The DAFTAS Survival Top Tips From Our Former Winners

We asked our past-winners for their top-tips in creating a quality spoof and how they made the DAFTAS such a fun and hilarious experience.

As our teams for this year write, shoot and edit their spoofs and that fateful March deadline gets ever closer, we thought our teams could use a bit of advice at this busy time. Who better to deliver that advice than some of our most successful contestants ever? 

The DAFTAS How to make a spoof
The DAFTAS How to make a spoof

Make it a standalone film

If you make your film a standalone story in itself, it works for people who haven’t seen the film…

Reuben Williams, NoParkingLand

Reuben Williams’s team won Best Spoof in 2021 for NoParkingLand, a rib-tickling rendition of Oscar-winning Nomadland. Lizzie Daykin also won Best Female Actor for her role in the spoof. “I think if you make your film a standalone story in itself, it works for people who haven’t seen the film or maybe don’t remember it in the same way as you do,” Reuben said. “You can’t put every moment into there, so we just took a couple of little beats and then tried to make this self-contained thing.”

Line Nathalie Ronning and Ashley Jonassaint’s team were an international entry for 2021. Their spoof Nordmannland, yet another take on Nomadland, was shot in the sweeping Norwegian landscape and is packed full of that characteristically dry Nordic humour. Due to Covid rules, Line Nathalie and Ashley had to coordinate their film from across the Atlantic Ocean, from Norway and New York respectively, making theirs a truly international film. Nevertheless, their team won Best Make Up and Best Poster Design.

The DAFTAS Behind The Scenes from the set of #Nomadlife

Delilah Niel, Laurie Presswood and their team took home the You’re Simply the Best award in 2021 for Camel With Horses, an equine example of the full limits of parody (or lack thereof). Their spoof was based upon the Irish crime-drama Calm With Horses, but with more neighs than near-misses and more horse noises than hoarse voices. Nevertheless, Delilah and Laurie were quick to denounce my praise of their Irish accents, which in all honesty I found convincing.

“A lot of people when they make a parody of something, they get really stuck in the idea that they have to recreate the whole movie,” Delilah says, “What worked for us is that we made something that was in the spirit of the movie but could really be its own thing.”

“My thinking was taking the bare bones of a central plot and then focusing on the bits that we could make the funniest,” Laurie goes on, “We gave so much time to our audition sequence, which is most definitely not in the original film. But that’s where all the jokes are!”

Prioritise sound and keep an eye on your lighting

If you can borrow or steal any equipment that you should maybe prioritise sound over anything else.

Ralph Jones, The Awkward Silence’s Extraordinary Rendition of The Mauritanian

Ralph Jones and Vyvyan Almond, known collectively as The Awkward Silence impressed the judges so much in 2021, that they shared Best Male Actor between the two of them. Their ‘Extraordinary Rendition of The Mauritanian’ also clinched the Best Writing award. “My tip would be that if you can borrow or steal any equipment that you should maybe prioritise sound over anything else,” Ralph says.

 “You might have the best punchline, but it doesn’t matter if no one can hear it,” Vyvyan chimes in, “But, also pay attention to the lighting and the sun. Check when it’s going to set.” 

Behind the scenes from The Awkward Silence’s Extraordinary Rendition of The Mauritanian

Like The Awkward Silence, the female-led team behind Camel with Horses, Delilah Niel and Laurie Presswood, also had difficulty with lighting. “In April in Scotland, you only have a certain number of hours where shooting is feasible in the daylight. That was my biggest memory of being stressed.” Laurie explains.

Madeleine Kasson’s team won Best Original Score by Jonathan Copper, for their film NoGoLand, another rendition of Nomadland. “We had two people working on sound,” Madeleine explained. “After the video was edited, we sent it to [Jonathan] and he fixed all the levels because we were recording on phones, and it wasn’t great quality.” Madeleine then sent the winning score off to their sound engineer, Paul Rose, who laid the score over their finished video. 

“I think [Paul Rose] had the most difficult job because he had to work with what he was given, and we had a really tight timeline by then. He made some miracles happen by cutting all that sound together.”

Working within the limitations and keeping organised

Allowing enough time

Mark Haldor and his team’s film The Fetishman put a farcically licentious spin on Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman. They took home five awards in 2020 for Costume Design, Best Cinematography, Best Male Actor (Darren Charman), Best Female Actor (Emelle Smith) and Best Spoof. Mark’s team then came back in 2021 to clinch Best Costume Design for The Trial of the Marvel(lous) 7, a mirthful muck-up of BAFTA-winner The Trial of the Chicago 7, making Mark and his team our most successful entrants ever.  Mark said, “I didn’t think ‘oh well we’ve got a month, so we’ll do it in a month’. I wanted the time to edit. To me, editing is going to make or break it so I think: get your shit together quickly; make sure you’re organised; be aware shit is going to go wrong; take it in your stride; and just have as much fun as you can really.” 

