By midlandsmovies, Sep 17 2017 10:54PM
Midlands Professional - Film Event Organiser John Currie
Midlands Movies speaks to event manager and festival organiser John Currie as part of our Midlands ‘Professional’ series. In this latest feature John talks to us about his experience and career arranging one of the best festivals in the Midlands film calendar - the Beeston Film Festival.
At age 53 and the father of 5, Beeston Film Festival director John Currie is originally from Liverpool but has lived in Beeston now for the best part of 20 years and (in his words) now very much regards it as his home. Firstly, alongside raising his children, John explains that far from being solely local, his festival is now both local AND global with entries from 37 different countries.
“At our last event we ended up screening films from 22 countries and we have an award panel from America, Africa, Asia and Europe! The point of the festival is to connect, to reach out and bring global stories to Beeston and in return celebrate filmmakers and honour them with B’Oscars”.
Inspired to set up the BFF when he attended the Dublin International Short Film and Music Festival, John was there for the screening of the first film he produced called ‘Go with God’.
“And guess what? It was an international short film festival held upstairs in a pub! A model we’ve replicated at the White Lion thanks to our awesome host Sergio”.
And what has been the most difficult hurdle John’s overcome as the organiser?
“We have overcome so many problems but the biggest problem was finding a venue. Unsurprisingly Beeston doesn’t have a cinema of the scale of Showcase, Cineworld or even Broadway (in Nottingham City centre). Luckily one of our friends mentioned that Sergio at The White Lion was interested on setting up a cinema in his upstairs function room. The room has a wonderful retro feel with lush red velvet chairs and benches surrounding the room. Getting the projector and sound to good standard was challenging on a low budget but proved to be successful. Not only has the festival been hosted their but many other events adding to the joy of Beeston”.
In the past John has hosted a number of other film events such as showcase nights, taking part in the D H Lawrence festival and Scarlarama as well but is more than happy to pass on his experiences with others.
“Clarity of vision and determination to succeed [are skills needed] plus the help of loads of talented filmmakers otherwise there would lots of people staring at a blank screen”.
“We are also blessed by finding some great partners such as the B’Oscar sponsors, who are local Beeston businesses; the fabulous review team of Beestonians who review entries and make selections; our awesome global award panel who decide B’Oscar winners; Sergio at The White Lion and of course the students from New College Nottingham who volunteer their hard work enthusiastically to make audience and filmmakers as welcome as possible. So appreciation of those who share your vision is vital”.
John goes on to explain that there are two keys challenges faced by film festival organisers:
“You need to appeal to filmmakers and appeal to the audience, without these people excited by what we are doing there would be no festival. For filmmakers we offer a platform, an audience to industry judges, and of course the chance to win a coveted B’Oscar. For the audience we need to provide an exciting programme, in a convivial atmosphere rubbing shoulders with as many filmmakers as we can attract”.
And how does John balance the financial aspects with the creative side?
“Well, we are self-funding, and get great support from local businesses, so each year to grow the scope of the festival to ensure that we are sustainable. We are also aware that festival audiences are looking for surprises! Short film festivals are the platform for filmmakers to take risks, develop their skills and surprise the audience! So far we have had plenty of surprises and that’s why our audience numbers keep on increasing year on year”.
And what advice would John give to like-minded people thinking of setting up their own festivals?
“Ensure you clarify your vision, be certain sort your festival should be, so once that is honed, work incredibly hard to make it happen because it is an amazingly rewarding process”.
“For us, in 2018 we are expanding by adding a section dedicated to Women’s Voices. This is a very open definition: films made by men but tell a woman's story in a good way, with a great leading female actor, can still be considered; as long as the film has a good mix of women and men working on the crew, and as long as they tell a good woman's story, it can be submitted”.
In the festival’s first year they screened 70 films over two days and in 2018 John plans to run the event over 4 days with hopes to screen 130 films making it the biggest international short film festival in the Midlands.
Finally, we ask John if he has any final words to give to fans/organisers of regional film festivals. “Well, a short film festival offers 2 hour programs that are constructed from a mosaic of cinematic genius rather than a single overarching storyline. This provides a platform to emerging filmmakers from Beeston to Bangkok and enriches the lives of everyone involved”.