Cambridge film making collective Project Trident have held TRIDENTFEST, a showcase of independent film, at the Cambridge Film Festival for several years. Ahead of this year’s event, I spoke to Carl Peck about the work of Project Trident and their plans for this year’s festival.
Movie Evangelist: So how long has Project Trident been running now?
Carl Peck: I think it’s six, maybe seven years. I don’t think anyone’s really sure! It came about from watching and making films here in the [Arts Picturehouse] cinema after work, often for birthdays or Halloween, and we’d make secret films to screen to people. We didn’t want anyone to know about it, so we just came up with a dumb code name and borrowed Project Trident from the nuclear weapons programme! We had enough films to make a screening, so we did a screening for our friends and called it Tridentfest. Then someone from the [Cambridge Film] Festival was at the screening and suggested screening it at the festival, and it escalated from there.
ME: As it’s evolved over the course of time, has it been difficult to fill a programme each year, or has it spurred you creatively?
CP: Bit of both I guess. We’d be making films and screening them anyway, but it does give you a bit of a kick to get things done. We used to have to ask to show films here, and now they ask us. We’re not an official selection of the film festival, but as we’re late night we have a fair amount of free rein to do whatever we want and they don’t vet the films, usually because they’re not finished in time!
ME: So, within a realm of quality you can effectively do whatever you want?
CP: We have our own internal censorship; someone will suggest something and we’re like “dude, do you really want to do that?”
ME: Is that on grounds of taste, comedy, budget or a mix of the three?
CP: It’s kind of a double edged sword, but on the other hand we’re a collective and nobody’s boss, so sometimes someone will have something weird and you just have to roll with it. But we’re pretty much all on the same wavelength.
ME: Working back from the festival each year, are you then just working on ideas to see what coalesces?
CP: Quite often it starts with a bit of messing about, for example Andrzej [Sosnowski] and Simon [Panrucker]’s films, and that will then become a story; often throwaway ideas you’d not think about, but that they make into a film. Some of my ideas come from dreams, and I have a lot of ideas in the shower, which is why I spend ages in the shower coming up with stuff. Christian’s films are usually tributes to old, trashy movies and Ryd’s into more realistic stories, which always gives us a varied mix when it comes to the finished product, and this year will be no exception.
ME: So, four days before the festival screening, how ready is it?
CP: Pretty good. I’d say it’s around 70% there, which is better than normal. It used to be a real mission as to how we’d screen films, as they’d be on DVDs and they’d always break, but now the projection is digital so we can convert the films in advance and we’re pretty sure they’re going to work. It also gives us an incentive to get them done. The rest are just finishing touches, or films like Rydian [Cook]’s. He was in New York yesterday with the world premiere of his film, and now he’s coming back to show the UK premiere with us.
ME: Has it been good for your own film making profiles?
CP: We’ve got quite a following from it over the years, but often only from people who will turn up at 11 p.m. on a Friday night. But it’s definitely been worth doing.
ME: Is there anything you’re most proud of from your years with Trident?
CP: THE PURPLE FIEND [a thirty minute short film made by the collective and shown at Tridentfest in 2011] is a highlight, but it took about two years to make. I’m really proud of the 48 hour film we made this year, for the Sci-Fi London Film Festival competition. There’s also a “making of” which Ryd’s made. [Both will be shown at this year’s TRIDENTFEST.] It was different factions coming together, and we did all the post-production in one house. We used to make films originally together, but more recently it’s been smaller groups and crossing over into each other’s teams. This was also a road test for our ability to work together and for our planning, as we’re talking about making a feature film in the future.
ME: How close were you cutting things in a two day window?
CP: We were two minutes late for the hand-in, but luckily they were quite lenient! The visual film had gone off the night before the deadline to our guy in London who does colour grading, he graded the film during the night while Simon finished off the mix of the audio. We then met up in London the next morning to put together the sound and the audio, but something in the edit had changed and so we had to get that fixed. We had something like half an hour left, and we were still in Shoreditch, frantically calling a taxi and we were running down the bridge to the BFI with this USB stick in our hands! We had a massive burrito afterwards to celebrate and then passed out.
ME: What drove you to enter the competition? Was it a chance to hone those skills?
CP: We did it a couple of years ago, and it all came together last minute, but once we’d done it you can see what’s involved in achieving that. We had a real structured plan this time of how to operate. You can’t prepare as such but you’re allowed to source locations, costumes and things like that. We’d managed to get a cool location in an airfield, and took a bag of clothes, military stuff that would look good in a sci-fi film. We were there while the brief was being picked up in London. We then gave ourselves around two hours to script, shot it all, then got back to Cambridge at ten o’clock that night and gave the footage to Alex who edited it overnight, then got up in the morning and worked on the post – sound, music, visual effects, and then shot some pick-ups on the roof of the house we were in. Some shots we didn’t have so we just animated them, I don’t think you’d ever notice.
