Category Archives: Festival

Film Festival Update November 2019

Film festival organising has been quite a ride so far, this will continue as things gather pace! By now the reality, responsibility and enormity of the task ahead has also kicked in.

I have to begin by thanking all of the amazing filmmakers who have already submitted to our festival – your belief in us is what keeps us going! We won’t forget you were with us right from the start! Both the quality and breadth of submissions has been completely inspiring.

We’re now expanding to include an additional venue, this will allow us to show even more films. Our plan is to theme each of the ‘screening blocks’ to give the audience members options as to the type of films they would like to watch. Unfortunately we aren’t going to be able to show every submission but unlike most festivals – we will provide feedback if a project hasn’t been selected (if the filmmaker requests it). This and our beautiful surroundings are just a couple of the smaller things which we hope make us ‘that little bit different’. We are also keen to promote local talent, so if you are a filmmaker and live in Oxfordshire – please get in contact!

It’s not just the venue which has expanded, our team has also. We’ve got a few new members joining us who are helping to pull everything together!

Original OXISFF team

Our original OXISFF team are now starting to expand along with the Festival

The expansion means we can now also invite guest speakers to give us insight into their filmmaking practices and experiences. One such person is Phil Beastall who’s recently gone viral for his short film ‘Love is a gift’ which has been picked up by the media for upstaging this year’s expensive Christmas adverts. (side note: thrilled Natalie Martins is also getting recognition for her role working on this project). We’ve also received an acceptance from an Academy Award winner who is planning to give a short talk (feel free to speculate who this is). We’ll announce further details nearer the time.

Meanwhile – there is a lot of work to do and lots of exciting times ahead.

To find out more or submit to the festival, please visit our FilmFreeway page here.


London Rolling Film Festival

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.

Nice and quiet (for now)

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:

The Fox1. 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.

Health Kick2. 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!

Emmi-Portrait5. Emmi
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.

Elephant in the Room6. 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.

Audience Choice Award #LRFF8
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!

I don't do Selfies well!

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…

Strange Days

It’s been a surreal week or so!

Emmi has been selected for three more festivals (exciting):

Emmi Award OnirosPerhaps our biggest news is that we won the award for “Best Drama” at the Oniros International Film Awards. We’ve been focusing on getting the film in front of  an audience rather than winning awards, so this came as a genuinely lovely surprise (thanks Oniros)!

We were also thrilled that Oniros recognised Amy Harris’ performance in the film (so both Amy and Natalie Martins have now received nominations for Best Actress!).

We also screened at two festivals.

On Saturday we played at the Women Texas Film Festival which  sadly we were unable to attend (pleased Emmi featured in the “Strong Female Characters” category). If anyone went to this we’d love to hear more about how things went down!

We also played at the London-based New Renaissance Film Festival in Shoreditch two days before on the Thursday. Susie (on holiday) was unable to come but Alex (Emmi’s runner) and Kevin (Emmi’s post-production sound engineer) provided some moral support (thanks guys). In a curious quirk of fate, Adam (Emmi’s production designer) was also having his stag do in Shoreditch during the same weekend as the festival (Alex was acting as “Best Man”). Coming to the screening would allow him a chance to scout the area in advance. After a reasonably smooth journey from Oxford to London we arrived at Liverpool street and walked to the venue taking in a few of the sights along the way.

Shoreditch SkylineShoreditch Artwork

The venue for the screenings was a lovely chilled out cafe/bar/cinema called The Close-Up Cinema– an absolute treasure trove for film aficionados.

Close-Up Cinema

The cinema itself was an intimate place with around 30-40 seats. The screening had around 25-30 members in attendance. Below is a list of films which played during our block (apologies if I missed one, I feel like I’m missing one):

This Swiss film (translation: Emergency) started the block off with a bang. Set in an emergency call-centre, a misunderstanding leads to an unexpected result. Short and snappy – I really liked it! For more details and the film’s trailer, visit here.

