film festival

Filmmaker In Residence Project: Legacy 4 (Festival & Screenwriting Lessons)


Touring 'Wilderness' to film festivals has been an eye-opening experience in many ways. It seems obvious but the differences between touring a short and touring a feature are considerable. You soon realise (and I should have remembered from my time as a programmer) that even if a programme team likes your film, 85 minutes is considerably longer than 10 when trying to find a slot for it. 

We knew when we finished the film that it was not going to be to everyone's taste and was emotionally uncompromising and it feels that in some cases festivals may have liked it, but not known what to do with it. Yes, I know that some festivals will have also just thought it wasn't very good or liked it at all. 

This is of course disappointing because you want people to see the work and because you want festivals to be the place that take risks, but in such a competitive and financially precarious environment it is understandable. 

As mentioned in a previous post, we were accepted into 2 festivals that we had to pull out of in terms of participation. It was nearly 3 but Cambridge didn't mind that we had previewed the film to a London audience at the British Independent Film Festival. They asked that we don't show anywhere else beforehand though, which meant we had to pull the film from the lovely World of Film festival in Glasgow. That was a difficult but positive conversation as we discussed screening in Glasgow at a later date in association with the festival, when we hopefully undertake a tour of UK cinemas and universities. We've never been in that position before and found it tough, but necessary given our attachment emotionally to Cambridge and its scale as an independent film festival. 

The other festival we got into was a really big one, one that regularly receives over 10,000 entries and screens only 250 works. It's a very difficult festival to get into and it was tough to have to pull out when they felt the BIFF screening was too much of a conflict with their premiere status requirement. This was again, tough to take and made us realise the value of having clear premiere events in mind when making films. Although we had been rejected before and having got some rejections from similar status festivals earlier in the year we felt it wasn't worth the risk to not screen earlier and pin all our hopes on that one, however big and prestigious. Lesson learned. Although, it is a shame that a festival can like a film and make what amounts to quite an arbitrary decision based on statistics rather than the merits of the work and even their appreciation of it. Still.


Connected to festivals, I also learned and relearned new things about screenwriting. The prestigious Oaxaca FF in Mexico required Spanish subtitles, so I set about compiling a transcript of the film film's script to send off to translators.

It was enlightening to see how actors had performed what I had written. Beyond the odd improvisation that I didn't write, it soon became clear that pretty much every line needed tweaking before sending off.

Despite teaching the maxim that people don't speak in full word full sentences, I didn't write 'Wilderness' like that. The cast though, knew how to make it flow and so I read with a little embarrassment how many times I wrote 'I Am', for example, but watched with pride at how seamlessly and naturally they all said 'I'm' and other similar cases. 

What was also fascinating was how often they switched sections of a line, saying the last half first and vice versa and how a) no one noticed on set and b) it didn't matter. 

It was intriguing to put the two screenplays side by side at the end of the transcription and see how similar and different they are. 

What was nice though, was realising how faithful the cast had been to the written word. Being the producer and education coordinator on set, as well as the writer, meant I didn't and couldn't grasp a lot of the detail of performance, but they did me proud.

Filmmaker in Residence Project: Legacy 3 (Festivals 2)

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.

Executive Producer Kingsley Marshall, me, and director Justin John Doherty at the 'Wilderness' World Premiere, March 2017.

Executive Producer Kingsley Marshall, me, and director Justin John Doherty at the 'Wilderness' World Premiere, March 2017.

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.

Incredible sunset on arriving on the Dingle Peninsula, Ireland

Incredible sunset on arriving on the Dingle Peninsula, Ireland

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. 

Screening at a beautiful Church in Dingle, Ireland.

Screening at a beautiful Church in Dingle, Ireland.

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. 

Kat's much deserved award. The first of many I hope.

Kat's much deserved award. The first of many I hope.

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.

'Wilderness' director Justin, Chain NYC Festival Director Kirk Grotowski and me.

'Wilderness' director Justin, Chain NYC Festival Director Kirk Grotowski and me.

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



Filmmaker In Residence Project: Legacy 2 (Festival Premieres)

It is an honour to announce that 'Wilderness' has secured both its World and European Premieres. First up, we travel to San Jose in the US for the brilliant Cinequest Film & VR Festival where the film will screen in competition. Following the World Premiere there on Saturday 4th March it will screen a further three times. Justin and I will be in attendance and hope to connect once more with old Filmstock almunus Jason Reitman who is part of  a special event at festival.

'Wilderness' at Cinequest

Following our trip to the US we head to Ireland for the European Premiere, screening alongside Ben Wheatley's latest amongst others, at the wonderful Dingle International Film Festival. I will be in attendance there with hopefully some cast and execs along for the ride also.

Wilderness at Dingle

Thanks to the School of Film & Television at Falmouth University for their continued support of my work and for helping me attend the premieres of the film.

The plan is to make some educational connections whilst there to talk about the film's unique production and engage with academics and students around the world about this kind of filmmaking.