Speaking with Max, Young Programmer for the Spectrum Short Film Programme

A series of short films all made by people living with a learning disability, autism or Asperger’s will be screened in the Storyhouse Cinema during the returning Kaleidoscope Festival. The programme has been curated following a series of workshops at Storyhouse by a group of five neurodivergent film fans. Together, the group have worked with the International Oska Bright Film Festival to hone their film programming skills and to select the best short films for the screening. We caught up with Max, one of the Young Programmers.


[Photo: Film still from BEBE AI]


Hi Max, could you tell us a bit about your group and what you’ve been doing?

We are a small but enthusiastic group of teenagers and young adults, and over the last two months we have met regularly on a Tuesday morning in the cinema with Storyhouse Film Programmer Nicky Beaumont. We started off by watching twenty short films, all of which were shown at the Oska Bright Film Festival, which if you don’t know is the biggest film festival in the world for neurodiverse and disabled filmmakers!

The workshop educators were very encouraging, they were helpful for us as a group to ‘break the ice’ and overcome social anxieties. They allowed us all to have a voice. For the first few sessions we spoke to the Oska Bright team in Brighton directly over Zoom, it was exciting to have them involved, and they were very impressed with how quickly we put together the programme.

We learnt the intricacies of learning how to time budget, and how to work as a team to democratically vote on which films to show. I came up with an idea on how we should vote on the films, “the film judging master sheet” – a Google Doc that allowed us to communicate and record our individual ratings and opinions. This sped the process up a lot and we were then able to calculate the average scores to make informed, time-saving decisions. We had 90 minutes to programme for – and the films varied from run-times of 30 seconds to 30 minutes! It was pretty tough at times, especially seeing films I liked that didn’t make the cut, but we narrowed it down to ten great choices.


[Photo: Film still from Down]


How did you decide to call the season Spectrum?

Once we had a clear idea of which films we wanted to show we had a discussion about what to call the programme, we wanted it to be short and sweet, and something that was easy to understand. First we came up with “the emotional roller-coaster” as a placeholder, this was fun and summed up exactly how we wanted the programme to feel as the screening is full of uppers and downers. We thought a lot about the variety of emotions in the programme, and about the cast and crew involved; that’s when we decided on ‘Spectrum’. It brings to mind something that is colourful and diverse, which is what Kaleidoscope is all about. It was perfect.


[Photo: Film still from: S.A.M]


Tell us about the film programme, do you have any favourites?

Honestly, I really liked all of them, and I could talk about them all day in great detail! There are films like Strange that do a very good job at conveying what it is like to be on the autism spectrum, exploring it’s quirks in a way that all audiences can easily understand. My personal favourites were the ones that got people talking. One of my favourites was Down, which is a very artsy film that can be interpreted in all sorts of ways. I also really loved S.A.M which was emotional and very well acted, and I think we would all agree on Wawel Dragon as the groups favourite – this is a must-see, it’s a classic Polish story which is really well made!

We carefully curated the order of films thinking about the pace; we want to make the audience laugh, cry, and question things all in the short space of 90 minutes! Our selection includes a mix of UK and international film, it’s very diverse, and there is a mix of live action, animation, and stop-motion filmmaking on display. If you like the sound of any of that, then this programme is for you!


[Photo: Film still from: Wawel Dragon]


Thanks for your time Max, is there anything you would like to add about your experience working on this programme?

It has been a really fun time. I wouldn’t call this experience work as I have enjoyed it so much. I spent a lot of time on it – a solid 4 hours just watching films – and even longer re-watching them! If anybody is interested in film programming I would fully recommend looking out for opportunities like this at Storyhouse. I hope we have done Oska Bright proud with our selection, I confidently think we have.


All of the events at the Kaleidoscope Week are free with a Festival Pass.

You can purchase your pass here.

or book cinema tickets (pass not included) here.