It was a fantastic pleasure to attend the London Rolling Film Festival this Sunday. There were a number of things I particularly liked when we applied:
1. It was a film festival run by women.
2. It was in based in London and it looked really vibrant. Also had great reviews on FilmFreeway (will leave mine shortly).
3. The film is only screened if the filmmaker or filmmakers are in attendance. The filmmaker also has an opportunity to talk a bit about their project.
4. Unlike many other film festivals – it was free to attend the event.
I must confess I was secretly holding out for this one (it was on my festival planner highlighted in orange – translation: “this festival looks great!”). We had a couple of rejections just before the notification date, I can’t deny my excitement when I learned we had made the official selections. Yay! 🙂 After enthusiastically posting on social media my Godfather contacted me to say he’d like to come along (offering to treat me to dinner afterwards).
Unfortunately things got off to a rocky start! I set off with plenty of time but was greeted on the railway bridge by someone informing me that the trains were cancelled in both directions. The timetable display offered modest hope for two minutes before announcing that train was delayed. A quick check revealed delays of up to 90 minutes. Not good! Thankfully I was early enough to intercept Susie (Emmi’s writer/producer) who very kindly offered to pick me up and drive us to Hillingdon. After what seemed like an age on the Piccadilly line we finally made it to Leicester Square (half an hour later than originally intended)!
We arrived at the Phoenix Theatre Club venue and had our photo taken as we walked in. It was fairly quiet at this point.
I spotted Laura Jones across the room (Laura had helped on the project from the very beginning – turning her hand to anything – scheduling, sound recording, catering, cat wrangling – she did it all! Her cat Marley features in the film). I was excited that both Laura and her partner would get to experience the film for the first time with a larger audience.
Host Ellie Torrez kicked things off and invited all of the directors up to the front to describe their films in three words. I believe I went for “dark and depressing” – probably could have come up with something more creative – but this sets audience expectations. Ellie then explained the format (there would be two awards: “Jury” and “Audience”) and the judges were introduced. A quick summary of what played:
1. The Fox (dir. Henry Scriven)
An affluent West London neighbourhood is being terrorised by a violent thief once thought to be a vigilante. On a quiet summer’s night, despite the large police presence, the wanted thief stalks the streets in search of an opportunity. But the open door he finds will only lead him deeper into the darkness. What a wonderful way to start! The film builds intensity, offering a brief moment of humour before cranking up the tension again. You can watch the film on Henry’s website here.
2. Health Kick (dir. Dipak Patel)
Two health fanatics working in the same office try to out-do each other, but it’s not long before things get out of hand! This comedy was the shortest of all the films played, enjoyed this one also!
3. 5476 Miles (dir. Terry Thomas)
The only animation in the festival line-up. Admire the amount of effort Terry put in to this paper cut-out animation. The tune by his brother Nigel was also rather lovely. Another fine effort and a nice change of style – you can it watch here:
4. The Inuring (dir. James Hughes)
Time for something much darker! A bullied teenage girl finally confronts her sister to drag their fractured past out into the light. I must confess I’ve been wanting to see this short for a while (it’s having an amazing run on the festival scene). It seemed like the nearest companion to our film (ie. bleak teenage drama with a female cast). The high point here is Emily Haigh’s astonishing performance. I spoke with Emily during the breaks and I’ll be rooting for her at Southampton International Film Festival (we are both playing there in October).
We had reached the half way mark and I noticed my Godfather standing at the back with a crowd of others. Wow, actually there was quite a crowd now and all the seats had been taken!
After a catch-up chat/drink (note to self: eat something next time!), we returned for the second half.
Remember point 3 in my list above? The makers of next film didn’t turn up so their film wasn’t played!
We were next. Ellie gave us an amazingly generous introduction stating she had seen the film three times now and that the film still retains all of its power – such an amazing compliment (thanks Ellie)! The film played and (as is usually the case) you could almost hear a pin drop by the end. Ellie asked Susie and I a couple of questions afterward. I can’t really recall what was said, but seem to recall talking about the power of suggestion, “less being more” and that the film asked difficult questions but provided no easy answers.
6. The Elephant in the Room (dir. Mark Singer & Jamie Terry)
After the double bitter pill of ‘Emmi’ and ‘The Inuring” together, this comedy provided a welcome lift (it was about as different from Emmi as you could possibly get). A young couple attending a house-viewing might be getting more than they bargained on. The real standout here was actress Louise Green (and “Tyrone” – this is an in-joke to anyone who was present at the screening).
7. Another Home (dir. Khanh Dang Xuan)
Finishing up was this lovely reflective piece. The film explores the meaning of home through the encounter between a young girl who recently moved to London and a young British man. It is a story about the uncertain and disorienting nature of living far from home, about love, loss and hope. It finally asks – how hard is it to let go and move on when all you feel is loss? In terms of cinematography this was my favourite (filmed on a Sony A7S II camera, proving not everything has to be shot on RED or Alexa). The film’s producer/writer Quynh Nga (Anna) Vu also came over from France especially so the film could be played. A beautiful way to end the official selections.
The judges were now deliberating for the Jury award and the audience had their chance to vote. Both winners would receive a one year subscription to iPitch (and the Audience award would also receive a small cash prize)! I decided not to vote as it felt terribly unsporting (everyone said I was crazy not to vote for my own film!). I still couldn’t bring myself to do this, so I put some money into the Rolling Film Festival Guinness hat instead to say thanks (this felt far more appropriate). Two things went through my mind at this point:
1. I was really enjoying it, this was fun! The venue was full to capacity and there was wonderful buzz in the air. Like most festivals you had a number of filmmakers showcasing their films (indeed this was a rule here), however the majority of creative people I spoke with didn’t have a film playing in the line-up. There were also lots of genuine audience members. This mix can perhaps be attributed to the fact that there was no entry charge.
2. This was also the first festival where I can honestly say I really enjoyed every single film and any one of them was a worthy winner!
Susie went off to see the “out of competition” film in the VIP area, I confess I was chatting too much and missed this. This was followed by something called “Feature Corner” – a Q&A with Director and Producers on the main stage. The feature in question was “Winters Ridge” which I’ll try to catch in the cinema when it is given a limited release next year. This film gets brownie points for filming in both Lynton and Lynmouth (I am a Devonian after-all)! Here is a behind the scenes featurette on the film:
Next up was “Pitch corner” where three projects had five minutes to pitch to their project to the audience (one feature and two web-series’). All three had sizzle reels to sell it to the audience. I felt for everyone who did this, pitching is brutal! I hope all of them found some of the support they needed during the festival.
Finally it was time for the awards part and judges came up on stage to announce their decision. My Godfather (somewhat mischievously) set my expectations exactly where they should be: “It’s apples and oranges – they are all so different, not sure how they will decide. I’d probably go for The Fox! I’m not sure I saw many audience votes for Emmi!”. I thought: “fair enough, at least we walk away with one fan who sat through the film three times!”
Host Ellie popped a bit of fun at the judges for all being male at a female run festival (fair point) – Barry got a free pass though for “flying the LGBT flag”. It was apparent that they struggling a bit with the decision – each judge had their favourite – but in the end only one could win. They gave the Jury award to the first film played “The Fox”. Congratulations to Henry, well deserved!
Now on to the audience award. Susie and I were convinced that either “The Inuring” or “The Fox” were going to walk away with this. “And the winner is… Emmi”. Took me a moment to process it! Hang on – that’s our film? Susie and I looked at each other completely stunned! After a moment we then hugged! I’ve never seen Susie lost for words – but this was perhaps as close as it would get. The emotion was immense so I hugged her again! We also invited Laura up to join in the moment.
Can’t remember a word of what we said, but I really hope we were able to convey our shock and how much this moment meant to us. Clearly we didn’t do this for the money because we walked back to our seats without taking the winnings! 🙂
I still hadn’t eaten – but had a couple more celebration drinks (oops)! It seemed I was getting business cards left, right and centre. It was especially nice to learn that Emmi was affecting some of the male members in the audience (generally we thought Emmi would resonate with women more). All of the “officially selected” filmmakers were invited into the VIP area to record a few short interviews on Facebook Live. You can see us all talking here (Emmi begins around 7 minutes in):
In between interviews we chatted to one of the judges at this year’s Fish Eye Festival (thanks for selecting us – really looking forward to playing there next month) and to “The Fox” winner Henry about the difficulty of establishing the correct tone. After a final bit of mingling and some last-minute selfies – we all went off in our different directions!
It’s only fair to say a huge thank-you to Alida at this point for all of the co-ordination. She has put a tremendous amount of effort into running this festival behind the scenes (not lost on me, I’ve been a conference manager – this would have been a colossal amount of work). Stefania – you also deserve a shout-out for all your help too. Last but by no means least – Ellie you were a lovely and gracious host/interviewer, always keeping things lively. You really did champion our film during the festival and we appreciate that so much! I hope you will all stay in touch!
Topping off the whole surreal evening was a lovely meal at Chelsea Arts Club with my Godfather and his family. It wasn’t until coming home on the train the following morning that everything started to sink in (exhausted, really proud of the whole Emmi team and profoundly grateful to the audience for picking our challenging little film).
Thank you so much Rolling Film Festival!
Right, back to reality…