Month: March 2017

Wes Anderson: An Exception to the Rule of Hollywood

After the Oscars ceremony fiasco overshadowed the deserved victory of Moonlight, it became all the more relevant to investigate the rise of independent filmmakers in Hollywood’s domination of mainstream cinema. The independent film directed by Barry Jenkins and its triumph illustrate the increasing popularity of non-mainstream content, or what is often referred to as ‘indie’ cinema. In order to understand the process leading up to the respect we attribute to film auteurs, I will be using filmmaker Wes Anderson as a case study. Simultaneously an independent and ‘indie’ filmmaker, his successful career illustrates just how much he has been able to transgress Hollywood filmmaking norms, but also how in some ways he meets the criteria of a Hollywood director.

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When discussing filmmaking and ‘indie’ films, we must make the careful distinction between independent and ‘indie’ cinema. Media reception studies professor Janet Staiger defined independent film by the way those films were financed and distributed, in the sense that they were not affiliated with a major studio, such as Paramount Motion Pictures or Walt Disney Studios. As she understands it, ‘an independent production firm was a small company with no corporate relationship to a distribution firm’. The confusion is frequently made that calling a film ‘independent’ implies that it possesses textual qualities of an ‘indie’ film. These textual qualities can be identified as a particular variety of emotional storylines, uncommon or unusual characters and aesthetically intricate settings – all contributing factors to what makes a filmmaker an auteur.

It is no secret that traditional filmmaking favours a pre-determined method that splits the narrative into three parts. The first, introduces the main protagonists and the goals they will attempt to achieve throughout the film. In the second part, the protagonist attempts to achieve goal, but will be stopped by an antagonist, ending this part with the ‘low point’. The third and final part consists of the final dramatic conflict where the main protagonist fights to achieve their goal, either succeeding or failing horribly. This method has persisted as it is what seems to “sell”, which makes producers hesitant to stray from the formula. ‘Indie’ film tends to be more playful and creative, unlike the mindless succession of events that occur in traditional film.

This is one of the main ways Anderson transgresses classical Hollywood filmmaking norms, as he always breaks up his films into episodic chapters that necessitates the viewer to make connections that they typically wouldn’t with a mainstream Hollywood film. Made to be widely and easily consumed by a large mass, a great deal of Hollywood films and other products of the entertainment industry are stillborn and easily forgotten. Their formula installs within the audience unconscious automatic expectations for a clear linear progression of events with some heated fights, amusing jokes, romantic interests, or stereotypically the rise and fall and rise again of the main character, overcoming fears and facing their problems. Wes Anderson doesn’t follow this formula, instead creating complex, fast-paced stories that revolve around an atypically detailed plot. For example, his latest film The Grand Budapest Hotel has a cast of thirty roles that each add to the narrative, twelve of which were already well-established actors, such as Ralph Fiennes or Léa Seydoux.

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The core cast group of amateur actors he began with are now equally mainstream, especially when considering The Grand Budapest Hotel’s cast, as much of the marketing centred on the long selection of eminent actors. Before this, with the exception of Fantastic Mr. Fox using the voices of already renowned actors George Clooney and Meryl Streep, Anderson’s film cast were positively ‘indie’. Since The Grand Budapest Hotel, Anderson fans will have an expectation for notorious actors in his films, resembling Hollywood directors dependable safety net of basing much of their film’s marketing on the weight of the actors’ names in the industry.

Where most traditional Hollywood productions are focussed on appealing to a particular demographic such as the Twilight Saga (2008-2012) that had a mainly female teenage audience, Anderson’s following consists of a wide array of demographics. Particularly his films Moonrise Kingdom of which the main protagonists are children, and Fantastic Mr. Fox that is based on Roald Dahl’s children’s book of the same title. The relationship between the two children in Moonrise Kingdom is of a surprising maturity, as they both understand the adult world around them and have an uncharacteristic cynicism about them that is gripping whether the viewers are children, teenagers or adults.

Concerning Fantastic Mr. Fox, children will most probably enjoy the different style of animation to what else is on the market, as the detail and work that has so blatantly gone into the creation of this stop-motion feature is all the more appreciable by adults. Anderson’s talent for scriptwriting is also a major key to the positive reception of a story intended for children, with popular culture author and expert Bob Batchelor asserting that ‘Anderson excels at pulling together the threads of what transforms a film into an object of cult affection. [..] as a writer/director, he creates a narrative that appeals to the audience’s intelligence and aesthetic sensibility.’