Each room was a different studio. Simon’s bedroom was a sound studio, he had his bed turned upside down, in one room we had our edit and in the kitchen was visual effects and Rydian was making the Making Of [documentary] while it was happening – hence it’s not finished! It looks great on the big screen. We showed it last week to West Suffolk College as they’re also entering their own 48 hour competition.
ME: And has that also become part of the work of Trident, of inspiring and helping other film makers?
CP: Yes, that’s always been our thing, to try to spread the message that there’s no reason you can’t make films if you want to. If you’ve got an iPhone, you can make a film.
ME: We now live in the YouTube generation. How much difference is there between picking up an iPhone and the process you’ve gone through for the competition?
CP: We didn’t start doing that, you don’t need all that to start with but we’ve progressed since we started and are now getting people involved and the team’s grown so we can do that sort of stuff. There’s always someone out there who’s in a band and you can ask if you can use his music. You’d think you couldn’t make a film, but the more people you ask the more it escalates.
ME: Music videos have also been a feature in previous years, is that something that’s happening this year as well?
CP: I think I said last year that I wasn’t going to do any more for free, and the one film I have this year is a music video! The one I’m doing is with a rapper from Peterborough who’s a really nice guy who was featured on Radio 1 Xtra recently.
ME: What are the highlights of this year’s programme?
CP: We have fourteen films on the list this year. We have some of Simon’s crazy films he’s been making in Bristol, the return of Simon and Andrzej’s Poo Brothers films, three new ones from them, a really trippy one called Brian. There’s also one file in projection that no-one’s heard of – who knows what that’s going to be? It usually comes together on the night, you never know if anything isn’t going to be ready or broken, so even if we haven’t collectively seen them we know what they’re about and we can loosely gauge the vibe. We’ll also have some news about our future plans, which hopefully include a feature film.
ME: Carl Peck, thank you very much.
Tridentfest 2013 screens Friday 27th September at 23:00 at the Cambridge Arts Picturehouse, and tickets are available via the usual box office routes.
The Review: I like to consider myself half the man that Francois Truffaut is – I’ve started being critical of other people’s work, but not yet decided to go the whole hog and attempt to prove that I can do better. In which case, I must also be half the man of a number of local Cambridge film-makers, who have been inspired by the efforts of others to make their own micro-budget films under the banner of Project Trident, and now have completed their magnum opus, the very long short film The Purple Fiend.
For a labour of love and such a personal project, the scope of The Purple Fiend is nothing short of epic. It follows the adventures of Professor Laminut and his faithful companion Googy, refined and well spoken gentlemen who are know to undertake the occasional odyssey or trek, on their quest to find the Sacred Colocolo of Porabolus, a mission with divine implications and which must be completed before the end of the year. So why is Laminut still in the bar on New Year’s Eve at twenty minutes to midnight…?
There’s always a risk with such projects that the joke might be lost on outsiders, but such pitfalls are skilfully navigated. Carl Peck directs his cast well, and the performances are all committed and energetic; the thirty minute running feels packed to the gills with incident and invention, and there are some special effects of both the practical and visual nature that go to show what can be done with a lot of commitment and a bit of patience. Simon Panrucker’s orchestral score is also worth mention as it also helps to give the finished product a professional sheen. While much of the action takes place in the bar of the Arts Picturehouse, the venue for the film festival of which Project Trident is part (and liable to lead to a blurring of fantasy and reality for hardened festival goers), the confined space doesn’t cramp the wit or invention and some judicious location shooting helps to balance this out.
Let’s not forget that this is the work of enthusiastic part-timers; amateurs is very much the wrong word as the anarchic energy on display in the fight scenes and the refusal to give in to normal constraints such as logic are commendable. Taken on its own terms The Purple Fiend is a great half hour of anyone’s time and stands as testament to the efforts of those involved with Project Trident over the past few years. It’s not going to win any Oscars – but then again, neither did Truffaut and that never stopped him, did it?
Why see it at the cinema: I saw it with this year’s other Project Trident efforts, and as this was last up it was around a quarter to one in the morning by the time the projector fired up, following an intermission and a second trip to the (about to be famous) bar for many of the audience. In terms of timing, content and setting, I can think of few better partnerships: ideal served late on a Friday night with a few beers, a lot of friends and plenty of laughs.
The Purple Fiend was also made with the cinema, rather than the small, screen in mind, and the sweeping vistas and copious gore feel right at home on the big screen.
The Score: 8/10