Visually impaired, Frankie uses meticulous storyboarding to guide the lens and communicate his vision to his DOPHeidi Atkins with permission for Varsity

With both parents in the film industry, Caius fresher Frankie Browne is a self-confessed ‘nepo-baby’. As of late, this has become quite the insult online, but for Frankie, all that this status has given him is some pointers in editing, a (again self-professed) great taste in films, a signed Under the Skin poster, and an admirable drive to make movies. It’s safe to say that Frankie is no Lily-Rose Depp.

“The best horror films have a vibrancy of emotion,” because without comedy, horror becomes “toneless”

Starting with making sketches with his friends back in 2018, Frankie has been making films in whatever form he can for a long time. He then gradually progressed into making horror shorts, and his latest project, Midnight Feast, is a short film which is as funny as it is scary. We follow Rowan and her strange bear, Bunk, as she chats to her babysitter, who is far too old to deal with a stuffed animal. Avoiding too many spoilers, safe to say: chaos ensues. Frankie told me that ever since watching Chucky films as a kid, he’d loved the idea of “cute stuff going horrible”. It’s a clear influence in this short, which is both hilarious and eerie, with wonderfully gross special effects.

You can watch Frankie’s short Midnight Feast on Vimeo at this link.

Within the small catalogue Frankie’s Vimeo boasts, Midnight Feast stands above the rest, and through no accident. Of the filmmaking process, he says, it was the “first time doing it with people who really wanted to do it” and who weren’t just “being persuaded”. Frankie is visually impaired: it can often be a struggle behind the camera, but for this project he found people interested in cinematography to take his place, focusing instead on meticulous storyboarding to guide the lens.

Frankie BrowneHeidi Atkins with permission for Varsity

Midnight Feast is also very funny, something Frankie feels is integral to horror: “the best horror films have a vibrancy of emotion,” because without comedy, horror becomes “toneless”. When asked about ‘elevated horror’ (an emergent new sub-genre that shies away from the camp humour of the films that have most inspired Frankie, instead focusing on layers of allusion), he criticises its self-serious nature: “horror has to be spontaneous and elevated horror contradicts that”; elevated horror is “thinking rather than feeling”, and loses horror’s fundamentally “unpredictable nature: “The issue has to wrap around the horror. The horror needs to be put first.”

“Ever since watching Chucky films as a kid, he’d loved the idea of “cute stuff going horrible””

Midnight Feast is also a “lockdown baby”; Frankie felt that lockdown gave him a unique opportunity to work on both making films and practising his skills by entering competition shorts. “I never intended to win” he told me; “they helped me to learn”. We’re all familiar with the free time lockdown gave us as students, and the free time Cambridge takes away; when asked about how he’s grappling with film at Cambridge, Frankie spoke about how “easy it is for your degree to become the only thing”, and how he has to “work to keep up with filmmaking”.

Last term Frankie was involved with a theatre sketch show in Cambridge called Scary Old World; university theatre was something new for him and he explained that it felt more feasible to be part of a theatre production than a student film: theatre “tangles better with student life”. Whether at Cambridge or not, it’s always going to be easier to deal with the “practical openness” of theatre than creating a film; he finds filmmaking an “endless highway” with no date or deadline, calling it a “hard turn into your own weird world”.


Mountain View

Student short Tickets to Earth is out of this world

Regardless, he’s not pessimistic about making films while at Cambridge, and hopes to have something in the works over the summer, to shoot in Michaelmas term next year; at the moment, he’s working out “how much of the film should be defined by being here”. He compares filmmaking in Cambridge to “making a haunted house film in your wealthy grandparents’ manor”, but is anxious that “shorts made here get defined by being made here”. “Being here is actually quite scary”, he admits; “going to uni meshes well with horror”; but he questions how much his short film should address this. On the flip side, is it “weird to ignore it”?

I cannot answer Frankie’s big questions about making shorts in Cambridge, but I’m more than happy see more young directors at our university. Hopefully one day, at least, we’ll have the Frankie Browne take on the horror of the UL.