Filmmaker Focus - John Smith
Allow me to give a little background before I begin. I saw one of John Smith’s most iconic films at film college many years ago. His work was presented as an excellent example of experimental filmmaking. His piece “Girl Chewing Gum” was shown to me, suddenly opening my mind to the notion of being meta-film. The film in particular shows a candid street scene which is allowed to unfold, where the “director” calls actions via voice over, seemingly controlling the random events.
This year, unbeknownst to me, John has two films in the viewing library “The Unusual Red Cardigan” and the “The Man Phoning Mum”. The former, taken out of context, looks entirely divorced from the mainstream films at the festival. It is a single take, with a low quality camera and seems to feature a man vaguely narrating his journey as he watched others selling his films on Ebay. The latter film, bares more nostalgia than anything else, a love-letter to the film that made him. John reshoots “The Girl Chewing Gum” in the same location, layering it atop the original footage and allowing the two films to interact and create pleasant meetings through time.
Suddenly college came flooding back to me. I was blind and now I remembered who this man was and how important his work is to short film today. I managed to catch up with John via a phone interview before he disappeared to Russia for the “Message to Man” film festival who are showcasing a selection of his work.
John assured me that his work was not fiction in any way, telling me that his style comes from chance encounters and reality, perfectly demonstrated by the seller on Ebay or the layering of candid street film. I couldn’t decide whether the work would have been more impressive if it was entirely fictitious but I think that banality is what creates a mysterious tension in Smith’s work. He explained that “the less drama, the better” and that by working slowy and playing with time, it is easy to create a cinematic hook and create drama from the everyday events in our lives.
In fact, the parcel featured in “The Unusual Red Cardigan” was actually sat in John’s office for 18 months, slowly encouraging him to hang around and mull over his ideas. With only one chance for the shoot, his excitement and interested mirrors our own and we embark on the journey together. His film may not deliver on the conclusion to some, but both films were actually made for a larger retrospective, an exhibition combining found objects, prints and film.
John is always thinking of the way his viewers recieve film and mentioned mixing up video headphones at the exhibition to wake people up a little. It seems my initial confusion with the films was certainly warranted. At the exhibition, “The Unusual Red Cardigan” did not even screen, instead the featured objects (bought from ebay) were printed to create a synergy with his other film work. John is fascinated with imaginary identity, as he rightly should be after spending so many years with “Girl Chewing Gum”. The exhibition sought to add to her imaginary persona, confusing identities and time.
Smith told me that he is suspicious about being nostalgic although his candid characters from long ago now feel like old friends to him. He aims to make his work stand alone but appreciates that it is no longer made in a vacuum. Although his early work was made without much knowledge of experimental film, his latter work has embraced it, utilising work that homages his own and approaching old concepts from new angles. “Nothing is original” he tells me, “and that can often make it hard to muster energy creatively”. Instead John preaches researching film and finding your own voice as well as trusting your own judgement because without pushing through with unoriginal ideas, he never would have found his own way.
John Smith has made over 40 films and is an inspiring filmmaker. I urge you to find out more at his site…
http://www.johnsmithfilms.com/
Benji Corless
Filmmaker Focus - John Smith
Allow me to give a little background before I begin. I saw one of John Smith’s most iconic films at film college many years ago. His work was presented as an excellent example of experimental filmmaking. His piece “Girl Chewing Gum” was shown to me, suddenly opening my mind to the notion of being meta-film. The film in particular shows a candid street scene which is allowed to unfold, where the “director” calls actions via voice over, seemingly controlling the random events.
This year, unbeknownst to me, John has two films in the viewing library “The Unusual Red Cardigan” and the “The Man Phoning Mum”. The former, taken out of context, looks entirely divorced from the mainstream films at the festival. It is a single take, with a low quality camera and seems to feature a man vaguely narrating his journey as he watched others selling his films on Ebay. The latter film, bares more nostalgia than anything else, a love-letter to the film that made him. John reshoots “The Girl Chewing Gum” in the same location, layering it atop the original footage and allowing the two films to interact and create pleasant meetings through time.
Suddenly college came flooding back to me. I was blind and now I remembered who this man was and how important his work is to short film today. I managed to catch up with John via a phone interview before he disappeared to Russia for the “Message to Man” film festival who are showcasing a selection of his work.
John assured me that his work was not fiction in any way, telling me that his style comes from chance encounters and reality, perfectly demonstrated by the seller on Ebay or the layering of candid street film. I couldn’t decide whether the work would have been more impressive if it was entirely fictitious but I think that banality is what creates a mysterious tension in Smith’s work. He explained that “the less drama, the better” and that by working slowy and playing with time, it is easy to create a cinematic hook and create drama from the everyday events in our lives.
In fact, the parcel featured in “The Unusual Red Cardigan” was actually sat in John’s office for 18 months, slowly encouraging him to hang around and mull over his ideas. With only one chance for the shoot, his excitement and interested mirrors our own and we embark on the journey together. His film may not deliver on the conclusion to some, but both films were actually made for a larger retrospective, an exhibition combining found objects, prints and film.
John is always thinking of the way his viewers recieve film and mentioned mixing up video headphones at the exhibition to wake people up a little. It seems my initial confusion with the films was certainly warranted. At the exhibition, “The Unusual Red Cardigan” did not even screen, instead the featured objects (bought from ebay) were printed to create a synergy with his other film work. John is fascinated with imaginary identity, as he rightly should be after spending so many years with “Girl Chewing Gum”. The exhibition sought to add to her imaginary persona, confusing identities and time.
Smith told me that he is suspicious about being nostalgic although his candid characters from long ago now feel like old friends to him. He aims to make his work stand alone but appreciates that it is no longer made in a vacuum. Although his early work was made without much knowledge of experimental film, his latter work has embraced it, utilising work that homages his own and approaching old concepts from new angles. “Nothing is original” he tells me, “and that can often make it hard to muster energy creatively”. Instead John preaches researching film and finding your own voice as well as trusting your own judgement because without pushing through with unoriginal ideas, he never would have found his own way.
John Smith has made over 40 films and is an inspiring filmmaker. I urge you to find out more at his site…
http://www.johnsmithfilms.com/
Benji Corless