The Immaculate Misconception
Sinead is underage, pregnant and a virgin who lives with her grandparents (stick with this!). Her grandmother, a pious Catholic and the matriarch of the dysfunctional O’Reilly family, will stop at nothing to get the birth proclaimed immaculate. At 25 minutes this was the longest film of the session but the film flew by. It deftly balances drama with light-hearted moments and features exceptional performances from Orliath Feenan, Niall Cusack and Helena Bereen as the O’Reilly family. Michael Geoghegan’s film was originally intended as a feature film but sadly the film’s co-writer Simon Riley died before this could be realised. The film is dedicated to Simon and it seems a very fitting tribute indeed. For more information, read Michael’s Interview.

Others Like You (ALTRE)

Ester is a woman who has a strong longing to get pregnant. Following a surgical procedure by Greta – her family doctor and long-standing friend – she is diagnosed as sterile. Ester’s original desire thus becomes a growing obsession, and she embarks on a series of one-night stands hoping for a miracle. After a casual encounter, she shows early signs of a pregnancy and a positive test result restores her hope of becoming a mother. When Greta, herself barren, learns of Ester’s pregnancy, events take an unexpected turn. This Italian film contained some stunning cinematography and a wonderful atmosphere, although I must confess the story wasn’t always the easiest to follow (although it is memorable). Kevin particularly liked this one because he knew some of the locations where it was filmed.


It was clear that a theme was emerging, so it wasn’t a huge surprise to find that Emmi was next in line! Shameless trailer plug:

98 Street Playland
Reeka, a recovering drug user, seeks out her ex-boyfriend in order to save his life and their relationship. Much like Emmi in our film, Reeka isn’t a character who elicits too much sympathy (despite trying hard to escape the circumstances she finds herself in). The performances in the film are good across the board, in particularly Daniella Alma as Reeka. I do recall thinking that the look of this short film felt like a David Fincher movie and there was some excellent and evocative use of colour grading. By the end I found myself strangely detached from the story and the ending beach shot was particular jarring (no doubt the intention).


At the end of the films Michael Geoghegan and I did a short Q&A. I can’t honestly remember much of what I said (hopefully I didn’t come over too nervous/dull). I did hear a few audience members talking about Emmi afterwards which was lovely. After a quick drink at the bar Kevin and I went in to watch the next block of films and Alex went off on his Stag-do recce. The films played during the next block were:


William Stack is a former child actor who went off the rails just prior to his teenage years. After a shocking fall from grace and now an adult he is attempting a comeback. However before he can do this he will need to face the demons of his past. This was in many ways was the “Hollywood” entry in the bunch. It features Whoopie Goldberg and was executive-produced by James Franco. Glossy, very well produced if a little predictable in story terms.

One in a Million

Kevin is an orphan and autistic teenager living in the South East. Kevin obsesses about becoming a millionaire and escaping the shackles of his seaside hometown. This was the most emotional film I watched at the festival (I live with an autistic family). The film is impeccably shot in black and white, I recall the opening scenes being particularly atmospheric. The greatest asset of the film is Eddie Chamberlain as the protagonist Kevin (a real standout – glad I got to opportunity to chat with him during the festival). Christopher Laws is also extremely effective in his scenes as Kevin’s odious and bullying foster-brother Leo. The only real criticism I can throw at the film is whilst the other supporting roles are well-played, they seem less developed – as a result they don’t always ring true (Charly’s sudden attraction to Kevin and the utter naivety of the foster mum spring to mind as examples – but perhaps these aspects were lost in the editing process). With that aside, this was stirring stuff and director Patrick Ireland is definitely a talent to watch out for in the future. To find out more watch an interview with Patrick here.

Seeing Him

When Sophie and her younger lover James find their relationship being challenged they are forced to confront a truth they have both been hiding from. I must confess I was curious to see this being as it was made by Chris Jones (whose masterclass I attended a few years back). As expected this was polished with a strong performance from Vanessa Bailey as Sophie. Vanessa also wrote the screenplay, so I hope we will get to see her step behind the camera and direct at some point in the future!

