Interview with Short Filmmaker Alexei Slater
Candice Flat 16 250816 Daniel D. Moses.jpg

Photo credit: Daniel D. Moses

Candice is a newly released short film by Alexei Slater, directed by George Watson and produced by Dom Riley. After a run at festivals, the short film sees wider internet coverage via the YouTube platform Millions of youth media. I met with Alexei to talk about the film, its varied career, and what it has learned in the industry.

Slater originally wrote the script for the (now defunct) Jameson First Shot Award on the theme of the year – Life Changing Experiences – and eventually brought the project to life himself. Candice with the lead role Olivia Chicken and Nicholas Pinnockshows the isolation of urban life in 21st century London. The narrative that perfectly sums up the short film-specific line-up / payout structure sketched by Darren Aaronofskystarts at this point of alienation. We meet Candice (Chicken), alone with friends, tipsy and unhappy, before a hooded stranger (Pinnock) approaches her on the way home. However, the payoff resists that desolation and offers a glimmer of hope through real human connection.

Adventure in the film industry

Since entering the industry after graduation, Slater has held a variety of roles behind the camera. As a runner he later started a role in development Hand made films before you take the creative leap with the critically acclaimed 82 Now Slater is best summarized with the loose term filmmaker, he is difficult to pigeonhole as a creative. He's primarily a writer, with six credits in short films since 2012, but he doesn't see himself falling into the writer archetype. He also defies the form of screenwriter and director and enjoys working with trusted contacts on the basis that filmmaking is inherently collaborative. Another creative vision brings more depth to the end product. However, directing is certainly one of his skills; He wrote his own scripts Ewww and Call me AlvyThe latter certainly because of the very personal nature of the story.

Likewise, his multiple producer credits are largely due to the fact that he's "bad at being hands off" rather than a desire to define himself in that role. Recently worked as a mentor for the director Louis Chan and producer Jonathan Caicdeo-Galindo on your short StationaryHe got more and more involved in the project until he received executive and co-producer credits in the last short film.

Slater's strands of experience are brought together by his production company. Turn the slate, founded in 2011 with Jessica Turner. Originally founded for legal reasons during the production of '82, the company has also helped with the practice of self-promotion. Slater saw that young filmmakers – with attitudes ranging from "too cool for school" to real embarrassment – couldn't get their work done through personal channels. The company has proven useful in mediating between itself and the industry as well as the outside world, allowing them to advertise through the company and avoid the chuckle that "all about me" posts generated. While Slater is a veteran enough to overcome this mindset right now, he recommends companies as a channel to help young filmmakers overcome this psychological hurdle.

Slater felt that a more orthodox career would have made him easier on agents, but that avenue has given him the opportunity to pursue a wide variety of interests. This has been pragmatic, at least in part, as too many filmmakers have spent years trying to bring a single passion project to life. He has learned to have “a number of projects” on the go at the same time to take advantage of opportunities in the form of competitions, financiers and employees. This approach is evidenced by the range of genres covered in his prolific short film career Kitchen sink violence and Childhood moody;; gross comedy and magical realism. Short films as a medium – with two days of shooting that are relatively easy to finance – have enabled him to actually “go out and do things” and build a diverse body of work. While he believes that makes him a difficult undertaking, this line of products has been a test bed for the two functions he is currently developing.

In general, Candice sits somewhere closer to Slater's first short film, it's pure drama in the sense of a narrative driven by the tension between two characters. In order for this to work, Slater was aware of the need to bring fully trained characters to life while writing. This key difference between short films and features where writers have more than 90 minutes to develop characters should be kept in mind by all screenwriters.

He knew that dramatic imagination required skilled actors to bring these characters to life. This is where Slater used his experience in selecting actors while working at HandMade and was comfortable without a casting director. He secured the accomplished actors Pinnock and Poulet, both first choice, to provide the unobtrusive performance that he was looking for. Chicken, perhaps best known for her comedic work in Armando Iannucci’S The thickness of it and In the loop, contrasted with Pinnock's dramatic background, particularly as Leon from the first series of Top boyand most recently as Aaron Wallace in For life. The performances and public roles of the two actors exacerbate the conflict at the center of the film, allowing for a solution that feels true and emotionally satisfying.

Bring shorts into the world

Slater's own career is a testament to the range of films that have come about through a wealth of interest and experience. This also applies to his exhibition approach, which serves as a guide for budding short filmmakers. After exhibiting Candice at several festivals in 2017, Slater is now distributing the film on YouTube with Million Youth Media. This media brand has helped bring shorts from the Vimeo bubble and accessible to a wider audience. This online first model has been a necessity at many high profile festivals this year to take their events online and could represent a future for many festivals that reduces barriers for entry and participation.

The speed of the platform cycles has ensured that all filmmakers need to be aware of the current trends. While Slater once viewed iTunes as the platform that would most "legitimize" his shorts from a commercial standpoint, he recognizes that paid models outside of a small niche for high-profile shorts can be a limiting factor. YouTube offers both widespread adoption and an opportunity for filmmakers to monetize their content, even if it requires a larger audience to generate a return on investment. While the platform is homogeneous today, it's worth scanning filmmakers on the horizon to see what the next distribution opportunity might look like.

The combination of the two exhibition formats – the prestige and networking abilities of festivals with the sheer audience that YouTube tokens can offer – is of great importance to filmmakers. In Slater's view, this offers potential agents a strong proposition and shows the filmmakers' talent and business acumen. In a world where short film exhibition options are limited, this can provide a powerful channel to get the public to work and, like all filmmakers, want more people to see their work.

About Oli Picken

Oli Picken is a London-based writer who holds an MA in Sexual Dissidence with a research interest in Deleuzoguattarian approaches to film. You can find more of his writing here

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