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6 questions with the Thumb-Stopping Moments short film competition judges - Part 1: Alastair Douglas

We recently launched the Thumb-Stopping Moments short film competition, in which we are asking filmmakers of all levels to submit their 60-second films that immediately grab the attention of the viewer. To give entrants a better idea of what the judges are looking for we asked them some questions about film, advertising and what makes their thumbs stop scrolling. We started off by speaking to competition judge and CEO Alastair Douglas.


What is your favourite film?

"I don’t really like to watch films again and again so I wouldn’t say I have a favourite. I loved There Will Be Blood because of the ultra-creepy soundtrack from Jonny Greenwood and general impending menace vibes."

What is your favourite advert?

"Here are two of my favourites: "Levi’s ‘Flat Eric’: The ad that introduced me to creative genius Quentin Dupieux (aka Mr Oizo) with the song ‘Flat Beat’. It was also part of the run of Levi’s ads that got unlikely sounding songs to top the UK charts, which seemed funny at the time." "Guinness’ ‘Horses and Surfers’: A more obvious choice, but the intro to Leftfield’s ‘Phat Planet’ gave the ad a quality that was very different from anything else at the time. Also, the advert came out before the album, and in the pre-streaming days, it was literally the only way you could hear any of Leftfield’s new music (off a very heavily anticipated album)."

Creativity or technology?

"I think it is a false choice because technology is often the enabler! How about photography? These days no one would argue against photography being a creative pursuit. As technology gets cheaper and becomes easier to use it is interesting to see how perceptions change about what counts as being creative. Again, using photography as an example, what’s the difference between street photography exhibitions from pre-war London and someone these days who is snapping on Instagram? Does using #nofilter make you more creative than the next person?"

How has technology impacted media consumption?

"I think the most exciting trend is that the barriers between consumers and creators are being eroded. For music, you once had to have enough money to hire a studio, hope you got signed, hope the label invested in you and then hope that radio stations played your track. Now you can do it all yourself for hardly any outlay. "The same applies to TV. New technologies like YouTube have obviously changed the media game. We used to be dependent on a few TV channels for most of our light entertainment, but now someone with a good idea and a webcam can be watched by millions of people. On a larger scale, streaming services like Netflix have completely revolutionised the way we experience films and TV shows. Would Making a Murderer have been as successful if it was shown on Channel 4 with ad breaks every 15 minutes?"

What was the last thing that made your thumb stop?

"I recently came across this on Facebook. It’s every joke from the comedy film Airplane ranked best to worst. It’s such a simple (yet probably time-consuming) idea, but it instantly makes you want to see where your favourite joke came up in the rankings."

In one sentence, how would you avoid the unexpected?

"Learn how to take an unexpected situation and use it to your advantage - just because something seems unavoidable doesn’t mean there won’t be a more simple solution." Come back next week to see how the other judges answered.

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