Victoria Mapplebeck, Department of Media Arts, has recently won a prestigious national film award for her short film ‘Missed Call’ – all about her young son’s journey to reconnect with his absent father. We recently caught up with Victoria to find out more about Missed Call, why she chose to shoot the documentary on an iPhone X and what it means to have won the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Research in Film Award.
1. Could you tell us a bit more about yourself and your role within the Department of Media Arts?
I’m a Reader in Digital Arts. I teach film practice and digital media within Media Arts. I’m also the Course Director of the MA In Documentary by Practice. My research explores how multi platform documentary has evolved since the late 90s, from online interactive narratives to the immersive experiences offered by non fiction VR. Over the last four years, I have experimented with smartphone filmmaking and I’m currently in production on a new smartphone short for The Guardian.
2. Many congratulations on being awarded a national film award for your short film ‘Missed Call’ – one of the first professional documentaries in the world to be filmed on an iPhone X. What does it mean to have won the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Research in Film Social Media Award?
I'm delighted to have won an AHRC Social Media Short Award. I'm really passionate about the impact and audience reach of social media platforms so it was great to be part of this new Social Media category. The AHRC Research in Film awards celebrate the impact universities have on everyday lives in the UK and beyond. The media attention that these awards generate, creates a platform to talk about my research and reach a wider audience. Winning the £2,000 award will also help me to produce my next smartphone short.
3. Can you tell us a bit more about Missed Call?
Missed Call is the first commissioned short documentary to be shot on an iPhone X and is a sequel to 160 Characters, my first smartphone short which was made for Film London. Missed Call explores my relationship with my teenage son Jim, as we discuss how we’ll reconnect with his father who’s been absent for a decade. The film begins with the last email his father sent in 2006 and ends with the first phone call to him over a decade later. The photos, videos and texts archived in our phones, provide a road map of our digital past. Missed Call explores the ways in which we can collect, curate and share these digital memories, reflecting on how our lives are lived and archived via the phones we hold so close. Here's a recent interview Jim and I did with ITV about Missed Call.
4. What was your motivation behind creating the documentary?
Last year Jim decided he wanted to meet his dad and asked if I would make contact with him again. Missed Call is about us discovering whether he was ready, whether I was ready, Jim got there first. I’m fascinated by the secret life of teenagers. There are so few films that look at the difficult stuff of family life from an adolescent point of view, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood being a brilliant exception, but it uses actors. This is a real story with real lives. Squaring the circle of being both filmmaker and parent, made this one of the most challenging films I’ve ever made but I’m very glad I made it.
5. Why did you choose to shoot it on an iPhone x?
The smartphone has transformed how we record, collect and share the world we live in, both inside and outside of the home. I’ve been a self-shooting director for 25 years. The camera I shoot with has gone from needing a bag the size of a small suitcase to one that fits in my back pocket. I love the intimacy and spontaneity of shooting with a smartphone. Smartphones are portable, unobtrusive and – even for the most cash-strapped filmmaker – accessible.
6. You may have seen our latest recruitment campaign, ‘Find your why’. We are interested to find out what Royal Holloway has helped you to discover about yourself…
Teaching film practice at Royal Holloway has given me a renewed sense that as a filmmaker you never stop learning. The only way to improve your craft is to continually take risks and experiment with ideas and form. Failure is as a big of part of that creative journey as success. Or as Samuel Beckett puts it, ‘Ever Tried? Ever Failed? No matter. Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better.’