Filmmaker Focus - John Smith

Allow me to give a little background before I begin. I saw one of John Smith’s most iconic films at film college many years ago. His work was presented as an excellent example of experimental filmmaking. His piece “Girl Chewing Gum” was shown to me, suddenly opening my mind to the notion of being meta-film. The film in particular shows a candid street scene which is allowed to unfold, where the “director” calls actions via voice over, seemingly controlling the random events.

This year, unbeknownst to me, John has two films in the viewing library “The Unusual Red Cardigan” and the “The Man Phoning Mum”. The former, taken out of context, looks entirely divorced from the mainstream films at the festival. It is a single take, with a low quality camera and seems to feature a man vaguely narrating his journey as he watched others selling his films on Ebay. The latter film, bares more nostalgia than anything else, a love-letter to the film that made him. John reshoots “The Girl Chewing Gum” in the same location, layering it atop the original footage and allowing the two films to interact and create pleasant meetings through time.

Suddenly college came flooding back to me. I was blind and now I remembered who this man was and how important his work is to short film today. I managed to catch up with John via a phone interview before he disappeared to Russia for the “Message to Man” film festival who are showcasing a selection of his work.

John assured me that his work was not fiction in any way, telling me that his style comes from chance encounters and reality, perfectly demonstrated by the seller on Ebay or the layering of candid street film. I couldn’t decide whether the work would have been more impressive if it was entirely fictitious but I think that banality is what creates a mysterious tension in Smith’s work. He explained that “the less drama, the better” and that by working slowy and playing with time, it is easy to create a cinematic hook and create drama from the everyday events in our lives.