Food First

Food first, then morals! A comedy about two couples in a stylish Berlin Tapas restaurant. The initial light conversation starts to intensify and tension increases as each dish is served. Many of the films shown thus far had a serious tone, so this was a welcome change (and the most entertaining film I watched). The performances were great, for me the real gem was listening to the off-screen chefs gossiping about the couples to shots of “food porn” which wouldn’t be out-of-place in an advert for M&S. The good news is that you can watch the film online here:

This animation is based on a Turkish legend: Mankurt is a mindless slave who has had his memory erased after being tortured. This profound animation had clear parallels with events currently happening in the world and served as director Ermina Takenova’s graduation project. The project took her eight months to make.

I Just Disappeared Into You

This music video was directed and performed by Roxana Vilk. It was shot in Scotland and Iran, the dance/film explores our relationship to nature and the nature of movement. In Iran dancing for women is banned, so the video explores contrasts the movements of dancer/choreographer Skye Reynolds, with the movements of an anonymous actress in Iran. Sections of the dance/film are also made up of thousands of still images woven together, exploring new ways capturing elements of the choreography and the ‘energy’ of the dance. The video was hypnotic and it somewhat reminded me of Goldfrapp (albeit more mellow and jazz inspired) – really liked the track also! To find out more read the festival interview with Roxana.


Sisak is set in a bustling Mumbai local train, where a romance develops between two men who are poles apart. This Indian film addresses the fact that homosexuality is still a big taboo in the country and it conveys the story without a single line of dialogue (no mean feat). Whilst I think the film might have benefited from a slightly shorter run-time (20 minutes), I think it conveys an important message to the outside world who are probably largely ignorant. The film has been touted as India’s first LGBTQ film (Sisak is an Urdu word, which refers to “the sob that’s stuck in the throat”).

Even though I only attended two of the blocks, this was an absolutely fantastic experience. In hindsight one thing became apparent: our film clearly had a far smaller budget than the other films shown, most of which were shot on high-end cameras such as the Arri Alexa. It made me feel happy to think we could punch our weight alongside films with significantly higher production values (hopefully a testament to the story and performances in Emmi).

Unfortunately I was unable to attend the other festival days. It was time to swap the film festival experience for an entirely different set of festivities which included zorb football, table-tennis bars, pizza restaurants and culminated in a 90’s theme night. Can’t say I achieved much sleep on Saturday but after a spot of Sunday brunch I was feeling slightly re-energized. This was just as well as it was the festival awards ceremony during the afternoon and I was going with Susie (now back from her hols) and Alex (who probably needed a break after all the organising).

Emmi was nominated for three awards: Best Social Realism Film, Best Story and Best Actress (Natalie). Realistically I wasn’t expecting us to walk away with any of these awards  – it’s just lovely to be considered as a nominee and it would be a great opportunity to hob-nob with other filmmakers and have fun!

We were greeted by afternoon tea and prosecco. During this time I chatted with a music video maker from Birmingham called Andy Rutter (watch his winning Ultrasound video here), bumped into to Michael Geoghegan again and went over to speak with Chris Jones, Vanessa Bailey and her partner. It was quite surreal chatting with Chris who is the person who coached me with the majority of my film-making skills (and it helped to reaffirm how far I have come over the past couple of years).

After the reception we entered the cinema for the main awards ceremony which was hosted by actress Fleur Keith. The full list of nominees and winners are available here. Whilst we didn’t win any of our nominations (as predicted), we were awarded an “honorable mention”.

After this ceremony we retired for a couple of photos and drinks.

Emmi - Susie, Andy, Jan and Massimo Emmi Honourable mention award

Just before leaving the ceremony host Fleur came across to congratulate us on Emmi, it turns out she was one of the audience members attending the screening (thanks Fleur, really appreciated!). I was now caught somewhere between pure adrenaline and complete exhaustion, time for us to head back to Oxford. A huge thank-you to both Jan + Massimo who made us feel so welcome at the festival, we hope to return soon with a future project!

