Stars from the worlds of film and television took part in Tonbridge School’s first annual Short Films Awards ceremony.
The Oscars-style, online event, which ran for more than 40 minutes, was shown ‘live’ via Microsoft Teams on Friday 3 July.
Presenters included director Tom Hooper and actors Dan Stevens, Rosamund Pike, Emerald Fennell and Lily Cole, with Alistair Petrie taking the role of Master of Ceremonies.
Launched last autumn, the competition was the brainchild of Oscar-winning documentary-maker and former Tonbridge pupil Vikram Jayanti (Sc 1968-72), who has been teaching filmic story telling at the school.
Vikram said: “My aim was to encourage and galvanise film makers from across the school. To do this, nothing succeeds like a competition, especially one with glittering prizes and with glittering stars to present them.”
Boys were invited to submit original work in categories for Drama, Documentary and Comedy. Films had to last no longer than three minutes and could be shot on any device in landscape format.
Dan Stevens, also an Old Tonbridgian (MH 1996-01), who rose to international stardom with his role in Downton Abbey, presented the Grand Prize to overall winner Ryan Ng for his comedic work, Setbacks. It told the story of some of the struggles and frustrations that First Year student Ryan (FH1) came across when making his film for the competition, which included the loss of WiFi, wrong passcodes, missed deadlines and even a broken zip.
Presenting the award from his home in Los Angeles, Dan Stevens described Ryan’s work as “a brilliant and playful piece, full of invention, cheekiness and humour, and I loved it”.
The actor, who recently co-starred alongside Harrison Ford in The Call of the Wild, added: “The range of submissions was amazing and it’s exciting to think of where this competition might lead in future years, such as sports and science documentaries and foreign language films. It was really exciting to see the work of the finalists.” He even joked to the Tonbridge boys: “I’m also excited as one of you might give me a job one day.”
From New Zealand, Oscar-winning director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, Les Misérables, His Dark Materials) presented the award for Best Drama to Alex Dean for his film, The Thought Fox.
Alex (CH4) dramatised Ted Hughes’ poem to atmospheric music, images and illustrations. “It really is a terrific film,” remarked compère Alistair Petrie (whose acting credits include The Bank Job, Rush, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and The Night Manager).
Emmy Award winner and Oscar and BAFTA nominee Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl, A Private War) presented the award for Best Documentary from her location in Prague. This went to Rory Dalton (FH1) for his poignant film Generations, which features ‘then and now’ family footage and conversations.
Rosamund said: “This is a film that I deeply admire. The old and the new are interwoven seamlessly and without the need for narration, because the story is so perfectly told through its imagery. There’s a lovely reminiscence of things past without any forced nostalgia. Congratulations to Rory for his wonderful film.”
The Comedy award was presented by actress, author, screenwriter and director Emerald Fennell (Killing Eve, The Crown, Call The Midwife). The award went to Zac Ribbins (WW4) for his film Just Jamming, a comic short involving a boy’s fruitless search for a jar of jam and another boy’s wicked deception. The work also starred Alex Lambert (JH4).
In his acceptance speech, Zac said: “The piece tries to answer an age old question: what is the secret of comedy? The answer being, of course, timing.”
Model, actress (St Trinians, The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus), environmental activist and entrepreneur Lily Cole presented the runner-up award for Documentary to Hugo Streets, for Abandoned Thoughts. This film combined footage of an abandoned village with powerful imagery of the sea and coast – described by Hugo (FH1) as “creating isolation and abandonment through nature”.
Lily Cole also announced the Runner-up for Comedy, which went to Daniel Stick (WH5) for The Exam (a.k.a. A Way Out), in which he created an amusing fantasy of escaping from a school test.
In concluding the ceremony, Alistair Petrie told the entrants: “Keep telling your stories, as these help us understand the world in which we live. We should seek them out and celebrate them. We can see there is some huge talent in these film makers, the ones we celebrated today, and also in the others who didn’t win.”
Tonbridge’s Headmaster, James Priory, said the school hoped to become a centre of excellence for film making, and that the competition would become an annual event. “Well done to all who took part. It was an extraordinary experience to have such stars from the worlds of film and television not only present the awards in a ‘virtual’ ceremony, but to give their support to our competition and to take such an interest in the films the boys have been making.”
Mr Priory added: “The World Economic Forum, when it was evaluating the skills that were going to be important in our future lives, listed ‘creativity’ as one of the top three skills that schools should be thinking about. Technology is important, but we need our storytellers too. I’m grateful to Vikram Jayanti for his work in helping us to discover, and encourage, the creative talent that we have at Tonbridge.”
As winner of the Grand Prize, Ryan received a state-of-the-art, portable video projector made by Miroir. As a reward for winning their categories, Alex, Rory and Zac each won a DJI Osmo Pocket video camera.
Watch the awards ceremony:
Tonbridge Short Films Awards 2020: Results
Grand Prize and Overall Winner
Ryan Ng (FH1) for Setbacks.
Alex Dean (CH4) for The Thought Fox.
Rory Dalton (FH1) for Generations.
Runner-up: Hugo Streets (FH1) for Abandoned Thoughts.
Zac Ribbins (WW4) for Just Jamming.
Runner-up: Daniel Stick (WH5) for The Exam.
Pictured below, from top: Former Tonbridge pupils Dan Stevens and Vikram Jayanti.