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Oska Bright 4th International Festival of short films

by Colin Hambrook

animation of four yellow sheep against a turqoise background Oska Bright

Still from Matthew Eggerts new film Save Our Sheep, which has been shortlisted for an Oska Bright Bursary

Image: Oska Bright

Oska Bright 2009, the 4th International Festival of short films made by learning-disabled film-makers, kicks off with some inspiring workshops for people with learning disabilities wanting to learn how to make films.

I've been reporting on the Oska Brights' since 2004. I always wanted to find out how the disability-led workshops inspire learning disabled people to make films. I got my chance this morning with the opening session of Oska Bright 2009. 

Fourteen budding film-makers turned up for a basic introduction on how you put a film together. Many of those in attendance had made films, some with support from the Oska Bright team. And many were waiting for their slot in the one-to-one training and support sessions, which were due to be taking place throughout the day.

There was an excited buzz in the air; excitement about film; discussion about what you need to make a film; but above all the sense that anyone at the workshop could make an entertaining or informative film.

We did some warm-ups before been lead through some story-boarding. We got a range of ideas to vote on and contribute to, ending up with short animation about Brian the Giraffe, who really wanted to go to the moon. He first had the problem of how to get someone to make a spacesuit that would fit him. He was all set, but unfortunately there was a huge explosion - and that was the end of that.

Cartoons were drawn and recordings were made of workshop participants telling the story we'd come up with. We watched a few films from the Oska Bright archive, demonstrating the different types of film that could be made - be it documentary, drama, dance or animation.

In the meantime, Simon from Junk TV took the drawings and recordings and turned our short story into a delightful bit of animation. In the space of two hours we'd been led through the different things you need to think about when creating a film: the script; creating a beginning, middle and end; editing; plus some of the problems that can come up when adding the soundtrack. You have to remember to get agreement from everyone who appears in the film that it is okay to use their image. And you have to make sure that any music isn't under copyright. There was some emphasis here as it is clearly disappointing for everyone when good films get sent in that can't be shown, because the music belongs to someone else and can't be used.

I enjoyed chatting to some of the individuals at the workshop. Matthew Eggert first had his cartoons turned into a film in 2004. As chance would have it, he was just in time for the first Oska Bright - and his film 'Tree Whizz and the Apple Attack' won the award for Best Film Under One Minute. This meant that he and his mum could learn the digital skills to make animations themselves. Their first effort 'Beside the Seaside', won the award for the same category again in 2005.

This year Matthew has entered an animation called 'Save Our Sheep.' It is based on an idea he got from a holiday in Iceland after a near distasterous toboggan ride.

I also talked to one of the workshop leaders Sarah Watson. This is the second workshop she's lead and was vrey enthusiastic about the whole thing. She was excited because she recently won an ITV Fixers Genius Award for innovation and creativity - for her ground-breaking film about speech and language impairment.

Encouragement to be involved in making film is at the heart of what Oska Bright do. All films submitted for Oska Bright must have people with learning disabilities in control of making them - be it as script writer, actor, artist, camera person, sound person, director or producer.

Some quality, life-changing, professional films come out of Oska Bright. As the programme develops, so more and more films by learning disabled film-makers are shown in short film festivals around the world. Another aspect of what the Oska Bright team are doing is the development of accessible film-editing software, working in partnership with Screen South.

The plan is that by the beginning of 2011 the Oska Bright website will have downloadable software you will be able to use, which will put the film editing process within reach of greater numbers of learning disabled film- makers - in time for the submission deadline on 30th April 2011

Go to the Guardian website to read an interview with Matthew and Sue Eggert

The Festival runs from Tuesday 17 to Thursday 19 November 2009 with different screenings each day. As well as daily screenings, Oska Bright includes Master Classes, mentoring sessions, a fabulous awards ceremony and a closing party with live music.

Go to the Oska Bright website for learning resources and film-making advice