Female Director (Cardiff Mini Film Festival)

Following on from “Fiction Part 2”, here are the films from the Female Director session at The Cardiff Mini Film Festival. I was particularly looking forward to this session being as we really need more female voices in the film world and thankfully the ones showcased here certainly didn’t disappoint! This along with ‘Fiction Part 4’ were my favourite parts of the festival. Please note that any opinions expressed are based off my initial impressions during the screening itself.

01. Ransom
RansomKitty and Kent are in over their heads with gambling debt so they form a plan: kidnap a rich kid and score big time. This US film starts out as a thriller but by the end has evolved into something more preposterous. Whilst this wasn’t a favourite during this session, it’s a breezy five minutes and the film doesn’t outstay its welcome. Film IMDB page.

02.Pillow Talk
Pillow TalkA coming of age film about teenage sexuality with best friends Cara and Lucy on the brink of going separate ways. A vibrant hipster opening gives way to sweet “coming out” film which is well directed by Louise Marie Cooke. If I were to criticise I found the dialogue at the start a little unauthentic, the performers seemed a older than the ages of the characters that they were portraying (not that this mattered once the film hit it stride).

03. Sophia
SophiaThe imaginative Sophia is waiting for her bus to arrive on a bench. Whilst waiting we see her imagination turning everyday events and unfortunate situations into something more entertaining (despite how inappropriate this makes her look). This was a charming Norwegian short directed by Marietha Chopra Helgesen, with simple but well executed concept. My only wish would be for a slightly stronger ending (although maybe I missed something here whilst I was scribbling down my notes). Liked this one a lot!

04. Passing Over
Passing OverA mother struggling to move on after a family tragedy seeks a medium to help her overcome the loss. On a technical viewpoint, it’s hard to fault Natasha Dahlberg’s film. It contains strong performances, some fantastic sound design and is able to convey a sense of isolation, grief and haunting strangeness. However I ultimately found it a little predictable and found myself becoming less engaged once “the medium” part was introduced into the story. Whilst I felt there were a couple of stronger contenders during this session, this went on to win the best international Female Film  so well done to Natasha and her team!

05. Almost Perfect
Almost PerfectHelen is an undertaker who advertises for a  make up assistant for her “clients”. When the interview with applicant Stella gets off to a bumpy start, the film can go one of two ways: is she actually looking for a make up assistant or there something more sinister at work? This won the audience choice award (indeed there were quite a few team members at the session). There is a very Gothic feel to the whole piece thanks to some inventive camera angles, red colour grading with Helen in particular having a vampiric quality. I was hoping the film would end with a different twist, but you can decide yourself by watching the film below:

06. Archway 0173
Archway 0173An antique collecting mother brings home an old phone which her son Tom initially dismisses as “more junk”. However when the broken phone rings one day it connects Tom with a young girl called Isabelle who claims to be from 1940. Becoming friends after sharing conversations, Tom soon makes a frightening discovery which he needs to warn Isabelle about. Can he warn her in time and what will be the consequences of his actions? At around 20 minutes, Pat Knight’s film was the longest film of the session, but it was also one of my favourites. It’s well made and has a strong but simple concept with a nicely handled relationship between Tom and Isabelle.

07. Super Dad!
Super Dad!All Toby wanted was one normal day. This proves to be too much to ask for when your dad is Captain Chaos, the super villain of Milwaukee! Maria Pretzl’s comedy is for the most part a father/son relationship with Toby coming to terms with his dad’s disasterous wedding faux-pas. A fun film with a lovely moment of “realisation” at the end.

08. The Girl In The Photo
The -Girl In The PhotoCharlie, an introverted but curious guy, is troubled by a mysterious girl seen in his dream, even after waking up. This was a short film by Alise Ambaine who appeared to be the youngest filmmaker I saw in attendance at the festival. The film was quite short but had an unnerving and suspenseful vibe. I look forward to following Alise’s future projects.

