We chatted to the team behind the film: director and co-writer Oscar Sharp, writer Dawn King and producers Campbell Beaton, Tiernan Hanby and Max McGill.
Oscar: We had quite the back and forth over this because it's one of those films where you're better not knowing much before you see it. We settled on "A mother contracts an unusual condition causing her to rise very gradually into the air, whilst her husband and daughter struggle to cope."
Tiernan: I think we have all got this far through a combination of tenacity and dedication to quality; sticking with it and making better work year on year. I have been making short films, commercials and music videos for the best part of a decade within and without Fortune Films.
Campbell: I had previously made about 10 short films ranging from no money up to £60k and since recently one for £145k. I have also been producing high end fashion adverts.
Dawn: I have been writing for about twelve years, I started out in theatre through the Royal Court and Soho Theatre Young Writers' Programmes so my writing training came from writing plays.
Oscar: I worked as a runner then in festivals and script development. Then I started teaching kids to make films and honestly learned how to do it from them. I must've overseen the making of several hundred first films by the time I made my first 'proper' one.
Max: I started out working in different on-set roles from camera assistant to DP before meeting Campbell and moving into directing music videos and shorts. Alongside directing I've been involved in producing, writing and developing Fortune Films projects with Campbell and Tiernan.
Tiernan: In a previous life I used to work as a 1st Assistant Director and met both Oscar and Campbell on the set of a low budget zombie film I was working on.
Dawn: Oscar and I met years ago when we were stuck in a room for three days stuffing envelopes. We had to become friends. It was either that or kill each other. During our friendship, I became a writer and Oscar a director and we loved talking to each other about stories and scripts. The Karman Line was an extension of that really. Oscar asked me to write it for him and I said yes.
Campbell: The film cost £45,000 to make in the end and it was a 6 day shoot. It was funded through the BFI and Virgin media shorts programme which was won by Oscar and Tiernan with Sign Language.
Tiernan: As with all large shorts the money is never enough for the ambitions of the script, so we were always going to be asking for support from people. The key thing we got right with this film was asking for support from the best people possible.
Campbell: The film was difficult to get our heads around until we decided to actually cut a hole in a ceiling. We had to prove to the BFI that we knew what we were doing but I had previously shot an Olly Murs video with lots of wire work so once we showed them that, they were happy we could do it.
Oscar: What Campbell is humbly not telling you is that the ceiling we cut a hole in - and indeed the house we took over for a week - was his mum's place in north London. His genius stroke here was that her partner has superhuman handyman skills, so he both created and mended the hole. Everywhere else we had approached was just too afraid of the prospect.
Campbell: The main issue was doing the VFX work because there was a lot of online work before we actually had an understanding of how it would look. The effects were created in a few ways (suspending people from wires and removing them in post as well as using green boxes and then adding movement to the legs in post so they weren’t locked and obviously on a box amongst other things) and Oscar wisely used different techniques together in each scene so that it’s hard to identify them. Practically it was hard for Olivia to be up in the harness so much but she was amazing and never complained! The roof shoot was dangerous so we took it slow and steady with a stunt teams and riggers keeping us safe at all times.
Oscar: One thing I wish we'd done differently is how we floated her in the places we couldn't use wires. I was always certain that her legs needed to "dangle" a little, but the only way we were able to get her off the ground with the resources available was standing her on a bright green box. This meant her legs were too static, which later added a month of post to slightly sway her legs by hand.
Tiernan: It was incredible that Olivia was so amenable to the wire work as she did spend pretty much 4 days strapped in and had the bruises to prove it. As well as cutting a hole in the house we also filmed at a green screen studio and we gave the locals quite a sight with Olivia hoisted in a harness 3ft off the ground on a pavement in Waterloo.
Oscar: I'd been besotted with Olivia since the early 2000s - I honestly think she's the best actress in Britain - and I wrote her a sort of giddy fan letter and we waited with baited breath. But Olivia was pretty busy at the time, so with about 2 weeks to go we were still waiting and I was close to having to look elsewhere/kill myself. Then Shaun Dooley came to meet us and he asked who was playing the wife. I said we were waiting on Olivia, but she's not had time to read it, he said “don't worry”... and that evening we heard that she loved the script. We met in a pub, talked about my mum, we both cried.
Dawn: Giving reality a twist can allow you to do things that you can't if you look at the subject absolutely straight on. I love that pact that is created when you say to the audience 'we're going to do an impossible thing now and treat it like it's not impossible' and the audience goes with you.
Oscar: So there's a sort of movement in fantastical cinema of embedding impossible things into highly ‘realistic shooting styles. It began with the leaps forward in special effects with rendering and motion tracking; basically, handheld with FX became possible. It began emerging in music videos and ads, then the first mainstream cinema example was probably District Nine, then there was Cloverfield. Many are 'found footage' or mock-doc style, but those aren't the only realist grammars in cinema. It's a style that is sort of owned by British filmmakers like Ken Loach, and of course Andrea Arnold. So landing her cinematographer, bonafide handheld genius Robbie Ryan, was huge.
Oscar: Annabel Grundy spent many gruelling hours on film festival websites and talking to programmers, and I spent many gruelling hours attending those festivals in ski resorts, the Hamptons, Chinese mountain cities, Bondi beach pavilions etcetera. Never let it be said that directors don't work hard for all the praise.
Oscar: The usual thing... we started with a few of the big ones and got plenty of rejections - not surprising for a 25min short, but still heartbreaking. Then Claudette Godfrey at SXSW picked us up, and that started the rollercoaster.
Campbell: Fortune Films is just completing its first feature film, Hot Property, which will be ready in two months and working on the next shoot with Max McGill directing.
Max: It's an (un)romantic comedy starring Myanna Buring about love, greed and estate agents. It will be out later in the year. After that there are a bunch of feature projects in development with Fortune.
Tiernan: Yes, definitely watch this space for our film Hot Property. We spent much of last year getting it made and it's looking fantastic.
Dawn: I am adapting my stage play Ciphers into a screenplay for Cowboy Films. Oscar and I are keen to work together on a feature project and we're in the early stages of that process.
Oscar: A few things. I'm finishing Grad Film School at NYU, and I'm in early stages on several feature projects; one is a sort-of-sci-fi called Onboard with Tobey Maguire and his company Material Pictures. In the UK, so far I'm cooking up something with fellow BAFTA shorts nominee Jennifer Majka, plus like Dawn mentioned we have a new feature idea we're very giddy about - which we'll soon be discussing over copious egg and chips.
Campbell: I might be flying at 8am the next morning to Barcelona for a fashion shoot but otherwise a bit of networking and also some fun would be fantastic!
Tiernan: Max and I will have to fly the Fortune table dancing flag in Campbell's absence.
Dawn: My plan involves not accidentally getting champagne in my eye, which I have been known to do when nervous. It's not a good look.
Oscar: I will be taking pictures of Tiernan and Max table dancing for future photoshopping/blackmail fun and using a water pistol to squirt champagne at Dawn. I will also be hugging my mum a lot because she's my plus-one.