The Big Lebowski (1998) is set in sun-soaked Los Angeles in the US, not drizzly, grey London in the UK. But for his first feature, Big Smoke, graduate filmmaker Otis Tree is channeling the spirit of the Cohen Brothers' cult slacker movie in a new direction. "It's a comedy-horror, where the characters are constantly paranoid, second guessing themselves," says Otis of Big Smoke. "The Wicker Man is another big inspiration. The film is set on winter solstice and we're going for that pagan atmosphere, despite the modern, urban aesthetic."
East London-born Otis bagged his first festival screening, at the BFI Future Film Festival, aged just 13. Since graduating in summer 2020, he's already clocked up some impressive accolades, winning the 2020 Emerging Talent award at Brighton's CINECITY Festival for his short film, Destructors, and working under DoP Ben Wheeler on a high-end TV production for Euston Films. We asked him about the insights he acquired as a student and how he's used them to launch his film career.