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Prior to The Grand Budapest Hotel, Anderson’s films marketing process was what is considered as independent. Hollywood films tend to have large funds with an equally large marketing budget to match. Going through ‘Indiewood’ studios, such as Sony Pictures for Bottle Rocket in 1996 or Fox Searchlight Pictures for The Darjeeling Limited in 2007, the funds supplied for his films were a direct result of the uncertainty of the ‘indie’ content. With no reassuring backing on best-selling novels, major film studios would not feel comfortable spending copious amounts of money on the marketing of an already low-budget movie. Film critic Dwight Macdonald noted that scholars of the Frankfurt School Adorno and Horkheimer pinpointed the reason Hollywood was dying lay in the fact that ‘The machine rotates on the same spot. While determining consumption it excludes the untried as a risk. The movie-makers distrust any manuscript which is not reassuringly backed by a best-seller’.

This explains the foundations of ‘Indiewood’, which is in fact an amalgam of the acquisitions of arthouse studios by Hollywood conglomerates, as a profitable plan in sight of taking over the independent film industry and consequently creating independent studios of their own. The one film so far of his that was distributed by a major film studio was Fantastic Mr. Fox in 2009. Destined to be a stop-motion picture, the budget required was quite large compared to his other creations, due to the amount of detail and work that goes into stop-motion productions.

Since Anderson has increased his following and audience, he has gained a more mainstream status as a director. For The Grand Budapest Hotel, his already-established ‘world’ of ornately detailed settings and elaborate dialogue and accumulated consecutive box office success was enough to justify the film’s distributor Fox Searchlight, owned by conglomerate 21st Century Fox to advertise the film a great deal more than Anderson’s older films. In addition to this, The Grand Budapest Hotel generated a significant level of fascination and desire to acquire the memorabilia of this world created by Anderson, such as copies of The Society of the Crossed Keys, a selection of Stefan Zweig’s writings which inspired the film.

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The key narrative in most Hollywood film is the protagonist’s attempt of achieving various goals, most commonly being finding love, becoming rich, or saving the world. It is impossible to find one film by Wes Anderson that copies that particular formula of pursuit of happiness. Anderson’s characters seem to roam around in their own unique world of complex problems and unusual scenarios, often involving disappearances, theft, and dysfunctional families. Whilst Fantastic Mr Fox is perhaps the most simplistic of Anderson’s films, Fatherhood is the main theme. It explores how it is only after becoming middle-aged that the character of Mr. Fox only begins to appreciate his role as a father to Ash, now a teenager, along with some life-changing realisations that his actions have an effect on the well-being and security of his family. With a more specific attention to a dysfunctional family dynamic, The Darjeeling Limited follows three brothers who rekindle their relationship ensuing the death of their father. Moonrise Kingdom features Billy Murray as an emotionally detached father figure who realises how much he cares about his daughter when she goes missing.

As a part of Hollywood’s formula for films, an almost consistent element is the often-unnecessary sexualisation of women’s and men’s relationships, which Anderson diverges from in Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel especially. The rare times romance is seen during his films is face paced and adds to the building of the character. Moonrise Kingdom features a scene of both children on the beach where actress Kara Hayward has few clothes on but it comes across as completely non-sexual. The relationship between Zero the lobby boy and Agatha the patisserie maker in The Grand Budapest Hotel is also portrayed from a purely sentimental angle. Traditional Hollywood film has installed within the audience an instinctive anticipation for the protagonist to have a romantic pursuit or a general goal of happiness, to the extent that it is often forced into a narrative that does nothing to further the plot. Anderson avoids this by concentrating on family dynamics more than romantic ones, or even exclusively in The Darjeeling limited for example.

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On a more technical note, Anderson is known for his unconventional camera-work, with every shot seeming to silently add meaning to the narrative. In this respect, Hollywood editing is relatively predictable, an amount of footage often feeling redundant. This is ironic as Major production studios encourage films to avoid what they consider as unnecessary detail that detracts from the main point of the scene. Often, the result is that the film is more inclined to be forgotten due to its soporific production for the masses. Once again Anderson is the opposite. As has been stated previously, each plot device and shot is purposeful with no time to waste on such needless endeavours. Not having the budget to spend on special effects, Anderson takes care to avoid artificial, computer-generated effects and prefers to make use of practical effects to create a realistic, believable world, in order to fully immerse his audience. Furthermore, he takes more risks than the average director with some trademarks of his being stationary pans where the camera moves from left-to-right between two people, drastic zooms, and a great deal of non-diegetic sound, or sound that doesn’t belong in the character’s world. These elements add a vintage aspect reminiscent to the sixties era of New Hollywood. The patterns of the progression of his stories may be the same, however the content of each is extremely diverse and unique strengthening his status as an auteur.

