Sunday 3 May 2020

[Interview] Lockdown Festival Speaks to Cine Bijou

When governments around the world issued lockdown orders nationwide in order to curb the spread of the Covid-19 Corona-virus which has so far infected 3.2 million people around the world and taken over a quarter of a million lives, people asked themselves 'What do we do now?' All non-essential business have been closed, events and festivals cancelled. However three film makers, Harry Cartmel, Guy Allon, and Gil Kolirin came up with an idea to lift up people's spirits and get creative people engaged. Since there will be no Cannes Film Festival and various events remain unlikely to go ahead, these three creative talents launched the 'Lockdown Film Festival'.

With the the lockdowntv website up and running the team have put out a call for people to submit a short film, with the winner being awarded the opportunity to have their film made with all expenses paid, professional equipment and the support of a top notch film making team. The only limits are to use the confines of your home, and your imagination. Cine Bijou caught up with Harry and Guy to find out what inspired them to launch the festival, what they are looking for in the entries, and of course how they are coping with the lockdown itself.

Harry Cartmel;
Yeah, it varies day to day really some days I'm motivated to do things like, I've got an old car that I'm restoring at the moment so trying to keep busy with that but some days you just sit there and you're thinking, ‘how long is this gonna last?’ It’s sort of a struggle to keep your mind focused at times, which is the great thing about this festival. It's keeping us very busy, especially with the admin. The amount of entries that we’ve got coming in on a daily basis it’s good.

Guy Allon; I am preoccupied and at the same time productive which is nice. I'm speaking on my behalf here, I found that for the last several weeks I’ve literally I haven't had a chance, to sit down and relax meaning I’ve just kept myself busy with this project of ours, and which we very much want to see become a success meaning, getting more and more entries, and more people submitting their short films. I am chatting to a couple of writers  about working on developing some projects. If we're sort of living in a normal environment without what's been going on. Recently, I don't think I would have had the chance to do this, which I think is sort of, not a blessing in disguise, but I think a lot of people can do it at this moment in time. 

Harry; It's quite nice to see the amount of people that have registered their interest in the film competition, especially the number of those that are entering the competition that say, ‘I don't usually have time. I mean I'm an amateur filmmaker. I don't usually have time to make things so thank you for giving us the opportunity to make something for a purpose as well.’ And so that's quite nice to see, the amount of people that we are sort of helping have a creative outlet and giving them something to work towards.

Tell me a little bit about yourselves, your background, and what got you into film making.

Guy; I'm a film producer, and I started in this industry, working in film for years, starting off as a runner, making teas and coffees on set and worked my way gradually up the rungs of the ladders of the film department. The great thing about the progression that I went through was I mainly did low budget films which has allowed me to learn the process of film making much quicker than you normally get the chance to if you were to work on a Hollywood production or, or sort of a bigger budget scale production because then you're just like a cog in a wheel; you're given one task to do and you stick to that. Whereas on a low budget film you get to multitask, improvise and and juggle quite a few jobs sometimes, which is great. In that sense that you get to learn much quicker and if you do stick with it, of course, you eventually get promoted, which is what I've been doing. Recently I've been working more with China making films for the Chinese market, because it's a massive market out there. So that means making films where we film, either in the UK, or somewhere in Europe, more than likely, with Chinese leads, and then some Western supporting leads, as well.

Co- Founder Harry Cartmel

Harry; I got into film making at quite a young age. My parents had a VHS camcorder, which I used to pick up and just make silly films with my friends. As I got older in high school I continued making little films here and there, and pretty much just trying out ‘Jackass’ style stunts, skateboarding and things like that. After school and college I went to university to pursue film making. I got a degree in Visual Effects, so I spent a lot of time on computer editing. To be honest I love working in visual effects but it's a very time consuming process. I much prefer the actual physicality of making a film especially if it's something where we have sort of creative free rein. Once I finished my degree I was working in a call centre, because, as I'm sure you all appreciate, the film industry is quite a hard thing to break into, especially, where I'm from, because I'm from a little town near Birmingham. And one day I was watching a snowboard film, and I noticed a drone shot. This was in 2011 before they were really mainstream. It was a couple of frames on the next shot where you could see this drone and I was like ‘what on earth is that thing?’ So I did some research, saved up a load of cash, and built a drone. Since then, the majority of the work that I've done is drone work. We've done work for the BBC, and we filmed the aerials for the Oscar winning short ‘The Silent Child’. I am  trying to work my way up to bigger productions using a drone. Our production company [Papercut Media]  is called on occasionally to shoot corporate videos. As it is there's just two of us that work a pipe cut this as myself, and my friend Matt Edge. He was in it from the start and has always been there with me since those days making VHS films. He was my best friend at the time, and he still is so nice to have been making films together since we were little kids.

