Meet the Talent Executives

We are pleased to introduce our two Short Circuit Talent Executives – Alice Whittemore and Mar Vila Barcelo.

Alice Whittemore (left) and Mar Vila Barcelo (right)

What will the Talent Executives be responsible for? 

The Talent Executives will design and deliver a programme of activity across Scotland to support filmmakers through outreach work and facilitating networking and professional development opportunities as well as funding. They will work closely together and with the Short Circuit delivery partner teams at Film City Futures and Glasgow Film to ensure integrated and accessible support for filmmakers across Scotland.

Where will the Talent Executives be based? 

The Talent Executives will be based in Scotland, working from Film City Glasgow but engaging with filmmakers from right across the nation. Our outreach will involve surgeries, screenings, talks and events that are open to new and emerging filmmakers based around the country – initially taking place online but also in person as things return to normal post-COVID-19.

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

Alice: I started working in talent development and production when I got a job as assistant to that department at Film London. We produced over 20 shorts a year through the London Calling scheme, and I also worked on delivering training for filmmakers including the script development bootcamp part of the Microwave first feature initiative (which made Hong Khaou’s Lilting and Georgia Parris’ Mari, among others), a distribution course called Build Your Audience and also a finance market for low-budget films (Micro Market, now the new talent strand of the Production Finance Market). It was so eye-opening to meet people working across all areas of the industry: from development and financing through to sales and distribution.

Before that, I’d only worked in exhibition, for cinemas and at film festivals, so to gain insight into the life cycle of a project and how much time and effort goes into that was truly invaluable. I did a one-eighty from wanting to be a film programmer and curator to appreciating the genesis of a project from ideas stage, and wanting to be involved in that creative process. Not long after leaving Film London, I moved to Cardiff where I worked as BFI NETWORK Wales Manager.

Mar: I hail from Girona, a small city north of Catalonia. The love for cinema has run in my family for generations – my grandfather run the local cinema at a tiny little village, where double bills where the bread and butter, westerns were everyone’s favourite genre – with children jumping on their sits to ‘ride’ their horses – and what we now call auteur cinema was received with thunderous boos and walk-outs. I never got to see that cinema, but it clearly made an impact. 

After studying Media Studies at the public university of Barcelona, I started working in the industry as the coordinator of the Barcelona Film Commission, which gave me the chance to travel to film festivals and get a sense of the international landscape. I also worked in script development and production, first collaborating with my brother on his no-to-low budget and crowdfunded films and then as part of the FC Barcelona media team where – before anyone asks – I never got the chance to meet Messi personally!

I moved to London seven years ago, and I have continued to work as a consultant for filmmakers, producers and distributors in the UK and globally. 

Before joining the Short Circuit team, I had been working for over three years at the London office of Hollywood talent agency ICM Partners, working with writers, directors and producers in the UK, Europe, the US and Latin America. 

What aspects of the role are you most excited about?

Alice: Without a doubt what I’m most excited about is working with the filmmaking teams. First opportunities are hard to come by and in recent years, I have felt drawn to find and promote new and diverse talent, to help advance the careers of promising filmmakers and to create a safe and trustworthy environment so they can do what they do best: tell stories.

Mar: Scotland’s vibrant industry is not short on captivating stories and high class talent. I am a firm believer in the power of storytelling when it comes to connecting people and understanding human nature so I cannot wait for the world to see all the stories these super talented Scottish filmmakers are creating as we speak.

How do you plan to support the creative and professional development of filmmakers in Scotland?

Alice: Short Circuit runs the Sharp Shorts and First Features schemes to support filmmakers and their stories across Scotland. Mar and I will work tirelessly with the filmmaking teams behind these initiatives’ selected projects by offering them development and production support for their stories and also training opportunities for their own professional development, from script editing and pitching sessions to understanding of the festival landscape, audiences and the distribution process, among others.

Mar: Most importantly, we are here to support all filmmakers across Scotland regardless of these two particular development programmes. That is why we have envisioned a programme of talent development opportunities across the country together with surgeries and events. We are here to listen to these filmmakers, answer their questions and concerns and work together with them to find new opportunities to promote their careers. 

If you had to recommend one of your favourite short films and one favourite feature film from recent years – what would they be and why?

Mar: Such a difficult question! My taste is very broad as I’m a person who loves classic westerns, counts A League of Their Own and The Commitments among childhood favourites, but also is a fan of the Fast & Furious franchise (don’t judge me, I say that with pride!). Jokes aside, the films that have really left a mark on me, or one could even say scarred me for life – are the films of Kelly Reichardt, Celine Sciamma, Derek Cianfrance, Kenneth Lonergan and the likes.

If I had to pick one, I would choose Wendy & Lucy, by Kelly Reichardt – so honest and raw in its portrayal of real, ordinary, working class mid-West Americans punished by a system and a way of living that was never meant for them. Her films are so beautifully imperfect, and no one creates such a symbiosis between characters and landscapes quite like her. I saw this film the year after leaving uni and it was a total game-changer.

Short films-wise, I’m going to cheat and pick a couple that really impressed me and stay with me. One, is Phil Barrantini’s Boiling Point, a one-shot short film starring Stephen Graham as a head chef navigating a stressful and relentless kitchen in the run-up to Christmas. It grabs your attention from minute one and doesn’t leave you. The other is from a writer-director combo I love called The Fight, directed by Georgie Banks Davies and written by Abby Ajayi. A class and racial struggle between two characters in the confines of a taxi. I truly recommend them!

Alice: My ‘favourites’ change all the time and like most people I go to different films depending on my mood. A relatively recent film that ticked all the boxes for me was Chevalier, directed by Athina Rachel Tsangari. It’s a black comedy that gently satirises the male ego – and very typical of Greek new or ‘weird’ wave cinema in the way it deftly combines absurdist humour with pathos. An entertaining and often wacky watch but also profound!

In terms of shorts, one that always sticks out in my mind as feeling truly unlike I’d anything I’d ever watched before is Cracked Screen by Trim Lamba. It’s told entirely through Snapchat, and is just such a great example of what the short form can do in terms of utilising modern technology and telling a story in a succinct and compelling way. For a really short short I recommend Anna Mantzaris’ stop-motion animation Enough, which is a fun exploration of humans acting on inner urges that we normally suppress.

How do I get in touch?

Send an email to hello@shortcircuit.scot addressed to either or both of the Talent Executives.