10-12-13 / LEUVEN SHORT FILM FESTIVAL & THE END OF AN ERA
Humbling as such invitations are, I generally decline them on the grounds that any teaching of short film writing is a suspicious practice. After all, I'm only a writer by proxy of directing, self-taught with no academic experience, but I know you don't need a set of guidelines to make a short film. I used to have a similar dilemma about attending juries, because let's face it: who am I to vote? Then I decided that if I didn't vote then someone else would, and it may as well be me if I want to see the rightful films winning prizes. Add to this the opportunity to watch a lot of short films, which has always been my education in the medium, and it became a no-brainer. So, I said yes to the workshops and thoroughly enjoyed working with each and every candidate. I hope to see their finished films at a festival before long.
The masterclass was my final duty and it was lovely that so many people showed up. Almost as soon as it was over I felt my brain gratefully shutting down. I then found out that Stew & Punch came third in the votes for the Audience Award, so just when i was feeling all bronzey and everyone was being so nice... a bad thing happened. After telling someone only hours before about my 19 years of not vomiting, I woke at 5am with my stomach on fire. I knew it was about to happen, that my reign would sadly not reach its 20th anniversary, and so my hotel room turned into a scene from The Exorcist. Being a confirmed emetophobe, the experience was terrifying and continued relentlessly until my scheduled pick-up for the airport at 12pm. Dehydrated because I couldn't hold down fluid, delirious from one hour's sleep, I tripped on my own feet through the airport and somehow managed to get home with my dignity intact.
26-11-13 / 'STEW & PUNCH' WINS AT EXGROUND FILM FESTIVAL
The full jury statement: "The film tells a macro story of a microcosm. We easily follow the director's invitation to look through a magnifying glass onto modern society. Today, man's role seems to be blurred and evokes situations of discordance and tension. The director masterfully combines ancient three-act drama with innovative film language. His statement encourages us to reflect our own position and overcome obsolete conventions. Great actors, brilliant camera work, perfect timing and a fine sense of British humour - this recipe punched us."
20-11-13 / INTERNATIONAL CREAM
International Cream: I have programmed a selection of my favourite short films for Bang Short Film Festival here in Nottingham, a refined version of the programme I did for Festival No6. It's on December 1st at 5pm. Never mind your Sunday malaise, book now and turn up, or you won't be there.
20-09-13 / ENCOUNTERS: A UK SUCCESS TO BE PROUD OF
After two very different-looking projections of my homemade DCP of Stew & Punch (too little contrast in one festival, way too much in another), I'm somewhat relieved to say that it looked exactly right at Encounters, although their presentation has always been second to none so I needn't have worried. Considering I was screening at 3pm on a Wednesday afternoon I was astonished to find the theatre completely full (!) and ALL of the competing directors in attendance. Amazing!
Finally, it's cry-worthy that I had to miss Franz Treichler's live soundtrack performance when The Young Gods were such a significant band of my late teens. I never thought I'd see a day where I was telling an amused Franz how I was punched in the face at one of his gigs over 20 years ago. Delighted to discover that he's a bloody nice bloke because it's so disappointing when it goes the other way.
16-09-13 / FESTIVAL NO.6 SHORT FILM CINEMA
Thanks to all the directors for agreeing to participate! For anyone interested, this was the line-up: Premature (Gunhild Enger, Norway), The Centrifuge Brain Project (Till Nowak, Germany), Incident by a Bank (Ruben Ostlund, Sweden), Afraid So (Jay Rosenblatt, USA), Dad's Stick (John Smith, UK), Stew & Punch (Simon Ellis, UK), Bear (Nash Edgerton, Australia), Tumult (Johnny Barrington, UK), Animals I Killed Last Summer (Gustav Danielsson, Sweden), The Apocalypse (Andrew Zuchero, USA).
12-09-13 / MILAN FILM FESTIVAL / FESTIVAL NO.6
A few films that stood out for me were Oscar Ruiz Navia's Solecito (Colombia), Jorge Lopez Navarrete's Little Block of Cement With Disheveled Hair Containing the Sea (Spain), Monia Chokri's An Extraordinary Person (Canada). And from the animated films: Anna Mantzaris & Eirik Gronmo Bjornsen's But Milk Is Important (Norway) and Nicolas de Leval Jezierski's Half You Met My Girlfriend (Germany).
Finally, if you happen to be attending Festival No.6 in Portmeirion this Friday (tomorrow, eek), I programmed the No.6 Short Film Cinema. Ten shorts from Norway, Sweden, Germany, USA, UK and Australia, handpicked on instinct for people who may not be used to seeing short films. Be warned that the show includes occasional graphic content so it's probably best if you don't bring the kids along.
23-08-13 / ANONIMUL: A FILM FESTIVAL IN PARADISE
Our outward journey was an adventure in itself, with eighteen guests and their luggage (including musical instruments) packed into a minibus. Two hours into the journey, in the middle of parched nowhere, the engine made a snapping sound and a tyre blew. After a number of failed attempts to keep going we ended up stranded next to a sunflower field, munching on fresh seeds. Everyone was in great spirits and it was such an odd sight, all of us different nationalities, getting to know each other in this bizarre situation. When replacement transport arrived, we made it to the Danube and the speedboat set off. I was busy filming from the back of the boat when the driver put his foot down and my sunglasses were sucked from my face, spiralling into the river. My vampiric eyes prepared for the imminent three-day headache, but I was saved by the generosity of Italian director Aldo Iluniano (how cool is that name?) who gave up his own shades for the whole stretch. Thanks Aldo, you really did save me from a predicament.
The 'Green Village' complex, where we stayed for the duration, is again difficult to describe. Quite simply, I was on holiday, complete with swimming pool and the chirruping of crickets. We met the organisers, who were so lovely and apologetic about our ten-hour journey, even though we had already forgotten about it. I then found out that Stew & Punch was screening at 2am on the outdoor screen so I stuck around for it, just for the thrill of being able to see it projected underneath a vast milky way, not to mention the remains of the Perseids meteor shower. A beautiful experience. When I first heard about this festival several years ago there was much talk about the mosquitoes, and they were true to their reputation, though they couldn't mar the experience of being in such a mellow environment with equally mellow people (both guests and organisers).
A feature film from Emir Baigazin called Harmony Lessons (Kazakhstan) looked superb, with perfectly executed scenes of bullying demanding my attention, though I only saw parts of it and had to make myself leave in order to preserve the experience for future viewing. This was its Romanian premiere and it already won prizes in Berlin and Tribeca earlier this year. I can't wait to see it in full. Congratulations also to the charismatic Yuri Bykov (Russia) for winning the main prize for his feature The Major. I only caught the first thirty minutes but it's one of those openers that grabs you by the nuts and doesn't let go.
The Black Sea was only a twenty-minute walk away and on the last night we opted not to sleep so we could go and watch the sun rise. I honestly didn't want to leave and considered burying myself in the sand for a day or two. Alas, I didn't, and it was time to go spend a last night in Bucharest before returning home. The money-grabbing scumbags at WizzAir threatened to interrupt my good mood by stinging me for cash at the airport, then a flight full of typically embarrassing, borderline-retarded English 'lads' made me ashamed to be English. Finally, there was a dramatic finish when a young Romanian man was seized by police after getting off the plane, leaving his crying girlfriend at baggage reclaim. In summary though, if you are a filmmaker and you ever get the chance to visit Anonimul, take it without hesitation.
05-08-13 / UPCOMING SCREENINGS OF 'STEW & PUNCH' AND 'SOFT'