How did you two meet and how did the idea for the festival come about?

Harry; We have  worked on a couple of jobs together before, along with Gil (Gil Kolirin] and myself doing drone operations and  Gill and Guy doing the production. The idea for the festival  was in the back of my mind as the pandemic started. I was thinking, ‘If we do go into lockdown it would be nice to do something creative. You know we've never organised a festival before, and I just thought it would be quite a nice thing to do. I called Gil, and explained the idea. Gil said that Guy had a similar idea actually so we worked together and sort of just combined our ideas, had a meeting on ZOOM and discussed how to take it forward.

Gil Kolirin

Guy; I think it was one of the first weeks in April it got started, but we did discuss it beforehand. Again it was a way for us to be productive during this period, rather than being in self isolation and staring at the walls, not knowing what to do. It would allow everyone out there to sort of be a bit creative and think outside the box while staying inside their homes. As we wrote up the. At the end of the day we're all artists we're all creative so there's no reason why, even if you're indoors you can't come up with an idea, and then flesh it out into a story, and then go about filming it on your smartphone or whatever camera you have laying about; basically do something  that might be appreciated once you put it out there and share it with the world. That was really the intention for us to share these moments that we're all going through and seeing how it might be affecting everyone differently. Particularly, now that we're getting submissions from all over the world from various people and their subjective point of view, of course, how they depict this particular situation and sort of get a sense of how they're dealing with it. I don't think we're the only film festival out there that's dealing with the isolation. We have noticed that there's quite a handful out there but I think we're one of the ones that have a panel of judges to judge the skill set. Then we'll offer a prize, or some prizes for the winning film. It's nice that there is this option for people out there to do. 

It sounds great so how is the festival going to take shape? I know there's obviously a competitive element and winners will get their films at some point, more equipment, more and backing. Are you going to screen the film's online?

Harry; So the way that we're running the festival is that we're accepting the submissions and uploading them to our YouTube channel. And basically, with the aim to not only get people entering their films and getting creative, but also encouraging people to watch their films. At the moment everyone's stuck at home watching things such as Disney or Netflix, so it's great to have a collection of films from around the world from the amateur level to professional that people can just tune in and watch and see how the competition progresses.

That’s a fantastic idea. Who have you got lined up as judges?

Harry; I previously mentioned myself and Matt at Papercut worked on the OSCAR winning short film, ‘The Silent Child.’ The writer [Rachel Shenton] and director [Chris Overton], live locally near me - well, fairly local - and we chat every so often so I just approached him [Chris] with the idea and said, ‘I'm looking for a couple of judges to come on board I have this idea for the festival,’ and they jumped at the opportunity. 

Guy; Currently we have six judges and we’re still looking out for another one or two, preferably female as the judging panel currently is quite male dominant. So it's nice to have a diverse range of people. Other judges that we have include George Richmond a cinematographer and he’s worked on the ‘Kingsmen’ films and ‘Rocketman’. Then there’s producer Aidan Elliot, who we've worked with before; he produces films regularly with Ridley Scott films, so it's great to have him, and as well as Elliot Hegarty. Elliot has done quite a bit of Television work, and has also been nominated for BAFTAs, and he tends to do mostly comedy. But he's also done some work on adaptations of  David Walliams’ books into TV films.Then there's, Erik Olsen who is Gil's contact. He is an American producer and tends to do quite a bit of horror which includes ‘Gothika’ and ‘House of Wax’.  

World Goes into Lockdown

That’s quite a line up. In terms of the submissions then, what kind of film are you looking for? Just as important as well is what aren't you looking for?