09. The Chameleon
The ChameleonThe story of a struggling Hollywood actor who is cornered by the industry’s shadow at every turn. Our “Chameleon” desperately seeks to distance himself from typecasting thank to his popular turn as “the guy on the Gusto energy drink ad”, the vapid parties, the lies he’s told to try to “make it big” and ultimately Los Angeles itself. Can he make it and will he ever know who he truly is? My favourite part of Stephanie Phoutrides’s film is when all the alter-egos gang up on our Chameleon. Clearly this film had a larger budget than most during this session, but it was fun despite the rather abrupt/odd ending.

10. Belle
BelleAfter her parents divorce due to her mother’s alcoholism, Belle’s life is turned upside down. Struggling, Belle is often forced to assume the role of the grown up with only her teddy bear to support her. One fateful evening during Christmas the situation spirals out of control with heartbreaking results. We see life through Belle’s innocent eyes making it all the more powerful. Out of all the films I watched during the festival, Belle is the nearest companion to our film Emmi (although the innocent 7 year old ‘Belle’ is a far more accessible character than our difficult and troubled teenager ‘Emmi’). Another similarity is that both are based on true stories! Diana Skarbek gives an absolutely stellar performance as Belle. The only real gripe I have is that the alcoholic mother didn’t seem quite as convincing as Belle or her father. This was my favourite film of the session (and indeed the whole festival), so I was pleased to learn Evey Swayland won the best Welsh Female Director for this film (and arguably she should have also won best film also). The film is available below and I definitely recommend giving it a watch:

Fiction Part 2 (Cardiff Film Festival)

Following on from the previous post, here are the films which played alongside ‘Emmi’ in the Fiction Part 2 session at The Cardiff Mini Film Festival. Please note that any opinions expressed are based off my initial impressions during the screening itself.

01. The Picture on the Fridge
The Picture On The FridgeLonging to reconnect with his deceased mother, Ilan mysteriously jumps into a photograph that soon forces him to choose between his past and his reality. This all ends up a bit like Inception with photos levels rather than dream levels. The special effects are fun, even if they aren’t entirely convincing. This doesn’t matter being as the human story is what draws you in to Dekel Aizen’s film. I particularly enjoyed the film’s observation of technology evolving over different generations (analogue vs digital), a nice film to start with.

02. Ghosts of Burgundy Grove
The Ghosts of Burgundy GroveBased on a true story: Maggie discusses her future with George and worries that they have very little time together left. George however is not willing to discuss the future. There is a rumbling to suggest something is clearly wrong right from the very opening of Ciaran J. Hodgman’s film. Every time the seemingly distant Maggie takes another sip from her cup we see a startling flashback to an earlier point in their lives. Whilst the film wasn’t the most polished and the outcome predictable – it held my attention throughout. IMDB page here.

03. Me And My Thoughts
Me And My ThoughtsThis fictional short film portrays a modern woman who masks her mental health problems whilst striving to look normal and fit in. Whilst I found the film’s subject matter worthy material, the repetitive OCD elements in the first half had a tendency to drag the film down. Things improve in the second half (once the central character’s monologues begin to subside and the drama plays out). If I recall correctly, the director Martin Devek also performed many of the other key roles making this film. He is talented and this is commendable but I can’t help but feel that the production would have benefited with an independent editor helping to simmer the story down to its essence. The main performance in this short film deserves to be singled out for praise (sadly I didn’t catch her name and can’t find it online).

04. Wet Dream

Wet DreamStan is sick to the back teeth with the daily grind of his monotonous city lifestyle. Surreal daydreams punctuate his working week as he pines for the sea. One weekend on the rugged Cornish coast he has a magical encounter and an epic journey ensues… Apparently according to director Joel Duddell this includes “a magical adventure along the Cornish coast with the ghost of an 18th century smuggler”. I must have missed this bit and to be perfectly honest I didn’t really follow this seemingly experimental film. After an intriguing opening, I found myself getting a bit frustrated and was hoping it was the Goldfish dreaming rather than Stan! On the plus side the film sets a curious ambient tone and was good at conveying the mundane nature of day to day life. You can form your own opinions by watching the film here:

05. The Blind Man
The Blind ManA blind man wanders the street completely oblivious to all the disasters happening around him. This one was extremely daft in a fun way and wisely never overstayed its welcome (being only two and half minutes). I question whether the titular character is also deaf – but considering the completely random ending of the film – I’m definitely over analysing things!

