Directed by Jonny Phillips
Starring Jonny Phillips and John Kirk
Short Film Review by Chris Olson
Two tree surgeons going about their daily wood chipping should not be the ingredients for a gripping, edge-of-your-seat short film, but writer and director Jonny Phillips has concocted just such a piece with Woodwoo. With breathtaking camera work, a stark sound design, and a monumental lead performance, this is the stuff of expert cinema.
John (Jonny Phillips) is a tired and weary worker when we meet him at the beginning of Woodwoo. His exhausted demeanour is in clear contrast to Geoff (John Kirk), who seems remarkably sprightly by comparison. As the two chow down in a greasy spoon before heading to a remote field, the audience is lulled into their seemingly banal working schedule. However, once the perilous tools of the trade are fired up and John makes his perilous ascent into the tree, there is a palpable sense of threat which increases as we start to combine the obvious dangers of the employment with our protagonist's questionable mental and physical well being.
Beautifully filmed using fluid crane shots and acrobatic stunt work, Woodwoo is a remarkable short movie. The landscape and cinematography is gorgeously presented by DoP Andy Parsons, utilising the arresting natural beauty against the wholly unnatural and dangerous work of the tree surgeons. The sound design from Pat Roche is almost completely devoid of score (until the final frames), allowing the sounds of the birds and nature to create a base for the sparse dialogue and raw chainsawing sounds to punctuate the viewer's sense of calm brilliantly.
Phillips proves himself in front of, and behind, the camera with skill and aplomb. His performance is laden with subtlety that suited the tone of the story perfectly, coping well with the insinuation of his state-of-mind without splurging a load of exposition. Likewise Kirk is a great on screen presence, capable of adding moments of believable drama as well as dread through the more physical moments. A sequence where a branch nearly decapitates him is expertly delivered.
It's proof of talent when the seemingly innocuous becomes incredibly engaging and compelling. Woodwoo is this and more. The level of filmmaking is captivating on the highest of measuring standards and audiences will be hard pressed not to leave their cinema seats (other forms of leisure furniture are available) with fingernail marks in the armrests.
Looking to watch free short films online? Watch the whole Woodwoo below...