A York-based magazine is curating a four-day celebration of the short film medium, a first for the Northern city. In the build up to the Aesthetica Short Film Festival in early November, Cherie Federico, Festival Director, tells Soundsphere about how it came to being and what it holds in store.
“This is a festival for everyone in the city.”
S] To start, can you sum up what the Aesthetica Short Film Festival is about?
C] “The Aesthetica Short Film Festival is a celebration of independent film from across the world, created as an outlet to support and champion short filmmaking. The festival will take place across fifteen venues in the city from the city walls to medieval halls.
We have 150 films screening from thirty countries, and the festival is set up with enough screenings, so that people can pick and mix. You can see as many or as few films as you like. There is also a range of genres: Comedy, Drama, Animation, Documentary, Music Video, Experimental and Art.
We have also organised a range of talks from the industry and I am very excited that BAFTA winning Edinburgh-based band FOUND will be playing a special set on our opening night.”
S] Where did the idea for Aesthetica Magazine to stage a short film festival come from?
C] “We have always worked with film in some capacity. In the magazine, we always feature really interesting and independent films like Yorgos Lanthimos’ Dogtooth or Guy Maddin’s My Winnipeg, so we have a long history of working with film and film festivals.
In 2010, we launched the Aesthetica Short Film Competition, which was initiated to bring new filmmakers to a wider audience. We produced a DVD of short films, distributed with our December issue. With a DVD, you are limited by time, so we were only able to include twelve or so films, and with 1000 films entered, there were a significant number of talented filmmakers that we had to turn away. I just didn’t like that; it didn’t sit well with me.
In July 2010, I was invited to participate in a talk at BAFTA as part of the Rushes Soho Shorts Festival about how filmmakers can work with brands. It was on the train ride back to York after that event that I started thinking about all the wonderful films that I had, and how I’d love to screen them across the city. Then, in December 2010, we opened up the call for entries and announced that we’d be launching ASFF.
It seemed only natural to start a festival, not to mention that York city centre, as a canvas for this event, is wonderful. The festival offers screenings in some of the UK’s most iconic and historic buildings.”
S] Who were the key people or groups to help transform the festival from an idea to reality?
C] “All of our sponsors and partners, including York St John University, Creative York, and Screen Yorkshire – not to mention the Aesthetica team itself!”
S] For you, how significant is the fact ASFF is taking place in York?
C] “If we look at our region all of the cities have a film festival, from the Leeds International Film Festival and Bradford Film Festival to Sheffield Doc Fest, so it seems odd that York doesn’t have a film festival, particularly with so much activity in the region. Not to mention that York is such a wonderful place to host this type of event; with its unique spaces, the festival also invites visitors to explore new spaces – even if you’ve always lived in York, it’s a chance to re-visit the city watching films in its iconic spaces.”
S] The festival sees talks and workshops with prestigious figures from the film industry. Can you give us some more information about the speakers?
C] “I am so excited about this part of the festival! We’ve got Ivana Mackinnon, the Associate Producer of ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, who’ll be speaking on the subject of progressing from making shorts to features. Renowned character designer Alex Williams (son of Richard) shall give a talk on creating memorable animated characters, while Claudette Godfrey of SXSW will speak about programming shorts for festivals and advice on getting into festivals.
I’m also looking forward to a special Q&A session with the screenwriter of ‘The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas’, Mark Herman. We’ve also got Rebecca Brand to discuss the role of women in the film industry, a look at films from an artist’s perspective with Turner Prize-nominated Catherine Yass, and Susie Wright, who commissions for Channel 4, will be offering advice on pitching ideas. So, something for everyone we hope.”
S] How did you go about getting them involved in the festival?
C] “As a magazine, we have been publishing since 2003, and as such we’ve had the chance to meet people working in the industry. It was through these working relationships that we were able to approach our speakers and get this programme lined up.”
S] What do you hope their participation will bring to the event?
C] “Their participation brings real industry experience. Visitors at ASFF have the chance to engage with these professionals across the board – animation, documentary, drama, artists’ films, as well as screenwriting, finance and pitching. I think it brings a new dynamic, and makes the festival not only a place to watch great films, but to learn as well.”
S] Do you foresee the festival becoming a regular event in York? How do you feel it can be sustained?
C] “We are looking at our programme for 2012 and have some really exciting events already in the pipeline. The best way for the festival to be sustained is for York residents to participate – this is a festival for everyone in the city.”
S] What about the idea of developing other events in the city to celebrate film and its connection with other artistic disciplines?
C] “ASFF has me pretty tied up, so, for the moment, we’ll just be working on this festival!”
S] Finally, for anyone interested in any of the events during the Aesthetica Short Film Festival, what must you do to be there?
C] “For residents to participate in the screenings they need to get a Festival Pass – we have 3-Day Festival Passes available for access to all venues across the full three days of the festival, or alternatively festival-goers can get a Day Pass. Day Passes are £12 and a 3 Day Pass is £20 – all passes give access to all venues, so visitors can pick and mix genres and times, making this festival a unique experience for each visitor.”
The talks are all separate tickets and can be booked online. They are filling up quickly, so if you’re interested, book now.
The Aesthetica Short Film Festival takes place from November 3 to November 6 across York. Further information about the festival is available on its website.