Film Interview Interview

Top image: ‘Tower XYZ’ dir. Ayo Akingbade

Last year, Channel 4 and Arts Council England’s collaborative project Random Acts sent out an open call for filmmakers aged 16-24 to submit their short films, no matter the content, genre or style. With 145 diverse and innovative films successfully submitted, Playback Festival is now showcasing them to the wider British public as part of a bumper line-up kicking off today.

Beginning at the ICA in London – before moving around the country to Peckham, Leicester, Worcester, Leeds, and Swindon – the festival will screen every short film, atop of hosting a variety of free film-related workshops aimed at helping budding filmmakers make the next step. Here, festival curator Corinne Orton gives us the lowdown.

Joey Levenson: As a young person myself, I think it’s always inspiring to see those in the creative industry giving young creatives a chance showcase their work. Out of all the films submitted, how did you manage to narrow it down to the ones who made it on to the programme?
Corinne Orton: Thank you, we are really proud of the programme. The 145 short films in the festival are the result of commissioning opportunities offered by various centres around the country (such as ICA in London) and were in association with Channel 4 Random Acts. Each centre put out an open call to young people aged 16-24 to create experimental super short films. There were no restrictions – we were just looking for bold, innovative ideas. All of the films made in the first year of the programme are featured in this year’s festival.

Joey: We just saw Damien Chazelle become the youngest person to ever win the Best Director accolade at the Oscars, and Moonlight was the lowest budget film to ever win Best Picture. Do you think the film industry is changing in terms of awarding fresh talent, or is there still more work to be done?
Corinne: I think it really is a fantastic, exciting time for film. We are seeing more and more films that represent the world around us, and as you say, films such as Moonlight are getting the recognition they deserve. There is certainly no shortage of talent out there. We have discovered the filmmakers of tomorrow – there is a real diversity of talent in our programme, almost half of the directors are female, there are filmmakers with disabilities and from all walks of life – some with prior filmmaking experience and others with none at all.

“There is certainly no shortage of talent out there. We have discovered the filmmakers of tomorrow.”

Joey: Did you notice any common themes or similarities throughout the works of these filmmakers? Did you try to co-ordinate the screenings with any themes in mind?
Corinne: It was actually surprising how different all the films were. The content of the films really does run the gamut; from superheroes to radioactive snails, job centres to ship yards, talking goldfish to dancing business men. Genres range from dance to spoken word, comedy to drama, and many young filmmakers chose to make animated shorts, some of which are funny, some serious, some even educational. In our exhibition, all the films are available to watch on a loop in no particular order so you can appreciate the variety.

“It’s vital to hear perspectives from people of all ages and all backgrounds. It makes for richer and more interesting art, and it opens your mind.”

Joey: So, what do you think it is about young people that allows them to create such innovative and thought-provoking works that we may not otherwise see in the mainstream?
Corinne: 
Generally the film directors we see in the mainstream are a bit older and grew up in a different time. Young people are often best placed to tell their own stories in a manner other young people can relate to, they tend to have a lot of energy and a determination to express themselves. I think it’s vital and enriching to hear perspectives from people of all ages and all backgrounds. It makes for richer and more interesting art, and it opens your mind and creates new pathways of understanding.

Joey: What advice would you give to filmmakers reading this who hope to appear in next year’s line-up?
Corinne: Come along to our festival and attend as many free workshops as you can. At ICA we offer year-round masterclasses and activities for budding filmmakers. But mostly, keep picking up that camera. Consume as much film as you possibly can and talk to others about your ideas – you never know when you might meet your next collaborator.

Playback Festival runs from 9th–12th March at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Mall, St. James’s, London SW1Y 5AH, before moving on to Peckham, Leicester, Worcester, Leeds, and Swindon. More venues around the country are to be confirmed via their website.