“Life is absurd” – Pippa Young talks Goathland and C4 Random Acts

“I am attracted to the absurd, because life is absurd.”

It seems apt that these words would fall from Pippa Young’s lips as we talk on Friday evening. Bonding over a shared tin can injury (for which Young is recovering from,) the filmmaker is, despite her pain, celebrating her work Goathland, which is to be featured in the upcoming series Channel 4’s Random Acts, in a joyous celebration of the surreal. The film revolves around two mime-like balloon enthusiasts who come across one another and an ensuing battle commences.

The 23 year old from Ebberston Yorkshire has been honing her craft for a while and has established herself as an unusual but brilliant filmmaker. “I’ve always been hugely gripped by cinema,” Young says, speaking of how she got into the industry. I became curious about making a film around 16 when I persuaded my reluctant twin sister to be in front of my new camera to see what would happen.  I got her to don a freaky bunny head and filmed her walking on beaches, playing golf, sat in a beautiful old empty cinema in my hometown of Scarborough. I borrowed a friend’s live white bunny and the film concludes with her transforming into a real rabbit – almost like a reverse Pinocchio. It wasn’t meant to be funny but now it’s hilarious to watch! I discovered how incredibly exciting it is to turn visions from your head into images with real colours, real people and real sound. I studied filmmaking at Kingston University and being surrounded by a breadth of very creative people with crazy ideas was amazing.”

Flash forward a couple of years and Young is now set to showcase her work to thousands of people thanks to the return of Random Acts. The doors have thrown themselves open to Young: “I was quite proud when I was featured in Gothic seaside town Whitby’s local paper. That’s a goal ticked off my list.”

As mentioned and reviewed, Goathland is a fantastic three minute piece that combines the colourful and the bleak, which is seemingly accurate because it was dreamt up thanks to a hangover. “Perhaps it’s because the rational voice of doubt is busy sleeping,” Young says, describing her work, I was drifting through Waterloo station and saw a balloon artist wearing a huge towering balloon hat, which was mesmerizing. I became very excited by the idea of bringing ambitious balloon sculptures into a narrative and thought how interesting it could be to bring them somewhere unexpected. I live close to the Yorkshire Moors and knew the desolate, ancient beauty of the landscape would create a wonderful contrast to the absurdity of inflatable animals. I obsessively researched balloon art and got in touch with David Crofts, a brilliantly talented balloon artist with a mad website containing all kinds of balloon desks and cars. David was immediately keen on the collaboration and it was a wonderful process to discuss the dimensions and colours of each balloon object. I am so grateful to Stop Play Record (the initiative that funded this film) for giving me the means to work with all kinds of skilled people, each bringing a new dimension to the film. The male actor in the film is actually my brother, Paddy Young, and it was a huge amount of fun working together – it definitely won’t be the last time!”

Goathland has a distinct classic feel to it, harken back to the era of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. And it’s with these cinematic greats where Pippa found her stride. “Keaton was a top reference for the character. Others include the Strawberry Lunch in The Seventh Seal and contrasts like that: Profound meetings in the countryside. Silent movies were  more bizarre and there will be shots of the moon and weirdness.”

The short certainly brings back a childlike and colourful nature to the Yorkshire Moors, which are often shown as bleak in movies such as Catch Me Daddy. “There is something of an amusing light to the Moors. It’s a beautiful kind of bleakness. In the summer though, you get these purple flowers which changes the atmosphere completely. We caught it just as they were turning blue which greatly contrasts the balloon colour.”

That must have been some sight, these balloons atop the rolling hills of the Moors. Young denotes some tales of being stopped by landowners:  It’s funny because I always describe folks in Yorkshire as friendly but we didn’t realise where we filmed was actually someone’s land!” After being berated, Young managed to convince the farmer to allow them to film as they had little budget. The following day, the same thing happened. Luckily, the second lad found it really cool.

It’s lucky because now we get to enjoy a great short from Young this evening. Hosted by Zawe Ashton, Random Acts occurs every Monday night where short films and exeperimentia. Starting in 2011, it is great to see Channel 4 throw their weight behind Young’s work as well as upcoming filmmakers like her. Naturally, Young is excited to showcase her work: “It’s insane! I feel like a birthday cake wish has come true! I’ve always admired Channel 4 for showing bold and wildly imaginative work. To have my own work broadcast on such a brilliant platform is the most exciting and encouraging affirmation to carry on making films! The Random Acts films are all so superb, there is so much talent and imagination in every short so it is a great honour to be shown amongst them”

It is also wonderful to see female filmmakers on the precipice of this new generation of directors. “It’s an amazing time for women in film,” Young ruminates. “Though we just came from Cannes where only 7% of the works shown were by women, there are lots of companies such as Birds Eye View and Women in Film and TV which help push female filmmaking.”

It’s not just festivals such as UnderWire, Cannes, or London Short Film Festival, but there are a lot of companies pushing these shorts and features forward. For example Young got a major boost from company called Stop Play Record. “They funded my film and selected 24 films to go forward, which most happened to be by women. They weren’t chosen because they were by women but it’s great to see talent like this starting to filter through.”  

With Young on a clear path for an illustrious and vivid movie career, her advice to upcoming or wishful filmmakers is simple: Don’t be afraid. “Fear is destructive to creativity! Dive whole-heartedly into an idea and immerse yourself in all kinds of research, whether it’s wandering around museums alone, exploring archives, people-watching or putting yourself in unfamiliar environments – anything can lead to brilliant inspiration. Also make use of all the wonderful initiatives, workshops, grants that are around for aspiring filmmakers these days – it’s a great time to be making art!

Catch Young’s Goathland as part of Channel 4 Random Acts tonight!


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