The first time Mark entered the competition in 2020, entrants were given just one day to complete all the filming, as opposed to two days in 2021 and 2022. Speaking about his second entry, Mark said, “I planned on only shooting it in one day, in truth. The second day was always my pick-up day. So, it was like ‘let’s get the bulk of it done in the first day and anything we can’t get or that we need to re-do, we can do on the second day’.”

Behind the scenes from a set of The Trial of the Marvel(lous 7)

Delilah and Laurie’s spoof, Camel With Horses, relied a lot on their organisational skills to be finished within the deadline.  “We made sure to really plan everything that we were going to do before filming,” Delilah explains, “We had quite a concise list of exactly what props we needed and how the costumes would work. It was tight, but I think the limitations make you more creative in the end.”

Madeleine Kasson’s team from NoGoLand found the post-production process one of the more challenging segments. “The editing really took a lot longer than we had initially planned,” she said, “It all has to be edited before you can do the music because the composer has to see the film in order to write music to it. So that’s another week after editing. My advice is to film it as soon as you can and then get on with the other stuff.”

Thriving in the eleventh hour

When asked about the difficulties of working within the 2-day limit for filming and with only a £200 budget, Reuben Williams [NoParkingLand] replied, “I actually liked those conditions for it. I’ve seen competitions where people have spent so long filming and spent X-amount of money, and it wasn’t really a level playing field. Having that parameter certainly stops that from happening. It’s going to be tight, but as long as you’re organised it will all fall into place.”

Ralph Jones from The Awkward Silence said: “I was running around my house wearing various dresses and scarves and necklaces. It was a tight window to do it in. I’m a fan of that sort of thing, it forces you to make something concrete by the end of it and to focus the mind.” 

A lot of team leaders no doubt struggle with whittling down a feature length film into just a 6-minute spoof, but Vyvyan Almond from The Awkward Silence had a different take on that. “It makes you keep it simple. If you have too much time you end up trying to achieve absurd things. But when you know that won’t be possible, you stop worrying about that and it can be quite freeing.” 

Ralph agreed, “We didn’t try to make a linear story for our film, unlike a lot of the other films. We wanted to prioritise the gags and the parody.”

Don’t be caught understaffed

Ashley and Line Nathalie’s Nordmannland, took a trans-Atlantic feat of organization to be completed within the limitations. “Planning is always the key!” Line details, “Also, having a production assistant. Have one or two extras because if something happens and someone has to leave, you don’t want to be the one having to oversee everything at the same time.” 

“It was difficult being that I was in New York and watching through a computer in Oslo, but everything came together,” Ashley says, “I remember the morning of the shoot, at 1am, I was like ‘okay change that, change that, put that on’ and that was fun!”

Behind the scenes from a set of Nordmannland

Punch Up

The Mauritanian – spoofed by The Awkward Silence – is based on a true story of a man who is accused of being a top recruiter for Al-Qaeda and is held in Guantanamo Bay for more than a decade without facing trial. 

“We had to work quite hard to find our angle and be careful not to step into too dodgy territory with regards to people who have been unlawfully detained in Guantanamo Bay,” Ralph explains.

“As comedians we always talk about punching up versus punching down, don’t we? You couldn’t really punch down more than against victims of torture, could you?” Vyvyan adds, “What was wrong with these actions was that they were against an imagined American code-of-conduct, that they were breaking their own rules. That seemed very open for satire.”

Reuben Williams from NoParkingLand stated, “When I’m writing comedy I want to be in a say ‘yes’ kind of mood. I don’t want to feel like I’m being blocked and sometimes in the effort to not offend people it can feel very stifling. But, I also don’t find great merit in offending people just for the sake of it. Obstacles can in fact spur creativity.”

Work with people who make you laugh, have fun and just do it!

Laurie from Camel With Horses explained about the importance of working with the right people. “What I thought was most successful and what worked well for us, I would find a group of people who make you laugh, and you enjoy making them laugh. If you make the film with those people that’s the best way to thrash out your ideas.”

Delilah agrees, “We took influence from The Fetishman who won the year before. They took the same concept of their film [The Irishman] and it was similar in some ways. But really, they just came up with a silly idea and made it with their friends. Doing it with someone that you love and laugh with is really important!”

Mark who created The Fetishman and The Trial of the Marvel(lous) 7 reiterated, “You might have five people organizing, but it’ll come down to the one or two and it’ll stress them out. I think anybody who goes on any set at any point and thinks it going to go perfectly is naïve. And you’ve got to make that part of the journey, part of the fun or you’re going to have a very miserable career, you really are.”

Madeleine from NoGoLand had these final words of advice, “I would say do it, definitely do it! Even if it’s just you and a friend. Don’t worry if you don’t have the experience or equipment or whatever. Just have a go because it’s fun!”

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The article by: Louis Inglis

Photography: Artie Brennan, Ralph Jones, Mark Haldor, Line Nathalie Ronning

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