Any director that has found mainstream success will struggle to remain a purely independent auteur. Initially ‘indie’ films were an unpopular genre, Anderson lacked the cult following that he has today allowing his creations to stand out as unusual, or even experimental. As this type of film became a trend, the last decade has seen ‘indie’ films develop a following significant enough to attract big studios and Hollywood conglomerates. Anderson has remained loyal to his filmmaking roots and continues to control his creations, yet releasing his films through major distributors.

The greatest benefit Hollywood permits for ‘indie’ directors is the distribution upon a far larger audience that was previously possible. This, in essence, is the reason Anderson’s career has flourished.

Manchester Film Festival 2017: Hunter Gatherer Review

Hunter Gather marks Joshua Locy’s first venture as both a writer and a director after formerly working as an art director. This encouraging debut is an understated and quirky comedy about surviving in a lower-class black neighbourhood whilst finding glimmers of joy in the simpler things. Although far from perfect, it certainly broadcasts Locy as a capable director and is a refreshing break from the filmmaking norm.

Returning to live with his mother following a three year stint in prison, Ashley (Andre Royo – The Wire) is looking to continue his life exactly where he left off. Except everyone around him has moved on. This does little to affect his infectiously positive outlook on life, rather it gives him new life goals. Firstly, to win back his sweetheart Linda, who has since moved on to a local garbageman, and secondly, to hustle enough money to treat her how he feels she deserves. His escapades lead him into the refrigerator disposal business, one that gives short term financial gain in return for a garden full of broken refrigerators that he lacks the ability to shift. Enter Jeremy (George Sample III). Around half his age, this curious initial encounter blossoms into a charming friendship with each providing the other with their most urgent needs. Ashley, with a truck to transport his fridges and a first friend after his release from prison and Jeremy, with an important father figure as his only referenced family is the grandfather who’s nursing home room he sleeps in.

The feeling of renewed childhood is used consistently throughout the film with this being the source of many hilarious moments. During an exchange at a school supplies store, Ashley asks the worker to give him recommendations and ultimately critique his look wearing different backpacks. The effortless manner this scene plays out cements it’s place as perhaps the best in the film. Later on, a situation that is all too familiar for those in the audience, the ‘but mum’ moment. Where one child receives a stern telling off from his mother in the presence of a friend. It’s highly entertaining to watch this unravel with a forty something year old man as the target. Humour lies at the core of this film, whether whimsical like those mentioned or deadpan, like Jeremy reminiscing about the time his pinky toe was removed and reattached using a laser. Locy manages to integrate bizarre elements into his scenes without losing the realistic foundation he has made.

Unconventionality is embraced by Locy in various aspects of the film, for example the camera is used in ways not often seen on the silver screen. One in particular which worked each time it was utilised was the ‘blur to foreground, blur to background’ technique. Whether to emphasis loneliness or show different character’s exploits in a single shot, this stood out as interesting and incredibly well implemented. The same cannot be said about everything Locy attempts. At several points the film strays into surrealism with the main characters faces overlapping and passing through each other. This seemed out of place but also a step away from style of work that suits Locy best.

Hunter Gatherer excels in making the abnormal normal with situations that seem ludicrous in real life feeling utterly everyday through Locy’s directorial style. Occasionally it may wander beyond its boundaries but the poetic beauty and ever-positive Ashley make this film one you won’t easily forget.

Manchester Film Festival 2017: Creedmoria Review

Greatness in the coming-of-age genre is rare. Far too often the same story gets simply repackaged with a different cast. That’s why the best films stand out, they have unique qualities that set them apart from the crowd. In the case of Creedmoria, that quality is unconventionality. The only comparable aspect it possesses to other films of the genre is its incomparability. For that reason alone it was hardly surprising that Alicia Slimmer won the Best Director award at this year’s Manchester Film Festival.

Set in the fictional city of Creedmoria, named after the local institution for the mentally ill Creedmoor, we follow one of the most dysfunctional families seen on the big screen through the eyes of 17 year old Candy (Stef Dawson – Hunger Games). Each family member has one key personality trait that is exaggerated to the nth degree to create this fantastical world. Her mother is wholly self-centred and emotionally devoid, using her children as pawns to progress her own social status. She also has two brothers. One, a drug and alcohol addict who never ceases to find ways to embarrass his mother, and the other is a closeted gay that seems to be the last person to find out about his sexuality. The family is rounded off by their ironically named dog Cuddles. Although the entire family’s problems are amplified beyond that of anything in real life, they coalesce to form a charming family dynamic more realistic than most found within the genre.