06. Pesadilla
PesadillaThis was another of the more experimental films on show. Despite enjoying a romantic moment, we can see the man starting to become troubled. The tone then shifts to what I remember thinking at the time was a surreal Dario Argento inspired nightmare. And sure enough this seemed exactly what director Guillermo González Lanchares was going for – we later learned that Pesadilla means nightmare in Spanish. To watch the full film, visit here.

07. The Consequence of Reliving
The Consequence Of RelivingAfter discovering he has a special ability, a young man must make the most difficult decision of his life. This was one of my favourites of the session, well made, wonderful cast and some intriguing ideas. I don’t want to give too much more away about it, but if there is a fault with the film – it is that it tries to pack a few too many concepts in during it’s fairly brief 15 minutes run-time. This doesn’t make it any less captivating, so well done to director/writer Christien Bart-Gittens and co-director by Grace Smith.

08. Fortress

FortressSet in 1969, a Pirate Radio DJ seeks to defy the British Government by turning his radio station (located in international waters) into his own Kingdom. James Grimley’s film ultimately won an award for best Welsh Fiction Film at the festival and it’s not difficult to see why. From the technical viewpoint it is beautifully produced with wonderful production design and some nice performances (particular shout out to Scarlett Marshall as the feisty Layla). This was shot on Arri Alexa, so it clearly had a larger budget than most of the other films being show during this session. For the most part, this was an intriguing story but the message “a man’s home is his castle” does become a bit tedious after a bit (the subtext of “letting go” being a more interesting area to mine). I had to concur after some deliberation with other audience members that the ending needed to be a bit stronger, but this aside from this it was the most “polished” film of the session.

09. Jerky

JerkyGordon struggles to pick up the pieces of his life after the death of his husband Martin. The biggest obstacle in his healing: Martin’s dog Jerky, whom Gordon never appreciated. The film is a stark and intimate portrait of the grieving process. The pivotal moment comes when the dog chews through Martin’s towelling robe one day and it’s not clear whether things are going to end well or badly for poor Jerky. The story was excellent and I’d say that this was my favourite film of the session (ignoring any obvious bias we have for the next film). IMDB page here.

10. Emmi

Emmi Last, but hopefully not least, we were on! Despite a reasonably small audience turn out (around 10 people), it was nice to learn that the audience (except for the Festival team, Susie and myself) were all genuine audience members rather than filmmakers coming to see their film (you can sense my conflict in writing that)! I was happy that the film worked from a technical viewpoint. The session host Matt let us chat a little about the film afterwards. Susie was approached by one of the audience members afterwards to say that the film had made her cry. This meant a tremendous deal to us, although I somewhat flippantly quipped that perhaps Jerky might have been a better film to end on.

A weekend away with Emmi in Cardiff

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks for our film Emmi! On Saturday 24th June we played at two film festivals (Oakville in Canada and Cardiff). We also held a local screening in Oxford last weekend. I’ll cover more on the latter in separate post, for now I’ll concentrate on the film festival weekend.

Unfortunately we weren’t able to make the Oakville Film Festival (based just outside of Toronto). Susie and I recorded a message for the festival to play before the film (I now appreciate how much I hate talking to a camera – like talking into an answering machine only worse!).

Oops - what I've said now?

Oops – what’s he said now?

Susie and I both made it to the Cardiff festival however (not only would this be our first film festival experience, it would also be our first in Cardiff). You can read Susie’s take on the whole experience here. Susie was 30mins away but already had other plans for much of the weekend, so I was flying solo for the most part. My train (with incorrectly issued ticket) arrived a little later than planned. Almost immediately I started wandering in the wrong direction (typical) but thankfully it didn’t take too long to find my bearings. It was immediately apparent that Cardiff was fun, diverse and vibrant.

Walking around Cardiff
I managed to find my hotel (Park Plaza), check in and freshen up. I lucked out with the bed – absolute luxury!

