I didn’t just fall in love with a film; I fell in love with how I could control a medium.– Aaron
by Christopher Roberts
Hi everyone, once again its another ‘Their Favourite Film’ post and if you haven’t died from the heat wave we’ve been, having then I’d like to introduce Aaron Shrimpton. Aaron Shrimpton is Filmmaker at the Bafta-winning company New Waverley Studios and is currently making a series of short online docs and an artist profile for the Brent Biennial. As well as this, he has a screening event at Metal’s Chalkwell Park called ESTUARY SCENES on August 10th. An evening of short films, narrative, experimental video art, documentaries and talks. However, before we all book our tickets for it, why don’t we listen to Aaron talk about the film that made him fall in love with filmmaking.
Aaron Shrimpton – GHOSTBUSTERS (1984)
When I was 7 years old, I watched a movie called ‘Ghostbusters’ on VHS. I can’t really remember much before or after that film. It’s kinda like my life started there. It really scared the shit of me tbh, and it felt like a horror in retrospect. The ghost in the library still haunts me, and the idea of having to clear your mind from anything that might attack you! Fuck-OFF. But what happened over a 7-year-old was I started to manipulate video. I’d pressed pause on the VHS player the moment the ghost was about to attack in the library. I didn’t just fall in love with a film; I fell in love with how I could control a medium. I loved the glitches across the screen, I loved trying to catch the freeze frame on certain shots, l love the fractal nature of the video. I’d fast fwd, and I’d rewind. I’d try and move it along frame by frame and look at the random nature of it. It’s just a movie, but it played a huge part in my idea of what art really was. I was 7, making visuals, controlling a medium, and affecting it at my will.
It’s an obvious film to pick as your favourite movie I guess. But aside from being my earliest creative memory, it’s genuinely fuckin’ great and still holds up! The visual effects, the comedic timing… it’s maverick. As an adult and well into my artistic practice, I worked at an art-house cinema in Edinburgh called The Cameo (AKA the greatest place to work on earth). They always had a matinee double bill on a Sunday, which I always worked (once on NO sleep sshhhhh). Occasionally as staff, we could put forward a double suggestion; mad to think now it was actually a 35mm film print, and mine was… Ghostbusters 1 & 2. It was pretty much sold out; people turned up in Ghostbusters uniforms, laughed hard throughout and cheered at the end. It was fucking magical. I’d never actually seen it in a cinema, and it was always that thing I’d watched on a VHS and fucked around with on controllers.
I’d forgotten how basic the opening pram sequence of the sequel was but still. I used to think watching Eraserhead at 18 was my “art” awakening. I was wrong, it was Ghostbusters.
It’s also my best mate’s favourite film. At 22-ish, his Dad told him to go and have a real big think about what he wanted to do with his life. He went and smoked a spliff, and after a couple of hours, he came downstairs and said… “Dad, I’ve had a think… and I’ve realised… my favourite film is Ghostbusters.” I stole that story once as a chat-up line, it’s not my story and it’s not accurate and it’s a whispered story but… it led to the greatest relationship of my life.
Ghostbusters is more than a movie to me.
If there’s something strange in the neighbourhood, who do you call? Not the police! (apparently). Instead, you call a team consisting of 3 oddball scientists, experts in the field of the paranormal and the weird (and a guy who’s just looking for a steady paycheck.) That’s the basic plot of this film, and from there, you then spend the whole movie watching these guys deal with ghosts and phantoms.
Then, against a demi-god bent on bringing judgement day to New York, for it all to lead to a final climactic battle, against a mascot for marshmallows. As plots go for a movie, this was a weird one, but this was the 80s, a decade where production companies weren’t afraid to take more risks. This was the decade where we had time-travelling sports cars, a children’s doll possessed by a serial killer and little furry creatures that you shouldn’t feed after midnight. It was a weird decade for films, and ghostbusters were one of them; it was also one of the best films to come out of that decade.
And what isn’t there to love about this movie? From the very beginning, you have a colourful group of misfits scientists, each with their own personality. Bill Murray as the charismatic and witty ‘Venkman’, Dan Akroyd as the optimistic ‘Stantz’ and Harold Ramis as the eccentric (and my personal favourite) ‘Egon’. Then you’ve got Ernie Hudson as ‘Winston’, not a scientist, or an expert in the paranormal like the others, but still a vital member of the team – as the everyman who the audience can relate to and – through him – help us understand whats going on.
With this group of ghostbusters and the hilarious side characters – like the underpaid sectary Melnitz and New York’s finest accountant Louis Tully, you’ve got a film that shines in every scene, thanks to this talented cast. But where would the cast be without a story?
With a film about busting ghosts, they could have gone with something simple, where the team just spent the film fighting weird and wacky spirits. Instead, they’ve created the in-depth lore of ‘Gozer’, a powerful and malignant entity that was worshipped as a god and prophecies to return and bring about the end of the world in a form that we decide.
As well as all of the mythology, you’ve also got the science behind it all. Gone are the bibles, crystal balls and exorcism; instead, instead you’ve got them defeating the supernatural with science: Creating proton packs powered by a particle accelerator and trapped in portable containment units and talking about how “The ghosts are made of psychokinetic energy, a combination of electrons, neutrons and ectoplasm.”
This in-depth and unique lore made the film stand out among other ghost films and while some of it might be a bit above ‘The Ghostbuster’s’ pay-grade, as ‘Venkman’ says, “we came, we saw, WE KICK ITS ASS!!”
With this combination of script and characters (and the actors playing them) you’ve got a fantastic movie. With A good blend of genres: Terrifying us with hell hounds and gods, making us laugh our arses off – them going against the Slim ghost and some of their memorial lines “When someone asks, are you a god? you say yes!”. Not to mention some incredible VFX, that still hold up, even by today’s film standards.
This film became a huge phenomenon, still beloved after 30 years and not only just changing the way Aaron saw films and inspiring him to go down the road of filmmaking. It also affected my eight-year-old self, becoming obsessed with the supernatural and even have fond memories of my first ever costume – a ‘Ghostbuster’ and we are just two people in a group of millions who love and cherish this movie, a movie who’s audience is still growing. This wasn’t just a film; this was a film that created a cult following bigger than (and one that will probably outlast) ‘Gozer’ himself.
MY FAVOURITE TRIVIA
When Harold Ramis passed away in 2014, fans of the movie paid tribute to him by visiting the New York City firehouse used in the exterior shots and creating a memorial for him, featuring Nestles Crunch Bars, Twinkies and a collection of spores, moulds and fungus.
Aaron Shrimpton is a filmmaker from Basildon with a background in Fine Art Photography
Chris Roberts has worked on many film projects across Essex as a boom operator and production assistant. Chris is a full time film trivia expert!