John Gillespie wins BBC short film competition

Jonathan Melville 11 November, 2015 0
John Gillespie wins BBC short film competition

Glasgow-based filmmaker John Gillespie recently won first place in BBC Radio 5 Live’s Well Done U short film competition, alongside his co-writer, Patrick Hughes.

Their two-minute film, Soundtrack, was among those judged by radio presenter Simon Mayo, film reviewer Mark Kermode and Belle director Amma Asante, and it was screened in front of an audience at London’s Empire cinema on 23 October.

Here, Gillespie writes about the process of making Soundtrack and what happens next…


I’ve always been interested in filmmaking – I studied film at Aberdeen University and made daft little videos for years – but this was really my first attempt to put together a proper film from start to finish, with casting and a screenplay (albeit a two minute one).

Patrick (my co-director) and I decided very early on what sort of tone and style we wanted: something a little offbeat and light, but without feeling sickly sweet.

The competition called for a U certificate which instantly made me think of silent cinema. From there, the focus soon shifted onto the actors’ physicality and the prominence of music and sound effects.

The original screenplay featured a middle aged man in the office drone role, but we changed it to a younger guy at the last minute. I think that saved the film – it would have been too tragic otherwise. The musician character was written specifically for Sean who is just brilliant (visually and musically).

I’ve always wanted to make films but lacked the confidence or motivation to really go for it. So to put ourselves out there with Soundtrack and receive such wonderful recognition is incredible.

It was a huge honour to be shortlisted in Well Done U (particularly alongside fantastic entries like Blip and Blob and Bob). I’ve been a Kermode & Mayo listener for years, so knowing they’d even seen the film was a thrill.

The whole experience has been totally surreal and faintly ridiculous. The other week I was being interviewed by Simon Mayo and watching our film on the huge IMAX screen with an audience of 600. Then I slept on my friend’s couch using a coat as a blanket.

I currently work for Glasgow City of Science, an organisation which profiles the science, technology and engineering of Glasgow and West Scotland through demonstrator projects such as art exhibitions, education programmes and film festivals.

Now I’m hoping to spend more of my free time focusing on film and riding this wave before the adrenaline wears off and the crippling insecurity sets back in.

Currently I’m working on a screenplay about a miserable old playwright working with obnoxious drama graduates. In a perfect scenario, I’ll get a crew together and shoot a ten minute film in 2016.

Who knows how that’ll work out, but the experience has certainly opened my eyes to what’s possible with a little focus and a little support.

Watch Soundtrack: