Build your own film night:

Last week Flatpack: Assemble hosted an evening masterclass in Birmingham’s Impact Hub to inspire a new generation of cinephiles to create their own film nights.

After Cocks & Docs I am more interested than ever to continue organising film nights in the West Midlands. I want to do this because I love the idea of bringing people together in a cinematic space to share exciting content and to build a community of creative, like minded people in my home town. Film nights also give people an excuse to actually leave the comfort of their own house and socialise with new people.

byofnm3 They explained that at their core, film nights consist of three elements. Films, Places and People. You can control the films, you can control the place but you cannot control the people. You need to make the event special in some way to encourage audience members to attend. This can be done by showing content that can’t be seen anywhere else, holding the screening in an unusual venue or having an interesting mix of people/entertainment (such as dancers/musicians etc.)

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Here are some of Flatpack co-founder Ian Francis’s top tips on hosting your own film night:

  • Keep distractions to a minimum eg. natural light/noises from the venue
  • Don’t over programme, make sure you schedule intervals.
  • Make sure the audience are relatively comfortable
  • Think about the trajectory of the evening and the mood and tone of the films you screen.
  • Clear all the rights and licenses for both the venue and the films
  • Seamless presentation is important. In a later post I will break down some of the advice the Flatpack team had to offer about screening conditions.

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I’m so pleased to see Flatpack Festival organising more events across the year and reach out to people in the West Midlands, encouraging them to engage with film. If you don’t follow them already, you should…@flatpack

Flatpack Film Festival 2014 Trailer from 7inch cinema on Vimeo.

Sheffield Doc Festival 2016

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Sheffield Documentary Festival this year was amazing! I had the chance to watch some inspiring new documentaries, go to masterclasses with some of my idols and network with some really interesting people.

My highlights include:

  • ‘In Conversations’ with David Attenborough, Joanna Lumley, Michael Moore and D.A Pennebaker
  • Watching films including ‘Where to Invade Next’, ‘Presenting Princess Shaw’, ‘KiKi’ and ‘Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures’
  • Experiencing VR for the first time
  • Networking with people from the industry
  • And listening to a keynote speech from an android (Bina48) Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 18.59.07.png

Here’s a rundown of my time at the festival….

 

 

An of course how could I forget about the networking parties…

I would recommend the festival to anybody who wants to produce documentaries as well as to those who just love to watch non-fiction films. Sheffield, I’ll be back.

Putting it out there: Festivals OR Online? Why Choose?

I have seen the majority of the short films selected for the 2016 Sundance Film festival and it isn’t because I traveled to Utah for the festival. Many of the shorts in their lineup are already available to people through Vimeo and Youtube allowing audiences around the world to actively engage with the festival virtually. Sundance has paved the way for many festivals, being a pioneer by embracing the submission of films that are already available online.

For years, filmmakers have been discouraged from uploading their films online if they want to be in with a chance of getting into a festival. But Short of the Week has a frequently updated page on their site which keeps filmmakers up to date with the changing landscape of film festival submissions. When I checked in January 2016, 2/3 of the ‘Top Film Festivals’ now accept films available online.

Trailer for Sundance Short Limbo Limbo Travel (available in full on Vimeo) 

Although festivals are changing their policies, there is still a stigma attached to ‘successful’ online films, which are regarded to be ‘viral’. Festivals, aiming to maintain a sense of exclusivity and mystery, are turned off from showing these films. Festivals should be about showcasing new talent and engaging audiences, if a dialogue around the film is happening online  it is for a reason. This reason may be a controversial central topic or, which is often the case, just a unique example of story telling. It is a real shame filmmakers still face a dilemma when it comes to what to do with their film once it has been created. Why must filmmakers compromise between getting into a prestigious festival and attracting online audiences?

This is why what Sundance (and other forward thinking festivals such as SXSW and Uppsala International Short Film Festival) are doing to change things is important. Sundance’s aim is  ‘actively advance the work of independent storytellers in film and theatre’ and allowing a wider audience to engage with the festival virtually means Sundance are doing just that.

Take me to the Blank City

As part of the Flatpack Festival The Birmingham International Film Society screened the 2010 documentary about the short lived but influential underground scene, No Wave. It explores filmmakers living in 70s New York when rent was cheap, drugs where accessible and there was a feeling of ‘anything goes.’. The movement righted the commercial elements of the New Wave genre which was popular at the time. It was an eclectic mix of filmmakers, abrasive musicians and artists. It was heavily influenced by funk, jazz, blues, avant garde and punk rock.

Director Céline Danhier showcases the filmmakers guerrilla tactics and drug-induced creativity, interviews with the prominent figures in the ‘No Wave Cinema’ movement narrate the film and give the audience an insight to what the filmmakers,artists and musicians have gone on to become.

