AMAZINGSTOKE: KICKING OFF THE FIRST EVER EXIT 6 FILM FESTIVAL
The Exit 6 Film Festival came at a very exciting time for us at Festival Formula; not only because our Founder Katie McCullough was finally taking a well-deserved holiday, but also because, Kat, Frankie and I were holding the reigns in her absence. When Mark Brennan asked if I wanted to deliver a talk about Festival Formula at Exit 6, I was more than happy to get involved. The festival was full of firsts: Basingstoke’s first film festival, the festival’s launch, my first film festival speaking-engagement on behalf of Festival Formula, and my first proper visit to Basingstoke. And it did not disappoint!
The snappily named Exit 6 – so-called because of its location off Junction 6 – guarantees a smooth drive-in. I quickly got a taste of the fun, efficiency and personality of Exit 6 on the drive up, where I was welcomed by Stella (although it might have been a coincidentally-timed ciggie break!). I parked the car by the Red Lion Hotel one of the Exit 6 venues and, after taking in my new surroundings, I headed straight-in to get the lay of the land. As a sidenote, I remember the hotel having a good wifi - an essential life supply for nomadic media types like myself!
The screening room was abuzz with lots of different events throughout the day. As my speaking slot was booked in the hotel by the bar, I was perfectly placed to catch some of the other speakers and take full advantage of the Guiness on tap. I had a few moments to mentally go over my talk, titled “SexLife and the Festival Formula journey”. I had planned to talk about the film’s life on the festival circuit from my two perspectives: as MD of Festival Formula, and as the producer of SexLife. By giving the talk with my two hats on, I hope that the filmmakers in the audience could see that Festival Formula is run by someone who is also in the production trenches with them, so to speak.
Katie is the guru of all things film festival-related, and she delivers the most incredible lectures. It’s pretty hard to live up to her expertise, but I hope I didn’t disappoint! After showing the film, I took the audience through the film festival journey of SexLife, which I’m proud to say has done very well; it was the only UK short film selected by Tribeca Film Festival in 2015, which still doesn’t seem real to me - even after attending the screening in New York.
My trip to Exit 6 served as a trip down memory lane for me, and a chance to relive my stories from Tribeca. After the talk I took some questions about the large film festivals, and I used some of the time to explore the less well-known ones which have great international reputations and sterling credentials.
One talking point that seemed to turn a lot of heads is that, last year, Sundance Film Festival received in excess of 12,000 submissions but only accepted 184 films. If one bears in mind that their festival fee is over $100, it does make one think about the cost/benefit ratio. If you’re dead set on going to Sundance – and your film is a ‘Sundance’ style of film – then absolutely go for it. But, if you aren’t certain that your film fits in with the type of films that have screened there in the last few years, it makes sense to to redistribute those funds and get your film into more festivals that are better suited to it on the wider circuit.
We spent some time discussing the strategy and submissions work that Festival Formula does, as you might expect. I am hoping that those who attended found it helpful – especially the people at the bar who downed their drinks quickly to come and hear me talk! Let’s hope their enthusiasm wasn’t all booze-related…
James Heath was up next with his Crowdfunding speech which went down very well. His talk showcased not only how hard it is and how much commitment you need to get those funds together, but it also looked at what you can achieve with crowdfunding when you get the process right. I think that, between all the speakers, the entire pre-filming, production and post-filming experience was completely covered.
Before and after my talk I caught some great films and met some great filmmakers afterwards too. The atmosphere was fantastic; it’s guaranteed to be a great time when you get a lot of passionate filmmakers in one place, but the backdrop of Exit 6 made it a real experience to remember. Mark and his team should be very pleased with themselves - they pulled out all the stops to bring film talent, culture and education to Basingstoke for its first film festival. For those who like to scout for talent, there were certainly some names to watch out for.
I wrapped up my visit by having breakfast with the award-winner director Denis Dobrovoda where we talked about his film Apparition and our experiences in the industry. It was a great way to conclude a full-on 24 hours at Exit 6, and I can certainly see myself heading up the motorway again this time next year!