Interview: Muriel d’Ansembourg – BAFTA Nominated Writer/Director

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“There are certain things which the eye of a female can

see quicker than those of a hundred men”.

When Gotthold Ephraim Lessing was writing these words in “The Freethinker”, cinema was a far cry from its’ early pioneering experiments. Yet, they are a sign of respect for the creativity and understanding of the female gaze. This will remain untouched until the birth of the new Art, when a surprising number of women were appreciated in front of and behind the camera, such as Alice Guy-Blaché, the first true female director in history and (perhaps) the first director of “narrative” films. With such a promising premise, even the most talented screenwriter would have struggled to imagine such a bleak future scenario for “female” cinema.

Let’s face it: the film industry seems to have become a “Men’s Club”, especially in the UK. in July 2013, the BFI released statistics revealing that, in the previous year, a mere 14 feature films were directed by women in the UK, compared to 164 by men. While a study of the UK Film Council found out that female screenwriters are still under represented (less than one in ten of the BAFTA nominees and winners). Data that testify to the widespread flair of misogynystic attitudes within the Seventh Art. Even more perplexing if we consider that women aged 35 plus make up the biggest part of British cinema-goers.

After decades spent ignoring the elephant in the room, the Industry masters have finally got it. So, while new critical trends bring back the Feminist Film theory, the followers of the new gender-inequality crusade sift through every upcoming film using the “Bechdel Test” to verify its women-friendliness. Meanwhile, the 2015 Cannes Film Festival has opened for the first time since 1987 with a film directed by a woman. And top class film events competed this year to break their records of selected female filmmakers.

Yet, despite all the recent years of silence, a new wave of young female filmmakers managed to push through. And Female filmmakers’ communities in the UK are more lively than ever, brimming with incredible talented fresh authors.

We met one of the most promising indie female filmmaker of today, asking what’s her take on women in the industry.

Writer/Director Muriel d’Ansembourg (www.muriel-dansembourg.com) ran a production company in The Netherlands before settling in London, where she studied Directing at the London Film School. Her graduation film ‘Good Night’ was theatrically released in the UK and screened at over 200 festivals, winning various awards and nominations, including Best Screenplay and Best Editing at Colchester FF (http://colchesterfilmfestival.com/) and a BAFTA 2013 nomination.

As a woman and a filmmaker, do you think there’s a problem concerning women in the Industry?

As it stands now, the film industry is still dominated by men.

The higher the ladder you climb the fewer women you pass, but that’s not only the case in film. I’m a London based writer-director but lived most of my life in Amsterdam. The Netherlands is considered the best place for women to be a director at the moment with 39% being women. In the UK this is around 14%. Funny isn’t it, that I decided to move to a place where the figures aren’t in my favour, however I do feel there is a shift in awareness at the moment creating an opening for change to manifest.

Women tend to write and direct more films about complex female characters, something we still lack in mainstream cinema. So this is an opportunity to enrich our cinema.

In her 1975 Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, Laura Mulvey introduced the concept of “male gaze”. Are we still at that point?

Change never seems in a hurry, so I guess fourty years isn’t that long in the eyes of change. The male gaze is still very present in mainstream Hollywood cinema. In contemporary Independent cinema things are a bit better but it’s there too. The tricky thing about the male gaze is that women start to look at themselves through the eyes of men, with the risk of becoming too self conscious, thereby losing their natural behaviour in favour of an imaginary ideal.

This male gaze is also very present in music videos, and I’m always surprised when I hear people say that young girls are taking control by using the male gaze to their advantage. I don’t see how that can be an advantage. Having to be sexier and sexier, and in the end just doing exactly what the guys in control of the gaze want, does not give you any true power.

In 2013 only 14 feature films were directed by women in the UK compared to 164 directed by men. So, why are there so “few” women in filmmaking?

I thought that most women preferred directing independent films, making them less interested in directing mainstream big budget movies. I had to adjust that view as I have met plenty of talented female directors who would give an arm and a leg to shoot a “big” film. It has been researched that women and men directors get the same box office result when given the same budget, so why so few? It’s a burning question.