The world Slimmer creates is similarly overemphasised, taking each stereotype of the late 70’s early 80’s era and magnifying it to an parodical level. Candy’s boyfriend Billy for example, who is terrifyingly jealous, appears to have modelled his complete physical appearance on Danny Zuko from Grease. They met at the drive in burger joint she works at, where she is relentlessly belittled by the aptly credited ‘dickhead manager’. Away from the people, several other elements of the film demand the viewers attention. The soundtrack is an eclectic compilation of songs with each used perfectly to either represent a particular character or scene. This eclectic theme continues in the fashion and decoration with Slimmer stating that Wes Anderson has been a direct influence on her work.

As the film progresses through its story arc there are a few moments where it lurches slightly. This occurs in the form of shifts between the many individual stories and in tone with the climax of the film being a prime instance. Whilst this can be partially forgiven due to the independent nature of the picture and the problems this triggers, most notably in the painfully low budget, it is a shame given the high quality of everything preceding it.

Creedmoria’s message is about rising above the unpleasant events that take place in your life and maintaining a resilient positive attitude regardless. Alicia Slimmer deserves high praise for her impressive debut feature. After 10 years of hard work to get the film to screen, every award won is a well deserved triumph. For me personally it was the most entertaining film at this years festival.

Click here for the Q&A about the film

 

Manchester Film Festival 2017: Creedmoria Q&A

Once the screening of Creedmoria had finished, the director and writer Alicia Slimmer and the lead actress Stef Dawson came out to answer any questions the audience had. It was a heartwarming end to the film’s festival run and Slimmer seemed at times emotional to have reached this point after 10 year attempting to get the film made. Below are some of the questions asked.

What was your inspiration for the film? When pregnant with my daughter I thought about the type of mother I wanted to be, and the type of mother that I really didn’t want to be. The film is semi-autobiographic in the sense that some of the elements were real. For instance the scene where Billy gets a tattoo with Candy’s name did really happen.

Were there any problems with the early 80’s setting? The biggest challenge was cars as they are very expensive. The idea was to use a lot of muscle cars, fortunately I used to be a drag racer and still had contacts. Locking down an entire street without SUV’s was also hard. Luckily there were no phones or computers in that time period so cost was cut there. The outfits and costumes were at times a problem but a fun problem. Sometimes a crew member would wear something that fit the time period so we would borrow it for the shoot.

How big was the crew? We tried to stay small, one gaffer, one grip, one dp etc. The aim was usually to keep it under 25 at any given time with under 40 total. This was to keep everything efficient but also due to the incredibly small budget we had.

How did you (Stef Dawson) develop Candy as a character? To begin with I couldn’t understand why I was cast but as time passed it clicked. The passion and sunniness despite all of life’s challenges is the main reason, a key part of Candy’s nature.

What were your influences when writing the screenplay? As this was my first feature film it was a unique experience. Mainly it was music, I grew up on the confluence of heavy metal and new wave. When I incorporated music into the film, I gave each character their own song. This was given to the relevant cast member in advance to allow them to get the tone of the scene perfect. I also didn’t watch many films growing up so my imagination had the chance to run wild. Wes Anderson’s quirky style did influence me though, and so did my favourite film ‘A Fish Called Wanda’.

Is the mother character based on your mother? Yes it is. My relationship with my mother has healed over time. The first time she watched it was during the Brooklyn Film Festival. During the Q&A there she stood up and said how the mother character isn’t based upon her. It absolutely was, karma’s a bitch and sometimes its your mother.

What is next for you? The indie film scene is a bit disheartening at the moment. If it wasn’t for small festivals like this one then who would watch these films. I’m transitioning into television now, in particular i’m working on a Game of Thrones type show set in medieval France. Another reason for the transition is that the money just isn’t in indie films unless you get a big break whereas with television I know that i’ll be getting a paycheque.

The Q&A was a fabulous end to the both the film’s showing and the day’s program. A staple of the film festival, it allows the audience and amateur filmmakers alike the chance to pick the brains of those involved.

Click here for the review of Creedmoria

Manchester Film Festival 2017: Josephine Doe Q&A

Following the UK premier of Josephine Doe, there was a chance for the audience to pick the brains of some of those involved with the production of the film. The writer/lead actress Erin Cipolletti, the cinematographer Brad Porter and the director Ryan Michael were all visibly passionate about their film, and eager to give insight into the behind-the-scenes aspects of the film.

