Huddersfield-based filmmakers Three Minute Warning to close Oscar-qualifiying Urbanworld Film Festival
In April, Holly Wyatt spoke to Iqbal Mohammed about his short film Three Minute Warning. At the time the trailer had caught her attention on social media, and she wanted to find out more from Iqbal about what had inspired the humanitarian film, and his future hopes for the project. When they spoke, the film had been selected to be screened at Limerick Film Festival as well as the Barcelona Human Rights Festival, and will now close this year’s Oscar-qualifying Urbanworld Film Festival. Holly caught up with the Director Iqbal Mohammed, Producer Alex Gibbons, and Director of Photography Jack Shelbourn to find out about Three Minute Warning’s global success.
So since we last spoke to you about your hopes for the film it’s clear to see you’ve achieved incredible success worldwide, can you tell us a bit more about it?
Alex: To be honest I never dreamed of this kind of success. We’ve been lucky enough to be screened across the world at a number of different festivals: Barcelona Human Rights, Iran Resistance IFF, Edinburgh Fringe, Detroit Trinity International, and Black Star International Ghana, to name a few. Of course the aim is to get into a couple of festivals, but I never expected screenings of this range or scale.
Iqbal: We’ve had a great response from the general public, better than I expected. I originally thought people would see it as a political film when in fact it is a humanitarian film. At two of the screenings where I did Q&As – at the Tollpuddle Socialist Film Festival and the Limerick Film Festival – I found that the audience were not against you but with you, despite some people seeing it as a controversial topic. At the Q&As I saw people crying and generally emotionally drained. I felt like I was doing something right by creating something powerful about a topic which people need to be more aware of. So far we have screened at four festivals and as Alex says selected to screen across the globe, in four different continents Europe, Africa, Asia, and America. We were even invited to Channel 4 in London, where I did a Q&A and the trailer was shown. The fact that it has gone global shows that is a subject matter which people across the world are recognising as a serious issue. Being flown out to festivals for screenings and travelling the UK is pretty surreal.
Jack: We all had a good idea in pre-production and production that we were making a good short film but I’m pleasantly surprised by its success so far.
How did each of you become involved in the project?
Alex: I first met Iqbal in 2014 at No Gloss Film Festival in Leeds, where we both had films screening. He is quite on top of his networking unlike me and wandered over and got chatting. He then went onto screen our short film Hideaway, which had screened at No Gloss, at his event in Huddersfield and from there we stayed in touch. People were very apprehensive of getting involved in Three Minute Warning because of the divide. Personally, I just saw it as an anti-war film and a project that is anti-violence towards innocent people. I didn’t think about the divide. I read the script and wanted to work on a project with Iqbal. At the time I was on sabbatical from my full-time job and it made sense to get involved.
Iqbal: The script was actually written at the beginning of 2015, but I couldn’t get it off the ground. As Alex mentions people were sceptical about getting involved. I really wanted to raise awareness of the situation and dedicate the film to one of my best friends who had passed away. The difficulty was getting it produced, and that’s when I approached Alex. No one else was willing to take the risk. For Alex the risk itself wasn’t the subject, it was the actual the project itself and the task in hand. It was a particularly demanding role as producer, especially with the budget but he did a fantastic job.
Jack: I became involved in the film late into pre-production. I had been aware of the project for a while as I work often with Alex, the producer, on Guerrilla 59 projects. I met up with Iqbal at No Gloss Film Festival, 2015, having first met Iqbal the previous year of the same festival. We were catching up when he told me that his DOP had just pulled out of shooting his film due to other commitments. After a brief conversation I realised what an exciting project this could be and accepted as soon as Iqbal asked me if I would be interested in shooting the film.
What were your expectations going in?
Alex: It’s always really challenging creating film with a low budget. When Iqbal came to me with the project, I agreed to do it because Iqbal really has a way of drawing you in. I knew it would be great, but then I did realise that we were filming a script set in Palestine in London, as well as other obstacles such as the language barrier. There were a lot of challenges. Locations were really difficult, but were achievable. Luckily we managed to get really good locations at a good rate, but it took a lot of time dedicated to sourcing them. The whole project has lived up beyond all expectations of what I ever imagined it becoming.
Iqbal: I’ve only ever screened at four film festivals with my two previous films, which should indicate the expectations I had. With Three Minute Warning I had had a lot of positive feedback, but I still just didn’t have a clue what people were going to think or how they would react. Once we had interest from bigger film festivals, more started to show interest. It’s great being invited down so that people can meet you and the rest of the team and actually see what you’re all about and what you’re promoting. Like I said before, we’re raising awareness of the violence against innocent children, women, and men. People have asked me whether this is still happening in the world. When I answer yes, I hope that people will go and do their own research into what is happening and become more aware. Festivals are a massive bonus and they give you that platform for to provoke the questions you want to answer.
Jack: I wasn’t sure what to expect as I joined the project later on. We had a few meetings on Skype to prepare and I immediately became quite involved. I was in the privileged position of being asked to advise on the script as well as locations. Which can be rare for a DOP, this got me more excited and I quickly became more involved. I remained heavily involved with all aspects of the post-production process, including the edit, and I colour graded the film myself. This was an exciting opportunity as I hadn’t had a chance to colour grade the ProRes 2K footage that I was getting from my Odyssey 7Q paired with my Sony FS700. As I joined the project late I was encouraged to use the crew already in place, which was a fantastic experience. I had a great camera team full of ideas and innovation. This was equally so in my lighting team. Full of fresh and fantastic ideas to work with.
What are your future hopes for TMW?
Alex: It’s been amazing to work with Jack and Iqbal. I hope that in the future we can collaborate on another project, but bigger and not self-funded. The ultimate goal is to do something you love on someone else’s buck.
Iqbal: I just want people to be aware of the situation going on. Regarding Three Minute Warning itself, the project is certainly not dead. There is plenty more we can do with it, whether it’s a spin off or a feature. Some people have commented that the short is almost like a trailer to a feature, because it makes you want to go out there and experience it yourself. We’ve already had some high profile names that have contacted us and congratulated us on what we have done. Once the short is released on Vimeo, it’ll get shared more, and we hope more people see it. In terms of the future, let’s say the Oscars? Haha!
Jack: I had hoped it would gain recognition in the Middle East, but perhaps be too daring a subject for other audiences. It was sold to me as an anti-war film and that’s the stance I take on it. Some may see it leaning towards a side in a war. But overall it’s a story about innocent people losing because of war. I hope it goes on to be seen by many and gains the team some recognition which results in us all working together again.
Take a look at the Three Minute Warning trailer here, and if you are wanting to see the short in full it will be screened on the weekend of the 22nd of October in Leeds at No Gloss Film Festival, where Iqbal, Alex, and Jack originally met!