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National Student alumnus Ben Robins' short film is airing on Sky tonight


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Creative England has announced the final five short films chosen for this year's shortFLIX competition, including one directed by a former National Student writer Ben Robins.
The initiative, currently in its second year, is open to any filmmakers between the ages of 18 and 25 who are not in full-time education or employment.
We interviewed Ben about the creative process behind the making of his short film, Losing It.
Tell us a bit about your film and what inspired the story.
Losing It is an incredibly dark, and kind of silly comedy about a drunken hook-up gone very, very wrong. It’s mostly about how messy and weird one-night stands can be, and how much pressure people put on themselves to perform. A lot of movies and TV shows show sex in a pretty damaging way - so many totally ignore things like nerves, and fetishes, and even basic stuff like condom use, so I wanted to throw all those less polished, gangly bits back in. 
I framed the whole thing like a horror movie, because the idea of a one-night stand, even just on a social level, totally terrifies me. It seems so alien, so I think that’s where a lot of the darkness (and the humour) comes from. And then the seediness of the visuals (all that sickly red and yellow) is there to turn all that awkwardness and pain up to 11. The idea was to make it look like a mega cheap Gaspar Noe film. 
What was the process like getting together the crew and casting the film?
I was lucky enough to have the film green-lit through an amazing scheme called ShortFLIX, which Creative England, Sky and the National Youth Theatre set up to help young people with no industry training or connections make their first film. It’s a totally 0-60 type deal, I went in knowing nothing, and they guided me through the whole process. So a lot of the crewing up was handled by our incredible producers at Delaval Film, and they did a great job because I can’t wait to work with each and every one of them again!

Casting wise, it was a couple of very long afternoons in a basement studio with my ridiculously lovely and patient Casting Director Leanne, where we saw like 50-odd actors, one pair after another. We didn’t have a lot of time so each audition was literally a couple of minutes long - I have no idea how actors manage it, they’re just such meticulously measured people. One of our audition processes was a little weird too, but I can’t talk about it too much since it’s a huge spoiler for the film. But when you see it you’ll no doubt understand which character I’m talking about. 
Were there any unexpected challenges you faced during production?
There were definitely challenges, but I don’t know if I’d call them unexpected. All 5 ShortFLIX films were in production at the same time and we shot one after the other in a 2 week block, so all of the directors were in constant contact all the way through. I think our problems on Losing It were fairly minor compared to some of the others. We didn’t get our location, or our two leads confirmed until pretty last minute, so we didn’t have any rehearsal time, and we shot everything in sequence, so the beginning of the first day was very full on for the actors. But they were total pros and everyone just saddled up and got on with it. 
How did your experience with film journalism affect the making of this film, and vice versa, has the making of this film affected how you write about film?
You learn a lot writing about film, because you’re breaking movies down and watching them on a pretty technical level. In so much of film criticism, you’re kind of looking for where other filmmakers went wrong, or how certain things could be done better, or just flat out celebrating exactly what they do right. The best way to learn filmmaking is to watch what other people do, then put your own spin on it, and when you’re shoulder-deep in screeners, watching a ridiculously diverse range of movies every day, there’s no escaping that education. 
Making Losing It has definitely made me softer as a film writer too. A lot of critics seem to really enjoy going for the jugular, and I know I definitely have in the past, but now when I see a bad movie, I feel far more disappointed than angry. So much of what a film becomes (especially on huge Hollywood productions), isn’t really in your control as a director. You set out with what you want to make and steer the ship as best you can. Then it’s out into the world and people make up their own opinions on what it’s about and what it means. I find it really difficult to call something objectively bad now, and if it is, I try not to blame the director. 
Are there any new projects on the horizon that you can tell us about?
I’m definitely planning on hitting the ground running now that I know how everything works. I’ve been writing again the last few months, and have a few more shorts pretty much locked and loaded. One’s another absurd dark comedy that’s a lot more personal, the other is a straight-up 70s horror movie, so we’ll see which one gains some traction first. I met so many great friends and collaborators on Losing It and I’m just itching to get back on a set and shoot something new with them as soon as possible!
The shortFLIX final selection will air on Sky Arts Today, May 24th at 10:30pm, and will be available on Sky Arts demand after the air date.

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