Category Archives: Film Festivals

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).
https://player.vimeo.com/video/192267007

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.

Real Stories at Lo-No Pop-Up Cinema

We experienced some success last weekend when Emmi was selected by two film festivals (one in Belgium, one in London). Whilst browsing festivals over Easter, I spotted something called ‘Lo-No Pop-Up Cinema’ in London looking for ‘real stories’ to shown. Being as Emmi is inspired by a real story we decided we should give it a go – I’m glad we did!

Susie and I set off to London for the event (wrestling rush hour traffic, underground cancellations, problematic ticket barriers – arriving with 5 minutes to spare). When we arrived we were greeted by Ashley Jackson the festival organiser. There were seven films in the line-up (we were programmed to be the last film before the interval).

Lo-No Pop-Up Cinema postcard

The quality of the films shown were great, it’s nice to think that our rather personal little film might be considered alongside some of these. Let’s go over them one by one:

Grandmas Big Schlep:
Hannah finds out that Grandma wasn’t actually Jewish and can’t be buried next to Grandpa as planned. She must go on her journey with her sister Rivkah to make things right before it’s too late.

Although this was the longest film of the evening (20 minutes), it was also the most uplifting. The time bristled by and there was a lovely warmth and humour to the film. Both of the girls put in great performances and the whole thing had a polished and lavish feel. Nice to see it was made by a female team also.

 

Girl:
An Experimental drama about a young homeless woman who spends her days chasing a feeling.

From the longest film shown to the shortest, I found this particularly interesting to contrast against our homeless short film “Spare Change”. A couple of minor details were lacking authenticity (indeed the same is true of Spare Change), but I liked the overall message of the film. It was also interesting that it was shot in “Portrait” rather than traditional Widescreen which helped give the “Girl” a sense of isolation and a different perspective.

 

Husky:
Marcus, a boy on the brink of adulthood struggles to decide where his loyalties lie.

In some ways this gritty drama was a little similar in tone to our film, although the canvas felt slightly larger and the end result is more cinematic. There are two great performances in this short: the antagonist Dan (suitably loathsome) and the downs syndrome character Mary (who is the true standout of the film). Extremely well made and at a couple of points an excruciating, a testament to its power. I’d say this was my favourite film during the evening and again nice to a female team at the helm.

 

Emmi:
Keeping with the darker theme, we were next. We were pleased about being just before the interval as it gave us an opportunity to invite feedback. It was also a good opportunity to see the film on a different system (note to self: dial down the sound mix for future screenings). It was amusing to hear one audience member humming Emmi’s main theme at the end of the film.

 

Kitty’s Fortune
Based on Kitt Hart-Moxon’s first night in Auschwitz when Kitty encounters a palm-reading Gypsy who hones in on her lifeline. The film is a glimpse into a touching encounter between two people amidst the brutality of their surroundings.

On a technical level this was by far the most polished of the films shown, it was beautifully filmed. Yet despite the haunting performances/worthy subject matter, something didn’t quite click (not just me – Susie thought the same). We found the atmosphere in the first half extremely moving and well paced with a palpable sense of dread. This isn’t sustained after the initial gypsy encounter and the film felt like it needed a stronger ending. That said, this is still an impressive film, especially in terms of what was achieved for the budget.

 

A Six and Two Threes:
Two kids from different sides of the tracks meet when one goes in search of their father.

Again there was some very impressive cinematography in this piece. Some of the dialogue in the film was difficult to hear, but what I really liked was the authenticity of the film. The performers felt genuine and were around the right age. The two main performances were nicely handled and the younger kid in particular is a hoot. The language was also very crude, I was thinking Emmi would easily win the swear count until this film’s colourful language took things to the next level! Very well done and strangely touching.

At this point we had to leave to get back, but during the interval we caught up with the Writer/Producer (Ellie Gocher) and Director (Jimmy Dean) of the final film ‘Offside’. We spoke a bit about finding funding and what they had planned as their next project. They also told us that the film was online (so I’ll share it below).

 

Offside:

https://www.shortoftheweek.com/2017/03/28/offside/

Offside tells the story of 11 year old Kirsty who struggles to accept her looming femininity as she learns she will soon lose her position on the local boys football team.

Having now seen the film, I’d say that the film was slower paced than many of the other films shown during the evening, but the pacing was deliberate and the story works on multiple levels. The central performances felt genuine and authentic and it particularly resonated being as I’m father to a 10 year old daughter who also currently enjoys playing football. Of course being as the film is shared online you can make your own mind up!

The programme for evening can be downloaded here.

This was a great evening and I’d like to extend my thanks to Lo-No for selecting our film and making us feel welcome. We hope to return for the next project!

Film festival submission

And so it has begins. I’ve never personally submitted to any film festivals before (even if I’ve worked on a number of films which have won awards). Honestly speaking, it can feel a little overwhelming and alien. There are so many festivals to chose from, so many pitfalls. Looking through some of the previous winners you might also be forgiven for wondering if your film is well be good enough. I know we are going to be competing against more technically accomplished films. On the other hand I truly believe our film Emmi has a compelling story with something interesting to say.

A common phrase heard in the film world is “make a list, start at the top and work down”, exactly my approach to festival submissions. Whether this is a good move remains to be seen (my suspicion is that you need to be within the “correct circles” to access to some of these festivals). Even so – if you don’t try, you’ll never get in! I’ve been using Film Freeway for submissions (seems to be the current standard for online submission). I’ve found it easy and intuitive to use.

Emmi on Film Freeway
During the past week or so we’ve submitted to a number of UK film festivals – most can be considered “top-tier” along with a couple which are more specific. I’d like to see how these earlier submissions go before getting too excitable.

I’ve already picked up that time is a huge consideration:

  • You need to send in applications in early. Costs go up over time and once applications reach a certain threshold – capacity is full and chances are you’ll be discarded even if you have one of the better entries.
  • You need to be patient. It takes ages for festival organisers to review literally thousands of online screeners!
  • Can you attend the festival dates, are there going to be any clashes?

There are also lots of rules and regulations which are specific to each festival.

Hopefully we can announce how things go as they develop. Meanwhile if anyone else reading this has any other festival tips that they would like to share, it would be fantastic if you are able to add these in the comments section below.