I don’t find gender inequality an easy thing to talk about., but our society is still rooted in a patriarchal system. Most of the positions of power and prestige are held by men and I still see most women taking on the biggest part of the parental chores. And men are missing out here as well, as they end up not getting to spend enough time with their kids. It’s a tricky balance. The pay gap between men and women is slowly closing but the fact that it still does exist is barking mad. All this affects the way we look at girls and boys, our upbringing, what we emphasise as important for each gender and what gives them their sense of self-worth and place within society. The film industry is just a tiny piece in a puzzle in which women at the top might be the missing piece; as role models and mentors for the young.

Just a provocation. What is a film for “women”? Is there any discernible female sensibility in film?

I think putting things into neat little boxes means you are reducing something, which can be a killer for creativity and finding one’s unique voice. The world is starving for unique voices. I once read that the difference between individual girls and individual boys is much bigger than the difference between a so called ‘average’ girl and an ‘average’ boy. When I catch myself generalising I also catch myself being lazy, cutting the corners. Being vulnerable or being strong, for instance, aren’t particularly male or female traits, they are human traits and I enjoy seeing them in both sexes, in life and in the cinema. Same goes for seeing directing as a ‘male’ thing. It’s not. It’s a job, and a job is neither male nor female.
As for a specific female sensibility in film, I’m not sure if it exists. Although…I’ve come across scenes in films in which I felt ‘there’s a female mind behind this’. For instance there’s a particular sex scene between Kate Dickie and Tony Curran in Red Road by Andrea Arnold. The way we are taken into this scene, the build up, the particular details, the focus on female pleasure, it felt very much like a women’s perspective and it felt believable to me, all the way through. It’s fascinating to see something that feels new yet strangely recognisable at the same time. We’re not that used to seeing female sexuality portrayed this truthfully, this raw and in such detail. I see so little of this which I truly believe is a loss for both men and women.

Which advice would you give to a young female filmmaker or film school graduate?

Don’t let yourself be fooled by preconceived ideas of what a director is or should be. Everyone has their own style of doing things. The world needs uniqueness, especially in the arts. Don’t let the business side take over too much of your mindset while you are still in the process of creating, as it will kill your spirit. You will never be everyone’s cup of earl grey. Wanting to be liked by all is a trap, but it’s tricky because it is so deeply ingrained in our culture and definitely in the upbringing of most girls. Don’t let it stand in your way of speaking up, giving your opinion, disagreeing. It’s nice to hear your voice in here.

Women in Filmmaking

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“There are certain things which the eye of a female can

see quicker than those of a hundred men”.

When Gotthold Ephraim Lessing was writing these words in “The Freethinker”, cinema was a far cry from its’ early pioneering experiments. Yet beyond their literary convention, they are a sign of respect for the creativity and deep understanding of the female gaze. This will remain untouched for more than a hundred years, until the birth of the new Art, when a surprising number of women were appreciated in front of and behind the camera. Most of them having a crucial role in the development of films as we know them, such as Alice Guy-Blaché, the first true female director in history and (perhaps) the first director of “narrative” films.

With such a promising premise, even the most talented screenwriter would have struggled to imagine such a bleak future scenario for “female” cinema.

Let’s face it: the film industry seems to have become a “Men’s Club”: in July 2013, the British Film Institute released statistics revealing that, in the previous year, a mere 14 feature films were directed by women in the UK, compared to 164 by men. While a recent study of the UK Film Council found out that female screenwriters are still under represented (less than one in ten of the BAFTA nominees and winners).

Things are not better elsewhere. A 2014 US study by the “Center for the Study of Women in TV and Film” showed that women comprised 17% of all professionals working on the top 250 grossing films of that year, while they accounted for just 7% of directors. And it’s not uncommon for “established” women filmmakers to call to mind their depressing past struggles against raised eyebrows and closed doors. They can testify to the widespread flair of misogynystic attitudes within the Seventh Art. Even more perplexing if we consider the movie-going population, which is roughly equally balanced between men and women (with women aged 35 plus making up the biggest single part of UK cinema audiences, according to the UK Film Council).

