Every year the ICA's STOP PLAY RECORD programme supports the planning and production of 24 short films with young people aged 16–24 who are based in London. Films commissioned by STOP PLAY RECORD then have the chance to be included as part of the Channel 4 Random Acts series.
16-year-old STOP PLAY RECORD filmmaker Soren Harrison writes about his experience on the programme with partner Amir Hossain.
Neither of us have ever written a blog post. We are struggling with how to start this because of the overwhelming possibility that someone might actually read it. I think that is what makes STOP PLAY RECORD so important. The things we create will be heard. They will be seen. This is something that we have never really experienced. The film we have been working on for the past six months won’t just sit somewhere on the internet. Neither of us have ever experienced something so intimidating.
Amir and I met years ago as friends and have been creating stupid little movies as a pastime ever since. Armed with a DSLR I got for Christmas, our films have grown and grown. We applied to the STOP PLAY RECORD filming programme this year and pitched our first funded film. Six months later and this project has taken over our lives.
These insights into an industry that we have obsessed over for our entire teenage existence have blown our minds.
I want to be honest and not make it out to be a smooth ride because this was HARD. At this point eighty percent of the film is now finished, and I am laughing to myself because we thought everything would be done by August. Amir and I had never dealt with half of the things introduced to us during the programme. We had never worked with money, never had to buy costumes or hire crew, never used spreadsheets or signed contracts. To be honest, up until this film, we had never even considered how someone would feel watching something of ours. These things, these insights into an industry that we have obsessed over for our entire teenage existence, have blown our minds.
We started working on the movie before the summer holidays, filling a notebook with drawings and notes about the creation we wanted to build. I think one of the best things about our experience was the support we received. Every weekend we would gather with Pierre, our mentor, and the other applicants and share our ideas and advancements with each stage of our project (and eat lots of pizza and watch The Simpsons). Pierre was at the forefront of the operation – taking the strange and colourful creature growing in our heads and guiding it into a reality.
The things we create will be heard. They will be seen... The film we have been working on for the past six months won’t just sit somewhere on the internet.
The first major stage of the film was to create a full-scale magazine. Our story follows a girl who reads a magazine and discovers the boy of her dreams within its pages. Initially we planned on creating a mini zine with a few pages showing our male character posing for an interview and starring in various fake adverts. Fast forward a couple of months and we had independently published ten copies of a 170-page magazine filled with photos, articles, drawings and interviews from our nearest and dearest. We named it PHUG MAGAZINE, and since its debut Amir and I along with our friends Carlos and Theo have gone on to create a second issue with 20 more copies and 250 pages. I think we never really intended the magazine to have much significance in the film, we just really wanted to make something cool for our friends to read. A copy of the second issue ended up on the shelves of the ICA Bookshop, for anyone to read. The idea that people we don’t know are entering our world through the pages of this creation; this is one of the many things that make this project so scary.
To be honest, up until this film, we had never even considered how someone would feel watching something of ours.
Neither of had ever built a set. Over the half term holiday we spent less than £300 on constructing a bedroom from scratch in a studio in Bethnal Green. This was supposed to be the hardest part of the project, but we managed it with the help of my dad and several family friends. Once the walls were painted, carpet in, and the furniture laid out, we began dressing the bedroom. I had designed huge posters of the boy in the film and along with printed photos, framed drawings, certificates and notes we covered the walls. Everything came together. It was glorious.
This project is very hard to put into words. This is probably the reason we haven’t come up with a title yet. Recently we learnt that there was a chance for our film to be shown in the cinema; we have worshipped this idea from the start and all of this seems to be happening so fast. I want to say a giant thank you to everyone who helped us, from the STOP PLAY RECORD team, to our amazing group of friends, to the adults who knew exactly what to do, to people like Alex, Daniel, Shan at IQ Studios, to Mr Mackney and Miss Holland and Miss Gika, to our parents, and to the people at [ SPACE ] and the ICA. THANK YOU. The film is due to be released next year, and we are making a new zine documenting the behind the scenes of the movie in its stages.
Watch this space. ■
Soren and Amir's previous work can be seen on their YouTube channel, and behind-the-scenes shots from the making of this film can be found on their Instagram. Explore what's coming up in the STOP PLAY RECORD programme.