TALES FROM THE FESTSIDE

Well kiddies, I want to tell you a funny wee tale from the festside. It’s the coda to a story I did last year for this very site on the Edinburgh International Film Festival, so before I tell you what I have to tell you, you may want to go here and check out the story in question.
Okay. Now you’re up to speed with what I’m gonna bump my gums about. And you’ll soon see why the story I am about to relate is so funny, as in odd. But somewhat cool too. We’ll also dip into Scottish filmmaking and its agenda, too, so bear with me.
Right. Last August I wrote the not-entirely-complimentary story you have just acquainted (or maybe re-acquainted) yourselves with. I wrote it at the tail end of a miserable year in Edinburgh, one month before I moved back to Falkirk, and I just let rip on some of the things that had been frustrating and annoying me.
As you will notice, I did not hold back anything when writing that ramblerant. I said everything I felt at the time, and had felt about certain things – like the putrid pomp and pretensions of the pundits of the press pack – for many years. And it was cathartic, like clearing my internal decks. Dealing with film people at any-and-all levels can be incredibly frustrating at times, as I’m sure any of you film journalists can attest.
But that’s beside the point. Film Threat has a long, time-dishonored tradition of crashing and smashing and bashing and trashing film festivals, and that scattershot sacred cow slaughter story fit right on in there. And there are parts of that gonzo rant that still make me laugh, because it is just such a pure transposition of the entertaining chaos that was in my head and heart and to hand at the time. And, like old Henry Miller put it, chaos is the score upon which reality is written.
So flashfastforward to June 11th this year. I got an invite to a short film event in Edinburgh from amiable filmmaker Penny Thomson, an ex-director of the EIFF from back in the day and one of the most helpful and friendly people I have ever encountered in Scottish film. Met her on a BBC Radio Scotland show in May when I was on an arts show with her reviewing this mad South Korean art/exploitation flickershow called Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance.
Yeah, me broadcasting to the arty homies on the BBC: how public transmission standards have slipped, eh? They actually told me they were calling me because everybody else they wanted to get to speak about the film was in Cannes. Boy, nice to feel wanted, huh? But it was actually very cool, even if the breadth and depth of Penny’s knowledge really made me feel out of my own depth.
Anyway. The short film seminar was about making the transition from short film to making your first feature. Penny invited me along because she read some of my filmic scribblings on my website and mistook me for somebody with talent who could benefit from this event. So I said yes, I would go, and thanked her for the heads-up on the event, which I would never have known about without her.
But there was one problem.
One of the speakers at the event was to be Shane Danielsen. Yes, that’s right, the current director of the EIFF, the man about whom I was so uncomplimentary last year and whom I hadn’t seen since. There was to be a drinks reception after the event, where people could network, and I thought that if I bumped into him he would punch me in the face for what I had written. I had read a story about him punching somebody at some festival or other, and knew he had a streak of non-film-dilettante wildness in him, and I was a wee bit trepidatious.
I had a job interview the next day, and turning up with a black eye would not have been helpful. But then I thought “Aw, fuck it,” I’ve got as much right to be there as anybody, and this whole thing is probably me worrying over nothing. So I went through, visions of what would happen if I met the man dancing merrily and warily in my head.
I was actually slightly late in turning up, so the event had started when I got there, having had several pints as I had bumped into a cool bookseller I knew from my time in Edinburgh (get to West Point Books in the Pubic Triangle strip-club area, if you’re ever in the city, for a great second-hand book selection, and tell ‘em Graham sent you) whom I hadn’t seen since I moved back to Falkirk. Penny was up on the stage, as was Danielsen, and several other producers and pundits. So I sat down to listen.
The thing went pretty much as I had expected – endless talking round a central point and nothing ever quite getting solved. I grew up reading Film Threat and have never quite been able to fathom why the American DIY ethos – max out your credit cards, sell your blood and semen (if you’re a guy), sell your body – do anything but get that film made – has never really been replicated in Scotland.
The story continues in part two of TALES FROM THE FESTSIDE>>>




Posted on June 20, 2003 in Festivals by
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