After decades spent ignoring the elephant in the room, the Industry masters have finally got it. Or so it seems. So, while new critical trends bring back the Feminist Film theory, referring to “classics” like the 1975 Laura Mulvey’s essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” (women as objects of cinematic pleasure, admired by a phallocentric “male gaze”), the followers of the new gender-inequality crusade sift through every upcoming film using the “Bechdel Test” to verify its women-friendliness. Meanwhile, the 2015 Cannes Film Festival has opened for the first time since 1987 with a film directed by a woman. Oscar winning actress Geena Davis launched the Bentonville Festival, designed to champion and promote women filmmakers, and top class film events (Tribeca, Sundance, Visions du Réel, to name just a few) competed this year to break their records of selected women filmmakers. Moreover, initiatives such as Dazed’s “Female First” and The Week’s “Girls on Film” campaigns are now increasingly tipping the scales towards women directors.

Is too much of a good thing a bad thing? Let’s wait and see.

Yet, despite all the recent years of silence and contempt, a new wave of young female filmmakers managed to push through without accepting compromises. And Female filmmakers’ communities all over the world are more lively than ever, brimming with incredible talented fresh authors.

We met three up and coming female filmmakers of today, asking them what’s their take on women in the industry. Their statements have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Photos © Luke Varley

Writer/Director Muriel d’Ansembourg (www.muriel-dansembourg.com) ran a production company in The Netherlands before settling in London, where she studied Directing at the London Film School. Her graduation film ‘Good Night’ was theatrically released in the UK and screened at over 200 festivals, winning various awards and nominations, including Best Screenplay and Best Editing at Colchester Film Festival (http://colchesterfilmfestival.com) and a BAFTA 2013 nomination. Creative Skillset marked Muriel as ‘One To Watch’.

I once thought that most women preferred directing independent films, making them less interested in big budget movies. I had to adjust that view as I’ve met plenty of talented female directors who would give an arm to shoot a “big” film. It has been researched that male and female directors get the same box office results when given the same budget. So, why there are so few women in filmmaking? It’s a burning question. The Netherlands is considered the best place for a woman to be a director at the moment with 39% being women. In the UK this is around 14%. Women in the UK aren’t less talented or less eager to work in this field, so what’s going on?

As it stands now, the film industry is still dominated by men and the “male gaze” is still very present in mainstream Hollywood. In contemporary Independent cinema things are a bit better, but it’s there too. The tricky thing about the male gaze is that women start to look at themselves through the eyes of men, becoming too self-conscious and losing their natural behaviour in favour of an imaginary ideal.

Our society is still rooted in a patriarchal system. Most of the positions of power and prestige are held by men. When I look around me I still see most women taking on the biggest part of the parental chores. And I think men are missing out there as well, as they end up not getting to spend enough time with their kids. It’s a tricky balance. The pay gap between men and women is slowly closing, but the fact that it still does exist is barking mad. All this affects the way we look at girls and boys, our upbringing, what we emphasise as important for each gender and what gives them their sense of self-worth and place within society. The film industry is just a tiny piece in this puzzle, a puzzle in which women at the top might be the missing piece; as role models and mentors for the young.

Putting things into neat little boxes means you are reducing something, which can be a killer for creativity. The world is starving for unique voices. I once read that the difference between individual girls and individual boys is much bigger than the difference between a so called ‘average’ girl and an ‘average’ boy. When I catch myself generalising I also catch myself being lazy, cutting the corners. Being vulnerable or being strong, for instance, aren’t particularly male or female traits, they are human traits and I enjoy seeing them in both sexes, in life and in the cinema. Same goes for seeing directing as a ‘male’ thing. It’s not. It’s a job, and a job is neither male nor female. However, I do feel there is a shift in awareness at the moment, creating an opening for change to manifest. Women tend to write and direct more films about complex female characters, something we still lack in mainstream productions. So this is an opportunity to enrich our cinema.

Italian Documentary Filmmaker Maria Tarantino graduated in philosophy at the University of Edinburgh. After ten years of academic studies, she moved into filmmaking and directed “Inside Out”, screeneed at the London Independent Film Festival and broadcasted on BBC World. In 2014 her feature doc Our City (www.ourcityfilm.com) screened at IDFA in Amsterdam, at the 11th Docville Leuven and at the KFDA Brussels 2015, finding theatrical release in Belgium.

Prejudices and inequalities exist, but it’s hard to talk about them. No one will ever tell you straight in your face that they prefer a male director, soley because he’s a man. I worked for 10 years within a TV station and every single time (and it was rare) that there was a woman operator working on the set the impression was that she was not right for the job, she was not as reliable as a man. Baseless prejudices, but palpable and real.

