I've shamefully neglected my blog for most of the year but hope this (and others I post today) make up for it. This is going to be a full round-up of the festival tour that 'Wilderness' has been on and, thankfully, continues on.
The last post mentioned that the film was having its World and European Premieres at Cinequest and Dingle respectively. I attended both, with the support of the School of Film & Television and both were richly rewarding experiences.
First up, director Justin and executive producer Kingsley (both pictured above) and I travelled to San Jose, CA, for the Cinequest Film & VR festival. A large and prestigious independent festival we were warmly welcomed and the film, which played four times, was warmly received. It felt really good to get it in front of audiences and hear them feedback their thoughts and feelings. It also felt good to be part of a strong programme. The other indie feature work I saw was really strong. It was also good to make new friends, catch up with Jason Reitman who we knew from our days running a film festival in Luton, and hang out with Kingsley's parents who travelled up from San Diego to enjoy the festivities.
There was a real community feel to the festival in the way filmmakers, audiences and volunteers/staff interacted that is rare on the festival circuit and was a great representation of why Cinequest deserves the reputation it has.
I was home for a couple of weeks before heading off to Dingle for the European Premiere. I travelled alone this time, with Justin having other commitments, but met my Dad there. He is originally from Dublin and celebrated his birthday that weekend so he flew in from Luton to hang out and watch films. That was really lovely.
Another really strong line-up of films and another wonderful welcome. The film went down really well again. What was clear at both festivals was that the programmers had clearly seen the film and believed in it, even if they knew it might be a tough sell. It was becoming clear amongst audiences and programmers that when the film made an impact, it was strong, and people really wanted to dig into it or, in the case of programmers, champion it.
One of the highlights of the festival was seeing Wolfgang Almer and Steffan Wolner's incredible music documentary Late Blossom Blues about blues musician Leo 'Bud' Welch. Truly one of the best music films I've ever seen.
It wasn't long after Dingle that we previewed the film for UK audiences with an appearance at the British Independent Film Festival in May where we opened events, and one of our incredible leads Kat Davenport took home the Best Actress award. This screening was a chance to invite friends and crew who hadn't yet seen the film. We sold out a screen at the Leicester Square Empire on a Friday night, which was a dream come true. It is a cinema where I have had some of my favourite theatrical experiences including Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master on 70mm and a press screening of No Country For Old Men. I still can't quite believe we did it.
There followed a bit of a lull as the summer loomed and the usual fears and worries and apprehensions kicked in. We worried that the tour was over, that the film had run its course and that the good screenings, award and excellent review by Ryan Gilbey (New Statesman, Sight & Sound) wouldn't help get some real momentum. We had to wait a while for good news, but then we got a stream of acceptances and our confidence in the film returned.
Next up was a trip to New York and the new and growing event Chain NYC in Williamsburg. Justin and I headed there to represent the film. We caught up with old Filmstock friends, old friends in general and with Ryan Earl Parker, our original cinematographer before he was sent packing by customs at Heathrow three days before the start of production. That's a story for another time.
The trip also saw me conduct some interviews with esteemed film critics for The Cinematologists podcast that I also do, and even though they didn't come to the screening meeting them in person in the context of being in town as a filmmaker resulted in them asking to see the film, which hopefully will yield positive coverage results in the near future.
The screening went well. The festival is great. Again, it is clear that the programmers 'got' what we were going for. Following a few days that included cocktails at Schiller's on its closing weekend, swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, catching a film at the beautiful Metrograph cinema and wonderful closing festival screening of Terry Gilliam's The Fisher King with writer Richard LaGravenese in attendance we headed to the airport clutching four awards - Best International Feature, Best Ensemble, Best Score and Best Feature Screenplay. A great experience.
The film has since played in a number of places that I haven't been able to go to, which is a shame, but I feel so grateful to have been able to represent the film and the school at the first four public screenings. I'll be back out with it in a couple of weeks at the Cambridge Film Festival. This is a festival that means a lot to me and Justin. We used to go to it a lot when we were younger and it's a dream to play there. It was also a shame to not be at the Våsteras Film Festival (Justin was) where the film won Best International Feature, Best Directing and Best Screenplay.
The film has also been accepted into two festivals that we sadly had to withdraw from due to having screened, or clashes, elsewhere. There's another short blog to follow about this.
We are also the surprise screening at an incredible festival, but obviously we can't say which one, yet.
Below is a list of the festivals we have screened at or been accepted in to date:
Cinequest Film & VR Festival, California
Dingle International Film Festival, Ireland
British Independent Film Festival (Preview Screening), London UK
Chain NYC Film Festival, New York
Long Beach Indie Film Festival, California
Västerås Film Festival, Sweden
Oaxaca Film Festival, Mexico
Jozi Film Festival, Johannesburg
Eko Film Festival, Lagos
Wine Country Film Festival, California
Twin Cities Film Festival, Minneapolis
Cambridge Film Festival, UK
Cornwall Film Festival, UK
Goddess On The Throne FF, Kosovo