Take a look back at the Launch Night of SFW 23!
Written by Nathan Jeffree
Nathan is one of our volunteers that support SFW by undertaking tasks front of house and backstage. City Eye and Southampton Film Week is committed to providing opportunities for people of all ages and experience to participate in running the festival – and is immensely grateful for the time and energy they bring to SFW each year. Thank you Nathan for sharing your experience and thoughts about the launch night.
“On Friday 10th November, the sixteenth annual Southampton Film Week held its launch night. Filmmakers, aspiring filmmakers, and those who just simply love film came together at MAST Mayflower Studios to experience the works from the array of creative talents who call the region and Southampton – shortlisted in 2022 to become the United Kingdom’s City of Culture in 2025 – home. It is my privilege to have been given the opportunity to write this blog post about my experience at the event and I also wish to explain why events such as Southampton Film Week are vital for both the expansion of filmmaking opportunities as well as the preservation of film going forward.
Many make a mistake by thinking that film, as well as art in general, is merely a reflection of one’s emotions. But those who have perfected their craft or who are in the process of perfecting their craft such as me, thanks to the fantastic learning community provided by the Film Production Department at Solent University Southampton, know that a good film or a good piece of art is a reflection of sincerity. Sincerity commands all emotions, it is more important than the emotions you force into your film. Emotions can be faked, but sincerity cannot. A film lacking in sincerity means all intended emotions, reactions, and thoughts you wish the audience to take away from your film fall flat. I am happy to say that I recognised the sincerity in everyone’s work presented at the launch night. My favourite element of the event was hearing directly from the filmmakers when they each took turns to stand up at the front of the screening room to introduce their films. Each spoke about the filmmaking process and how filmmaking is a battle where you are persevering against the odds, it is a world where you are always on your feet and must always be prepared to cope with and find solutions to last minute, out of nowhere headaches, such as actors dropping out or sudden changes to location. Just as importantly, they spoke of why they chose to make their film, why they cared so deeply about the subject matter at hand and how they utilised the emotions generated from their respective connections to the subject matter to produce an effective work of art. You could recognise the sincerity in every word spoken, in the voice cracks and in the impassioned pleas to always remain dedicated to your work despite the challenges you will face along the way. Sincerity was also easy to recognise as I watched the films play out in front of me. The quality of the filmmaking on display was of the highest standard, with all technical and creative elements that make up a film, from cinematography to sound design, successfully reflecting all the intents the filmmakers had laid out in their speeches beforehand. This helped to make each film a sincere work of art in which each emotional beat had its desired effect. It also shows that Southampton Film Week has clear standards that make sure only films which are made by those who understand what film truly is are shown, and they are lucky that the filmmakers of the creatively rich Southampton are up to the task.”
“Two films I saw at the launch night I wish to highlight.
The Eel Run (Dir. Deborah Gearing) was a documentary short film produced with the intent to raise awareness of the endangerment of the European Eel. In her beforehand speech, director Deborah Gearing spoke in great depth about why this project meant so much to her, discussing the importance of the European Eel throughout history to the people of Southampton – a place which she is proud to call home. I was impressed by the level of detail in the historical knowledge she provided about the issue, and I could tell she knew what she was talking about. The film itself was an expertly done example of observational and participatory documentary filmmaking, where the human subjects were characters brimming with personality and whose colourfulness showed how much they cared about the subject at hand. My favourite scene in the documentary was a scene involving activists for this cause performing a play for children which discussed the threat water pollution poses for the European Eels’ chance of survival. I really enjoyed seeing the interactions between the activists and the children and the children becoming interest in this vital cause. It really empahsised the point director Deborah Gearing made in her opening statement as to why she was proud to be from Southampton, that this city is a real community and that through working together we have the power to change things for the better.
Frequency (Dir. Zsófi Bujáki) is a fictional thriller short film that told the story of a young girl named Riley who develops a dangerous friendship with a mysterious voice coming from her toy walkie – talkie. In his beforehand speech, producer Peter Andráš spoke about how he hoped the audience would pick on and consider the themes of the piece, and I certainly did. It made me think about how much technology has become ingrained in today’s society, and how a consequence of that is that our relationships with those around become more distant and cold. We see our devices as being more human than the actual humans in our lives. By telling this story from the perspective of a child, the theme became even more haunting as we watched someone’s childhood which should be filled with innocence and joy become corrupted with this obsession for her walkie – talkie. On a technical and filmmaking level, the film was sublime. The effective use of long takes helped to add to the unsettling atmosphere and there was a great deal of detail within the production design, both in regard to the effectiveness of indulging the viewer within the period – the film was set in the early 2000’s – but also how every shot felt complete and that everything was framed and placed in a certain way for a specific reason. I found as I was watching the film that there was so much to chew off when it came to the production design.
Like I said at the start of this blog post I firmly believe that events such as Southampton Film Week are vital for both the expansion of filmmaking opportunities as well as the preservation of film going forward. At the event I felt as though I was in a friendly atmosphere surrounded by those who were deeply passionate about film. It makes me wish that I had discovered the event sooner when I first arrived in Southampton, when I was so shy and felt allienated by those around me who did not seem interested in what I was interested in. I would recommend anyone who fills like this to come to all future Southampton Film Week events, so you can find an environment filled with people who are just as passionate about film as you are, and this will help build your confidence and self – worth. After the launch event I also feel that those who feel unsure about their future and are unsure with what they want to do with their life should come to these events, as I also found the night to be very inspiring with how passionately the filmmakers spoke about why they loved film and what motivated them to produce their films. This would also be a good idea as it would help to expand filmmaking opportunities as more people would become interested in filmmaking. Southampton Film Week is also doing a fantastic job when it comes to the preservation of film. As the week progresses, films from the silent era are to be shown, such as ‘The Mask of Zorro’ and ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame.’ This should be fantastic news to those, such as me, who care deeply about preservation of film because film from the past – especially silent films – are becoming all the harder to gain access to as distribution of film becomes digital and most, if not all, streaming services show very little interest in taking up these films for their platforms.
I will be working alongside Southampton Film Week for their upcoming events from now until 19th November. I look forward to helping with the exhibition process and will be eternally grateful of the experience I gain along the way.”