Graduates’ chip shop documentary hooks top film award
21 November 2017 - Carrie Braithwaite
A team of Northern Film School graduates are celebrating after scooping an award at this year’s Leeds International Film Festival (LIFF).
STAN, a film by 2015 MA Filmmaking graduates, Lia Hayes and Ben G. Brown, won the LIFF Yorkshire Short Film Competition. The film is a short documentary about a chip shop in Leeds’s Harehills and its owner, Stan.
Ben explained: “The story of STAN began with myself and Lia, going out into Harehills aiming to film the area, the people, the liveliness and the exciting night-time visuals, unaware of the story of Stan. Stan being Stan wandered out into the street curious of the camera, introduced himself and began to talk. The friendship and fascination grew from there.
“We wanted to find a story that promoted diversity and togetherness in a time of uncertainty and divisiveness. We found Stan. After a night of casual conversation, we discovered Stan’s passions and we knew where we wanted to take the film, what questions we wanted to ask and what we wanted to discuss with Stan. The rest was created in the edit and from the character and personality of Stan himself.”
The film was directed and shot by graduate Ben, who worked at Provision Equipment Hire in Leeds at the time and kindly allowed Ben to borrow an Arri Amira camera for the short periods of filming needed to make the film.
Lia, the editor and colourist, also recorded the sound with a boom and deck generously lent by her employers and Leeds independent film company, Sodium Films.
Now living back in his native Italy, another 2015 MA graduate in Sound Design, Elvio Carini, composed a beautiful original score for STAN as well as mixing and adding vital sound design.
Speaking about the inspiration behind STAN, Ben said: “Stan and his family inspired us. His poetry inspired us. His passion for life inspired us. Not only does he run a fish and chip shop but he is a figure of the Harehills community, a hub and pub of sorts for people to visit, chat, laugh and share stories, good and bad. This inspired us to tell his story: the intertwined relationship of the shop with the area, the creativity of everyday people and the message of togetherness in a seemingly fractured world was too important not to try and explore for us.”
When asked about how it felt to win the LIFF Yorkshire Short Film Competition, Ben said: “We were surprised to be selected to be part of the festival in the first place, but then to be picked by the judges to win the award was a great occasion to share with our family and friends. The budget and crew were extremely minimal, so much so we can humorously say that the film cost a total of a fiver for a couple of bags of chips. STAN has shown us that the content and message is always the most important thing and that money doesn’t guarantee success. We are so pleased that it has touched so many people and thank LIFF for recognising the message and helping us get it out there.”
Lia and Ben are now looking into making more short documentaries exploring stories and issues that they feel are important, aiming to give a voice to people who may otherwise go unheard. They are also working on their individual careers as filmmakers, editors, cinematographers and sound designers.
Speaking about their time studying at the Northern Film School, Ben added: “It was great because we got to meet many like-minded creatives and individuals who were local and also those who had travelled from all over the world to study and be a part of this great city. NFS gave us a place to work together, the top class facilities to explore our creativities and the environment to learn from each other. Making our graduate MA films was definitely a highlight and we certainly made some friends and filmmaking collaboratives for life and memories that will live with us forever.
“The course helped us discover that making films is possible; it is not part of this unreachable celebrity which surrounds the industry, but is made up of talented and committed people working together to create something. If you commit yourself to learning your technical craft, collaborating as a filmmaking unit and harnessing, honing and directing your creative flame down the right paths you can create and be part of beautiful, fulfilling things. The things you’ve always wanted to do are in reaching distance if you put yourself in the right places and work hard. NFS and Leeds Beckett was the right place for us.”
Martin Harris, Head of Documentary at the Northern Film School, said: “As students on the MA Filmmaking course, Lia Hayes and Ben Brown worked exceptionally hard. Their creative endeavours led them across a vast range of filmmaking from experiments in poetic essays to collaborations on award-winning graduation films. This award of Best Yorkshire Short Film is well-deserved to such a talented pair of filmmakers. I hope this will be one of a collection of awards their films attract in the coming years.”
Andrew Fryer, Dean of the School of Film, Music and Performing Arts at Leeds Beckett, added: "I am delighted that our students from the Northern Film School have been recognised in our home city of Leeds for their talents as film makers, winning an award at the prestigious Leeds International Film Festival. Congratulations to Ben, Lia, Elvio and the crew!"