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Edinburgh Film Festival 2004 - Day Eight


By Douglas Bell - Posted on 26 August 2004

Those who managed to squeeze into the Filmhouse yesterday would have witnessed something very encouraging. Visitors flowed out into the foyer, as the bar's capacity was tested to the full, and the street was even being used as a meeting place.

Strangely enough, I have yet, however, to see anyone buy one of the DVDs on sale. Perhaps £20 is a bit pricey for a movie.

The shorts on screen throughout the day were attracting considerable attention and amongst them were a number of British works. The EIFF has tapped into something very engaging and it is easy to see why the festival director Shane Danielson has such a confident outlook for British Film. The key to it is the breadth, he professes, as Brit filmmakers shake off rom-com and gangster moulds.

Once again, the British Film Council brought the film world together with a celebratory party in recognition of the popular shorts showing this week. It was also an opportunity for new filmmakers to get to know one another.

I was astounded by the sacrifices people have made to create their shorts, sometimes nothing short of substantial. There also seems to be an overriding uncertainty as to how they move on from here. I'm not sure I met anyone who wasn't acutely aware of the job insecurity of their chosen career path, nevertheless, there seemed to be a high degree of confidence, at least in what they had already achieved.

One pair of anxious networkers I overheard, highlighted the principle difficulty of production: raising money.

Filmmaker 1 "Did you get your 15 minutes?"
Filmmaker 2 "No, not quite."
Filmmaker 1 "You never know, you might meet someone really interesting."
Filmmaker 2 "Yeah, well...maybe I'll meet someone who'll commit some f***ing money! Come on, let's go round the room one more time."

Whilst there is a shortage of job security, it was exciting to see how much inspiration and initiative that the British newcomers are showing.

Recent Edinburgh Art College graduate Ewan McNicol was one of the many young talents at this Film Council party. His documentary about a beached whale in the West Highlands earned him first class honours and was inspired by footage he chanced upon - a chunk of whale landing on a car windscreen, apparently out of nowhere.

In order to clear away the carcasses of whales stranded on public beaches, authorities rely on explosives and chainsaws to break them apart. When McNicol got word of a beached whale on the Isle of Coll he rushed to the scene and shot a nineteen-minute film - all for just £200.

His second short, Taking Cuttings, was much more personal and earned a screening at this year's film festival in Edinburgh.

Working with his elder brother, the two of them documented the eccentric habits of their octogenarian grandmother, who, having experienced a world quite different from his own generation, steals cuttings form garden centres and makes string out of tights. It's well worth catching and will remind you of how much things have changed in just two generations.

Another short called 6.6.04, inspired by The Blair Witch project, features the cameraman as a principle character. The man behind the lens is dead and the story is his five minutes of unwittingly captured footage.

6.6.04, which was funded by the Film Council, will no doubt prove that not all investments in new talent are wasted.

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