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Lift-Off Sessions 2020 Laurel - finalist

Director Rich Mcafee
& Producer / Actor Naz Akther

Attending the Worcester Film Festival


No Hard Shells crack? Is a multi award winning short film Written and Directed by Richard Mcafee. Winner for Best Short Film and Best Director.


March 23rd 2020, the inability of the British public to follow guidelines during the COVID-19 Lockdown and the subsequent strain put on the National Health Service. Symbolised from an overused suitcase.

Review :-

Director's notes  :

The film is an allegory concerning the inability of the British public to follow guidelines during the COVID-19 Lockdown and the subsequent strain put on the National Health Service. All represted through a suitcase.

Babak Anvari, Bafta award winner for his film Under the Shadow praised the film for being just under 3 mins long and enjoying the ride from frame to frame.

The music Is the absolute core to the film's success. Thanks to Ian cook, a Digital media producer from Australia. We discussed at length on themes for the film, visual and musical influences and potential approaches

The visuals are important but the music and sound design is so much more in my view. Setting the tone / premises and creating an instant anxiety which is what the film is all about. I knew from the very beginning It was going to elevate the film to another level.

Ian established a palette of sounds to work with. After listing out sounds that could be associated with the pandemic in the UK, he picked out those which thought would be most effective. I used handclaps, representative of Clap for the NHS, to keep the film moving forward and to maintain tension. Also sourcing the sound of a ventilator and used it as the percussive anchor for the track, the hiss and release always hitting on or very near the downbeat. Vicious cellos as the principal instrument to refer directly to the temp track, and included a muted acoustic guitar to add more percussive rhythm to the piece. At the peak of the film, the big reveal, a trombone sound with a phasing tremolo effect added to disconcert and build terror.


The editing is something else the film has been praised for. It’s not too quick and not too predictably paste. It begins with simple cuts, cutting to the beat of the score. This becomes predictable just like life It self for some, covid-19 comes along and It gets uncontrollably messy, and the edit isn’t so predictable from then on. 

There are flaws if you look close enough but I was happy with the end result considering the complete lack of resources we had due to lockdown.


A main theme against the film through out and It welcomes interpretations. It's been so interesting listening to film watchers opinions and views of the film and that's what It's all about. I have my interpretation…what’s yours? We were in Lock-down for a solid 2 Months before things were loosening up. My videographer work was wiped out so I had loads of time to edit, work on the score, figure out what the film actually was, Do additional insert shots and loads of Marketing, which was tons of fun to do.

For the first time, I kept the shot list simple, like…really simple. There were no real complexed coordinations needed and no real technical shots required. This helped me relaxed a whole lot more and assist the time to focus on what was crucial… which was the subject matter, that was more important. I’ve created short horrors before where It was all about making the film look cool with funky angles with mild blocking, An absolute school boy error but gained experience. It’s all about the concept and Story…full stop.

When the edit was completely finished, The hard work was done in my opinion.…and I mean completely Finished, think we had a bout 20 final cuts. Finding that energy to promote your film is easy. Passion and enthusiasm drives you through the next stage.

No hard Shells Crack? I started off with contacting a Lot of first time filmmakers to check out my short, which so happened to be a lot of my favourite films! Contacting the likes of Alex Cox, Ben Wheatley will probably not work….but contacting a recent successful full feature film maker seemed more successful and they were more than happy to give up a bit of their time to check it out and dish back feedback. That feeling of trying to break through into the industry is exciting.  I was basically sending Instagram DM’s, emailing agencies, Twitter stalking….. that kind of creepy thing. keep promoting and create a buzz…a genuine buzz.

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