In fact, the parcel featured in “The Unusual Red Cardigan” was actually sat in John’s office for 18 months, slowly encouraging him to hang around and mull over his ideas. With only one chance for the shoot, his excitement and interested mirrors our own and we embark on the journey together. His film may not deliver on the conclusion to some, but both films were actually made for a larger retrospective, an exhibition combining found objects, prints and film.

John is always thinking of the way his viewers recieve film and mentioned mixing up video headphones at the exhibition to wake people up a little. It seems my initial confusion with the films was certainly warranted. At the exhibition, “The Unusual Red Cardigan” did not even screen, instead the featured objects (bought from ebay) were printed to create a synergy with his other film work. John is fascinated with imaginary identity, as he rightly should be after spending so many years with “Girl Chewing Gum”. The exhibition sought to add to her imaginary persona, confusing identities and time.

Smith told me that he is suspicious about being nostalgic although his candid characters from long ago now feel like old friends to him. He aims to make his work stand alone but appreciates that it is no longer made in a vacuum. Although his early work was made without much knowledge of experimental film, his latter work has embraced it, utilising work that homages his own and approaching old concepts from new angles. “Nothing is original” he tells me, “and that can often make it hard to muster energy creatively”. Instead John preaches researching film and finding your own voice as well as trusting your own judgement because without pushing through with unoriginal ideas, he never would have found his own way.

John Smith has made over 40 films and is an inspiring filmmaker. I urge you to find out more at his site…

