Skip to main content

Short Filmmaker of the Year Award: Expert Advice

HISTORY's Short Filmmaker of the Year Award is a new category in Trip Historic's annual Historic Photographer of the Year Award. This year, for the first time we're looking for new creative talent to create a short film that tells the story of their favourite historical or cultural site.

We're looking for passionate story-tellers from all skill levels from experienced short filmmakers, to someone who's more comfortable with filming something on their smartphone.

What Makes Compelling History TV

The simple answer to this is…you do! Ultimately, a compelling film will be one that you are invested in. That means it has to be important to you and something you feel needs to be put in front of an audience. It doesn’t matter whether its contemporary history that you lived through or even experienced or an aspect of ancient history that you feel needs more attention, the key thing is that it’s a story you feel is worth telling. Don’t be afraid to be opinionated. History does not have to be objectivized into banality. Take a view and argue it. Highlight and issue and elevate it. Re-appraise an event or person and justify it. History is at its best when it both feels relevant but also contextualized within its own temporal framework.

Passion is essential. The viewer needs to feel that this is an important story that needs to be told. But of course, accuracy and expertise is needed to make sure the Programme is credible and believable. Surprising the audience can be key, but that doesn’t mean it has to be gimmicky or that you feel the need to use lots of modern editing/camera tricks. Nothing should ever take away from the clarity of the story you want to tell. How you get there is up to you but it’s crucial the audience understand what your central message is.

We love stories that feel they are taking people on a journey of discovery. The idea that you are uncovering something new and significant in real time with the presenters or the narrative of the show is a compelling approach. This is clearly not the only genre/approach and straightforward storytelling of a fascinating event or person can be equally appealing.

There is also merit in telling a familiar story in an unfamiliar way. We tend to get similar viewpoints on key moments in History so sometimes reversing the lens or obscuring it can lead to new insights and revelations. The story of D Day from the point of view of the Germans defending the beaches for instance. What did it take to be a successful businesswoman in the industrial revolution? What was the weapon of choice for female Samurai?

Ultimately, regardless of the subject, your voice should shine through in terms of the story you want to tell and how you tell it. We believe History is Alive. The tendrils of the past touch us in ways we may not clearly see. We want you to open our eyes.

Dom Wilkins, Head of Schedulling, History & H2

What makes a good History presenter?

The presenters we love the most are not always the experts, but are definitely the most curious, because while they may know their stuff, they are at their most engaging when they represent us on screen, taking us through their journey of discovery.

Ozzy Osbourne and Suggs are not prestigious academics, but watching them reflect our excitement in finding new revelations or asking insightful questions can engage our own understanding as if they were protagonists in the story they’re telling.

The best presenters also like to get stuck in with their history; unafraid of getting muddy in an archaeological dig, putting themselves in reenactments, tackling controversial views and unveiling the darkest recesses of the past.

The investigation team in Hunting Hitler have dared to push the boundaries in our understanding of well-known events and we love them for it.
HISTORY is never afraid to put the eccentric on screen as well, it does not matter how you like to look or the manners to which you approach your subjects, let your strangeness work for your narrative.

Most of all, our programmes are at their best when the presenters are having a good time, recognising the absurdity of the past’s maddest moments and bewildered by the actions of extraordinary figures, because why not have fun while doing something that’s so endlessly interesting.

Ben Holden, Programme Scheduler, History & H2