I hate to bandy the word “triumph” around loosely. But you should always call it as you find it.
There's been a high level of nervous twitch around the latest Feast On Film. For Leading Man Clive, it was an evening that would stand or fall on his choices and his curatory skills. For Doco Dom, it was a chance to prove that his film-making chops were as good as ever in front of an audience of his peers. For me…
Hey, I was calm as all get-out. I didn't have anything to prove.
The Moors Bar film nights are great for two reasons. The atmosphere is always warm, inclusive and solidly supportive. No-one's there to laugh at you for your film-making mistakes. But the shorts that are shown there are always really good. James Rumsey and his guest hosts always manage to find great stuff, and programme thoroughly entertaining nights with enough variety to keep you hooked.
So, to the Leading Man of this particular Feast. Clive was the best-dressed dude in the room, sleek and dapper in a well-cut suit. Somehow, this man is still single. Go figure. Shame on you, ladies.
At a little after 8, after a nervy check that the DVD Dom had brought along played without a problem (the last week had been an education in video file format delivery that led to us bringing three backup discs along–belt, braces and another belt) the lights dimmed, and Clive introduced the first film of the evening.
Time Out, my last Straight 8, and the film I screened, has become more vicious with every view for me. Although it's lightly played, it ends up being a joke with a very nasty punchline. But it still holds up, and the Super 8 4:3 frame is a nice contrast to the rest of the video-based entries. Old school with attitude. I took a few questions (including the dreaded “Where did you get the idea for the film from?”) and I was pleased with the reception. I still get nervous in front of a mike and an audience, though. No way round that apart from experience.
It was my honour to introduce the next film, the longest cut yet of Decks, Dance And Videotape, the documentary about rave culture that Dom and I have been working on since 2004, on and off. It was my big idea to bring this one in. DocoBanksy is coming to an end in production terms, and we need something to occupy our time.
I could fill a book with the high level of twitch and uncertainty that has gone into the making of the half-length cut of DDV. We did everything backwards, and we had no way of knowing if our approach would work until we screened it. It's an uncompromising piece that throws you straight in and expects you to keep up. There's no narration and no friendly captions. We use the participants to tell their stories, and build up a picture of the culture that way. We even hold the titles off until the end.
And you know what? It bloody worked. There are great stories, the film motors along and most importantly, we left people wanting more. Dom's Q&A was humble and gently funny, and we walked away with our heads held high–and more importantly with a few new contacts for interviews that would pull the gaps in the narrative together. Big fat win sandwich for the DDV boys.
Darius G Law and Nick Woolger's Digging For Victory closed up the first half. A cut-down version of their feature-length doc on the lives of a bunch of allotment owners in the small town of Capel St. Mary, it's a sweet and cosy film that benefits from the film-makers being on home turf. They reward the trust of their subjects by not trying to invent conflict or drama. You end up caring about the characters all the more, and rooting for them at the final competition. If you'll excuse the pun. Digging For Victory will be getting a DVD release soon, and there's a free packet of seeds with every purchase.
After the break, a double bill from the mighty Simon Aitken. First up, Post-its is an atmospheric tale set in an empty storage facility. A temp arrives, and finds herself directed through her daily tasks by post-it notes that mysteriously appear. Who…or what… is leaving them?
It's a script that Simon agrees was informed by the location, but that's not a problem with a central idea as strong as this. Victoria Johnson shines in a role that puts her at the centre of attention, and the new HD grade of the piece looks lovely.
Simon's latest piece, Digital Romance was up next. It's a dialogue-free rumination on the way modern relationships–and particularly the way that we hook up in the first place–are influenced by technology. It's sharply observed but heart-warming. Shot partially on iPhone, Digital Romance shows how Simon is embracing the advances in digital film-making and rolling them into a lean and adaptable workflow. As a teaser for his upcoming rumination on 21st century relationships, Modern Love, it couldn't be better.
The big finale was, of course, Clive's tense urban thriller, Out Of Hours, which I have written about at length. It was the first time I'd seen it in its final form, and it looks great. Yes, I was the colourist, pardon me if I toot my own horn. It's tight, brutal and unrelenting, with a gritty yet expensive feel. As Clive pointed out in the Q&A afterwards, it was supposed to be a teaser for a bigger feature project. That never happened, but Out Of Hours stands up in its own right. Keep an eye out for it at festivals this year.
Clive's Feast On Film pointed out the cross-connections that happen between a community of film-makers, and how working on each others projects can bring out everyone's strengths. Most of the people that worked on Out Of Hours were at the screening, and that sense of support, the sheer willingness to help each other out, could not have been more apparant. The stress and panic of the last couple of weeks simply melted away over the course of an evening, as friends and fellow travellers (including some unexpected visitors–great to see you, Tim and Jaeson!) joined together to share a little magic. Film nights don't get much better than this. Clive, you played a blinder.
(all pics courtesy of Simon Aitken, who somehow neglected to take a photo of himself. Adds to the mystery, I suppose…)