http://www.johnsmithfilms.com/

Benji Corless

Super 8mm Workshop
If you’re even slightly interested in 8mm I cannot recommend David’s place enough. I was incredibly grateful to be allowed to join their workshop as part of Encounters Film Festival and came away so incredibly enthusiastic about all things film!
After meeting another participant, I climbed the Christmas steps to Geneva stop where the store is based. David greats me with tea, biscuits and hand picked apples and invites me into his treasure trove of a store. The wooden walls are friendly and inviting, adorned with all manner of old cameras, projectors, film stock and then some.
Our small group quickly take our seats and the projector screen/window blinds are pulled. Before we knew it, lunchtime rolled around. David is an absolute fount of knowledge on super8 cameras, helping others at the workshop who each have their own story; a filmmaking son with a whole plethora of kit as a gift, a young bride-to-be wanting to film her wedding “lo-fi”, and many other filmmakers with a passion to hang on our new mentor’s every word.
I can now boast knowledge of good camera purchases, the places to develop film stock, even interesting techniques that can be achieved with 8mm. A combined history and photography lesson, we lapped up information. 8mm is kept alive by stores like Geneva Stop, championed by enthusiasts who care about technique and have built an online network to help the novice find a path through the myriad of rip-offs, collectors and liars.
Whilst at the workshop, we enjoyed some vintage finds from car boot sales and watched as figures now long dead were brought back to life in amazing clarity. Super8 holds a quality like no other, sumptuous colours and incredible definition, its just a shame its no longer as affordable as it once was. We also got a chance to create a scratch film, a camera-less movie created by scratching, drawing and bleaching blank 8mm. The results of our experiemnt can be seen at the link below but please be kind! 8mm is very small to draw on without a magnifying glass!
Geneva Stop are keen to meet anyone interested in 8mm and run projection evenings, an online blog and workshops to help others share their enthusiasm! Get involved because they are an awesome resource, from telecine to simple camera repair!
http://vimeo.com/49971133
For more information on David and the incredible work that happens at Geneva Stop, head on over to…
http://www.genevastop.co.uk/
0117 929 4782
info@genevastop.co.uk
Benji Corless
Super 8mm Workshop
If you’re even slightly interested in 8mm I cannot recommend David’s place enough. I was incredibly grateful to be allowed to join their workshop as part of Encounters Film Festival and came away so incredibly enthusiastic about all things film!
After meeting another participant, I climbed the Christmas steps to Geneva stop where the store is based. David greats me with tea, biscuits and hand picked apples and invites me into his treasure trove of a store. The wooden walls are friendly and inviting, adorned with all manner of old cameras, projectors, film stock and then some.
Our small group quickly take our seats and the projector screen/window blinds are pulled. Before we knew it, lunchtime rolled around. David is an absolute fount of knowledge on super8 cameras, helping others at the workshop who each have their own story; a filmmaking son with a whole plethora of kit as a gift, a young bride-to-be wanting to film her wedding “lo-fi”, and many other filmmakers with a passion to hang on our new mentor’s every word.
I can now boast knowledge of good camera purchases, the places to develop film stock, even interesting techniques that can be achieved with 8mm. A combined history and photography lesson, we lapped up information. 8mm is kept alive by stores like Geneva Stop, championed by enthusiasts who care about technique and have built an online network to help the novice find a path through the myriad of rip-offs, collectors and liars.
Whilst at the workshop, we enjoyed some vintage finds from car boot sales and watched as figures now long dead were brought back to life in amazing clarity. Super8 holds a quality like no other, sumptuous colours and incredible definition, its just a shame its no longer as affordable as it once was. We also got a chance to create a scratch film, a camera-less movie created by scratching, drawing and bleaching blank 8mm. The results of our experiemnt can be seen at the link below but please be kind! 8mm is very small to draw on without a magnifying glass!
Geneva Stop are keen to meet anyone interested in 8mm and run projection evenings, an online blog and workshops to help others share their enthusiasm! Get involved because they are an awesome resource, from telecine to simple camera repair!
http://vimeo.com/49971133
For more information on David and the incredible work that happens at Geneva Stop, head on over to…
http://www.genevastop.co.uk/
0117 929 4782
info@genevastop.co.uk
Benji Corless
Super 8mm Workshop
If you’re even slightly interested in 8mm I cannot recommend David’s place enough. I was incredibly grateful to be allowed to join their workshop as part of Encounters Film Festival and came away so incredibly enthusiastic about all things film!
After meeting another participant, I climbed the Christmas steps to Geneva stop where the store is based. David greats me with tea, biscuits and hand picked apples and invites me into his treasure trove of a store. The wooden walls are friendly and inviting, adorned with all manner of old cameras, projectors, film stock and then some.
Our small group quickly take our seats and the projector screen/window blinds are pulled. Before we knew it, lunchtime rolled around. David is an absolute fount of knowledge on super8 cameras, helping others at the workshop who each have their own story; a filmmaking son with a whole plethora of kit as a gift, a young bride-to-be wanting to film her wedding “lo-fi”, and many other filmmakers with a passion to hang on our new mentor’s every word.
I can now boast knowledge of good camera purchases, the places to develop film stock, even interesting techniques that can be achieved with 8mm. A combined history and photography lesson, we lapped up information. 8mm is kept alive by stores like Geneva Stop, championed by enthusiasts who care about technique and have built an online network to help the novice find a path through the myriad of rip-offs, collectors and liars.
Whilst at the workshop, we enjoyed some vintage finds from car boot sales and watched as figures now long dead were brought back to life in amazing clarity. Super8 holds a quality like no other, sumptuous colours and incredible definition, its just a shame its no longer as affordable as it once was. We also got a chance to create a scratch film, a camera-less movie created by scratching, drawing and bleaching blank 8mm. The results of our experiemnt can be seen at the link below but please be kind! 8mm is very small to draw on without a magnifying glass!
Geneva Stop are keen to meet anyone interested in 8mm and run projection evenings, an online blog and workshops to help others share their enthusiasm! Get involved because they are an awesome resource, from telecine to simple camera repair!
http://vimeo.com/49971133
For more information on David and the incredible work that happens at Geneva Stop, head on over to…
http://www.genevastop.co.uk/
0117 929 4782
info@genevastop.co.uk
Benji Corless
Super 8mm Workshop
If you’re even slightly interested in 8mm I cannot recommend David’s place enough. I was incredibly grateful to be allowed to join their workshop as part of Encounters Film Festival and came away so incredibly enthusiastic about all things film!
After meeting another participant, I climbed the Christmas steps to Geneva stop where the store is based. David greats me with tea, biscuits and hand picked apples and invites me into his treasure trove of a store. The wooden walls are friendly and inviting, adorned with all manner of old cameras, projectors, film stock and then some.
Our small group quickly take our seats and the projector screen/window blinds are pulled. Before we knew it, lunchtime rolled around. David is an absolute fount of knowledge on super8 cameras, helping others at the workshop who each have their own story; a filmmaking son with a whole plethora of kit as a gift, a young bride-to-be wanting to film her wedding “lo-fi”, and many other filmmakers with a passion to hang on our new mentor’s every word.
I can now boast knowledge of good camera purchases, the places to develop film stock, even interesting techniques that can be achieved with 8mm. A combined history and photography lesson, we lapped up information. 8mm is kept alive by stores like Geneva Stop, championed by enthusiasts who care about technique and have built an online network to help the novice find a path through the myriad of rip-offs, collectors and liars.
Whilst at the workshop, we enjoyed some vintage finds from car boot sales and watched as figures now long dead were brought back to life in amazing clarity. Super8 holds a quality like no other, sumptuous colours and incredible definition, its just a shame its no longer as affordable as it once was. We also got a chance to create a scratch film, a camera-less movie created by scratching, drawing and bleaching blank 8mm. The results of our experiemnt can be seen at the link below but please be kind! 8mm is very small to draw on without a magnifying glass!
Geneva Stop are keen to meet anyone interested in 8mm and run projection evenings, an online blog and workshops to help others share their enthusiasm! Get involved because they are an awesome resource, from telecine to simple camera repair!
http://vimeo.com/49971133
For more information on David and the incredible work that happens at Geneva Stop, head on over to…
http://www.genevastop.co.uk/
0117 929 4782
info@genevastop.co.uk
Benji Corless