Then there are the statistics: women are exactly half of all students of film schools worldwide, but only a fifth of them “break through” compared to a third of their male counterparts. Sometimes even in film schools, the teachers are all men, or only male teachers hold senior roles. It’s the Cinema structure as a whole created by men for men. Including women in this structure is not enough, we need to change the system from the inside.
Women offer a different viewpoint on the world. It comes from different needs, physical, mental and biological differencies. “Different” does not mean better or worse, but it can be useful for thinking outside the box. Instead, I do see a standardization of taste to which women must conform to “get the job”.

Then there is another big thing: there’s not enough suppot for women who want or have children, once you’re out you’re out. At IDFA, the Danish producer Sigrid Dyekjær said that in their production budget they include: “Child Care”. Pure Science-Fiction for other parts of Europe! Yet, if the cinema structure was designed by women, this would be standard. I think that many women give up their career because of this: sacrificing their jobs for “family”, but in truth they shouldn’t have to make the choice between the two.

Now “Women in Cinema” is a trendy topic. The risk is to deal with the problem in a superficial way, to offer pretty useless palliative remedies. Instead, we should identify the problem from the source: tones, attitudes, “subliminal” influences, thinking patterns, not only in the cinema industry, but everywhere. The irony is that if you’re a woman and you are surrounded by men, you too will become a bit sexist. If they had asked me a few years ago if I wanted to work with a man or with a woman I would not have had any doubts: a man of course. Because he can handle the job …

Since 2005, Belgian actress and director Maaike Neuville (www.innis.be/portfolio/maaike-neuville-actrice) has been working in Belgium and the Netherlands theatre, cinema and TV. In 2013, she graduated from the Brussels’ Luca School of Arts. Her short film “Sonnet 81” has premiered and won awards at different international film festivals, such as Flanders, Brussels SFF and Leuven SFF. Maaike is now working on her first feature.

Sometimes discrimination takes different forms: being also an actress, I notice how often young female actresses are offered always the same kind of roles to play: young, beautiful and spontaneous. Only on rare occasions they have the opportunity to play a character who has more qualities, who is layered, nuanced; who is, in other words, a human character.

I think that the problem of discrimination will remain in the industry until we will finally stop thinking about “male” and “female” directors and just see a director as a “director”. I have watched very intelligent films, directed by men as well as women. It is time for us to stop thinking in categories and realise how absurd it is. And when we arrive at that point, our relationship with films will be richer, our films more nuanced, our views wider. The films I like to watch are made by good directors, whether they’re male or female. It simply does not matter to me who shot it. Is it a good film? Does it have a coherent story to tell? All those things matter more than the director’s gender.

That’s why I’d like to give an advice to young filmmakers: do what you like to do, and not what you think is expected from you. Write about what you like to write, not what you think producers or distributors or festivals would like to see. Only then you will find the necessary freedom to make something authentic.

Interview: Rebecca Johnson – ‘Honeytrap’ Director

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ALREADY predicted to be one of the British films of the year, Rebecca Johnson’s feature film debut Honeytrap is showing at the Colchester Film Festival’s Unseen Cinema event this Friday, May 1, a week before it goes on general release across the country.

The director will also be taking part in a Q&A about Honeytrap with members of the cast after the screening, so it’s a great chance to question her about the film and find out what it takes to make such an original and distinctive piece of cinema.

Set on the mean streets and tough estates of south London, Honeytrap centres on Layla, a 15-year-old girl who is desperate to fit in and be accepted by her peers but finds herself embroiled in a tangled and ultimately tragic series of events that leads to a boy being stabbed to death.

An unflinching look at the pressures and expectations on teenagers among contemporary gang culture, Honeytrap was inspired by actual events but Rebecca is quick to point out that it’s a work of fiction that draws on how life really is in some inner cities in the UK.

“The case took place in south London, places like Brixton, Croydon and Norwood are all networked up. There are lots of incidences of young kids getting mixed up in violence but this one made the papers because a girl was involved and she was just 15.

“The way it was reported was shocking. It was a 15-year-old child and she was being characterised as a femme fatale. It was such a shocking way of portraying it. It made her seem like an adult and she was just a kid. It refused to acknowledge the reality of the situation, the situation these kids find themselves in.”

What marks out Honeytrap from other depictions of gang culture in Britain is that it’s told from a female perspective, not just because Layla is the main character but also with Rebecca directing and writing.