Guy; So we did put together a handful of rules. Initially we wanted films to do with the isolation meaning, with the  lockdown. But then we decided against that. As long as the films can be made indoors, then it doesn't matter about the subject matter is, as long as it's all being filmed indoors one of the rules of course being is that you cannot film outdoors unless it's in your backyard or garden or the front of the house or front entrance to the door. You can't go on the street. And we did have a couple of submissions where it did actually film outdoors, and we had to go back to them and explain that either they edit those clips out, or do something differently but we cannot accept anything that will show you outdoors. For example, we did have a clip that was filmed outdoors, but the revelation was that it was shot on a rooftop. So that’s fine because even though it’s still outdoors as long as the audience can see it’s still within a confined area, then that’s fine. And the other thing is, we don't want the films to last more than five minutes. We’re getting more and more submissions now, and we want to make sure that we have a selection of films that we can show the judges that won't require them to have to sit through hours and hours of footage. So keep it up to five minutes, I think this is enough to tell a story. If you think about it, commercials now tell the story in 30 seconds, there's no reason why five minutes shouldn’t be long enough for creative people out there to do the same.

Interesting. What's the driving factor in terms of, not just judging but anything that comes through and you think, ‘well that's quite good.’ Is it the story, is it innovation of filming?

Guy; It’s a bit of both mostly because we don’t really restrict by genre, we even allow them to do music videos. We’ve already received a handful of those, animations, anything that they can think of, they can be creative, they can be abstract, meaning it doesn't have to make sense. When I say it doesn't have to make sense it's subjective. it can be any genre. It can be anything. It doesn't necessarily have to be a story because we're all different so everyone would have a different take on how they see things in their environment and wherever they are. 

Co-Founder Guy Allon

Harry; It's sort of a mixture of things but this is difficult, because there's so many good submissions and they're all very vastly different. It's quite hard for me to pinpoint exactly one thing or a couple of things I'm specifically looking for  when I'm watching the submissions. As I say it's a mixed bag really, some of my favourites are story driven. Some of them are more arty pieces that keep you guessing,  like this one particular piece I quite like. It's hard to explain. I think they're using like a macro lens in the shop really close up, like bits of plants and books and things like that and it's just interesting to watch it. They're all very very vastly different and it's hard to pinpoint exactly what would impress me.

Sounds fascinating. So when do submissions have to be in by?

Harry; At the moment the cutoff date is the 15th May but we are willing to extend the deadline, if the lockdown goes on longer, because we don't really want to end the competition if we're still in the middle of the lockdown. So yes it’s 15th May but could be moved depending on what the situation is at the time.

Where do people need to go in order to submit the films?

Guy; Well, we've got the website where they can get all the information there. It's very simple. There is a page to register their interest, and once they put in the details, and then automatically get this form with the rules and. It gives them all the relevant information that they need to know, prior to going ahead and making the film. It's very self explanatory. We're also on Facebook and Instagram and looks like we got to put ourselves on TikTok as well. We’re also on YouTube where we’ll have the films that have been submitted online and people will be able to watch those films and of course share them.

Any final words or thoughts about the festival and anything you want to say to people out there reading this interview thinking of entering but hesitant?

Harry; If you're passionate about film making, whether you've never made a film before or you've made tonnes of films, the competition is open to everyone. You can submit a film of any genre, no matter your ability, and it will go on to the YouTube channel for everyone to see.

Guy; I'll just add to what you said, Harry. There might be people out there thinking ‘Oh I don't have the correct equipment to shoot anything’, but we're very much for people using their smartphones because it's not necessarily the look, it's more the story it's more if you can be creative and think outside the box, how you can present it - if it's art house, if it's abstract, if it's a story, whatever it is, you can still shoot it on your mobile phone. You then allow the audience to decide, of course for themselves if they think this is something that it's entertaining for them. So they people shouldn't be held back by or resisting to go ahead and do something which they've never done before, because everyone has a smartphone these days. So there's no excuse that you can't shoot something in the confines of your own home. In fact we've filmed ourselves giving some tips and advice for those people have ideas and suggestions how they can go about filming certain things, or telling stories in a certain way, which maybe they haven't considered to begin with. 

For more details of how to enter visit and you can watch all the entries to date on YouTube

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