Debbie Harry, Lydia Lunch, Micheal Oblowitz, Nick Zedd, Amos Poe, Fab 5 Freddy, Jim Jarmusch…are just a few of the big names that are part of the documentary. It really inspired me to look into the lives of these ‘DIY’ filmmakers. I think it was because they were part of a group of like minded creatives the content they produced was so amazing. They were able to bounce ideas off each other and weren’t afraid of taking it ‘too far’.

Nick Zedd’s work in particular stood out for me, his experimental films pushed the boundaries of what was accepted. His films have been shown around the world and have been banned, admired and inspired many.  His work includes ‘They Eat Scum’  and ‘Thrust In Me’. The latter was particularly shocking because Zedd played both of the necrophilic male lead and the suicidal female lead, the film depicts his two characters having sexual intercourse. It was incredibly controversial at the time and he was nearly arrested.

Nick Zedd worked with cult musician Lydia Lunch, who he dated for a while. During their break up he followed her to London and made a film about her ‘The Wild World of Lydia lunch.’ You can sense the musical influence in his and the rest of the movement’s films. The chaotic, underground music was often used as the soundtrack to their films.

Amos Poe’s work was also really inspiring. He co-directed one of the earliest punk films called ‘The Blank Generation.’ He is still part of the film making industry having recently written the screenplay for Amy Redford’s film ‘The Guitar.’ He manages to evoke strong emotions in his audiences and at the same time challenge them. I can’t wait to watch the whole of his feature film, ‘The foreigner’ and ‘Unmade beds.’

To be continued…

Today I went to see the Sundance Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize winner ‘Like Crazy’ (Expect a review shortly)

It spurred me to find out a little more about the film’s director, Drake Doremus

One of the first websites I stumbled across was one with advice he had for aspiring film makers.  I found the interview to be very interesting and thought I’d share it on my blog. http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/29/idUS312131098320111029

The Ninth London Short Film Festival

Today I took a trip down to London’s Southbank to attend a day of the 9th London Short Film Festival (LSFF). When I arrived at the BFI, I headed to NFT3 to watch a selection of short films all about growing up and coming of age. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see them all but the few I did watch were brilliant.

Downing: Set at an alcohol fuelled party, the film explored teenage sexuality and we see an oppressed gay teenager exacting revenge on his bully. I thought it was an incredibly witty and well produced short film.

Fifty:  Produced in association with Screen West Midlands, this Birmingham based short film is a gritty exploration of life in the inner city. A confrontation on a bus spirals out of control as a man and his pregnant girlfriend get into an altercation with some youths, resulting in a tragic end.

Freak: An incredibly moving short film about a teenage boy who gets tormented by bullies at his school on a daily basis. It shows as he struggles with self-loathing and his body issues. 

Join My Band: This light hearted Romantic Comedy depicts a nerdy schoolboy falling for a rebellious punk girl, who plays the harp. To get her to notice him, he forms a band with his friends and gets her to join them. A lovely concept which was fantastically executed.

 

After the Screening I went to the Blue Room, where there was a Short Film Masterclass taking place. It was a Q&A session with some of the short-film makers, Philip Ilson (the Festival Director) and Mark from B3 Media. Topics explored in the session included the purpose of short film, Classic examples of Directors who have used short films to get their foot in the door, each of the film maker’s route into the industry, what makes a good short film and what each of them had learnt from the short films they’d made.

I learnt that Short Films are important because they can really help launch film maker’s careers. They be used as show reel pieces and can generate public interest. Short films are a means to get your name out there via short film festivals or online.Ryan Vernava (The director of fifty) argued that it is reductive to call short films simply a call ground because they use narrative techniques that simply cannot be used in feature films. He also mentioned that with today’s society’s short attention spans, short films are becoming increasingly in-demand. A downside is that only very rarely do short films generate any income.

Mustapha Kseibeti (the director of Skateboards and Spandex) advised that if you want to make films, whether they be short films or features, that you need to watch a lot of great films and behind the scenes footage. He is self taught and said he learnt a lot from watching bonus content on DVDs. Taking his advice, after the Q&A I purchased a copy of Cinema 16 and I cannot wait to take a look at short films produced by well established directors.

Mark was particularly inspiring, saying young people have no excuses anymore. ‘If you want to make a film, just make a ******* film’ He spoke about all the different platforms available to us which provide film makers with opportunities to build up a fan base and prove to people what we are capable of.

Everyone on the panel agreed that it is hard to determine what makes a good short film, as it is mostly down to personal preference. But they did offer a few key things to making short films:

  1. Make sure the film is well thought out and you have determined what the message of your piece is.
  2. Make sure the characters and the world they live in are well developed.
  3. You only have a short time to do so, but make the audience care about your characters.
  4. Storyboard and plan, plan, plan!
  5. Try to make something that hasn’t been seen before or something very exciting.
  6. See what other people have done, make note of why and how it works.