Inside the Glasgow Short Film Festival

Awards news and more from Scotland's biggest annual celebration of short film.

by Andrew Robertson

"Maybe this envelope contains La La Land..." Photo: Andrew Robertson

It's sufficiently early now that the hangover is kicking in, but sufficiently late that the fact that I've run out of milk is a hurdle not yet surmountable. The 2017 Glasgow Short Film Festival was a few hours ago, and here is what went down: -

Drink! Festival sponsors Brooklyn Brewery and Auchentoshan Distillery provided ingredients for a cocktail that started with an IPA with a pretty high IBU and a just shy of ridiculous ABV, that was being mixed with a honey syrup and lemon and whisky, and while your fearless correspondent had a can of the former and a shot of the last, the stuff in the middle was too close to nutrition for journalistic stereotype and so was avoided. Free drink was credited as one of the causes of free-wheeling speeches from festival apparatchik Morvern Cunningham - highlights included festival director Matt Lloyd's microphone stand wrangling as a "small erection" (significantly funnier in person than on the page) and a litany of mischief from the Wall Is A Screen event, whose past highlights include riot vans and whose most recent digressions include car park trespass and tactical impersonation of another arts event...

She also explained that one of Matt Lloyd's children had joined a select group of GSFF programmers and film-makers in provoking a strong audience reaction - last year Bryan Ferguson caused fainting spells, but projectile vomiting is a convincing escalation.

This is also apparently Morvern's last Glasgow Short Film Festival - amongst the various thanks these things always attract, mention must be made of the sacrifices that can end up being made - there are photographs of her presenting awards in sunglasses, not a choice made for style but a consequence of double-conjunctivitis. We wish her well in whatever she gets up to, but if you're ever in Leith it'll probably be worth keeping an eye out for her efforts, if only to keep track of errant delegates from GSFF being given a tour of the pubs, which almost certainly counts as real work.

Matt Lloyd thanks everyone
Matt Lloyd thanks everyone Photo: Andrew Robertson

After extensive and effusive thanks from Matt, to Morvern in particular and to all those who give time and money to the festival, it was on to the awards. There was a new addition to the jury and audience prizes for Scottish and International films. The inaugral Production Attic short film pitch prize was the first announced. A sum of £400 and a week's free equipment rental, it's a solid foundation for film-making. In announcing the prize it was made clear that the primary criterion was for a film that they wanted to see, and John McFarlane's Tony And The Bull was the winner. In his speech of thanks John, a former commercial director, explained how personal circumstances had disconnected him from film-making but that "no matter what happens, keep going". He said that he hopes the prize (or more specifically the film the prize will help him make) will help "put [him] back on the map". We're crossing our fingers for him here.

The Scottish Audience award, presented by Penny Bartlett (a Magic Lantern/GSFF co-founder, now with Criterion's VoD team) went to Hula, and though director Robin Haig wasn't present she's got (amongst other goodies) a bottle of whisky and a collection of Criterion Blu-rays (including The Squid And The Whale and Tootsie) to go with the chance to make the festival trail. This year's effort by Scott Willis is a charming karaoke inspired effort, and it's always interesting to see what's made of it. Producer Lindsay McGee accepted the award on Robin's behalf - she apparently had to be up at four (thirty minutes ago at time of writing) to go to a shoot, but said that awards and the kind of recognition GSFF affords "made it all worthwhile".

The two jury prizes came next - previous winner Anwar Boulifa (A Short Guide To Re-Entry), Nita Deda (director of Kosovo's DokuFest), and Tara Judah (critic, broadcaster, programmer) made up the festival jury, who awarded both the International and Scottish prizes.

The International award went to Green Screen Gringo, with special mention for Maria. Speaking favourably of the strength of the programme, they said the "standard [was] really high", and that it took "long debate" to reach agreement. They talked about its "innovative use of green [screen]" to communicate a grand narrative, and it's certainly a deserving winner, showing a great degree of inventiveness.

The Scottish winner was Flow Country. Jasper Coppes' work earned a jury prize for its "unique mix of otherworldly sounds and stark imagery", a "fresh look at the landscape". He stated that he was glad to have won, paying credit to his fellow competitors saying that "he really liked the other films". He was clearly surprised with the result, but it was deserved. Flow Country is a compelling experiential experimental piece, and worth seeking out. Special mention was also made of Tuesday, a character piece whose human focus is in marked contrast to the far emptier geography of Coppes' film.

The last award of the evening was for the international audience prize. The festival's director Matt Lloyd suggested that one of Ten Meter Tower's strengths was its popularity with short film festivals, and on the basis of the awards audience's reactions their judgement is also good. It was the second time that Eye For Film has seen it in company, and the emergent comedy of hesitation works even better with an audience.

Eye For Film briefly chatted to (and spent longer wittering at) Duncan Cowles and Ross Hogg about future work - they've a forthcoming artists' residence in Vienna, Cowles discussed a feature documentary project that will take him to Dingwall next week and across the UK as filming continues, and a longer discussion about funding was interrupted by the free drink running dry.

I've left it until now to mention the series of envelope related jokes that were made through the event, but special mention should be made of the one that actually held a bit of paper that said La La Land. The strength of short film is that it gives talent a place to develop and grow, serves as an incubator for skills and techniques. While awards are at times inherently silly things (and Matt Lloyd's impression of Jordan Horowitz is pretty good), Eye For Film congratulates the winners, and even more importantly looks forward to their next work(s).

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