Bryan M Ferguson on Caustic Gulp and Flamingo

Chlorine cults and masochistic online dating: welcome to the strange and compelling world of Skinny Short Film Award winner Bryan M Ferguson

Feature by Jamie Dunn | 07 Mar 2016

Bryan M Ferguson has wanted to make movies since the age of four. “I was the only kid in my primary class that wanted to be a filmmaker and not a footballer,” he recalls, “which always took people by surprise and made me a little uncomfortable.” He's certainly gained self-possession since then. Now 29, he’s one of the most distinct and confident voices on the Scottish short film scene. Matt Lloyd, director of Glasgow Short Film Festival, is a fan. During the judging of this year’s Skinny Short Film Competition, which Ferguson won, Lloyd declared the Glasgow-based writer-director “a true maverick.”

His winning film, Caustic Gulp, certainly stood out from the crowd. It tells the story of a small cult dedicated to the consumption of chlorinated water. The story began to form in Ferguson’s mind when he discovered that that element, used as a disinfectant throughout the world, was previously employed as a chemical weapon in World War I.”I just found that really darkly comedic,” says Ferguson. “The idea that there are families on holiday swimming around in large vats of water filled with a chemical once used for mass atrocities and genocide.”

The first things you notice about Ferguson’s films are their striking mise en scène and vivid colour. He explains that this all comes down to an eye for uncanny settings. “I try to find the environments and spaces that the characters will occupy first. The locations of my films mean a great deal to me and are really integral to the world in which I want to surround the characters." It may look like shots are framed fastidiously with compass and set-square, but Ferguson's method is much more loose: "I find the locations, I write the script and then I’ll let the scenes take shape visually on the day of the shoot. I find working instinctively on set keeps it fresh and exciting, for me at least.”

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More on Glasgow Short Film Festival:

 Watch Bryan M Ferguson's Caustic Gulp here!

 No more boring films: Festival director Matt Lloyd

Ferguson has followed up Caustic Gulp with Ballardian body-horror Flamingo, which makes its world premier at The Skinny's upcoming Short Film Award Showcase at Glasgow Short Film Festival. Both films share a curious interest in self-harming cultists. “I’ve always been drawn to exploring and researching bizarre subcultures,” says Ferguson. “There’s just something thrilling and a little dangerous about these things existing underneath the skin of society.”

That isn’t the only connective tissue between the two films: they also have in common an absurdist sensibility, uninhibited performances, and both spill over into visceral violence. “I’m sure there is some deep-seated and subconsciously sordid reason as to why I find the concept of pleasure and pain and the damage to the human body a huge fascination,” muses Ferguson. We wouldn’t like to play pop psychologist – all we can say is that his askance view on our modern world and awkward interpersonal relationships is both unique and thrilling. Ferguson clearly gets a kick out of making them too. “It’s just a lot of fun to subject a squirming audience to whatever weird shit I’ve unearthed.”

Flamingo has its world premiere at The Skinny's Short Film Award showcase at Glasgow Short Film Festival, CCA, 17 Mar, 9pm, Free

Please join The Skinny for a reception toasting Ferguson before the screening – drinks provided by Saramago

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