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Big Interview: Grantham area director wins London Arthouse Film Festival award for short set in quarantine

A young director from Carlton Scroop has won an award against international competition for his lockdown-inspired short film.

Oscar Hewitt’s film ‘Happy Together’ was a winner in the Best Short Film on a Global Pandemic category at the The London Arthouse Film Festival, which accepts submissions from across the world.

The 19-year-old’s film was conceived and created during the first coronavirus lockdown, and centred around an older couple who were forced to live separately due to the pandemic.

Oscar sought to use the film to raise awareness and funds for Age UK Lincolnshire, and has so far received £430 in donations to the charity. To find out more or donate, visit: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/happytogether

As well as directing, Oscar acts too, having played Bill Sykes in the Oliver production at Lincoln Cathedral. He attended East 15 Acting School in Essex, which allowed him to expand his horizons.

Oscar discussed his influences, the process of making a film during quarantine and his plans for the future.

Oscar Hewitt directed the award-winning short, Happy Together. (44418130)
Oscar Hewitt directed the award-winning short, Happy Together. (44418130)

When and how did you get into filmmaking/performing arts?

I went to New Youth Theatre in Grantham since I was probably about five years old, so pretty much my whole life I’ve been performing in musicals and on stage, but then I’d not done TV or film or filmmaking, but then going to East 15 Acting School, I was exposed to all these things that I wanted to do.

Especially with our final term going online, we turned our plays into films, so I gave myself the task of editing the entire film for our group, so it was like an hour and a half long film and I did all the video editing for it and I thought, this filmmaking malarkey was quite fun. I’ve been writing for a couple of years maybe as well so I thought I’d use this as an opportunity to have a good go at it.

Oscar played Bill Sykes in the Oliver production at Lincoln Cathedral. Photo: Richard Hall (44418133)
Oscar played Bill Sykes in the Oliver production at Lincoln Cathedral. Photo: Richard Hall (44418133)

How did you get the idea for ‘Happy Together’?

So, in the first place, it was me and my friend Ethan (also on my course) who decided to write it. There was an article online about an elderly couple that were celebrating their 50th anniversary or something crazy, but the woman was in a hospice, so the husband had to stand outside the window holding a card that said “Happy Anniversary”, so I just saw that and it was quite harrowing really. I just thought it’d be such an interesting idea for a film to raise awareness basically.

When people grow up together like that as well they depend very heavily on eachother, so I explored how Harold doesn’t really know how to look after himself as well, because that’s another key issue and not just something that’s come because of Covid, but with an elderly couple, when a partner dies, how does that other person cope by themself?

Do you miss performing?

Yeah, for sure. I’m basically a freelance filmmaker but I’m also an actor, so I did a year at an acting school and I really miss it. I think, probably one of the reasons that I wanted to create something and direct something was that, even though that’s already in my tool kit, I just wanted to scratch that creative itch a bit.

With the course I was on, the third term (my final term) was moved online, so that entire term had to be over Zoom, so I was definitely a bit desperate to do something creative.

What were the challenges of filming ‘Happy Together’ remotely?

I think the biggest problem was that you just had to deal with the situation as it was. There was only so much that was in your control as a director, so when usually a director would be able to control every little detail of something, it was very much right, these are the actors that I’d like to play the part, and these are their houses.

There was one Zoom call where they showed me their houses over Zoom so I could try and find filming locations. It was just trying to adapt to small challenges like that where you could only work with what you had.

How did it feel to win the award?

It was kind of mixed feelings really. I mean, it was fantastic to win the award, especially when I’m only nearly 20 and a lot sooner than I would have thought, but it’s also a really bizarre time to win a film award. You don’t get to go to the festival, you don’t get to appreciate the other films that were also included in the festival.

It was just a bit of a shame not to be able to share that with other filmmakers, but, saying that, if it had been normal times and none of this had have happened, then I wouldn’t have won the award, so it’s swings and roundabouts.

What’s your plan next?

I’m only writing at the minute, because there’s not much you can do as a director or an actor, so I’m just kind of flexing that skill a bit. I’ve got a couple of things on the go, but the main one that I want to do next is another short film to raise awareness for mental health in young men, so that’s my next project that I’m currently writing.

I’ve written a first draft of that and sent it to Geoff (who played Harold in the short film), who I’m considering to maybe play a part in that as well. I sent the first draft to him, but since then it’s been a few weeks and I just haven’t looked at it, because I’m just wanting to let it sit for a bit then come back to it and probably re write the entire thing, but I’m hoping to film that whenever I can.

What influences do you have?

I’ve never been asked this you know, but my biggest influence is a director called Taika Waititi. He’s just the most incredible guy. I’ve actually got one of his quotes on my wall, which I’ve definitely used in [Happy Together], he says “something I’ve always believed about comedy is that the best way is to trick people into coming down this alleyway, and smashing them over the head with something that actually means something.”

So, that’s my approach as well. I’d never want to do just a comedy or just a drama. It always has to be a blend of the two otherwise you’d just get bored. You can’t have the lowest lows without having the highest highs. He’s definitely my all time favorite filmmaker and biggest inspiration.

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