Aram Atkinson
Fireflies: When a gamble pays off

Fireflies: When a gamble pays off

Fireflies: When a gamble pays off

In my last post I quoted Mike Nichols - "The only safe thing is to take a chance". He was right. Fireflies was made on a shoestring budget, pulling in favours left right and centre, in a midst of uncertainty, but top line success? It's been shortlisted or won an embarrassing amount.

With freelance comes pressure, a need for organisation, graft and commitment, but it also brings freedom to make what you want to make. When I saw the Rode Reel competition 3 years ago, I always thought about entering, but it took the self-guilt of saying "This is why you've gone freelance, to tell your own stories" to force myself to do it. Cue Nikki McMullen, a talented writer who helped me create the voice of Alice, the 5 year old daughter, and finally have a script for this concept I've had on my desktop for years. I think Ivy-Mae's talent is evident for all to see, but this film wouldn't have been possible if it wasn't' for her enthusiasm and courage, as well as her mother's support and trust in what we were trying to do. But this is where the gamble begins.

We shot the whole film in a small studio space in an attic on a Spring Sunday,

but at 5pm on the Saturday I was still trying to find my male lead and supporting nurse, having had a few drop outs. It's times like these when it's easy to quit, but that's when your closest allies come to the fore. I called my friend and trusted peer Riyadh Haque, who gave me two names, Ben Elder and Ellie Snow. Ellie is an acting student at University, who was keen to get onto a (very small) film set, and her hunger shone through; her patience, willingness to adapt and interest in the process is a testament to her future potential, and whilst it may have been a small role, it is pivotal in keeping the magic alive, so I cannot thank her enough. As for Ben, not only is he one of the most genuine, talented and committed actors I've ever had the pleasure of working with, but his ability to work with Ivy and create the magic of Fireflies was something to behold. It took all of 60 seconds watching Ben's showreel to know he would be an absolute steal if I could get him onboard, this is how the phonecall went;

"Hi Ben, I'm a writer/director making a short film tomorrow in Bournemouth, no money, no storyboards, I haven't shot my own short film in 5 years, but I have a good team on board, I can send the script over to you in 5 minutes, and I will be forever grateful"

"Hi Aram, I'm just at my nephew's birthday in North East London, but send over the script, I'll learn it, I'll sleep in my car, drive down super early tomorrow and stop off for a shower at a service station, and give you my best".

Skip forward a few months, and out of the 1520 films entered into the International Rode Reel, Fireflies gets shortlisted for Best Acting, Best Film, and wins Best Drama. For Fireflies to be shortlisted in the top 13 films out of 1520 is humbling, but to win in it's genre as well left me celebrating like a 5 year old boy. It's now also been shortlisted for Hampshire Prize at Winchester Film Festival, and Best Fiction Film at Southampton Film week. Fireflies was meant as a stepping stone and a mental kickstart to overcome the hurdle of creating original content again, and it's only achieved that down to the people who made it possible, so in a thank you far less thorough than they deserve, thank you Harrison Bates, Riyadh Haque, Ben Elder, Ivy-Mae and Sam, Jamie Kemp, Ellie Snow, Ricky Gane, Nikki McMullen, Poole NHS and Treehouse Digital. Onto the next!