An Interview with Oscar Winner Chris Overton

“It’s kind of like getting the keys to a Ferrari after just passing your test”

We're sat in the understated Slick Films office which is attached to the side of a church. Chris makes us feel at home immediately and takes us on a mini tour. The rain is pattering down outside but that doesn't ruin the mood. There are shelves full of camera and lighting gear and right in front of us sits the Rhode Island Grand Jury Prize. There are posters of upcoming short films and off on a ledge just out of sight is Chris' Oscar. Chris, our welcoming host, who rocks a beard and man bun, is chatting all about what Slick Films are trying to achieve and questioning us about our own films. We dive straight into Chris' journey and the conversation is flowing. 

Short Films Big Questions: How did you get ‘The Silent Child’ (your Oscar winning Short Film) made? There is a myth that these Oscar winning films have a big funding body behind them and lots of money to fall back on but you self funded this?

Chris: No. It was so hard to get it made. It really was. We got less than £10,000 to shoot with. We crowd funded. It was a long road before that though. It felt like we tried it all. We applied to all the funding bodies. We went everywhere and we just go told ‘no’. It was just rejection after rejection and we got to the end of that road and decided, as scary as it is, that we were going to have to do a crowd funding campaign. Then that turned out to be even harder! Somehow we managed to get the money up and then we looked at each other and said ‘Well crap! We are going to have to make this now’! It was done with so much blood sweat and tears and I don’t honestly know how we did it looking back.

It was done on a lot of favours. I produce everything that I direct which is a big money saver. The core members of the team and a lot of the crew gave up their time to tell this story and I owe a lot to everyone who helped me get it made.

We didn’t even know when we were filming it that you could win an Oscar for a short film.”

Will and Ieuan with Chris at the Slick Films Office.

Short Films Big Questions: So skipping ahead a little. You had massive success with The Silent Child. We were curious as to what happened after you won the Oscar. Was it everything you expected? Were all the doors thrown wide open for you?

Chris: If I look back I think it was the best experience I possibly could have had. We went from an idea in Rachel’s (Rachel Shenton - Writer/Actress) head to the Oscar stage. It allowed us to experience every single nook and cranny of making a short film. Most filmmakers only get to do 70% of it, they never get the chance to do that next bit. It’s only when a film becomes that successful that you get to see the other side of the filmmaking journey that exists perhaps a bit more in the feature filmmaking world.

The truth is that we were not prepared at all. It was the first thing we did and we had nothing lined up. A lot of people would be asking us ‘What’s next?’ and the only answer we had was “Well we are just taking this film around.” So naïve. Obviously the whole point of getting the success is so that you can pitch your next project. We weren’t ready. That’s the truth. But honestly we never planned to win an Oscar. We didn’t even know when we were filming it that you could win an Oscar for a short film.

When we were filming the DOP (director of photography) had these glasses he would wear and this joke came up that he would take them to the Oscars. We would all laugh thinking how ridiculous it was and then he did take them to the Oscars!

We won the Grand Jury Prize at Rhode Island which meant that we could submit for the Oscars. And again we didn’t really know what that meant or how the process was going to go either. Rhode Island submitted us as their Oscar Qualifying film which meant we were added to the long list for the Oscars. It is a list of 100-150 films that have all won the Grand Jury Prize of their Oscar Qualifying film festival. That then gets short listed down to 10 films. To get down to the final 10 the odds are just crazy, so when we did, we just thought that is enough. They announce it and then your email box goes absolutely bonkers. It’s quite insane really and quite intimidating. Those 10 films become 5 and then you get to bloody go to the Oscars. For us, more than anything, it was being able to take Maisie, the little girl who starred in the film. Giving her that opportunity was amazing. And then we won and it’s just crazy really.

“I could have ended up doing a couple of feature films that wouldn’t have meant anything to me.”

Short Films Big Questions: The aftermath of that must have been very positive? You must have been approached by everyone. Was it this moment that made you able to bring Slick Films (Chris’ production company) to what it is today?

Chris: Because we didn’t have anything prepared when everyone would ask us what’s next we would just say ‘errrr the Silent Child feature film with no thought really. Then what you get is this humongous amount of pressure and it’s kind of like getting the keys to a Ferrari after just passing your test. Honestly that is the best way that I can describe it. Suddenly we are in these rooms with these big companies that you dream of working with and some of those relationships that we built up are advantageous today.

I think that Rachel and I were a little bit paralysed by it. It was very daunting and we had huge imposter syndrome. You are offered a lot. I had an American agent straight away and they were saying can we attach you to this feature film and this feature film and this feature film and I was reading the scripts and they all started in this vein “Johnny opens the door of his Mustang” and I’m just thinking ‘I can’t do that!’.

Looking back I am very proud of myself for not taking that. I could have ended up doing a couple of feature films that wouldn’t have meant anything to me. We both decided to go back and learn our craft. We went away and learned what it’s like to be a filmmaker. We went away and made more short films and now I can say I am ready to make a feature film.

To check out the rest of our conversation with Chris head over to our podcast 'Short Films Big Questions'.