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Writer/Director Harry Richards Talks ‘Santi’ and The University Tour (The FH Interview)

5 min read

After receiving critical acclaim and being selected for the 2022 BFI Future Film Festival, the 10 minutes proof of concept short film Santi is going around the country touring 21 British this autumn for free screenings and Q&As. We spoke to 's writer/director who told us all about the film's journey as well as the university tour.

The short film follows a Colombian immigrant in London which Harry says came from his own experience living in Colombia. He spent six months studying there which really helped form the film. “Even though I felt I could read and write quite proficiently” Richards told us, “when I got there, I really struggled to adjust to the local humour, the local customs, the nuances of the culture that I hadn't anticipated. That left me feeling slightly culturally isolated”.

Richards combined his own experience with that of two of his Colombian friends that had moved to the UK in 2020 and had felt a similar experience of feeling displaced. “I felt this was something I could turn into a screenplay. I started writing the story for a feature film. A 90-minute feature loosely based on my experiences but also on my two Colombian friends who came on board as Colombian executive producers”. Having his friends on board as producers allowed the Colombian experience in the film to be as authentic as possible. And by making it about someone moving to the UK, it allowed for the film “to be a critique on British culture” and how London as a city looks after the people that make the effort to move to our country and assimilate into our culture.

But the feature game is difficult to get into. Trying to find funding for a 90 minute feature film can be really tough for young filmmakers so Harry decided to take one 10 minutes scene to showcase the film's most important themes, the characters, the mood and the settings and to use that as a proof of concept short to create engagement in the subject matter. The point was to convince financiers that there's a story worth investing in. Harry tells me how the feature is still in early development, trying to get interest from production companies and distribution companies. The story is all there, it's just being refined and redrafted. “I'm really excited for it” Harry says about making his first feature and stepping up from .

Image courtesy of Harry Richards

After, initial crowdfunding for the film in January 2021, and being ready to shoot, filming was delayed 3 months due to COVID. “It was really hard and upsetting” having to call crew up and tell them that the shoot had been delayed but ultimately “the biggest positive of that 3 month gap was that it gave me the chance to look at the script again” says Harry. They got in a ruthless script editor who helped rework certain scenes and cut other scenes entirely

“A big part of the process towards making a feature film is ensuring our short film has had the journey we hope it deserves. And a big part of that has been the university tour”. Taking the film to 21 universities around the country allows the film to connect with people that have had similar experiences to Santi, the film's lead character. It's allowed Harry to prove to investors that the target audiences of 18-24 year olds exists and there is an audience waiting to see the film and engage with its themes and subject matters.

Having a Q&A with every university screening has been “overwhelmingly positive” Richards says with every single person being really invested and having a strong connection with the film and all sorts of questions being asked from each crowd. “It's been so uplifting” having those intimate conversations with people and people coming up to you and saying how they felt. But beyond these personal responses, it also shows to investors what people think of the proof of concept short film.

On coming up with concept of the university tour, Harry says that the Q&A tour is a really brilliant way of promoting a film and connecting with audiences to generate word of mouth. And going to universities was a sure-fire way of getting people to come since the events are free and on campus. And it was just far more cost effective than hiring out a cinema for a few hours to show a ten-minute short.

“To get it out to a really big audience, we thought, what rooms have a screen, a projector and speakers that you can hire for free? University lecture theatres…they're not as sexy or as cool or as slick as cinemas, but ultimately they do the same thing and they've got the tiered seating”

Image courtesy of Harry Richards

The university tour promotes the short and increases awareness so that there's hopefully a diverse audience from around the country waiting to see the feature film. But it's also helped find lots of young filmmakers from a vast range of backgrounds that want to be involved in the project.

“I think there are so many positives to the tour. And it's a networking opportunity as well. We've met some fantastic charities through it that we've partnered with.” Harry says the university language departments and film departments have been great to work with but through these universities they've spoken to Colombia charities and have been able to speak to the Colombian embassy as well, all whilst heightening the energy and buzz around the film.

Harry says how he wants people to be able to engage with the short film on its own but also to pique their interest. “The main goal is for people to leave at the end of the film thinking ‘I want to see more'”. The cost of living crisis is making it harder for young filmmakers to get their films made but also for them to be seen and it's pushing young filmmakers “to finding really innovative ways to make their films and get them screened and get them out to the right audiences. It's a really exciting time for film because there are so many different creative ways of making the film and creative ways of reaching the audiences.”

I spoke to Harry when they were about half way through the university tour and he's really loved how well it's been going so far and he just hopes that the university tour can inspire other young filmmakers to think creatively. To think creatively about story but also about how to market it.

Santi is available to watch HERE.