The Thesis Submission cast and crew at their Q&A panelSAM ALLEN

Tick, tick, tick… “SHIT”. Thesis Submission opens with that all too familiar terror that takes over you when you’ve missed a deadline. It’s a feeling that never really lets up for the rest of the film, which follows PhD candidate Harriet, as she desperately claws back against the march of time that seems to be endlessly pulling in deadlines. We see her as she argues with her miserable supervisor, a figure we sadly all know too well. But, relatability (hopefully) ends here , as Harriet finds a new and unusual method of improving her work: cannibalism.

“Harriet finds a new and unusual method of improving her work: cannibalism”

The film is the child of PhD candidate, Sung Soo Moon, and this year’s Big Cambridge Movie. The BCM is an annual scheme run by Cambridge University Film Association that takes scripts from students across the university, selects just one, and, with the help of other students, makes it into a film.

The Big Cambridge Movie affords more time than is typical to work on a student short film; the turn-around for Thesis Submission was about a year from start to finish. This extra time has, for one thing, allowed the crew to experiment more with practical effects. Of particularly interesting note was production designer Imogen King’s appetising insight into making brains. “At one point I had to figure out: are we going to buy animal blood?” she shared.

Luckily for the cast, the answer was no. She discussed her foray into the world of brain-making which culminated in a mouthwatering concoction of tofu, red cabbage brine, and golden syrup – yum!

“a mouthwatering concoction of tofu, red cabbage brine, and golden syrup – yum!”

The effects didn’t stop at vegan-friendly brains, as the panel delivered a particularly thrilling insight into… “the night shoot”. Everytime this was brought up, some of the crew would share knowing glances as if this fateful evening down Trinity Avenue had generated some sort of shared trauma. We were told of poor weather, bin-bag lighting, and even Covid contraction – but the results are fantastic. Everytime I walk down Trinity Avenue I am haunted by the ghosts-of-academic-future captured on the night shoots. The scene is a truly beautiful testament to student filmmaking.

My rendition of the ghosts... just pretend it’s nightHEIDI ATKINS

What I really loved about the film was just how funny it was. The scary moments are fantastically done with an eerie brutality but, fortunately, it didn’t possess the overly serious tone so often adopted by horror flicks on the big screen. It would be too easy, as well, for the jokes to be winks and nudges to an exclusive Cambridge audience, but it resists that urge. Sung Soo Moon labels the feel of the film as possessing the “horror of there being ten minutes left in an exam and realising you’ve misread a question”. The brilliantly acted leering supervisor who taunts Harriet is all too real, but the exaggerated demeanour he adopts makes it easy to laugh at the terror.

“What I really loved about the film was just how funny it was”

“Cambridge will eat you alive” was the general advice I got from the one person from my school that managed to get in here before me. Before I got here I wondered what she meant. Would the people be nasty? Would supervisors attack me? Would the work simply be too much? To all of those, occasionally, yes; but, now I’m here I think I finally know what she meant – Cambridge will, if you let it, eat up all the parts of you that aren’t doing work.

‘All graduates, some still studying and some moving to to bigger and brighter futures’SAM ALLEN

As the Q&A rolled around, before me sat the team behind Thesis Submission, all graduates, some still studying and some moving on to bigger and brighter futures. My fresher self couldn’t help but feel a twinge of comfort knowing that this group of people had actually survived this place, had actually taken time away from the academic pressure cooker we’re stuck in, and had actually made a fantastic short film.


Mountain View

Refreshing talent on display at CUFA’S Fresh2Film premiere

In an environment that seems desperate to eat at every part of you, leaving only scraps behind of an alleged academic, Thesis Submission stands boldly as a feat of student creativity. The act of making a film is one that consumes the time you could (and are incessantly told you should) spend on your uni work. Watching Thesis Submission and listening to the team’s conversation after I was struck by the hopeful, albeit cringe, realisation that I do not have to let this place become my entire identity and destroy all my passions. I don’t have to let “Cambridge eat me alive”, and can instead (in the style of the Thesis Submission team, not Harriet), bite back.