“It’s high time we saw a girl’s side of something like this,” Rebecca says. “It’s much more interesting to see the female perspective rather than just the ‘good girl’ or ‘bad girl’ stereotype of women.”

But Rebecca stresses that this isn’t just a film about girls in this situation, it’s also about boys and how they get drawn into some extreme behaviour.

“I was interested in making the film tense and exciting, showing how tough this world can be and how you can get wrapped up in it. I also wanted to show the vulnerability in the boys, how they have the pressure of keeping up a persona, the machismo, and they can’t always do that.

“I know lots of young people who have been involved in violence, both as victims and perpetrators. It’s really awful but they’re not what you think. They say hello, they’re really sweet, they don’t seem tough. To me it’s just tragic because they’re not tough, they’re just trying to prove they’re something they’re not. They’ll be violent because that’s the expectation of what they’ll do.”

What impact does Rebecca hope Honeytrap might have?

“Little changes can happen,” she says. “People see things differently when they step into someone else’s shoes. Films can’t cause huge social change by themselves but if a lot of people see the film you hope it can help change people’s perceptions a bit”

 

The advance screening of Honeytrap is showing at firstsite, Colchester at 7.30pm on Friday, May 1. There’ll be a Q&A with Rebecca Johnson and the cast after the screening. A pop-up bar will be open from 7pm.

Tickets are £6, £3.50 concessions, £3 members.

More details and bookings at http://www.firstsite.uk.net/page/honeytrap

 

By Darryl Webber
Journalist, writer, blogger
(www.chillidogmovies.blogspot.co.uk)

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Unseen Cinema: What We Do In The Shadows (Apr 2015)

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Colchester Film Festival presents ‘Unseen Cinema’ every month in Firstsite Colchester. Each screening is a taste of the very best feature films that weren’t screened or had a limited release in your local multiplex cinema.

Feature: What We Do In The Shadows
Director / Writer: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi
Cast: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi, Jonathan Brugh
Date: Thursday 23rd April 2015
Venue: Firstsite, Lewis Gardens, Colchester, Essex CO1 1JH
BOOK NOW (£6 Adult, £3.50 Senior/Student, £3 Members)

This film is yet another vampire movie but don’t let that discourage you from watching it as it is not your typical movie dealing with the undead. Directors Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi also star in this brilliant representation of what the vampire life is really like through the style of a documentary, but in this case a mockumentary. Very much like the style of popular TV show “The Office” it makes for a funny and witty concept.

Viago, Deacon and Vladislav are vampires who are finding that modern life has its difficulties, such as paying the rent, keeping up with chores, trying to get into nightclubs and overcoming the flatmate conflicts. This all makes for a hilarious idea and there are great performances throughout. Even the occasional bad CGI effects just add to the comedy. The flat itself has a wonderful design giving it a kind of gothic theme working well with the individual characters living there.

With a small negative of the film being a lack of plot it really doesn’t matter in a film this funny. The comedy is perfect even with a few random moments here and there but the simple deadpan style works well. Watch this film with an open mind. It’s not your classic style of comedy – it’s something to get your teeth into.

By Tom Findley
Film Reviewer

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Unseen Cinema: Nightcrawler (Mar 2015)

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Colchester Film Festival presents ‘Unseen Cinema’ every month in Firstsite Colchester. Each screening is a taste of the very best feature films that weren’t screened or had a limited release in your local multiplex cinema.

Feature: Nightcrawler
Director / Writer: Dan Gilroy
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton
Date: Thursday 19th March 2015
Venue: Firstsite, Lewis Gardens, Colchester, Essex CO1 1JH
BOOK NOW (£6 Adult, £3.50 Senior/Student, £3 Members)

The dark twisted world of crime in L.A. unfolds here being filmed live to television news but who’s really behind that camera? Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a desperate man determined for work and here he muscles his way into the world of L.A. crime journalism, only to become sucked into it so much that he doesn’t care for the dead he is filming and merely sees the dead as profit for himself. This brilliant spine chilling performance from Jake Gyllenhaal is one of his best, making the audience afraid of his character. His eyes massive and bulging makes for a crazy look, which adds to the characters dark personality. His speech is smooth and suggestive making the character of Lou Bloom sinister and manipulative.