Super 8mm Workshop

If you’re even slightly interested in 8mm I cannot recommend David’s place enough. I was incredibly grateful to be allowed to join their workshop as part of Encounters Film Festival and came away so incredibly enthusiastic about all things film!

After meeting another participant, I climbed the Christmas steps to Geneva stop where the store is based. David greats me with tea, biscuits and hand picked apples and invites me into his treasure trove of a store. The wooden walls are friendly and inviting, adorned with all manner of old cameras, projectors, film stock and then some.

Our small group quickly take our seats and the projector screen/window blinds are pulled. Before we knew it, lunchtime rolled around. David is an absolute fount of knowledge on super8 cameras, helping others at the workshop who each have their own story; a filmmaking son with a whole plethora of kit as a gift, a young bride-to-be wanting to film her wedding “lo-fi”, and many other filmmakers with a passion to hang on our new mentor’s every word.

I can now boast knowledge of good camera purchases, the places to develop film stock, even interesting techniques that can be achieved with 8mm. A combined history and photography lesson, we lapped up information. 8mm is kept alive by stores like Geneva Stop, championed by enthusiasts who care about technique and have built an online network to help the novice find a path through the myriad of rip-offs, collectors and liars.

Whilst at the workshop, we enjoyed some vintage finds from car boot sales and watched as figures now long dead were brought back to life in amazing clarity. Super8 holds a quality like no other, sumptuous colours and incredible definition, its just a shame its no longer as affordable as it once was. We also got a chance to create a scratch film, a camera-less movie created by scratching, drawing and bleaching blank 8mm. The results of our experiemnt can be seen at the link below but please be kind! 8mm is very small to draw on without a magnifying glass!

Geneva Stop are keen to meet anyone interested in 8mm and run projection evenings, an online blog and workshops to help others share their enthusiasm! Get involved because they are an awesome resource, from telecine to simple camera repair!

http://vimeo.com/49971133

For more information on David and the incredible work that happens at Geneva Stop, head on over to…

http://www.genevastop.co.uk/

0117 929 4782

info@genevastop.co.uk

Benji Corless

Sunday Stream of Consciousness

Film bloggers on my floor. No time for breakfast. An empty Watershed. Where have all the laptops gone? Sitting in the corner, keeping the locals at bay with duvets and sleeping bags. One screening left. Saw the films already. People still not mentioned. Boxes piled high and freebies forced upon us. Rich is laying on the floor and won’t get up. Transcriptions of interviews, waiting for films to render. I nearly fall asleep. It’s raining heavily. Pockets filled with business cards. Signing a program with goodbyes. An empty stomach filled with buffet. Childish glee. One by one we leave. It’s still raining.

