Northern Film School Lecturer is Cinematographer on Oscar-nominated film
SHOK is in the live action shorts competition this Sunday at the Academy Awards® taking place in Hollywood. The 21-minute prize winning short film tells the real life story of two boys whose friendship is tested to its limits as they battle for survival during the Kosovo war in 1998. The word “shok’ is the Albanian word for “friend.”
Phil explained: “I travelled to Kosovo to prep and find the locations for the story and also to get to know the director Jamie Donoughue. Jamie is a very talented director originally from Leeds, and was living in Kosovo. He wrote this wonderful script based on true life incidents/stories from people he met there. And one in particular was a story from one of the actors, Eshref Durmishi, who was also our producer in Kosovo.”
Phil is an internationally-renowned, BAFTA-winning Cinematographer for film and TV, with credits that include Werewolf: The Beast Among Us, Frozen, Larkrise to Candleford, Holby City and Tess of the D'Urbervilles. He has studied in Russia and the UK and holds an MA in Film Production from the Northern Film School, as well as qualifications in Electrical and Electronic Engineering.
Phil said: “My involvement in SHOK stems from my time in Leeds, studying Cinematography at NFS. It was through Howard Dawson, the main contact at the NFS Film Lab North (FLN), that I received the script in the summer of 2014. Howard is always supportive of students and work and is a great mentor and he stayed in contact with me throughout my career as a DP. And this script was great and I felt it was a story that had to be told. So, I immediately said yes to shooting this film.”
The majority of the filming crew were people that Robertson had never worked with before and most were locals from Kosovo. Phil added: “Working with this crew was great. We wanted to make sure that we brought back a film from Kosovo that was appropriately photographed and told a true and honest story. Their input was extremely valuable to all of us and to this wonderful story. And it helped greatly dealing with varied challenges we had to deal with. It was a great experience all the way around.”
Phil worked together with Jamie and Eshref in finding the right location for the film – a hillside village about 25 minutes outside Mitrovica – still a divided city. The village and the surrounding area became doubled as the film’s basecamp and filming location.
Phil added: “At the beginning, the Kosovo line producer – Doni Cahni and I had to work out some of the challenges of filming in a very young country and location. As a direct result of my recce time we decided to ship the cameras from the UK thorough Provision – whom I worked with before through NFS. Together with our key crew, who had worked with Jamie before such as our focus puller Steve Marles; make up artist Amy Louise Ellen; and Sarah Peczek (also an NFS grad) who was both our digital imaging technician and editor, we began to work on a film that would win awards and now be nominated for an Oscar®. And I need to add that Sarah was a key member of the crew whose contribution in dual roles to the film cannot be understated.”
In addition to the Oscar® nomination, SHOK has won over 15 festival awards including Aspen Shortsfest 2015-Audience Award - Special Recognition, Jury Award; Berlin Interfilm Festival 2015 Best Short Film; HollyShorts Grand Jury Prize; and the SWIKOS Film festival (Basel) best film and best Cinematography.
Andrew Fryer, Head of the School of Film, Music & Performing Arts at Leeds Beckett University, said of Phil’s nomination: “As a previous BAFTA winner and internationally-renowned Cinematographer, we are delighted that Phil's expertise has been further recognised through this Oscar nomination. Our students at the Northern Film School are privileged to be taught by such industry luminaries as Phil and we all send our congratulations!”
Phil added: “I am excited to have contributed to this film which gives us a snapshot of ‘man's inhumanity to man’ (Robert Burns) witnessed all over Kosovo at the time. Perhaps the film resonates with audiences as it parallels what I am seeing on the daily news. SHOK tells the story of recent European history that perhaps not all of us knew about, portraying real events. It is heartening and exciting to see it being viewed by many people across the globe. And now with the Oscar® nomination, the film will reach an even wider audience. SHOK is a story that had to be told and seen by everyone.”For more information about Shok, please see IMDB, Facebook and Twitter @shokshortfilm.