As this year’s Virgin Media Shorts competition is launched, now feels as good a time as any to start a series of articles aiming to introduce you awesome readers to the next generation of great filmmakers, starting with writer/director William McGregor.  Still in his early twenties, Will has already amassed an impressive body of work.

Having studied at UCA (Formerly SIAD) in Farnham, Surrey, Will’s first year project “Who’s Afraid of the Water Sprite?” , made when he was only 19, is the kind of calling card anyone would rub a lantern for. A short horror/fantasy, shot on location in Slovenia with the RED Camera, “…Water Sprite” tells the intertwined tales of a young girl in a red dress, a blacksmith and a mischievous, wicked water sprite. Have a look at the trailer:

 

Who’s Afraid of the Water Sprite? trailer 2 from EVOKE on Vimeo.

 

With obvious echoes of Guillermo Del Toro (specifically “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “The Devil’s Backbone”), “…Water Sprite” is a perfect example of telling an old story pretty fucking well. It’s not perfect, as with many student shorts there’s a tendency towards letting shots linger a little longer than they should, and the music is slightly overbearing but don’t let that detract from the incredible achievements on display. That unnerving feeling of innocence corrupted is prevalent from the beautiful opening frames, and it builds towards  an ending that renders your seat completely irrelevant. The sound design, so terrifyingly impeccable, is melded with a virtuoso display of editing and make-up to deliver what the Royal Television Society described as “The Best Student Film [they] Have Ever Seen”.

The shoot allegedly wasn’t an easy one, working in a language unfamiliar to all of the small yet dedicated crew, with an inexperienced cast and on a shoestring budget yet as is often the tale, great strife can breed great art and Will definitely made an impression.  The whole film can be purchased in HD from iTunes for a whopping £1.89 so definitely check it out.

Will’s followed “…Water Sprite” with a series of acclaimed works, each one showcasing his versatility as a writer/director. While demonstrating a clear command of his craft, the growing confidence is evident in each subsequent piece of work while maintaining a distinct filmmaking style.

In the last year, Will’s graduation film “Bovine” has started making the festival rounds. In what I can only assume is a film grounded in his Norfolk heritage, “Bovine” allows Will the opportunity to tell a small story, very different in approach to his previous work. It concerns a dairy farmer and his son, and the bond they have with the livestock. Shot on 35mm stock, assembled from whatever short ends and re-cans they could obtain, “Bovine” is an incredibly mature piece of work, feeling nothing even remotely like a student film. Again, you can see the trailer below, but the full film can’t yet be found online due to its continued dominance of the short film festival circuit.

 

Bovine Teaser 2 from EVOKE on Vimeo.

While the full extent of William McGregor’s output can be found on his website http://www.williammcgregor.co.uk, along with a regularly updated blog, I want to draw attention to my two favourite pieces from his already impressive body of work.

“The Little” is a special film. When Will first told me about his plans for it in a Cambridge Vodka Revolutions almost a year ago I never expected it to look quite like this. Shot in the Bourne Woods in Surrey (a popular filming location for Universal Studios having been used extensively in Gladiator, Children of Men, Robin Hood and the upcoming Captain America amongst many others) it tells the story of an Owl, a Fisherman and a Snail. Conceived as an entry for the Virgin Media Shorts competition where the brief includes a time limit of 140 seconds including credits, “The Little” uses no dialogue, a mind-blowing meld of live animal work and CGI and a simple story to create something that feels entirely unique. While I’m biased due to my irrational love of owls, it reminds me of the tone of film I was shown as a kid when family films weren’t afraid to scare the kids (which is definitely an article for another time) and it deserves to be seen by as many people as possible:

 

THE LITTLE from EVOKE on Vimeo.

And finally, “No Escape” Will’s entry for the National Sci-Fi London 48 Hour Film Challenge 2011. Quite simply, competitors had to shoot, edit and score a whole short film in 48 hours using whatever means necessary to tell a story. Each team had to use a title and line of dialogue they were given, and incorporate a specific prop, all of which are detailed at the beginning of the film:

http://youtu.be/rjVwg3kgi3E?hd=1

“No Escape” is a perfect example of what Will does well. He takes a simple and familiar concept and gives it a fresh and  exciting spin, aided here in part by some tremendous effects work from the guys at The Mill. It’s enigmatic, leaves you wanting to know more and above all else confirms this guy knows what the fuck he’s doing.

As for the future, it’s looking pretty rosy! Last year, “Who’s Afraid of the Water Sprite?” won the Best Film award at The Cambridge International Student Festival. That same festival came back this year under its new name, “The Water Sprite International Student Film Festival”. I Wonder why?

The Patron of this festival is the incomparable Hilary Bevan-Jones, a working film and television producer and the former chairperson of Bafta. Among her many achievements in the industry are the Emmy-Award winning “The Girl in The Cafe”, “State of Play” and “The Boat That Rocked”, and now we can add to this list William McGregor’s “The Rising”. That’s right, having met in Cambridge in June 2010, Hilary is now producing Will’s first feature film, a thematic extension of “…Water Sprite” which promises to be something quite special indeed. Judging from a recent Facebook update it looks like it may be set during the industrial revolution and I don’t know about you, but that sounds like something I haven’t seen tackled from this Perspective before… And he’s still under the age of 25. If ever there’s an incentive to just get out there and do it, it’s people like Will.

Anyway, you’ve got the gist. Let me know If you found this interesting, there’s plenty more people to get through and by all means send me shorts you may have seen, made yourself or worked on.. I love checking out the competiti—*cough*, sorry… sidetracked. The future of filmmaking is out there so if there’s anyone you think I should feature in this column send some stuff my way…

The deadline for the Virgin Media Shorts competition 2011 is July 7th, let’s all get cracking!

Here’s a collection of links for some of the stuff mentioned above:

http://www.twitter.com/williemcgregor

http://www.williammcgregor.co.uk

http://www.sci-fi-london.com/festival/2010/48hour

http://www.virginmediashorts.co.uk/

http://www.watersprite.org.uk/