Student film-maker a cut above the rest

07 October 2002
The reigning Campion: Student filmmaker Alex Learmont has won a very generous first prize for a short film she entered in The Obz Cafe Short Film Video Festival.

A MINUTE-and-a-half's film-making innovation has earned UCT's Alex Learmont the chance to shoot her next project with a substantially more expansive budget, and will allow her to use some of movie-making's more traditional – and pricey – material.

Learmont was recently named the winner Рadjudged by applause-o-metre Рof The Obz Caf̩ Short Film Video Festival, hosted by the popular in Observatory eatery. She earned the honour for Baab, a project she completed for her Honours course in film theory and practice at UCT.

Her winning prize consists of R100 000 worth of film equipment rental, partitioned into R55 000 in rentals from the Movie Camera Company (MCC) and R45 000 in film processing and post-production by Film Lab.

Baab – a term of affection she used for a friend that seemed ideally suited to her film as well – was intended as an experiment in some of the practical aspects of film-making, explains Learmont, who heard of her triumph while on holiday in Knysna. For the short piece, she filmed herself doing actions in reverse – like walking backwards throwing clothes and cups of coffee – and in the editing room reversed these to make them appear as 'normal'.

But, Learmont notes, a lot of people have read things into the film that she had not – consciously, anyway – intended. “People reckon it's some subconscious metaphor that's come out of my life about letting go of things,” she ponders amusedly.

“I don't think so. But, as with all forms of art, people are going to read things into it.” Baab took her all of 90 minutes to make, Learmont recollects. “I think making a video quickly is the best way to do things, so you don't spend too much time thinking about all the other possibilities,” she observes.

So, for instance, she decided in the edit suite to – successfully, as it turned out – use the song You are my sunshine from the popular Coen brothers film, Oh Brother, where art thou?, as her soundtrack, simply because it happened to be in her Discman at the time. “I think video's all about spontaneity as well.”

Learmont may be less spontaneous when it comes to availing herself of her winnings, which she will be able to make use of in June/July next year, MCC's quiet season. She already has a couple of ideas she's toying with, including shooting a few music videos, in which she has a special interest.

And she's thrilled about the prospect of using a 16mm camera and some of the more expensive accoutrements of filmmaking. “I think it's every young film-maker's dream to be afforded the chance to work with film.”

And while the responsibility of winning the prize has been “daunting”, Learmont also appreciates the laurels. “I was very chuffed when I heard that I had won,” she says. “It's nice to feel like I have some talent, that I am capable.”

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