Putting on a Film Festival – An Insider’s Perspective

…on the 9th day of Castmas the Chrazzas gave to me…

In recent episodes Chris and I have made reference to a little side project of mine that has stopped me from performing my Casta La Vista duties to the full.

The time has come for me to lift the lid on these shenanigans and tell you a bit about what I’ve been up to.

This year I have had the good fortune to work on a fully-functioning, whistles and bells film festival called ID Fest thanks to my position at QUAD cinema and gallery in Derby. ID Fest 2010 was QUADs first ever film festival and as its title suggests it was focused around the issue of Identity. For QUADs inaugural festival the topic of Englishness was selected to get the ball rolling; talk about a Pandora’s box!

My relationship at QUAD has spiralled nicely into working projects like this since I began a placement there in January 2010. As the placement came to an end I began to pick up the odd bit of volunteer work; I was asked to chair a fortnightly film group called Cinefriends which has gone from strength to strength over the last 6 months and I am also the voice of QUADs podcast, the QUADcast (2nd best title ever). Eventually these efforts led to a position at the cinema as a Duty Manager, a great opportunity to see the inner workings of a cinema with a customer’s hat on- considering how our work will affect our guests and encouraging them to get involved in the arts as much as our staff do.

I was asked to work on ID Fest as a co-ordinator of the festival. Initially the role was mostly administrative and required me to call and email contacts and groups as part of the festival’s promotion, whilst also liaising with our various guest speakers and visitors in preparation for the weekend. I sat in on and participated in various technical and logistical meetings in the run up to the festival, a reminder that even though the arts is a fantastic thing to work in, at the end of the day it is still a business that requires serious meetings and the odd spreadsheet!

The festival’s organisers Adam and Adam (2 people to which I owe an enormous debt of gratitude) had set up the film schedule and organised plenty of other events to take place over the festival weekend; photography from world renowned photographer Matt Stuart (Google ‘photographer’ and he’s the first name that comes up!) based around The Great British Weekend; a music night in our cafe bar playing only English enthused music; and an event called Movioke! – yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like – hosted by yours truly meant that there was something for everyone during ID Fest that could leave participants (hopefully) thinking about the wider issues.

The main focus of my work was in producing a series of short films that aimed to talk to the local community and find its perspective on English Identity. QUAD commissioned filmmaker Doug Smith to create a collection of short films that we could show before and after each film during the festival. These films would hopefully pull together the thoughts and feelings of a wide cross-section of the Derbyshire community to promote the fact that this festival was all about audiences asking and answering questions themselves.

My main task was putting together a filming schedule that Doug and his co-director Ben Wigley could work from in a way that made sure they spoke to as many people as possible in the most efficient way possible.

Step one was getting in touch with community and social groups in order to gauge interest and put together a list of participants. I called and emailed over 100 groups in Derbyshire and eventually created a month long itinerary that ensured that each time we were filming we were speaking to a healthy number of different voices.

I would then attend the shoots with Ben and Doug, talk to the group leaders and participants, help arrange the set, and assist in the interviews whilst the directors manned the camera.

At the time I was simply doing what I thought was necessary, I have since been told that I basically acted as a producer on the film; which was nice! Banged that one straight on to the CV!

Our original brief was to produce a collection of one to two minute long films – about 15 in total – that would amount to around 25 minutes accumulative time. In the end we made 26 separate shorts that totalled 55 minutes. We conducted 75 interviews over the space of a month and collected 12 hours of raw footage that took Ben and Doug over 2 weeks to edit down. Examples of the finished product can be found here, here and here.

The weekend itself was probably the most relaxed part of the whole experience; I schmoozed with scholarly and cinematic types (keeping them fuelled with coffee and alcohol as they saw fit), introduced a few films myself and even found time to catch the opening 15 minutes of Four Lions! As the festival closed on Sunday there was only one question starting to niggle on my mind; what will the next ID Fest be all about?

Co-ordinating and marketing a festival often feels like an uphill battle. Have you got the brochure into as many hands as possible? Are you making the most efficient use of your time and energy? Have you updated Twitter or the Facebook page today? Have you followed up that email with a phone call yet? Have you found time to have a cup of tea?

At the end of it all you learn that you are only human and when those doors open for the first screening of the festival and the people start to show up you realise that everything is out of your hands now and the rest is up to fate.

Co-ordinating/Producing/Whatevering ID Fest was an unforgettable experience that gave me more insight into the day-to-day operations of an independent cinema than a year’s worth of on-set reports ever could – and at the end of it all I am happy to say that given the chance I would do it all over again.

Epilogue: A word of gratitude should also be made to Peter Munford, a work experience chap who was put under my supervision and burdened with any number of tedious and mindless tasks in the final weeks before the festival began, which he completed with the utmost enthusiasm. Had he known then what he knows now, that I too had no idea what I was doing, maybe he would’ve sworn at me a few more times. As it was, great work, and thank God he had sat-nav on his mobile!


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3 Responses to Putting on a Film Festival – An Insider’s Perspective

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Derby QUAD. Derby QUAD said: RT @CASTApher_W: Film Festivals – An Insider's Perspective: http://wp.me/pzYac-hP […]

  2. Dan says:

    That’s really interesting, and sounds like you did an impressive job.

    I toyed with the idea of putting on a regular midmoclub 80’s movie night in aid of a charity I’m involved with, but ultimately I couldn’t find a venue that was cheap enough to make it worthwhile.

    • wakeman24 says:

      Glad you liked it Dan. Yeah it was a great experience, I’m loath to say that I personally did a great job because I was just one part of a very big machine in getting it done.

      The biggest thing with the festival itself was how easy it got once the films were showing and we were into the weekend; I think before that point you can’t help but over-think everything.

      I’m all about movie nights (especially themed one’s – ESPECIALLY 80’s THEMED ONES) and would definitely urge you to do it if you think you have the audience available to make it worthwhile. Local community centres etc love stuff like that, especially if you’re bringing you’re own gear and promoting it yourself- they just leave the bar open and reap the rewards! Plus on your end it’s all about spreading the midmo word!

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