An interview with Edinburgh Short Film Festival Director Paul Bruce
What is unique about the Edinburgh Short Film Festival?
The Edinburgh Short Film Festival is Scotland’s largest dedicated short film event covering 8 screenings over 11 days and includes pavement cinema, guest speakers and networking. We also host guest film festivals and plan on taking short film to festivals around the World. We also have plans to screen down a Gold Mine in Australia and we are the only film festival I know to have been invaded by Vikings!
The 2016 Festival will be working with Japan’s biggest short film festival. What can we expect?
We’re planning on hosting a program of Japanese and Asian short film - curated by Short Shorts Film Festival from the program for their festival in 2016 and hosting a visit from some of the organizers.
We also plan to create a program of short film to take to Tokyo next year and reciprocate!
Do you have a favorite film that has showcased at your Festival?
We’ve screened nearly 400 films since we began in 2011 so it’s very hard to pick a favorite! The selection committee also like different films etc but I would say that a film I really love watching and was very pleased to screen was this year’s Rising Star Award winner, Stuart Edward’s ‘A Wee Night In’ a delightful, life-affirming documentary about an 94 year old Scottish lady and her relationship with her 90 year old boyfriend, Jim!
Is there something in particular that you look for in submissions? Or are there multiple factors?
We screen the strongest program from submissions so we are looking for the best films submitted, irrespective of genre etc.
There is a large selection committee so everyone has different preferences but essentially we are looking for films that are original, stand out from the crowd, involve and engage audiences, take them somewhere new or explore and express the human condition. And does so in a way that makes us want to share that with a large audience. The film must also have decent production values (though we will screen low-budget shorts, they still need to be competently produced).
What makes a great short?
Essentially, a film that takes an audience on an engaging journey, one that has an idea or concept and expresses that idea directly and completely without unnecessary distractions or tangents. A film that is original and unique and one that the audience will talk about afterwards and take some aspect of the film home with them.
Do you have an interesting story that has taken place during a past festival?
Every year is different with a different story!
In 2013 we hosted a visiting party of Viking warriors and a night of Shetlandic film and food, this year we held outdoor pavement cinema screenings during a Force 10 gale in 2015 – we don’t let bad weather stop us! We have even taken a group of visiting film-makers to a torture chamber which was so much fun we might make the trip an annual event!
We’ve also interrupted a shoot on the set of ‘Outlander’ taking visiting American film-makers on a tour of the Scottish lowlands! The ESFF is definitely an eventful festival!
How is your festival received locally and internationally?
Since starting we’ve always been well-supported by the local film community and we always aim to screen a good number of Scottish and Edinburgh-made shorts where we can.
We’ve also steadily grown our international links and 2016 sees us hold a record number of associations with international film organisations! We’re hosting Short Shorts Film Festival this year and as it’s Olympic year, we’re also working with the Rio International Short Film Festival on a program exchange for 2016.
We’re also holding film screenings in Australia in February as well as working with the Sardinia Film Festival for a program in June. We are also hoping we can continue our links with the Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival, they were kind enough to visit us in November and we’d love to repay the compliment with a return visit to their event in September taking another programme of ESFF shorts!
We’re also working closely with the film team at Hidden Door – Edinburgh’s unique arts festival this year which is held in a different abandoned building each year, it’s great and kind of like a Glastonbury for artists!
Where do you see or would like to see your Festival in 5 years?
Our aim is to become one of the UK’s biggest short film events – we think this is a feasible ambition as Edinburgh is the UK’s premier festival city, has a supportive local authority and the relevant festival experience. We’d like to continue to increase our links with overseas film organizations, we’d also like to increase the links we have with film courses at Edinburgh University and local colleges.
Ultimately, we’d like to become a full time festival which employs people all year round
and to increase the audience for short film locally.
Please share some advice for Indie Filmmakers.
I would say that film-makers submitting to film festivals should focus on making their film as good as it can be before submitting, try to have a unique voice and an original idea, something that makes you stand out from the crowd. Please also read the rules and regulations before submitting and follow the submission guidelines closely. Festivals always have a reason for their rules and submission guidelines so please check these before sending your film in!
Most of all, enjoy your film-making, don’t be too down-heartened if your film is rejected – it doesn’t mean you have made a bad film. Oh, and feel proud that you and your team made the film – just making a film is quite an achievement!