Benji Corless

Casting Masterclass with Joanna Ignaczewska

          

Photo by Jon Craig

Sometimes the sheer volume of people involved at every stage of making a film is simply staggering. So often we focus on directors, producers, actors and cinematographers and forget that without caterers and runners and drivers and prop makers and costume designers, no one could make anything. Casting, whether for the final in the Nolan trilogy, or for your one-man college piece, is one of those oft forgotten skills that can make or break a film.

Joanna Ignaczewska is a renowned Polish actress, fresh from starring in Wallander, and currently filming a jolly part in Miranda alongside an intense psychological thriller called Scopia which sounds entirely terrifying. She also works as a casting director, giving her a unique appreciation of both sides of the audition experience.

Her class begins with us sitting in a circle, explaining who we are and what we want from the experience. There are actors, producers who are just here to learn and directors who are keen not to repeat mistakes. In beautiful English laced with a Polish accent, Joanna tells us that if you get your casting right, then 90% of the film’s success has already been achieved; ‘and as I think you know’ she continues, entirely deadpan, ‘90% is a very high percent.’

With that important fact under our belts we plough on into how we can make the casting process work to our advantage. We learn that Woody Allen always told himself that the next person coming into the room was the person he was most excited about, his hero, his star. It’s certainly an interesting way of approaching the audition and ensuring that each and every person gets your full and undivided attention. So often wildly judgmental myself, I’ll be taking away an appreciation for bringing out the best in people, regardless of my initial opinion.

The class developed into an entertaining role play sequence in which ‘directors’ and ‘actors’ were all given a secret task (be nervous, be obnoxious, be drunk) and asked to play off one another, offering the rest of the group the rare voyeur experience of seeing your own mistakes played out in front of you.

Joanna was not only extremely experienced in her craft, but an excellent teacher as well, allowing every member of this intimate group, whatever their motives, to take something very special from her class. For more information on her casting workshops and upcoming work, do check out her website.

Tessa Coates

My One Piece of Advice

            

Photo By Rhi Ellis

You can barely throw an over-priced brownie in the Watershed cafe this year without hitting some kind of filmmaker. Producers, directors, cinematographers, animators, they’re all here and we couldn’t miss the opportunity to ask for the one piece of advice they’d offer young filmmakers… 

Matthew Walker 

Animation filmmaker; Astronauts, John and Karen, Operator, Little Face

Make Stuff. That’s it really, make as much as you can, even if it’s on your phone and it’s rubbish, keep going, keep learning.

Jacob Parish

Producer; The Claw

Keep it simple, you don’t have to go crazy with props, get good actors and let a human face tell the story.

Nathan Hughes

Writer/Director; The Claw

The story - it’s all about the story. Get that right and go from there.

Conor McCormack

Documentary maker; Seven Stones, Christmas with Dad

Think just as creatively about ways to make money as you do about your film. And read, and think, and always ask why. And don’t watch telly, you won’t learn anything about filmmaking from watching telly.

Peter Lord

Company director of Aardman Animations; Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run, Creature Comforts, Shaun the Sheep, Morph

Don’t kill yourself trying to do it alone; share the experience, find people to help.

Nick Park

Company director of Aardman Animations; Academy Award winner for Wallace and Gromit: A Grand Day Out, his graduation film.

Try and do a lot with a little, rather than the other way around.

David Sproxton

Company director of Aardman Animations; Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run, Creature Comforts, Shaun the Sheep, Morph

Make sure you can explain the whole story in just a few simple lines - keep a pure heart. Chicken Run has a pure heart - it’s an escape story with chickens, that’s it, keep it simple. And don’t be ashamed to admit that you might be just a fantastic writer OR a great model maker, people are rarely both. Discover what you are and go with it.