Why the choice of black and white? This is a very interesting decision, one that I feel sets the film apart from the norm. The answer lies in how I imagined the film. When I read the script initially, I imagined it in black and white. Claire’s life was not normal, she couldn’t tell what was real and what was not. Black and white was the right choice as it really emphasises the grey areas in her reality.

How long did it take to film? The production period was just 12 days, but ‘the time was made up for in post’ which lasted for over one and half years. A major problem which led to this is that Emma Griffin who played Josephine lived in Australia. When the post-production period started and things needed changing it became difficult to reshoot or rerecord as it required Emma to travel. To overcome this we waited until there was a large amount of required reshoots before flying her out.

Did much change from writing to the end of the post-production period? Many aspects of the film did change, mainly due to production issues. In the end though the complications ended up creating a better film than we started out making. Something that was very important to us was that the tone should remain the same. If the tone changed then it would no longer be the same film. The scenes, the words, the people could change but the tone was the backbone.

How was the experience of being both the writer and the lead actress? Was It empowering? This is a very interesting question that brings up both personal and business points. Some of the crew had issues separating me from my independent roles, often coming for scripting problems when I was assuming the role of lead actress. This was only a minor issue as the experience was wonderful overall. The role allowed me to easily alter the script on the fly allowing the filming process to be more fluid.

Was Erin’s character ultimately meant to evolve into her mother? That was one of the questions that we were intent on evoking. In particular involving fear. The fear that Claire had that she would become her, especially after she saw how she was in the mental facility. The fear Angie had that she would lose another member of her family to mental health issues but also the fear the genetic aspect of her families mental health issues would ultimately affect her daughter. This was emphasised by the choosing of a child actress to play Lily who had physical features more closely resembling Claire than Angie.

Who was the Inspiration for Josephine Doe? There was not one simple answer for this. More a confluence of lots of ideas that came together to form her. Firstly it’s the sister she never had. Who laughed, loved and cared for her. It was also meant to embody the childhood she never had. Due to her mother suffering from mental issues whilst she was very young she lost her innocence, the ability to just be a child. Lastly it is a version of her without fear, to be who she desires to be.

This Q&A was but another example of the wonderful events at this year’s festival. All those involved with Josephine Doe were happy to discuss their film after the showing and seemed eager to hear the audience’s opinions.

Click here for the Josephine Doe review

Manchester Film Festival 2017: Josephine Doe Review

Coming to Manchester Film Festival for its UK premier, Josephine Doe is the tale of one girl’s battle with grief after her father’s death. Whilst Claire attempts to deal with this dramatic change in her life she meets Josephine, a much needed ray of sunshine in an otherwise dark world. It seems suspicious however that her arrival is always at the exact moment she is needed and if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

The black-and-white cinematic style is an intriguing directorial decision by Ryan Michael, one that gives the film individuality whilst also acting as a vital detail of the narrative. Following her father’s death, Claire’s life begins to blur the boundaries between real life and imagination, no longer being able to distinguish whether the people around her actually existed. Opting to shoot this way allows the grey areas in her reality to be emphasised, giving the audience the opportunity to see the world through her eyes.

Furthermore, the use of black-And-white changes the focal point of a film, shifting the interest to the story and the substance. What is within the frame moves to the forefront of the viewer’s mind as there are far less distractions in the form of colour. To create striking or evocative imagery for this particular style, one must master the art of lighting. Where in the frame the light should hit, and perhaps more importantly where it shouldn’t. Every frame in a truly great black-and-white picture should be a well-composed thing of beauty, for example Casablanca or more recently the Coen Brothers’ The Man Who Wasn’t There. Josephine Doe does not reach the same heights, that is definite. But for an indie film with a relatively unknown cast and crew it is a marvellous effort.

In terms of quality there is a disparity between the best and worst scenes. When the film excels, it does so commandingly of which a perfect instance of this is the ending. At the climax, Claire’s sister Angie approaches her in an attempt to rekindle some form of a relationship, an attempt to lead her away from her grief induced mental health issues. Claire is then faced with a difficult decision: try to mend her family ties and leave Josephine behind, or abandon her sister to live in the realm of fantasy. The presentation of her decision was both deft in its implementation and emotionally fraught rising far above everything prior.

