Shooting a film, writing about films or working on a film festival are just a few examples of how we can get creative with the subject of film. And people have been getting creative with film for quite a while now – since the end of the 19th century! – developing the art of filmmaking substantially, giving it animation, sound, colour, special effects and many, many more.

A filmmaker, film festival professional and a film critic are sharing their views on the matter and tips for people interested in exploring it further. Lights, camera, action!

Pedro Vaz Simões

Pedro Vaz Simões is a Portugal-born filmmaker based in the UK who studied theatre and worked in various capacities on both short and feature films. He’s just finished his first short film ‘Road to Heaven’.

Pedro says: “As a result of the ‘digital revolution’, people think that being a filmmaker nowadays is fairly easy since virtually anyone has access to a camera and editing software. I would say that this is just part of the problem solved. Funding for a film production, as for all art forms, is not easy to get! So as much as this is a fulfilling craft, it's also a very tough one.

There are two essential things I believe one must have to start making films. Firstly, find a group of people with a diverse set of film skills and similar vision, people you can work with. Work on each other’s projects, also in different capacities if that is possible. You will learn a lot and have a team you can trust to share your understanding of ideas.

Secondly, watch films from different decades, all genres and from all places. Attending a film school can be important, particularly to develop your aesthetic and critical thought, but it will depend very much on which school you choose. Some can be more damaging than helpful. Just watching tons of films, especially if going out of your comfort zone - from classics to contemporary, silent, Japanese, Portuguese or Chilean, musicals or horror, every kind - can do the same trick of developing the way you think about films and art, especially if you support it with some good film theory reading.”

Pedro is currently submitting his first short film to various film festivals. Entering the film festival circuit is important for a filmmaker as it increases his or her chances of getting a distributor and consequently show the film to a wider audience.

Pedro Vaz Simões
Pedro Vaz Simões 'Road to Heaven'

Jessie Moroney is a Submissions Coordinator at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, the oldest continuously running film festival in the world. She’s sharing her insight and all the dos and don’ts when submitting to a film festival. She warns: “One of the biggest issues that submissions teams come up against is receiving materials that do not meet our entry requirements.

You give a much better impression if you are aware of the rules and regulations of any festival or organisation you are submitting content to. Most festivals will have these listed on their website.

However if you are having difficulties finding the answer you are looking for, it is best to get in touch with the email address provided to check up before submitting anything, as you may be wasting your funds and your time by sending work that does not comply with their entry requirements.

When preparing funding for your film, do consider your plans for submission to festivals. While some festivals are free to submit to, many require a submission fee. Large festivals require staff to carry out both administrative and programming tasks, and the submission fees go towards these, so if you are serious about submitting to a festival with a stated fee, come prepared and funded for this eventuality!

We also get a lot of emails asking if people should send their films to us, not because of issues regarding eligibility to enter, but because they want to know if it is what the festival is looking for, content-wise. Most larger festivals have administration staff who deal with incoming queries, and these staff members cannot really answer this question on behalf of the programming teams – not even the programming teams can really answer this! Take the plunge and submit anyway (unless your film is clearly ineligible) as festival programmers, unless working thematically, will judge each submission by its own merit. Believe in your film - not getting selected to screen at a particular festival does not mean that the programming team does not rate your film highly! Festivals like ours get thousands upon thousands of submissions, and sadly there just isn’t room for every great film we see. There’s so many festivals in the UK and worldwide, there will be a place for your film somewhere among them!”

To read more about submitting a film to the Edinburgh International Film Festival, check their website.

Banterflix Series 2 Episode 10 from Northern Visions NvTv on Vimeo.

Taking about film criticism is Jim McClean, the founder of BanterFlix, a Northern Irish film review website. He starts with a quote: “No good movie is too long and no bad movie is short enough” by Rodger Ebert.

Then he elaborates: “EVERYONE’S a critic nowadays, everybody’s got their own opinions on the latest movie they’ve seen and nowadays thanks to social media it’s never been easier to get your voice out there. The problem is how do you make yourself stand out from the crowd? How do you make yourself engaging to your readers and ensure they’d be interested in what you’ve got to say?
My main advice to anyone starting out as an aspiring film-critic or blogger is to simply be yourself as you write your reviews, try to find an interesting and entertaining way to get your opinion across.

At the beginning I was more interested in showcasing my cinematic credentials (pretentious, I know), comparing and contrasting a film to another and trying to put it into some sort of cinematic context; whilst I still do that nowadays I’m much more confident in expressing my own opinions within my writing. At the end of the day that’s what people really want to know about the film: did you like/dislike it and more importantly why!

Don’t be afraid to express yourself, just as long as you can back up and explain your opinions and be prepared to stand over them if you find them queried. It’s your opinions readers are after, not a glorified blow by blow retelling of the film’s entire story. Also, I really can’t stress this enough, DON’T GIVEAWAY ANY SPOILERS WITHIN YOUR REVIEWS.

If you’re a fan of one specific genre of cinema that’s OK – you’re writing about what interests you after all! – but in doing so you might risk pigeonholing yourself into one specific category and limiting any potential readership. Although I must admit there are some fantastic genre specific film-critics around! Personally I’d recommend trying to broaden your cinematic horizons, watch as many different movies as you can, whether it’s the latest releases at the multiplex or catching up with older films on television or online.

Open yourself up to world cinema, there’s an amazing array of fantastic movies being made by talented filmmakers throughout the globe. Despite the obvious language barrier many of these films share similar themes and issues that are fairly universal. Believe me, after you’ve been watching a foreign film for 15 minutes, you’ll soon forget you’re reading the subtitles at all!

Try to set yourself a word count as you write, I usually aim for somewhere between 500-800 words, I’m not a fan of overly wordy reviews where the critic goes on for paragraph after paragraph, gushing repeatedly about how much they loved or hated the movie. It’s a difficult self-discipline, particularly when you’re a blogger with no such constraints. If you’re writing for a newspaper or magazine though there’s usually a word limit, so it’s a good habit to get into earlier on with your writing.

I’d strongly recommend checking and rechecking your draft before posting it online as well. If you’re self-editing, I’d suggest getting someone else to give it a glance over as well. No matter how many times you re-read what you’ve written, you’ll always read what you think you’ve said rather than what you’ve actually written down.

My last piece of advice might sound stupidly obvious, but never write a review for a film you haven’t actually seen. I’ve seen it done before and sooner or later you’ll get caught out, any respect your readers might have for you and your blog will be gone in an instant.

Now go set yourself up a blog and get writing: tell people about the films you’re passionate about, tell them about those cinematic moments that will stay with you for a life time, tell them about the movies you really can’t stand – but don’t forget the ‘WHY’ factor when you’re doing so.”

Whether it’s filmmaking, film reviewing or working at a film festival, we’d love to hear about your film beginnings! Tweet us @LoveToHQ using #lovetoFILM or share on Facebook using @LoveTo / #lovetoFILM and inspire others! Remember the #lovetoFILM month is November. |