Lol Crawley 

Cinematographer; Hyde Park on Hudson, Four Lions, Ballast

Don’t manufacture an aim, don’t try and emulate, just keep responding to each situation and find your own voice in every film you do. Becoming successful is like flying an airplane - you hit the runway a few times before you really take off.  

Isabella Ekløf

Swedish director of 11 shorts; graduate of the National Film School of Denmark

Pick up any old camera and do it. It’s the only way to move forward.

Meghna Gupta

Director; Unravel

Just go out and shoot things. There’s an idea in the industry of ‘wait until you’re ready’, but you just need to go out and shoot.

Jeremy Thomas

Producer; The Last Emperor, Eureka, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, Naked Lunch, Sexy Beast, A Dangerous Method

Producing? I’d advise against it. 



Children’s Animal Animation Workshop with Will Rose
By Rhi Ellis
Children’s Animal Animation Workshop with Will Rose
By Rhi Ellis
Children’s Animal Animation Workshop with Will Rose
By Rhi Ellis
Children’s Animal Animation Workshop with Will Rose
By Rhi Ellis
Children’s Animal Animation Workshop with Will Rose
By Rhi Ellis

Children’s Animal Animation Workshop with Will Rose

By Rhi Ellis

I was incredibly lucky to catch up with Lol Crawley after his masterclass and ask him some more questions about how his directors have influenced his style and his opinions about training on film vs digital. 

Cristina Cretu

Aardman at Arnolfini

By Rhi Ellis

Focus on Finland

Finland. Famous for its saunas, the midnight sun and Hard Rock Hallelujah. This year, the Encounters Film Festival turned its eye towards Finnish cinema with a double bill over at the Big Top, short animations at the Arnolfini, live action shorts at the Watershed and a pop up cine-sauna at the Parlour Rooms. A brisk ferry trip from the Waterside to the Creative Commons took us to the double bill consisting of Sodankyla Forever, a documentary composed of interviews conducted at the Midnight Sun Film Festival, and my most anticipated event of the festival - a screening of silent Soviet sci-fi Aelita: Queen of Mars accompanied by a live musical performance from self proclaimed cross dressing zombie group Cleaning Women - see Tessa Coates post here

Sodankyla Forever: Century of Cinema

the midnight sun film festival. if you’re interested in learning more about the festival, then i honestly can’t recommend the film. in fact, if you’re interested in learning about 20th Century cinema (the title implying that this is the main subject matter) then there are a host of other sources i’d recommend spending 1 hour 30 minutes with than Sodankyla Forever. what the film does offer, however, is interviews with many of the most significant figures in world cinema from the past 60 years including Milos Forman, Francis Ford Coppola and Abbas Kiarostami. Rather than cinema, they mostly discuss the impact of the Second World War on their personal lives and on cinema as a whole. perhaps the most bewildering thing about this watered down version of Peter van Bagh’s full 5 hour movie is that Bagh can leave so many topics uncovered, preferring to focus on the war interposed with mentions of several films for which Bagh musters no clips from, using the same few neorealism-era songs to accompany the discussions. My disappointment may result with the high expectations i went in with - I expected something that would inspire, that would put dozens of previously unknown films on my must-see list. Instead the result is a cold, if thought provoking, collection of Post-War cinema theory.

Some Finn Different

Out of the six live action shorts shown for the wittily titled ‘Some Finn Different’ screening, there are two that have left the biggest impression on stayed on my thoughts into the next day. One is a misanthropic comedy called Korsoteoria (So It Goes). It’s the story of a cynical tomboy, Elli (Armi Toivanen) and the persistent efforts of social hermit Heze, who happens to be the son of her boss in the factory she works in. Writer/director Antti Heikki Pesonen opens the film with an increasingly funny sequence involving the downbeat rants of a head teacher, and the humour rarely dies hereafter. More impressive is the cast Pesonen has assembled, all of whom deliver lines in such a way that reminisces of the similar deadpan comedies of fellow Scandanavian Roy Andersson, but stands up on its own. Even the actor playing Heze, whom I initially was unconvinced over but eventually realised I was one step behind the film - he’s playing a character who’s just naturally a bad actor in real life. So It Goes won 3 awards at the domestic Tampere Film Festival.

