Meet JW Griffiths, Director of Splitscreen: A Love Story and Winner of the Nokia Shorts 2011
JW Griffiths is a British Director-Editor based in London who won last week the Nokia N8 contest with his movie Splitscreen: A Love Story. Like many of his peers, Griffiths is an early movie lovers: ‘I started making films from a very young age with my parents camcorder. I made everything from little animations to live action commercials in my back garden. As I grew older I started to hone my skills and enrolled at the National Film and Television school in England as an editor. Since then I have been working as a freelance editor and director in London.‘ explains Griffiths during an interview with mentorless.
As you might have guessed, the contest’s prerequisite was to shoot a short film with a Nokia phone, in this case the Nokia N8. To participate, filmmakers had to send a pitch and would receive a $5,000 budget to shoot their idea upon selection. Here is the one minute pitch Griffiths sent:
If the pitch conveys the concept and gives a good idea of what the movie could be, you can also see how this short could have easily been stuck in the ‘good idea/muh execution’ group. But Splitscreen: a love story is an engaging two minutes short with a seamless editing and where each frame not only counts, but gives you a taste of urban poetry.
‘When I was at film school there were a number of competitions. Kodak had a student competition where students made unofficial commercials for famous brands and get judged in a competition at the end. My Ford Fiesta commercial, ‘This Is Now‘ won best in brief. There was another competition that the NFTS ran with a company called DCM where I ended up making a commercial starring Ray Winstone that is still being broadcast in cinemas around the UK.‘
So how did Griffiths and his team planned and worked on Splitscreen… ? ‘We knew the basic story arc of a person traveling through a city, but we didn’t plan the shots. We first went to Paris and shot everything that would work for the film. We then went to New York and matched the good Paris shots. As both cities are so beautiful and iconic we ended up with 15 hours of footage. It was then a challenge to cut everything together and sync it all up. My editor, Marianne Kuopanportti, did a great job of finding shots that I didn’t even know existed, like the bike shot. Overall we spent 6 days in Paris and 5 days in New York with a couple of days around London. The basic process was to shoot everything that would work then sync it up and cut it down into a coherent story. We had a week to edit and we were working right up to the deadline.’
Griffiths’ short is a good example that if a good movie doesn’t need a lot of equipment, a camera phone and natural lighting in this case, it always requires a strong idea and a lot of work to stand out. Only nine days after being on Griffiths Vimeo page, and 6 days after the win, Splitscreen is on its way to reach the million views and is going viral on Facebook.
The velib (name of the public bikes in Paris) incident might seem anecdotal, but believe me, this is probably the best tip you can get if you’re planning to use a velib in Paris: always check the bike! Griffiths also confirmed there is enough footage to make a Making Of Part 2 and hopes to start editing it soon.I personally would love to see how they managed to shoot (twice!) in planes taking of.
So, what’s next? ‘At the moment I’m developing a short stop motion animation that I’m going to make with the Nokia prize money but it’s too early to say what I will do after that.‘
We all look forward to seeing what will come next.