‘Lunch Date’ at Aspen Shortsfest: A lesson in life
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – Sasha Collington knows something about precocious children, having been one herself. As a child in Dorset, in the southwest of the U.K., Collington would tell people she was planning to be a film director. “From a small English girl in a dress, that sounds ridiculous,” Collington said.
Collington brought her precociousness forward a few steps from there. Her father advised her to put her words into action, and Collington, at the age of 8, made her debut as a filmmaker, with “The Helpful Friend.” Along with earning the first credit on her filmography, Collington learned a vital lesson about the film industry: “It was exhausting,” she recalled. “You have to shoot from so many angles, so many times. It was exhausting and I said I’m never going to do this for a career.”
But after college at Cardiff University, where she studied English lit, Collington spent a year in Italy. With part of her student grant money, she bought a camera and made a documentary about her friends in Italy. She sent her finished film to Channel 5, along with a note informing the network’s head of documentaries that he would find her piece “fun and interesting.”
“I got a note back; he said it was neither fun nor interesting. But he said it was well-edited,” Collington said. “I took that one line as encouragement and kept going.”
At the London Film School, Collington made five shorts. One of those projects, “Imaginary Friends,” required a child actor, and among the young lads who showed up for an audition was Alexis De Vivenot, who matched the precociousness Collington has exhibited in her youth.
“I asked him what he wanted for Christmas and he said he wanted the box set of Genghis Khan. At age 10! Even at 11, he was very serious,” Collington said. “I was shocked – this kid is reading more sophisticated books than me. And I was charmed.”
For her first film outside of school, Collington decided to take on a new role: actor. “Lunch Date,” which she also wrote and directed, features Collington as a young lady expecting her boyfriend for a meal in a nice restaurant. But Collington didn’t write the script as a means to get herself in front of the camera for her first acting gig. (“I think everyone thought I was a bit mad when I said I’m going to do that,” said Collington, who is working on a feature-length script, and hasn’t decided yet if there’s a role in it for herself.) The actor she had in mind while conceiving “Lunch Date” was De Vivenot.
In the 11-minute short, which shows Saturday at Aspen Shortsfest with an additional screening on Sunday in Carbondale, an unexpected third wheel shows up at the restaurant – a 14-year-old schoolboy, played by De Vivenot. Wilbur (De Vivenot) announces that he has been sent to inform Annabel (Collington) that his older brother won’t be showing up: The date is off, and the romance is over. Rather than tell the youngster to sod off, Annabel has an extended conversation with Wilbur. She explains her theory about “the random half” – the person destined never to find their perfect partner. The lunch date happens – a shared sandwich in a park, between an anxious young lady and a charming, comforting Wilbur – and Annabel leaves feeling somewhat soothed.
“I was interested in the idea of your life being critiqued by a child. Someone seeing you very clearly – but he’s a child,” Collington said. And that you can have a connection with anyone. Doesn’t matter who it is. You can have so many superficial conversations – and then there’s one that for some reason changes something. Annabel feels better when she leaves the restaurant. Not dramatically. But there’s a little change.”
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