Another scene which should have equally stood out is the moment Claire is told that Josephine isn’t real. From the steady build-up of anticipation to that moment the expectation was of an uncompromising and harrowing reveal. An explosion of emotion as Claire’s life begins to slowly collapse around her. Instead she simply brushed the news off, as if it was but another small issue to add to her pile. This is an area where the film falls short. Too often the scenes with the biggest impact on paper didn’t materialise on the screen.

Had Josephine Doe managed to maintain that same high standard seen in the final 10 minutes the resulting film would have been a masterpiece. Nevertheless Michael’s work is worthy of high praise and is a fantastic addition to the line up at the festival this year.

Click here for a Q&A with the director, lead actress/writer and cinematographer of Josephine Doe

Manchester Film Festival 2017: Jury Select Panel

Away from all the incredible feature-length and short films on display, there is a chance to get a behind-the-scenes look at how Manchester Film Festival is organised and ran. The Jury Select Panel offered a unique insight for filmmakers and cinema goers alike and was chaired by film critic Tom Percival and featured festival co-ordinator Al Bailey as well as several of the jurors.

How do you decide which films go into the program? The key word is objectivity. We are trying to attract a wide range of people for all demographics. Something for everyone. There is a team of 6 who watch all the films to choose which will make it to the festival. It’s a very long process but we feel it is necessary to give every film a chance.

How do you plan the opening night? We want the people who come here to know they are in Manchester and know what we are all about so all the films have a North-West (of England) theme. A divisive set of films is key too, we want to start debate.

How do you go about selecting jurors? I absolutely hate the word alumni but I guess it’s the right word here. People who have come before and entered films are generally the right type of people. We want people that will get involved. The idea is to get a range of film industry roles such as writers, casting directors, actors etc. For each category we want jurors who have strengths in that area, animators in the animating category for example.

How many jurors are there and what is the process in choosing the winner of each category? There are 18 jurors altogether that are split into teams of 3, with each team getting the same set of 3. Each juror has their own method of critiquing. Some for example use a points system, breaking the films down into categories such as writing, structure, characters, direction, editing etc. We usually advise each film be watched more than once as different moods when watching can provoke a different reaction. Then when the individuals have voted we pool the results together to decide the winner.

What happens in the event of a tie? If a tie occurs then Gareth (head juror) would ultimately decide.

Is there any ‘X-Factor’ qualities you look for in the films? Usually we (jurors) have a gut instinct on the film within the first 10-15 minutes. From that we usually gather whether it will hold our full interest. There are 2 main factors that go into making a great film: script and performance. The best actors in the world can’t make a bad script good, and conversely the best script in the world won’t make bad actors good. More often that not a film will just do one well, or both mediocrely. A great film nails both. You also want to get immersed into the film, that’s a sign of quality.

Is there a difference between watching the films on a laptop where judging and on the big screen here? Oh definitely, this a major reason why we strike to have the jurors present at the festival rather than just watching them remotely. A film is always better on the big screen. The indie film scene is incredibly tough at the moment and getting distribution is so hard. So to see a small film on the big screen is really a big gift.

What is the run time limit on the short films? This question has been a bit of an issue for us over the past couple of years. This year the rule is anything under an hour but previously we weren’t sure how long was too long. A prime example of this was a 32 minute short that we received in year one. In the end we decided to include it and it was a great decision looking back as it ended up being nominated for an Oscar.

How many films are submitted? In year 1 we had 650, year 2 just under 1000. This year is over 1500 with around 75% of those being shorts. From May to November we wind down that number to the 92 you see in the festival.

How much does it cost to enter a film? There is an early bird which is around £30 and the last possible entry is around £100. As each filmmaker is paying considerable money to enter we make sure to watch every single film. From speaking to people at other film festivals I learned that they don’t watch all the films that the receive, opting to watch ones featuring acclaimed actors or directors. This is a completely dishonest way of running a film festival as some of the best films we see are by first time directors. For example we have an incredible debut student film that just wouldn’t have been watched let alone considered at other film festivals. At the Manchester Film Festival we try to be as transparent and honest as possible, something that we feel sets us apart from others.

In summary this was a surprisingly honest look at the inner workings of the the festival. Co-ordinator Al Bailey emphasised the need for transparency in what he called ‘the murky world of film festivals’. There was no doubt that everyone involved was driven by the intense passion that they shared for films and filmmaking, something that was conveyed not just at this panel but throughout the whole of the festival. It was a genuine pleasure to be involved with such a wonderful event and there was not a single negative moment to mention.

If you enjoyed this article click here for another on the Screenwriting Panel