Channel 4 Random Acts is dedicated to showcasing the work of some of the most established artists working in the industry today. Another big part of the platform’s work is to nurture new talent and provide opportunities for young filmmakers. One way it’s achieving this is through First Acts, an initiative set up with the Arts Council England that sees a series of regional centres devoted to finding and backing new filmmaking brilliance across the country.
The hope is to boost Channel 4 Random Acts’ role as a place for the latest generation of creatives to find its voice no matter where they are in the UK. “We’re a UK-wide broadcaster at Channel 4. We work with independent production companies across the country to make all of our shows, so having an arm of the strand dedicated specifically for young filmmakers is really important to us,” says Pegah Farahmand, editor of Random Acts. A key focus is to celebrate and foster burgeoning artists outside of London. “The ability to find talent outside of London is amplified with the Arts Council’s involvement, and it means giving breaks to young filmmakers who wouldn’t have the opportunity to do so otherwise,” says Pegah.
Some of the films from First Acts will appear in the TV show alongside the films It’s Nice That has commissioned as part of our own partnership with Random Acts. To provide a taster of some of the regional talent the platform has uncovered, here we spotlight a couple of the films. First up is Sophie Littman’s film created with the ICA and Dazed, which takes us into the world of a local trampolining club, followed by Ellen Pearson’s short about a sex worker in Sydney produced by Bristol-based Calling the Shots.
Sophie Littman: Springing
Sophie Littman’s film begins with shy teen Sam in his element at the local trampolining club. Produced by Dazed and the Institute of Contemporary Arts, the film is set against a backdrop of a familiar-looking sports hall, complete with wooden climbing frames adorning the walls. We see Sam perform a short routine on the trampoline in front of the whole club, only to be disappointed after he looks over to a blonde girl for approval and she sits uninterested on her phone.
The short is full of well-observed nuances like this and they help bring the simple narrative to life. French screenwriter and director Celine Sciamma was a big influence for Sophie, as she often explores that complex time of adolescence and subtly conveys group dynamics and emotion. A real focus for Sophie was sound and movement, which work together to give a lightness to the front pikes and half twists performed on the taut mesh and stretched-out springs of the trampoline. This fluidity lends itself well to the pastel aesthetic Sophie has created through the light blues and creams of the gym equipment.
Ellen Pearson: Lawless
Ellen Pearson’s film tackles the experiences of Tilly Lawless, a sex worker in Sydney’s decriminalised sex industry. Made with Bristol-based production company Calling the Shots, the short explores society’s taboos and the ongoing debate about the international decriminalisation of the prostitution. Tilly talks directly to the audience throughout the film in pieced-together thoughts, stories and opinions.
Unlike previous documentations of sex work, Lawless invites the viewer into Tilly’s world as a confidant, rather than a voyeur. She’s presented to us as a person, not an object meaning we understand not only the reasons why she’s in her chosen line of work but also how she approaches life as a whole. Visually, Ellen’s interspersed photographs from Tilly’s life; mundane shots of cars, flowers and houses with more risqué images of someone (presumably Tilly) wearing lacy underwear and stockings. Noticeably, we never see Tilly’s face, instead we’re taken on visual diary of her mind, giving the film’s overarching themes more clout.
Channel 4 Random Acts showcases three-minute films created by established artists and up-and-coming amateurs, chosen for their bold and original expressions of creativity. The fourth TV episode of Random Acts aired this week on Channel 4, which you can catch up with here. To watch weekly Random Acts selections or explore the entire archive, head to the Random Acts website.