Full of excitement, action and in some cases dark humor Nightcrawler makes for an excellently well made film from writer and director Dan Gilroy. Although Jake Gyllenhaal is the star of the movie other performances such as Rene Russo (as TV-news veteran Nina) are also well done through out the movie. Director Dan Gilroy has captured the element of crime superbly in a stylish and realistic way making this film ever more believable and shocking.

By Tom Findley
Film Reviewer

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Interview: Jesper Quistgaard – Colchester Film Festival Best Film Winner

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In the lead up to Colchester Film Festival 2015 this October, we caught up with last year’s Best Film winner.

Danish filmmaker Jesper Quistgaard submitted his 16 minute film Heavyweight (available to view here) with no expectations, and came away awarded with Best Film. “It’s a great interest to us that the film is screened out in the world. I want people to see it. My feelings are that, except maybe at Colchester, most film festivals around the world very much try to take in films that are more artsy and intellectually stimulating, rather than emotionally stimulating. Colchester is the first film award I have received so it means a lot!”

Heavyweight follows one parking attendant as he faces the constant hardships of his job. Inspired by his 6 year old son who believes he is a police officer, he turns vigilante against one particular group of individuals who wronged him the previous day. “There’s justification for drama in everyday life and we, as an audience, quickly understand how he must feel. The reason we made a sympathetic lead character is because I want the audience to feel with him. In general the audience is indifferent to what they see on screen, we have to really give them a reason to cheer for a guy. We felt we accomplished that, and for that I’m proud.”

“The writer and I wanted to do parking attendants justice, so we were out a few days ourselves with the real attendants. I got shouted at and it was really quite horrific. Even Rudi [Köhnke], our lead actor, went out one day with an attendant in Copenhagen.”

“We faced many challenges making the film, as it is when working for free on something that has a tiny budget.” One of Quistgaard and his team’s biggest challenges was the tight time limit they had for development and pre-production; “The deadlines in the film school we made the film through were pretty harsh. In effect, that meant we had to write and produce it at the same time. So while writing it, we had to pin ourselves to some things such as how many characters there would be and who they were. We had to cast Rudi and the boy William in particular while writing, thus making us unable to change that later in the writing process. That was hard.”

“I became interested in filmmaking after seeing the scene where Boromir dies in The Lord of the Rings aged 11. That scene holds almost everything I think is epic and wish to accomplish as a filmmaker, but it was a short film called Kinderspiel by German director Lars Kornhoff that pulled the blanket from under me. I guess it taught me what a short film could tell. It made the whole audience cry including me. From then on I was hooked.”

Colchester Film Festival has a dedicated Foreign Drama category as well as a varied mix of foreign films integrated in its other categories; comedy and romance, animation, comedy, and sci-fi and horror. “It’s always difficult making great drama in Denmark because it’s such a small, cosy society. The truly amazing and horrifying thing at international film festivals is that there is so much wild talent out there. It makes me feel small but also forces me to push harder.”

“Film festivals are a huge part of why we even make films. If I could make a living off of short films, I would do that. But right now we need film festival’s recognition to impress the established business to allow us to make feature films.” Not even a year on Quistgaard has already felt the benefits of winning Best Film; “Suddenly I am more eligible to receive funding and support for future endeavours, but personally it’s given me self-esteem and more backbone. I was actually on Danish TV for winning, so yeah, it’s a big deal.”

Unfortunately Quistgaard was unable to pick up his award in person due to commitments for his next film Ødeland [translated: Wasteland). “It’s practically the same team as before with a new producer called Cathrine Odgaard, who is also my editor. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, it’s about a father who finds out his daughter is suicidal and they have to travel to “the mainland” to find antibiotics for her self-inflicted wounds. There they find a boy with medicine and decide to bring him back to their little island. The question is whether they can trust him or not, since they are unsure if he belongs to a cannibalistic gang. I guarantee plenty of drama and action with another great performance by Rudi Køhnke.”

“My experience at Colchester Film Festival has led me to think that I’m on the right track and that I did some right things. I will definitely be sending in “Ødeland” as well.”

When asked what advice he had for aspiring filmmakers, Quistgaard replied “Consider how little the world needs new film makers. Supply and demand is not in our favour. So the only way you can ever get to make films is to prove that you do something better or more unique. Also, don’t be a know-it-all. Listen every time someone says anything, especially when it comes to getting critique. It’s always easier to see what’s wrong with someone else’s work than your own. So listen when people give you their opinion – they see clearly and you don’t.”

