice finally loses patience when her best mate goes out on a date with a guy that she likes herself. So she puts a hex on Chelsea’s apartment so that she can’t leave it to meet her new man.
Helena co-produced the film with her fellow students who were all used to working within those aforementioned constraints. Collectively, the students found solutions and overcame the solutions that had inevitably been created by the limitations.
“We couldn’t afford many actors or to build a complicated set”, she recalls. “Kelly had written her script so there were just two parts and all the action takes place in a studio flat. We even had a Velux window rather than a standard one to keep the cost down – that was a suggestion from one of our industry mentors.”
The filming of their collaborative short was done in the basement studio of the Film School and made good use of the skills of fellow students, the expertise of staff and their mentors from the TV and film industry.
“I made sure my storyline only had two characters and one location so that it could be filmed with a manageable budget,” says Kelly. ”I was so pleased I’d actually be able to see the finished result and that the script would come to life. Helena did a great editing job and made sure that our special effects weren’t too crazy!”
So no large and starry cast, no army of extras, and no tropical locations and unfortunately only very limited magical special effects. However, a dream was made reality and the resultant short film showcases student talent, and can be entered into festivals and competitions.
Being students means that they have the luxury of preparation time, Helena comments: “We had a long lead-in time – we got in touch last year and we knew that we could take time to analyse things and experiment. We took a long time over the edit because we wanted to get it right.”
The interaction between students and mentors from the TV and film industry is invaluable. Being able to see the professional output of their mentors on both the large and small screens is an inspiration. It also means that watching TV is a different kind of activity; it’s no longer simply entertainment, as every aspect of a production is instructional or thought-provoking.
The ERA Licence
Having an ERA licence means that an enormous range of material is available to students and staff and can be used critically as well as inspirationally.
“Camera angles, lighting, the kind of set used, the availability of the professional actors, and bringing in filming under budget – these are all considerations that are crucial to the making of a film, even a short one,” says Emma. “Kelly’s script was the basis for the film, but the practicalities of film production means that the final work is very much a team effort. As is all of film production work.”
Both students are still in touch and keen to start careers in the film industry, with Helena herself now intent on becoming a script reader (after enjoying script editing so much)– a profession that may well bring them both into contact again in the future!