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Watch Limbo: a short film about disappointment, displacement and meeting death

Amy and Elsie reflect on their time at BFI Film Academy making their first film as part of a crew and bringing their vision to life.

What would you do if death literally turned up at your door? That’s what happens in this quirky, affecting film by this year’s BFI Film Academy worked with Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Three girls, who struggle to make a connection in their uni house, are drawn together by the mysterious encounter. We caught up with actor Amy and co-director Elsie who told us about the making of the film.

Tell us about the film.

Amy: It’s about three uni students from different backgrounds and opposing views on life coming together after an incident occurs. This leads to each one opening up about their experiences.

Elsie: At the very beginning of pre-production we discussed the sort of film we wanted to make. Ultimately, we wanted to create a film that represented our own experiences as young adults, encompassed in an entertaining storyline. Out of numerous ideas, two major themes seemed to appear, and one was feeling displaced. As young people we are constantly trying to find our place in the world, and this can lead us to cut ourselves off from people we deem dissimilar to ourselves. Often those differences are based on preconceived notions. The other major theme was life satisfaction. At an age at which university is pushed our way, we explored the idea that we are sold the dream of total social fulfilment through uni, whereas the reality is often not so glamorous or exciting.

What was it like making the film and working in a large crew?

Amy: I loved it! It was so much fun working on a professional set but also just being able to hang out with all my new mates doing what we love. It was such a massive opportunity for me – I’ve never worked on a professional set with designated roles before. Everything was prepared to the highest standard, with industry cameras and lighting, and working alongside our mentors that have had so much experience was so interesting and the whole experience has taught me so much. Apart from working on set, one of my favourite bits was going to BOVTS prop store – that was crazy! There was literally anything that you could imagine in there.

Elsie: Making the film was challenging for numerous reasons. First we had to find a storyline that worked for everyone, juggling varying ideas and opinions. We also had to work together to ensure we were all getting the most out of the experience. Unlike on a professional film set where everyone has their area of expertise, none of us were professionals and lots of us wanted to experiment with different aspects of filmmaking to see what we enjoyed.

We also took on quite a big challenge when incorporating the theme of ‘death.’ Ultimately we relied quite heavily on the willing suspension of disbelief, hoping the audience could take on our interpretation of death, feeling it more important to focus on the storyline of the three girls.

Watching the film now, how do you feel?

Amy: Watching it now makes me feel sad to not be able to see this group of people every Thursday evening again. But also, I’m not lying when I say I’m so proud of each and every one of us because we all put our differences to one side and all got on so so well. There’s not one person that I collided with. Also, now knowing everyone from the group, I know that we will all be behind each other when sharing and creating work together in the future.

Elsie: Rewatching the film gives me a strong sense of nostalgia. Although there’s always going to be things you wish you could have added, or lines you’d rather change, there will always be the memories attached to filmmaking process and the joy that was had making it.

What would you like people to take away from watching the film?

Amy: That everyone has a story to be told no matter who you are, and differences need to be put aside to see who people truly are beneath their persona – don’t judge a book by its cover to put it in its simplest terms!

Elsie: At the risk of seeming cliché, it’s that life is what you make of it. No how many opportunities you’re presented with, you must allow yourself to enjoy them and be vulnerable or open to them, or you’ll find yourself unable to reach your full potential. By presenting these reserved and sometimes hostile teenagers, forcing them together and having them find similarity in one another, I hope we illustrated that there is more that unites us than draws us apart. I feel this message is especially important in light of the Coronavirus pandemic. This is an unprecedented change in the way we go about normal life, and society is in a sort of limbo itself and a lot what we are experiencing mimics major themes of the film, especially isolation. The girls are unable to open up to one another nor the outside world and find themselves in an almost static bubble of inactivity, as do we, that is preventing them from moving forwards with their lives or really enjoying their university experience. What becomes important is conversation and opening up to one another and through that they can see what they really value in life. I hope Coronavirus allows us to have similar conversations, and we are able to support one another despite being apart.

Would you recommend the BFI Film Academy to other people?

Amy: 100%! It’s cringy but true – I have made some best friends out of this course that I know I will have for the rest of my life. It all felt like one big family – we all supported each other, and I know we will continue to do so. The mentors were absolutely great! Learning from them and being able to do the masterclasses that we had was one of my favourite things, and hearing from people in the film industry was inspiring. If you are not sure what you want to do in the future, but you’re interested in film, I honestly couldn’t recommend this course enough. It has helped me actually decide that I want to work in certain areas of film.

Elsie: Working with the BFI was such a valuable experience for me. I was on a gap year and wanted something to put my energies into and BFI gave me exactly that. The tutors were fantastic, putting in huge amounts of effort and enthusiasm to the project, to ensure we got the most out of the experience as possible.  Along with their teaching, we had multiple industry professionals come in and give us help and advice. Not only did I learn huge amounts about filmmaking, but I also made such solid friendships with people on my course. I’ve stayed in contact with lots of them and a few of us are now working on smaller projects of our own. I could not recommend the Film Academy more to young creatives hoping to get involved in film.

Find out more about the BFI Film Academy and how you can get involved here.