It’s an old story. A scrappy passer-by knocks over a drink, someone takes offence, and you have to intervene before things get ugly. But what if it wasn’t your friend? Would you get involved?
This was the question, final-year Media & Communications student, Stella Arenillas asks in her script ‘N25’. The story follows a girl who is attacked on her way home on the N25 bus. Her fellow passengers file off, one by one, leaving the girl at the mercy of her attacker. A Barking resident, 22 year-old Stella had the idea for the script from her own fears of travelling home on the eponymous night bus.
Chosen as the winner of the Goldsmiths Best Short Script Competition 2009 it was adapted by student director Treasa O’Brien and produced, edited, and directed by Goldsmiths students through their film company Full House. N25 went on to win the Kodak Audience Award at the Brief Encounters International Short Film Festival in 2010. After a screening at BAFTA last year, it was selected to introduce Ken Loach’s film ‘Looking for Eric’.
When I asked her about how her script had changed from conception to completion, she said “I didn’t go for such a grim ending, but I much prefer it. In my own version she did manage to get away, but without the help of anyone on the bus.” She put her hesitation down to inexperience and when I asked what she would do differently, she said “I was a bit frightened to have a shocking ending and I wasn’t sure if it was going to be a huge cliché or just not very nice, but I think I would choose a dramatic ending as the director did.”
Only in her first year at Goldsmiths when she won, Stella credits the success of her script to a simple idea that would be easy to shoot. “It was in one location and in real time as well, there wasn’t going back and forth to different scenes,” she said. She encouraged this year’s entrants to imagine how much it would cost, “because a lot of the time it’s students own money that goes into making the films, so if it can be kept as simple as that it does make a huge difference.” Though the fact of shooting in one location would make things more straightforward, she had been initially doubtful about shooting on a bus, given the noise and movement. “The sound editor was amazing, and these guys are there to make it work if they can. So don’t be put off by problems. They’re there to be solved.”
Though Stella’s script was not autobiographical, the fear she felt of being attacked on London’s nightbuses was not unfounded. Unfortunately, six months after the film had been completed she and her sister were assaulted on a bus while passengers looked on. Stella and I discussed this strange instance of life imitating art. “When I looked back, I thought this really makes my film so relevant. This really is true, and it’s terrifying.”
Winning the competition doesn’t guarantee success, but it does mean that you can get your film made. As winning scripts are sent to final-year undergraduate and postgraduate film students. All genres are welcome, as are unconventional ideas. Previous winners have won awards at festivals, screened in the West End and have been broadcast on the BBC. Entries for this year’s Goldsmiths “Best Short Script” Competition should be submitted before the end of the Spring term.
This year’s winners will have their films shown as part of the MA Filmmaking Screening at the BAFTA at 6pm, Wednesday 26th January in the Princess Anne Theatre.
If you would like to go, please email Zehra Arabadji at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you want to enter the script competition you must be a Goldsmiths student and you must submit your script to Gerry McCulloch at the Media and Communications office.