Last year Colchester Film Festival received more than 5,000 short films from over 60 countries worldwide. For many of the 36 selected, it was their UK premiere.

Short and feature film entries for this year’s festival are now open. Submissions are free until 1st June (www.colchesterfilmfestival.com/submissions)

By Cara Weatherley
(www.caraweatherleyartsaward.wordpress.com)

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Unseen Cinema: Blue Ruin (Feb 2015)

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Colchester Film Festival presents ‘Unseen Cinema’ every month in Firstsite Colchester. Each screening is a taste of the very best feature films that weren’t screened or had a limited release in your local multiplex cinema.

Feature: Blue Ruin
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Cast: Macon Blair, Devin Ratray, Amy Hargreaves
BOOK NOW (£6 Adult, £3.50 Senior/Student, £3 Members)

A revenge movie with a twist and a realistic plot is not very common but director Jeremy Saulnier pulls it off brilliantly in his film Blue Ruin. With a fantastic opening sequence that instantly captures the audience’s curiosity, we follow the story of a mysterious man named Dwight Evans (Macon Blair) who is living a quiet, lonely life until an act of vengeance takes place changing Dwight’s life into a convulsive fight for survival.

Director Jeremy Saulnier creates a dark and twisted realistic plot about revenge exploring the consequences an action can really make to ones self. With minimal amount of music to help us we have to rely on the camera and each shot works  beautifully to capture the emotion of each character with the lighting and scenery. The whole look of the movie has a realistic style to it making it a believable story throughout the entire film. With a cast that is not very well known this works well in its favour as they all seem more believable than a big Hollywood star featuring in it. Devoid of any Hollywood cliché action scenes or over use of violence Blue Ruin challenges the stereotype of the redemption movie and gives us an idiosyncratic view of the true horror of crime.

By Tom Findley
Film Reviewer

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Meet the Filmmakers: The Rendlesham UFO Incident

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A sold out auditorium watched the world of ‘The Rendlesham UFO Incident’ on the opening night of the 2014 Colchester Film Festival back in October. Daniel Simpson’s found footage sci-fi thriller was a fitting opening to the festival as the film was shot on location in Rendlesham forest just a short distance from Colchester.

The film follows three metal detector enthusiasts as they venture into the forest in search of Saxon gold 33 years after the infamous Rendlesham UFO incident. Their attentions soon shift from treasure hunting to aliens as they capture incredible footage of a UFO. Their friendships are put to the test as night falls, their navigation equipment fails and they find themselves facing a terrifying encounter with an unforgiving alien presence.

Writer and Director Daniel Simpson, producer Laurie Cook, screenwriter Adam Preston and the film’s stars Danny Shayler and Robert Curtis attended the premiere and took questions from the audience after the screening. Here are some highlights of what the cast and crew had to say:

Camera: Roger Allen
Editor: Angela Makepeace

The Rendlesham UFO Incident is now available to purchase on DVD, in store or online from http://bit.ly/RendleshamUFO

Submissions are now open for this year’s Colchester Film Festival at
www.colchesterfilmfestival.com/submissions

Interview: Daisy Jacobs – BAFTA Winning director

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A year ago Daisy Jacobs was exhausted having just finished her graduation film, The Bigger Picture after 12 months of hard work. Now, she’s preparing to go to the Baftas and Oscars where that film is up for awards in the best animated short film categories.

It’s been a remarkable journey for the young director who received the Matthew C Martino Rising Star Award at the Colchester Film Festival just a few months ago. The festival’s organisers got it right, she’s certainly a rising star and just a year into her career can claim to be an Oscar-nominated director. Some people wait a lifetime for that kind of accolade.

Yet animation is a fairly recent preoccupation for Daisy who grew up in Hampshire and was initially interested in fine art and illustration. She studied illustration at Central St Martins in London and only studied animation in her last year there as an extra option. She obviously saw potential for her work in that area and did a further two years at the National Film & Television School (NFTS) to explore animation.

“Illustration is what I’d been doing and after a time you want to make that move,” she says. “I didn’t find it easy, I couldn’t do it at first. I found it very difficult, it took me a good six months to get the hang of it. I was bottom of the class.”

