INTERVIEW WITH.. MARK BRENNAN OF EXIT 6 FILM FESTIVAL
Exit 6 was set up by filmmakers. What did you want to achieve with your festival that you perhaps weren’t experiencing at other festivals?
Exit 6 was actually inspired by some of the many festivals that we’ve attended over the years, festivals that have varied greatly in format, organisation, ethos and size. Rather than a reaction to what we felt was missing elsewhere, we wanted to bring the imagination, artistry and filmmaking community spirit to our hometown – somewhere we saw had the potential to host an event the likes of which we’d been travelling all over the country for. Having said that, our experience of so many events meant we were able to tailor our own format. One example of that at Exit 6 is that every filmmaker gets the opportunity to talk about their film with our hosts in front of the audience right after it has screened, giving insight into its making and meaning. Not only does this offer a platform for the filmmaker they do not always get at other festivals, it also helps filmmakers identify each other after the screenings. We’ve been to festivals where it’s a series of films screened one after the other – without knowing who has made what – and perhaps leaving without meeting the people we wished we had. Most of all, it’s important to us that all our visiting filmmakers are involved with the programme directly (should they wish to be), and that they take something away from the day, even if it's just getting to talk about what they've created.
For a first time festival, you managed to programme quite an impressive selection of films and events back in September. Have you planned any changes for your festival this year?
We were all thrilled with the programme we were able to put on in our first year, especially to have the Judges 6 (the six films nominated for Best Film) be of such a high standard. While the first festival was a big success in our eyes, we were quick to identify areas where we could improve. Our second year will be about making those improvements and 2017 delegates can expect to see a packed out programme with exciting new features, not to mention the return of the epic after-party.
How many film submissions did you receive last year, and what makes a film stand out to your selection panel?
We were pleasantly surprised with the large number of submissions we had in our first year – and from a host of different countries – which we whittled down to 41 for screening. Our submission code states that every film submitted is watched by at least two members of the selection panel and we will be standing by this in 2017. When submissions close, the panel comes together to, sometimes heatedly, discuss/debate/argue the films for selection as well as the Judges 6. We look for everything most festivals do – artistic merit, vision, a well told story, funny if it’s a comedy, scary if it’s a horror. We’ll know it when we see it.
Some film festivals are famed for their exotic location. Basingstoke isn’t as renowned a location, particularly for film. Did you get many queries about the location during the submission period? And did many of the selected filmmakers attend in 2016?
There’s a reason we’re not called The Basingstoke Film Festival! We’re quite realistic about the less than thrilling reputation our home town has, however, it is our home and we’re proud of it so we always wanted to reference that in our identity. So, as the town is located off junction 6 of the M3, we decided to use that! It’s our intention to have all our visitors leave referring to the town as Amazingstoke thereafter.
Of the 41 films shown, we welcomed 25 of the filmmakers who were often joined by cast and crew. Bearing in mind that of the 41 selected films 11 were from overseas, it was a remarkable turn out. We were thrilled.
Do you think Basingstoke having its own festival will encourage local aspiring filmmakers and develop a collective love of film in the community?
As well as a celebration of the filmmakers in attendance, the Exit 6 Film Festival is an event absolutely intended to be of great fun, interest and excitement for the people of Basingstoke. Short film is still an often misunderstood format for those not involved in making them, with a lot of people not realising the high quality production, artistic and entertainment value now boasted by so many. It was a pleasure for us to see so many startled reactions by people in the town to what they saw, let alone for the filmmakers in attendance seeing their work appreciated. Our great hope is that it will also inspire and facilitate the aspiring filmmakers in the town, particularly students, by giving them a place to meet and learn from people already on their filmmaking journey.
From Denis Dobrovoda, winner of Best Film with ‘Apparition’: "For me, Exit 6 has been the most pleasant surprise on the festival circuit so far. Nowhere have I come across such passion, enthusiasm and love of cinema on the part of the organiser and the audience. I was also very impressed with the quality of films in the Official Competition, which has made winning the award for the best short all the more special. Being a part of Exit6 has been an immense pleasure and I will hopefully return before long!"
From Oliver Park, writer and director of ‘Still’ and ‘Vicious’: “Basically faultless and massively entertaining and hospitable. One of the best experience I've had screening my films. They care deeply about the film and filmmaker, and as filmmakers themselves, they know how hard it all is. I will be back!”
A special thanks to Exit 6 Film Festival's Festival Director, Mark Brennan, for taking part in this interview. You can find out more about the festival on their website.