For a number of years Bombay Sapphire have championed the work of independent film makers with its Imagination Series film competition. Headed up by Oscar-winner Geoffrey Fletcher the competition had its greatest success at this year’s BAFTA awards when James W. Griffiths and Sophie Venner won the Best Short Film award for their stunning Room 8 (which you can, and should, see here).

This week the winning directors converged on the Tribeca Film Festival for an event celebrating the last round of winning entrants and their films. We had the chance to speak with the directors about their influences and their journey to the final film with the Imagination Series.


Film 1: Reflections

Director: Anthony Khaseria

Synopsis: A beautiful couple in beautiful surroundings – it should have been the start of the ultimate love story. But a romantic meal turns dark and fantastical when they discover a hidden mirror which shows their true reflection..

In their own words:

Reflections is a dark thriller about a couple who find a mirror which reflects the true nature of their relationship. I wanted to create something which would be unexpected and surprising – taking an everyday item, in this case a mirror/a reflection, and twisting its original nature.

The image of a person’s reflection not doing the same thing as the person was something I thought would be visually interesting and arresting

It’s very hard for writers/filmmakers to get projects/films made, let alone noticed and distributed to this extent, so it’s definitely been a fantastic platform to showcase my ideas.

The strength of a short film is in its brevity – some ideas when stretched out fall apart and only work in a short format.

I think the advance of technology has certainly helped people make films and the internet definitely allows people a place to showcase their work. Having said that it’s still great to see a short on the big screen!


Film 2: Exit Log

Director: Chris Cornwell

Synopsis: In 2249, two space engineer’s journey through deep space takes a dramatic turn when they discover an emergency message from the past. They’ll have just three minutes to decipher the message and decide their fate forever.

In their own words:

In the future, Time Drives are installed on space ships as safety devices. In the event of emergency, they reset the ship by three minutes. Only one thing remains: the warning messages left in the Exit Log.

Somewhere in deep space, two engineers play a game of cards. One of them checks the Exit Log to find a message from herself. It tells her that something terrible will happen in the next three minutes, something that will make her activate the Time Drive. But that’s not all- it also gives her a dire warning not to trust the person she’s in the room with…

I really love eighties sci-fi that plays with big philosophical ideas, but in a really gritty, entertaining and fast-paced way. I wanted to tell a time travel story in real time, but about two characters trying to escape a time, rather than a place.

It’s tough getting short films made and it’s incredible to have this opportunity to let your imagination run wild.

Ridley Scott inspires me. He grapples with big ideas in a really visceral and meticulous way. I love that he doesn’t have to sacrifice entertainment for the idea or vice versa

The moment which surprised me most was walking onto set and seeing people building a spaceship that I’d written about. Then, walking onto said spaceship and seeing what happened if I pushed buttons.

Every story should reflect its medium and short film is no different. You can take a really crazy idea, run with it, and see what happens in a way that you couldn’t with a feature. The short running length is a fantastic restriction. It forces you to hone the idea and to express in its simplest, most powerful form.

The Internet has helped a lot. Not only does it help democratise access to the work you produce, but it means helps you to connect with other like minds across the world. Also, there’s so much choice online and that means that film-makers really have to fight to keep their audience’s attention. This can be a good thing!


Film 3: Graffiti Area

Director: Maite Fernandez

Synopsis: A mesmerizing look at the inexplicable and unpredictable nature of our own fears. When two young graffiti artists start painting, the graffiti takes on a monstrous life of its own. Can they escape their own creation, or even themselves?

In their own words:

This is about escapism. Two young people are painting a graffiti on a wall. Their graffiti is a message because they are frustrated and bored. But suddenly the graffiti absorbs their feelings. The graffiti becomes a monster and they run away.

Watching how your idea becomes a reality it’s something surreal. It’s awesome how my idea became real. It’s completely surreal. In fact, I think my script is like the graffiti monster: now, it’s something real too. And the animation part is something spectacular.

I think that the Bombay Sapphire Imagination Series invests in young talents and I believe it is really brave. There are many people out there waiting for an opportunity and I think the Bombay Sapphire Imagination Series is the perfect platform.

I was present at the filming of Graffiti Area in Los Angeles so see all those professionals involved in the realization of my script was something really impressive. Watching the leap from paper to those alleys Downtown left me speechless.

I love writing short stories and I think short is the perfect way to express yourself. But change is something that takes time to create something delicate.


Film 4: The Other Side of the Game

Director: Kiara Jones

Synopsis: A newly married couple are battling to get out alive from an unfamiliar hostage situation in this taut psychological thriller. You won’t expect what happens next.

In their own words:

Passionate liasons create a perilous entrapment. It is about Secrets and Lies.  Someone is keeping them and someone is telling them to themselves and others all the time. Let’s reveal some truths.

[The Bombay Sapphire Imagination] series is a monumental moment in career development to connect, create and collaborate with amazing talents in the industry. Also, it’s so difficult to get a short film script, financed, produced and accepted into a festival of this magnitude. The experience is beyond your imagination.

I’m really inspired by the work of new contemporary filmmakers like Cary Fukanaga, Dee Rees, Anja Marquardt, Shaka King, Lucy Malloye, Ryan Coogler. The freshness of their voices and their ability to create beautifully crafted films outside the studio system is remarkable.

This was my first film project that I works on soley as writer and did not produce or direct. Though I new it would be different I was surprised and thrilled at the limited amount of control I had as a writer once the script left my hands.

The short film format is a great platform to explore a single idea, but the truth is, the short film format is only limited to the imagination. Its greatest strength, in our busy society, is that it can display a filmmakers ability to craft story, define characters and engage human emotions quickly and powerfully.



Film 5: Need for Speed (Dating)

Director: Allyson Morgan

Synopsis: Nate and Polly have the perfect relationship. A nice house, a white picket fence. There’s just one problem – the relationship is just a dream. In this light hearted comedy, Polly tries to find her dream date at a speed dating event. But will anyone live up to her dream boyfriend?

 In their own words:

I’ve been a long time fan of the Tribeca Film Festival, even volunteering for them about 9 years ago, so I was on their email list. I saw a tag at the end of one of their emails about a week before the script was due and on a whim decided it would be a fun challenge to submit.

I’ve written a couple shorts before, including a half hour comedy pilot about entertainment news, and an unfinished feature about three unemployed actors competing to find the best day job. But I’ve never had anything produced on this scale with this amount of support before.

Everyone at the Bombay Sapphire team very much encouraged me to keep building on, expanding, and deepening my imagination, which is very much in the spirit of their brand. They always made me feel respected and encouraged in a very hands on way. When I heard I had been selected it was the day after my birthday party, so I think it was a bit of a delayed reaction. I received an email, felt elated, shocked, thrilled, and grateful…and then went back to bed because I thought it was a dream.

It’s an incredible opportunity for any filmmaker [to have a film screened at Tribeca], and I’m so humbled and flattered to screen my first major film endeavor not just in my hometown, but at one of the best, most prestigious film festivals in the world. I have no idea how I’ll top this experience.

I actually hate traditional romantic comedies and didn’t set out to write one, as I think they promote an idea to women (and men) that love is easy and always works out in the end. They infuriate me because they never show the actual hard work behind a relationship, or the amount of partners you have to search through and learn from to find the right one. The rom-coms I identify with are slightly darker, or more realistic…like Bridesmaids, Groundhog Day, Eternal Sunshine, Silver Linings Playbook, (500) Days of Summer, etc.

I have not been speed dating, although I collected some first hand accounts while revising this script. I have been on numerous, horrible dates over the years, though…that has to count for something, right?