But Daisy persevered and had a vision of turning the kind of art she liked doing into animated films, starting with The Bigger Picture, the making of which took up the second year of her time at the NFTS. Most first-time animations are small-scale efforts, but Daisy was thinking bigger.

“I wanted to have a go at painting on a large scale at film school. When I started working with the crew, we each worked out our own parts. The set was half a real room and half flat, so it presented issues with how we filmed. We got through it together through trial and error.”

A vital part of the process was working with the right people. The film’s animator and model-maker Chris Wilder was someone Daisy knew and liked from her illustration and post-graduate courses while cinematographer Max Williams was on the NFTS programme and was “a can-do guy, very helpful and a decent man.”

The themes behind The Bigger Picture were inspired by Daisy’s own experience, as she explains:

“The story is loosely based on my family because my gran had Parkinson’s and was very ill and in a wheelchair for the last two years of her life. So I wanted to look at a family and the problems there are with dealing with an elderly relative.

“It took four months to write in all. I wrote too much, about 12 minutes at first, which was too long. It needed to be shorter so I took a lot out in editing on the storyboards. I found it easier to cut it down and fine-tune it when I saw the images”

When the script was ready, Daisy and Chris spent a month making props for the film in what might possibly be the smallest office at the National School of Film and Television. Whereas the other students would be using their offices for their small-scale animations, Daisy and Chris knew they’d need a bigger space for their larger scale production so they were content with a small space… until they realised there wasn’t always room for much else besides the two desks in there.

“It was very, very cramped,” Daisy admits recalling having to give up painting a rug when she realised there wasn’t even space to stand up in the room.

Making the film itself, animating and filming, took six months, then there were a few weeks of post-production which finished almost exactly 12 months ago. Overall, it was an intense and exhausting process for Daisy and her team but more than worth it given the reception The Bigger Picture has received.

Visually, it’s a striking film and quite unlike anything I’ve ever seen before as life-size 2D animated figures interact with a 3D domestic setting. Daisy cites painter David Hockney as an influence and you can certainly see that in the bold visuals and colours she uses. Narratively, The Bigger Picture looks at the struggles two brothers have in coping with their ill, elderly mother but while it’s dark at times, it’s also funny and very entertaining.

It’s been a big hit on the festival circuit this year, receiving many screenings and accolades including at Cannes where it won the Cinefoundation Award. Obviously, Daisy is delighted with all the attention and positive comments The Bigger Picture has been getting.

“It’s been a really great year. We’ve taken it to loads of festivals. It’s been amazing to see how people react, we’ve been getting lots of really good feedback. Chris went to the screening at Colchester and said the reaction there was really great.

“The festival circuit is really important for networking and getting people interested in your work. Festivals are really great with prize money too, that’s what makes your next film a possibility.”

And to top it all, The Bigger Picture receiving Oscar and Bafta nominations in the same week means it’s been a remarkable twelve months for Daisy; from film school graduation to going to Hollywood’s biggest event in the space of a year is quite an achievement.

“It is amazing, it didn’t’ sink in at first but it has now,” she says just a couple of days before she’s due to attend the Baftas and a fortnight before the Oscars are handed out. “I got an amazing goodie bag from Bafta.

“I’m all sorted for the Baftas now, I got the hang of the wearing-the-dress thing for Cannes, so I’m ready.”

But amid the glitz and glamour of award ceremonies, Daisy is still getting the finance together for her next film another look at family life.

“It’s about the idea of dispersal,” says Daisy. “About how families drift apart and it’s set in the 1970s and 1980s.”

Daisy has had a flying start to her career in film-making and could have a Bafta and Oscar on her mantelpiece in a couple of weeks’ time, but what does she think about the state of the British film industry in general? Is she encouraged?

“I think Britain has always been very strong with the moving image in general, I think we’re a very creative country and we’re in a good place.”

And that’s thanks to people like her.

Find out more about The Bigger Picture at www.thebiggerpicturefilm.com and how you can be a part of the Kickstarter campaign for Daisy’s new film here www.kickstarter.com/projects/635231029/life-size-animated-film

Submissions are now open for this year’s Colchester Film Festival at
www.colchesterfilmfestival.com/submissions

By Darryl Webber
Journalist, writer, blogger
(www.chillidogmovies.blogspot.co.uk)

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