Shorts finalist directs Fast Girls

15 June, 2012 10:00am

Back in 2009, a young Regan Hall sat nervously at BFI Southbank waiting to hear who had been crowned Grand Prize winner of Virgin Media Shorts. Making it to the final 12 entries, Regan's film Gunslingers screened in cinemas nationwide and was in the running for £30,000 funding. Sadly for Regan, Luke Snellin's Mixtape pipped him to the post but three years later his debut feature film Fast Girls is released in UK cinemas, so he hasn't done too badly.


We were really excited when Regan agreed to chat to us about his terrific career (and send us some photos from the set of Fast Girls), so we bought him some sushi and a can of Coke (we know how to show our film makers a good time) and started grilling.

Congratulations on Fast Girls! It's released nationwide today, tell us what we're in for.

It’s about a group of girls on their way to the relay finals in the world athletic championships. It follows two girls from opposite sides of the tracks; Lisa (Lily James) is the 'posh rich bitch', and Shania (Lenora Crichlow) is the girl from the South London estate. They’re forced to work together as a team and sparks fly. A lot of people have been comparing it to Bend it Like Beckham, and somebody called it Cool Runnings with spikes. Also some comparisons to Chariots of Fire which is nice to hear. It’s been getting a great response, and for a low budget UK indie to be getting such a wide release like this, it's really fantastic. It just shows that people really believe in the film. The timing with Olympic fever is really spot on, too. It's just a really fun, positive film – everyone walks out of the cinema with a smile on their face or tear in the eye. Go see it before the Olympics! 


The film's written by Noel Clarke, who was on the Virgin Media Shorts panel the year you were shortlisted. Is that how you met?

No, it was pure coincidence really! Damien Jones, producer of Fast Girls, had just finished making The Iron Lady and contacted me after I was recommended to him by the UK Film Council, now the BFI. When I entered Virign Media Shorts, I’d just got back from shooting another short film in the Middle East called Three Hours. Instead of waiting to see if I won the prize money from Shorts, I decided to go and spend a lot of my own money on making a high quality short film. Thanks to Shorts, at the awards party I met the guys from the UK Film Council Completion Fund which gave me a bit of extra cash to finish the editing of Three Hours. That's how I met the UK Film Council and got on their radar.

How did you find being on the shortlist in 2009?

It was a lot of fun - totally unexpected. I entered Gunsligners on a whim; I really didn’t think it would get anywhere. It was a piece I’d made for a fashion magazine, so it’s not very narrative. But I thought, what the hell! So to get on the shortlist was great, it was my first 'red carpet' experience! It was really nice to finally see my work up on a big screen at the BFI.

I think my film showed a different aesthetic to the others, and I felt very lucky to be a part of the Virgin Media Shorts team. I actually bumped into Luke Snellin at the Empire Awards a couple of months back, he’s gone on to do great things as well. It’s really cool to have managed to independently keep up with him! Virgin Media Shorts is such a great initiative; for a lot of us film makers there’s a fear of ‘the industry’ – the BFI etc . From a distance they seem like these big corporate monoliths that don’t want anything to do with you, but actually they’re really supportive and nurturing.

Your career has taken off in a massive way since we last saw you at the Shorts awards - do you think short films are a good way in to the feature film industry?  

Definitely! Practice makes perfect, and short films are a great way to practice. Feature films take so much effort, so much time and money to do them right. Unless you’re going to make a film right there’s no point making it. So short films give you the ability to shoot in a few days, tell a story tidily, shoot it well and prove you can engage an audience and make something of good quality. I think everybody needs to do it. There’s a writer called Malcolm Gladwell who says that 10,000 hours spent on anything will turn you into an expert, whether you’re a singer, a violinist, a pianist. Nothing beats just time spent learning how to make films.


How did you get into film making?

I decided when I was 16 that I wanted to be a feature film maker, so it’s always been the ambition. I worked as an editor for a couple of years in New Zealand and then when I moved to the UK I worked as an editor before starting up my own production company doing commercial work. Over the past few years I’ve done some really great fashion commercials – Dolce and Gabana, Revlon. Those have all been ways for me to pay the bills, perfect my craft and give me time to develop the film side, all the time making short films in my spare time.

The problem with Shorts is commercially they don’t make sense. There are very few short films that actually make money. So unless you can get some form of soft funding, winning a prize or government funding, they don’t make commercial sense. Who wants to tip money down a drain? In the case of Three Hours, I always knew it wasn’t going to make money, but I knew I was investing in myself in putting my money time and resources into a film that could hopefully prove to be a good calling card to the industry, which is why it did.

We'll be back on Monday with some top film making advice from Regan, like where to find your music and what to spend your money on when you're on a tight budget. Until then, go watch Fast Girls (check out some clips here first) and let us know what you think!

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