A right royal victory

Inside the Glasgow Short Film Festival awards ceremony

by Andrew Robertson

Winners' speeches at the Glasgow Short Film Festival awards
Winners' speeches at the Glasgow Short Film Festival awards Photo: Andrew Robertson

Glasgow's eleventh short film festival, the 2018 installment, closed with a celebratory screening of award winners, in new festival venue Civic House. Hosted (and later DJ'd) by Ronan Leonard of Indie Cork, it was a well-attended, well-lubricated, and well-enjoyed event. Ronan was given the gig as host "around lunch-time" according to festival director Matt Lloyd, a role previously filled by much-missed festival apparatchik Morven Cunningham. Suffice to say she's a hard act to follow, but while she engages in artistic endeavours in a Leith direction her legacy as a quirkily confrontational compere was aptly filled.

The evening included the usual effusive thanks to supporters, festival director Matt Lloyd making special mention of Merchant City Brewing as a producer of imbibables, he said they were the first beer sponsor he "felt passionately about". He described "working through [their output] for the last six months", a task your correspondent heroically attempted over the few days of the festival. Mention was also made of Auchentoshan, returning sponsors, whose whisky formed a key element of a sweetened "Auchy & Ale" cocktail provided to those who secured tickets to the awards ceremony at new festival venue Civic House.

Matt ran through a long list of thanks, and though the audience were instructed to save applause for the end special mention was made of a number of bodies and sponsors. Civic House, home to a number of screenings as well as press and box office were singled out, with Matt declaring himself "super excited about how it worked out". With sponsor's beer on tap, your correspondent was similarly enamoured. Supporting institutions St Andrews and Glasgow Universities, who had made significant and material contributions to the programme, in particular arranging for film-makers to be able to attend, were mentioned. So too Glasgow's Drygate Brewery, host to a "fun kids event in a pub". The National Library of Scotland's Moving Image archive was thanked too, as Matt ran through a list so long that he himself characterised it as "read[ing out] the catalogue."

A packed crowd at the awards
A packed crowd at the awards Photo: Andrew Robertson

It's hard to convey the immediate post-festival mindset unless you've been there - free cocktails help, but it's near three in the morning as I type this. Phrases like "that'll cover everyone in that column" make perfect sense at the time, but politics suggests that very specific festival references be left somewhat obfuscated - suffice to say everyone was having a good time, even before award-winners were announced.

Special mention was made of last year's award winners, Robin Haig and Lindsay McGee, who produced the charming festival trailer cum prelude - a choral piece, its refrain of "never boring" was a welcome addition to each of the screenings Eye for Film attended. They were the winners of the 2017 audience award, and part of the prize is making that opening piece. That's only one of the awards from GSFF, however, and though they were to have that good company added to this was not the first prize to be handed out.

That honour went to the Hilton Earl Memorial Award, to the sumptuous The King And I, Daniel Cook's astonishing piece, a longer short screened in part at the ceremony but one which audiences (including Eye For Film) had clearly enjoyed. The award has four screenings a year, it was an appearance at January's for Daniel's work that saw it selected for GSFF, and in addition to a bottle of whisky the prospect of £500 of equipment hire from sponsor Visual Impact and almost as importantly expertise and guidance on use of same was described by the winner as "a massive deal". It's a deserving winner, and a fitting tribute to Hilton who spent a student loan on a film project, 2002's One Last Thing. Hilton is no longer with us, but as the first recipient of the award Cook's film seems a fitting winner - a subtle and evocative exploration of self and the expression thereof, The King And I is a powerful piece that is a clear indicator of talent. The award is intended to support film-makers creating without access to conventional resource, and this initial recipient is certainly unconventional, and undeniably deserving.

The next award was Production Attic's pitch award. Presented by Tony & The Bull's John McFarlane (last year's winner) it went to Jack Goesson's, whose pitch was singled out for "the opportunity it offers" and a "confidence the project could be completed". Mention was made of directorial and cinematic ambition, and if last year's winner is any indication audiences should already be looking forward to it.

The Scottish Audience award went to Tony & The Bull, a film that Eye For Film have had the pleasure of seeing in company twice. A charming tale, it's a deserving winner. As a previous winner of the Production Attic pitch award it sets a high bar, but it's indicative of the talent of McFarlane as a director that he's effectively won back to back competitions with the same film.

The Bill Douglas award for international film was next, with two thirds of the jury confidently assuring us of the health and continued safe existince of their absent colleague. Douwe Dijikstra and Magdelene Molyneaux may have (variously) had early flights to catch, and Daniel Ebner may have nearly missed attending the festival at all by going to a gate for a plane to Madrid, but they were unanimous in their decision on the winner. They did produce three honourable mentions, leaving it as an exercise for the audience to determine who picked what, giving special notice to Final Stage, Mirage My Bros, and Stay-Ups. Final Stage was praised for its "formal audaciousness" and "thematic insouciance", Mirage... for its sense of being both "of the moment but otherworldly", and Stay-Ups for its exploration of a space that "borders on documentary" but also performance art.

Praise was given too to the rest of the films, the programme of those not mentioned described variously as "outstanding, rigorous, and super-curated."

They all agreed on winner by which they were "unanimously affected", a film described as "languid, laconic", giving space to "float, flow, contemplate", managing to be "self-assured and spontaneous" as it explored "internal and external travelogues" - for Strange Says The Angel director Shalimar Preuss could not be present - two weeks from due, heavily pregnant, she appeared by video message in the company of an incurious collie, who was not the evening's only animal companion.

The self-described "hairy jury", made special mention of Tony & The Bull, describing it as "unusual and moving". They identified it as "the hairiest film of the festival". This honourable mention, however, was still second to the winner of the Scottish Award. The jury described it as a film that "just sort of 'got [them]'", claiming it as part of a rich tradition of work with the moving image. Having said it was "the right order" to award the national prize after the international, they named Salt & Sauce as recipient. Discussing the way in which its "small and unique universe" created a "framework for artistic ambitions" they were effusive in praise for a film that "surprise[d] with humane and empathetic sensibility", making special mention of it as "light-hearted" and the way that it mixed stylisation and sincerity.

The International Audience award went to a film that the GSFF team had really loved, Niki Lindroth Von Bahr's The Burden. A stunning musical number, it went down a treat as the last film of the festival, and it was also one of the first. Screened on the event's opening night, as part of the programme "What Makes A Glasgow Short?", it's a further indicator that GSFF know their audience. Though they're so dedicated that Eye For Film have now attended two events coincident with GSFF team birthdays, it's absolutely the case that they cannot be thanked enough for their efforts. In his closing remarks (bold, exclamation mark), Ronan asked the audience to extol the virtues of short film. While we can't commit to his pyramid-scheme ambitions, we can tell you - short film is the best film, and Glasgow Short Film Festival is undoubtedly one of its best ambassadors. See you next year.

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