Lumikko (The Little Snow Animal) begins by dropping us in the middle of an emotional teenage girl calling into a radio show, her voice quivering over the phone. The sheer power of this very real conversation alone was enough to bring me to tears on several occasions, in a way that I’m unable articulate here. Director Miia Tervo tries to express some of this inner adolescent and tumultuous universe via a collage of fictitious (?) live action, animation and real sound recordings. I’m still trying to get my head around parts of Lumikko, lest to say when Tervo gets this combination right, it can at one moment be spellbinding and the next an arbitrary and all too methodical construction. Lumikko stayed with me long after the credits had rolled, with certain images imprinted in my mind. It can be an endurance test, but Lumikko is a promising effort from a nascent filmmaker.

Focus on Finland has been one of the many eye opening events for me at Encounters allowing me to discover new areas of cinema I was previously poorly educated on, whilst also giving me the chance to assess Finland’s current output quality. The outlook is positive for what could be seen as the beginning of a Midnight Sun-era in Finnish cinema. You heard it here first.

Thomas Beale

Jeremy Thomas In Conversation

You can’t help but have a mixed feeling of optimism and pessimism toward the state of cinema after listening to Jeremy Thomas, one of the most significant independent producers of the last 30 years. Much has been written about him, with certain names becoming synonymous with his - Bernardo Bertolucci, Nic Roeg, David Cronenberg and so on.  But without dwelling too much into his prolific career, it’s important to remember the man behind the movies and how he got to where he is. Thomas is incredibly frank about this subject, going so far as to dissuade people from re-emulating his journey. ‘Nepotism is rife’ in the film industry, he claims. And he would know: son of Ealing director Ralph Thomas, Nephew of Carry On director Gerald Thomas, Godson to Dirk Bogarde. It seems he’s always been surrounded by big names, owning many a photo of movie stars coming and going through his house. You may have read on here already in an incisive post by Alice Corner that he was born into a privileged background and thus, he said, he never desired to succeed financially or create box office gold for any other purpose than funding future projects. In fact, I found it refreshing to see a producer so casually dismiss the subject of revenue when discussing moviemaking, despite having one reservation about producing a film in a foreign language. Make a film in a non-English language ‘and you’re in the ghetto’, apparently. He elaborated in a rather biting jab at the net generation: ‘People don’t read. They can read Twitter but they can’t read subtitles.’

Despite his many stories from the many places he’s worked in (host Chris Auti summarised this excellently by calling him a ‘world citizen’), Thomas strikes me as somewhat un-nostalgic and at the same time anecdotal. He often speaks romantically of cinema, at one point likening it to ‘electric shadows in a cathedral’, a genuine sincerity coming through his manner of speaking. In fact, labelling him a world citizen isn’t exactly accurate. For all his work, family and friends who live here, he still persists ‘but my brain is in cinema’. He is someone who, like Francois Truffaut whom he speaks enthusiastically of, considers themselves a resident, and student, of cinema having left school at 17. Thomas insisted he’s ‘really not interested in the market, I’m interested in making good films’ which of course all depends on his own personal taste. Though the quality of filmmaking can often dip and when reviewing his filmography, one thing is for sure: these films wouldn’t have been made in Hollywood or indeed Britain, an acute topic which gets Thomas riled up. So what’s next? Those in the audience were lucky enough to catch a clip from his latest film Kon-Tiki, yet to be unreleased in the UK. ‘I haven’t sold it yet, but I will.’ he asserted. Beyond this and the other projects he has lined up, it seems unlikely that Jeremy Thomas’ dominance over independent cinema will flutter. ”I’m going to stop making films when I can no longer make the sort of films I want to make.” Let’s just hope, then, that the sort of films he wants to make keep coming.

Thomas Beale