A showcase for short film writers and directors the Coming Up season on Channel Four is all about ‘supporting and building relationships with new talent’. Ten years since the launch does it still remain true to its initial aim to encourage dramas with ‘bold ideas’, ‘strong voices’, ‘originality’, ‘ambition’ and ‘wit’? Four episodes in and, so far, I’m impressed.
Although this series allows us little more than a glimpse (the longest film is just 25 minutes long) into four very different worlds, the stories are sharp and cohesive. To answer the time constraints the writer, director teams have used an effective shorthand, incorporating great visuals (a crate full of ham-hung humans and a Caesarean scar peeping through the bubble bath) with easy to recognise character traits (Mary’s grip on her can of Special Brew and Martha’s no-go-zone around the carpet). Despite this, some viewers have expressed frustration that the credits roll too soon; their main bug bear being that they want to know ‘what happens next’. It’s true that some of the stories don’t end neatly but I think it's refreshing to find open-ended, thought provoking short films like these. A curiosity about what happens next suggests an audience’s imagination has been captured, unlike recent offerings (The Killing, The Hour) where the story is flogged until we're beyond caring.
Interestingly none of the filmmakers chose particularly likeable protagonists - Kelly is a petulant ex-addict, Tommy a shambolic murderer, Micah a player and ‘English man’ effectively a terrorist bomber. It may be easier to ‘plug in’ to a heroic hero but the characters in this series feel much more realistic because of their flaws. An audience has to empathise with a protagonist but they do not have to be nice. There’s no drama in nice. If the lack of do-gooders hasn’t put some viewers off, the strong language and the gritty themes of the series might, but I applaud a scheme which not only gives new writers a forum but to also let them run with their ideas and explore them in an authentic and powerful way.