Inside Oxford’s student filmmaking scene

It is hard to deny that the film scene in Oxford is enjoying steady growth right now, with bold new creations being made on a regular basis. The latest of these is Dan and Jon versus the Funsultancy, which will be screened at the Ultimate Picture Palace on the 2nd May. The plot essentially revolves around Jon, who loses his job as a social events officer to the mysterious and imposing Funsultant. Without giving too much away, what ensues is a hilarious ride through Jon’s belief system that will have you laughing from start to end. Talking recently to the director Jess Park, it is clear that the ‘short’ film (coming in at around 40 minutes long) was a labour of love based on almost a year of commitment.

Jess, now a PPE finalist, started work on Dan and Jon versus the Funsultancy after interning in a consultancy firm, with many of his experiences (though also ‘the most horrible of my life’) later inspiring some of the content of the film. Indeed, one of the characters introduced early, ‘Steve Van der Bolt’, reflects perfectly what Park saw as the jargon that fills many of these meetings, with incessant uses of words like ‘creative problem solving’.

One of the most noticeable elements of the film is its cartoonish feel, inspired by the likes of Adventure Time: ‘It’s just such a generic, boring normal context like a logistics company, so doing it in such a way definitely seemed funny’. This was reinforced by a very meticulously created soundtrack, frenetic and intrusive at times and very much instrumental in the creation of the tone of the film. The shooting, Park says, was inspired by Edgar Wright among others, which, given a number of quick cuts across various scenes, is very traceable, but all the more enjoyable. Dan and Jon versus the Funsultancy does not refrain from being adventurous, just as student film should be. Shots can cut from kaleidoscopic chaos to tranquil cloud movements without a second hesitation, while another jumps from a barely recognisable Clems nightclub to an empty meadow, a slither of light emerging or descending at dawn or dusk. A lot of this was down to Santosh Rai, director of photography, who met Park whilst Rai was serving in Keble Dining Hall. It was from that point really that the film took shape.

But what of ‘The Funsultant’, the other titular character? The suited, sunglassed man, who strolls around producing saws and birthday cakes seemingly on a whim, is one of the most intriguing parts of the film. As viewers will see, James Methven’s blank expression carries a great weight with it, one that apparently took huge amounts of directing. ‘We planned every intonation’, Park says, though he still admits he’s not entirely sure what the Funsultant is (‘he’s still a mystery to me’) – does he actually exist? Who exactly is he parodying? These are the questions that run through your head as you watch it.

Dan and Jon versus the Funsultancy will be showing at the Ultimate Picture Palace on Friday 2nd May at 5pm – if you have a free hour or so why not check out student film making at its best!


PHOTO/ Jess Park