Short Film I Do Air Wins BAFTA

I Do Air, the story of a little girl who who feels humiliated by her own fear of jumping into the water has won the BAFTA for Best Short. The short film, directed by Italian filmmaker Martina Amati, was also entered into the official selection at the Encounters Short Film Festival, this year's Berlinale, and the Cinequest San Jose Film Festival.

Upon graduation Martina was immediately picked by MTV Europe to work in the team that designed and created MTV Italy, based out of London. She then directed a variety of documentaries for TV. In 2008 Martina moved into drama with 'A' Mare', a 14 minutes short film set in Sicily, which screened in competition at Sundance Film Festival and won a number of awards, including the UNICEF Award in Bilbao and a BAFTA Certificate of Excellence at Aspen

Interview with Martina Amati

Iain: How did the film come about?

Martina: I applied for a digital scheme called PULSE from Film London and the UK Film Council. There was a set budget and basically I wrote the script for the scheme. It needed to be set in the UK, so I had some restrictions but I really wanted at that point in my career to make a short piece of narrative without dialogue. This is my second drama, and my first was based on the performances of the boys; the two lead characters. Before doing my next film I wanted to do something very short, abstract and try to tell a story through images and in my next film I could combine the two.

I thought of a universal story of fear and passion, and to overcome that fear. I decided to set it in a swimming pool for two reasons. The first was because being a digital scheme I wanted to explore digital media under water and equally because I am a free diver so I wanted to show it like people are doing in the big blue. There is little awareness of this sport, and I wanted to show how people train when they are free diving.

I Do Air BAFTA Interview

Iain: How did you secure financing to make it a reality?

Martina: We had £10000 from the scheme but some of us were very concerned about it being underwater and the girl having to hold her breath but my other theme is water, in the open seas. So I suppose we assured them that it could be made for the budget. It was very limited for what we did. We asked for a lot of favors and people were amazing. Basically the whole budget went into the film and people helped.

Iain: What were the hurdles you had to overcome?

Martina: The most difficult thing was the location because I chose this swimming pool from the local council, and it couldn't be closed for us at any moment. In my story it was very important to create the environment for the girl to create the peace, and for the water to be calm, for her to overcome her fear, as it was a very internal story. The most difficult was trying to plan the shooting according to the swimming pool. Even if there was one old man swimming, they had to keep it open.

The other thing was the concern to make sure people would identify with the girl despite having no dialogue. When I did the casting I saw many child actresses with sport skills and at the end I picked Claire Harris. She's extremely shy but equally she has a fantastic relationship with the water. When I cast Claire, there was concern that she couldn't do the performance but she was absolutely amazing. It wasn't difficult, but it was very new for me, the way I worked with her, building the trust. I made her rehearse every scene. I spent a few days with her and I asked her to close her eyes. When we started she was so shy! Reflecting herself physically, she really knew she could do it, and obviously I got the chance to get to know her so well. I could make use of the information and I had to get the emotions without asking her to act.

Iain: What propelled you to submit your film to the BAFTAs?

Martina: We received an email from one of the mailing lists we had subscribed to updating us about new festivals. There were a few that we liked, and there was also one for BAFTA and the film had premiered in the UK at the London Film Festival. We recently finished when we submitted to the BAFTAs and because we had already been screened at the LFF we thought well, the film qualified, so why don t we submit it? I would expect films selected for the BAFTAs to have more of a festival history, and so it was a complete surprise. It was fantastic! It will be the International premiere of the film and it has been selected in America, and we will have a premiere there. Somehow when you get such an important nomination, you think, that's it!

Iain: What are your plans for the future?

Martina: I got awarded from another scheme financed by the UK Film Council and Film4 so I am about to shoot a 20 minute drama, which is for cinema Extreme. I am developing my feature idea with Cowboy Films and I have to say the BAFTAs change your expectations because I already have to make another short and now I have a big head, and I am thinking maybe I don't need to! (Jokingly) But I do Air is only my 2nd drama and I am based in the UK despite my accent. I have been here for 14 years.

My next step will be really to do feature length films and see what happens. At the moment the focus is going into production with 'Chalk' which is a story set in the world of competitive gymnastics.

To find out more about I Do Air and the production team including producer James Bolton log on to


film industry network members