Kate Sullivan’s short film, ‘Walk Tall’ focuses on George, a charismatic and affable gymnast whose poise and grace have remained intact throughout his 91 years. George explains how to maintain a good posture from following simple and affordable exercises that he gallantly demonstrates in the short. This man knows what he’s talking about; his own workouts on makeshift equipment appropriated from household objects got him to the 1948 Olympics. The short moves between live action documentary footage to animated flashbacks and archived photographs from George’s younger days, including images taken at the Olympic games. A beautiful portrait emerges as the film unfolds. Walk Tall is not merely a guide to having a good posture; this short also poetically captures the life story of an amazing man. Be prepared to complete it with a straight back and a new hero.
After premiering at the 55th London BFI Film Festival Walk Tall was screened at over twenty international film festivals across the world, including the LA Shorts Fest, the Berlin’s British Shorts Film Festival, Leeds International Film Festival and our very own ESFF last year. We caught up with Kate Sullivan to ask her more about this wonderful film, her experience of the ESFF and what the future holds?
We love ‘Walk Tall’ – can you tell us how the film came about?
I met George by chance in 2010. I noticed his amazing posture and asked him for some tips. Tips turned into posture lessons at his house during which George would share stories about his life. These stories inspired me to stand up straight – and I wanted to share them.
How did you decide to balance the animation with the filmed documentary footage?
With the greatest respect, George does tend to go off at more than the odd tangent! Whilst these are of course interesting in themselves, I wanted to pack in as much of George’s incredible life into ten and a half minutes as possible. Animation of course allows you to perform multiple edits. If I’d edited the live action in this way – well – I’m sure you can imagine how that would look!
It was also important to me that I included a certain amount of live action to let George steer the film. It’s nice to hear that people feel the balance is right.
Why did you decide to submit the film to the ESFF?
I’d met Paul [the director of the ESFF] at the Lochness Film Festival. I imagined that George would like the spirit of the festival as it is run by supportive, enthusiastic people. George is a competitive person but (like the other Olympic veterans I’ve met) really valued the social aspect of the 1948 games – something they told me they say as lacking in 2012.
Why is it so important to participate in film festivals?
It’s great to meet and be energised by fellow filmmakers. Also, you get to promote the folks who funded your short in the first place (good for obvious reasons!).
You have provided the full film online, why did you decide to do this?
I didn’t to begin with but once it had been in a few festivals I thought it’s time to share George’s wisdom with a wider audience. Also, if it hadn’t won Shooting People Film O’ The Month it would never have received this quote from Danny Boyle: ‘’Walk Tall re-invents the public information film and improved my daily posture, through perfect unison of character and form. As George would say, ‘Well, there we are‘. Quite wonderful.’
What advice would you give to young, short-filmmakers who are just starting out?
Keep making stuff; it doesn’t all have to be polished and wonderful. Show it to people. Get feedback. Filmmakers are on the whole lovely generous people who support each other.
Finally, can you tell us a little about your next project and future plans for ‘Walk Tall’?
I have some smaller stuff on the go and also a more elaborate fifteen-minute short documentary about a digital pioneer who created some truly ground-breaking animation way back in 1967. I didn’t set out to make a film about another old man (!) but it seemed silly not to take the opportunity as we met by chance.
As for Walk Tall, I’m not entering it onto any more festivals but it’s back at the BFI in January for the LOCO Film Festival and is due to be screened on the BFI’s VOD service – so bit of an honour there!