SAE Oxford Film graduate wins ‘Best Original Story’ at Venice Film Awards

24 Jul 2020

SAE Oxford Film graduate Callum John won ‘Best Original Story’ at the Venice Film Awards for his Major Project film, DESIGNATION: Limbo

The film is a 20-minute espionage thriller set in Oxfordshire in 1952, where average academic Christopher Oxley must try to prove himself as innocent to the stoic British Intelligence Officer, Agent Sullivan, in spite of all the evidence that points to him as a traitor of the state. 

Callum said: "I'm extremely honoured by Venice Film Awards for the recognition given to 'DESIGNATION: Limbo', through awarding us with 'Best Original Story'. To be selected at all for a film festival is a great achievement in my eyes, so actually winning an award is just amazing, especially one that highlights the importance of storytelling. 'Limbo' was a passion project of mine, and I have to thank the truly fantastic cast and crew that helped me to make it a reality."  

Callum’s ambitious project was filmed at locations in and around Oxford, including Didcot Railway Station and Abingdon football club, with help from a number of SAE students and alumni including Ben Eeley (Cinematography/Steadicam Operator), Max Riches (Sound), Max Pulham (Sound), William Peter Henley (Sound Mixer), Charles Asbridge (Second Assistant Camera), Christopher Crosby (Still Photographer), Aidan Dolan (C Camera Operator), Sam Gosiewski (Assistant Camera/B Camera Operator), Lauren Ridgway (Second Assistant Camera), and Joe Sandford (Gaffer)

The short film is the opening instalment to a planned anthology series set during the Cold War, a historical period that Callum is especially enthused about. 

IMDb qualifiers The Venice Film Awards are an international monthly film festival, where winning short films are screened every month in the historical Italian city.   

The festival judges are Roberta Mastromichele (Actress/Choreographer), Yari Gugliucci (Actor/Writer), Aisha Cerami (Writer), Massimiliano Mauceri (Director/Screenwriter), Cristina Serafini (Actress), Simone Bracci (Producer), Stella Sacca (Actress/Writer), Michele Dioma (Director/Producer), Emanuela Mascherini (Director/Writer/Actress), Andrea Lodovichetti (Director/Screenwriter), Giulia Mazzoni (Composer/Pianist), Charlotte Galmarini (Actress) and Guillaume Tunzini (Director/Screenwriter). 

Campus Director Richard Peirson said: “It’s great to see that a film that so many talented SAE Oxford students worked on has been recognised in the Venice Film Awards, well done to Callum and his crew.” 

While Covid-19 has presented huge challenges to filmmakers, Callum has taken the opportunity to upskill and has also been busy working on scripts. He said: "I will admit, it's been difficult. Not just for me, but for the whole industry. But I personally believe it's what you do during times like this that truly matters. So I didn't stop trying to be creative. I've been using it as a glorified development stage, both writing scripts that I've always wanted to write, planning upcoming projects, and taking the time to do some additional online courses to improve my skill set. At the end of the day, people will always want stories, and as storytellers, we can't let things we can't control stop us from developing ourselves creatively, so when things eventually go back to normal, we can bounce back as stronger individuals afterwards." 

Find out more about Callum here

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