Plaza Bed

After unpacking, I received a text from Susie and went to meet her at the train station. We then proceeded to Kongs to collect our festival passes. Kongs is a retro-arcade bar fill with old favourites such as Donkey Kong, Street Fighter 2, Mortal Kombat and Outrun 2 (had no idea they made a sequel!) as well as having Blue Moon on keg – nice!


Our screening was part of the “Fiction Part 2” session and was located around the corner in a venue called 10 feet tall (presumably because the building is tall and thin). When we arrived on the top floor we found that the whole place had been decorated like a big top, it looked great!

The Big Top
Unfortunately the Comedy section was playing down the road at the same time, which was no doubt a busier session. The biggest surprise came when a former colleague of mine (having just moved to Cardiff) turned up just before our film played. Nice to have some additional moral support. Afterwards we found a nice bar and had a catch up before all heading our separate ways. I decided to grab some food at Wagamama before returning back to the hotel.

I originally planned to attend “Moon Dogs” and “Twisted Tales” during the evening at Jacobs Market but to be honest I was quite exhausted and the bed was far too comfy. I also factored in the thought of wandering around a strange city on my own in the dark having just watched a bunch of adult horror shorts. I phoned the family to says hi before running myself a lovely relaxing bath (with no children invading – bliss). I also spotted Casino Royale was on – perfect! I made it to about 10pm before sleeping (with no kids invading – bliss). This is very early for me being as I rarely get to sleep before 1am normally. Unfortunately I woke at 4.30am and didn’t get back to sleep properly. At 7am I decided to give up trying, get up, shower and enjoy a nice hearty breakfast. As a child I was always told “never eat too much before swimming or you’ll sink”, I decided to check out the pool facilities anyway. The pool was lovely and I managed to get in about 40 lengths before more people started to arrive.

Plaza Pool
I decided to retire to the steam room (which I had all to myself). After what was now my third shower of the morning, I decided to take a short wander around before checking out of the hotel.

The Plaza is based in the castle quarter almost right next to the Castle itself. As you can see the Welsh are quite patriotic!

Welsh Flags

The castle itself cost money to visit, so I just browsed the outskirts.

Cardiff Castle

I have to say I loved the animals carved on the castle walls.

Animal stonework
I walked around some nearby parks/gardens before returning back to the centre, it struck me that there were two things were in great abundance here: shopping arcades and Greggs bakeries (these were everywhere).

Shopping Arcades

There were also a numerous statues. Initially I chuckled at a guilty seagull on the head of Aneurin Bevan (Welsh Labour Party politician and chief architect of the National Health Service) before noticing a more poignant message about the Grenfell Tower disaster at the base.


After a spot of people watching over lunch, I decided to head down St Mary’s Street to see the Stadium and the river Taff. On the way I bumped into a wonderful mechanical clock.

Clock and Stadium
I was starting to get a bit concerned that I hadn’t seen any welsh dragons other than on flags, but thankfully I found this one on my way back to the hotel.

There be Dragons
The rest of the day I immersed myself in the festival watching the Female Director session and the remaining two fiction sessions. All of these took place in the Old Market Tavern. These seemed more popular than our session, hope to cover a bit about the films I watched in another blog post.

Just before the end of the final session, I rushed off to quickly grab some tea before crossing the river to the Tramshed (unsurprisingly a former tram depot) where the festival awards were being held. I was also planning to catch up with Susie again. Upon arrival I was greeted to live music and some familiar faces who I’d met earlier in the day. Shortly after this Susie arrived.

And the Band Played On
Even though we had the excitement of seeing our film in the nominations for best fictional film, it came as no great surprise to me that we didn’t win it (Susie was perhaps a little more disappointed). The reality was that there were almost 40 films in this category competing for a single accolade! Even so, this was a most enjoyable way to end the festival. After all of the awards were done and dusted we went back to the car and began to navigate our way back. The trip took a couple of hours, but it was lovely just chating on the way home. We had completed our first ever film festival. Now we just had the small matter of a film screening to organise.