Festival Outreach Officer, Jenny Inchbald, spoke to one of the Festival Directors of Colchester Film Festival, Steven Dorrington, earlier this month to get the lowdown on the festival. How did the festival start, what’s the best part of his job, and what does he think of Withoutabox? Find out below…



So now that you are about to take over Colchester with some amazing independent films for the 6th year in a row, what made you decide to start it and what made you choose Colchester?

Myself and the other festival director are both filmmakers from Colchester and there was not a film festival in the town or even the region so we saw there was a massive gap for a festival and decided to create Colchester Film Festival.


I was really pleased to see your impressive list of sponsors for the festival and the 60 hour film challenge, how did you get them involved and what advice would you give other festivals looking for sponsorship?

The best piece of advice is just to ask as many people and companies as possible the worst thing they can say is no. For every sponsor that sponsored the 60hr Film Challenge there were ten that said no.


In a short space of time Colchester International Film Festival has grown and become well respected and noted by both audience and industry alike, spotting both BAFTA and Oscar winners. What do you think has been the most crucial factor in achieving this growth and success?

It is free submit to the festival for three months so we can select from a huge amount for films allowing us to screen a very high standard of films. Each year audiences and filmmakers see that the our programme is of high standard which increases the amount of quality films submitted and the amount for people that attend each year. Each year we strive to make the festival a little bit bigger and better and we are always looking to improve things.

When selecting members of the Jury what are the key things you look for in them and what advice would you give prospective festival directors?

We look for jury members that have had a background in short films or have benefited from exposure from film festivals in their careers. We also look for jury members in each of the main filmmaking disciplines directing, writing, producing, editing so the films are judged from a variety of view points.


There have been lots of differing opinions about film festival submission platforms recently, do you think that overall they are beneficial? What are the key problems and benefits you have found?

Overall they make the process a lot easier for the filmmaker and the festival organisers. Withoutabox is a rip-off for filmmakers and festivals and should not be used. It is out of date and monopolised the industry for years. If a festival has free submissions you should not have to pay a submission platform to submit your film. Either do not submit your film or submit it directly to the festival for free. At the moment FilmFreeway is the best submission platform it is easiest to use for filmmakers and festivals, but there is definitely room for improvement. To be honest we don’t really understand why all festivals don’t have a period of free submissions as the festival benefits from the films created by the filmmakers by selling tickets to the screenings. A lot of festivals rip-off filmmakers by charging high submission fees. Colchester Film Festival has a long period of free submissions followed by a short paid period as we realised that more filmmakers submit in the free period if there is a short paid period to follow.


What’s your advice for someone who gets rejected from a festival? What is the best and worst part of what you do?   And finally what’s going to be a highlight at this year’s festival?

Festivals choice films for a many different reasons and it may not be rejected because they don’t think your film is good enough, it may not fit the theme of the festival, it may not fit in with the other films selected, it might just be too short or too long. No film will get into every festival it is submitted to so you should worry if your film is rejected. You shouldn’t seek advice or feedback on your filmmaking from festival directors you should get feedback from other filmmakers you admire or look up to their advice will be far batter. Do not e-mail film festivals asking when the line-up is going to be announced and definitely don’t send abusive e-mails if your film doesn’t get selected or a list of others festivals your film has got into, it will only reassure festival organisers that they made the correct decision.

The best part is discovering new filmmaking talent and getting to meet them in person at the festival. The worst part is the two weeks before the festival when there is more work than there are hours in the day to get it finished.

The highlight of this year’s festival and what has been the highlight of the last three festivals is short film programme we screened 41 shorts from 13 countries and they are all of an amazing standard. Audiences get to see a selection of films that they and most others have never seen and would probably never get to see if they didn’t come to the festival.

Steven Dorrington runs Essex based film production company Aura Films and is the founder and director of the Colchester Film Festival. He has directed a host of productions including music videos, commercials and web series and his award winning short films have been screened at 100s of film festivals across the world.

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