The Film Festival Doctor (Yes, she’s a real doctor!) Dr. Rebekah Louisa Smith, continues to explore in further detail the on-line film festival debate. She was lucky to interview one of her talented friends and clients the established and successful British film Director Martin Gooch. Below Martin explains how he has been adapting to the CV-19 pandemic and why the on-line film festival model will never replace live film festivals…
- Martin Hi, welcome to The Film Festival Doctor’s blog 🙂 could you kindly tell my reader a little bit about yourself and your filmmaking background?
Hi Rebekah, well we have known each other for a long time now, but I’ve been making films and projects even longer! This is year 26 I think. I started off as a Runner back in 1994, and then got a job on Judge Dredd with Sylvester Stallone and then went on to be a Camera Assistant and Focus Puller for 15 years on many big movies like Harry Potter, James Bond, Goldeneye and even The Muppets, which was an awesome education in film making and I got to travel all over the world. I also worked on a lot of TV like EastEnders, Big Brother and Who Wants to be a Millionaire. I started making short films in 1992 and went on to make loads which led to directing TV for the BBC and then onto 4 indie feature films. I also did a masters degree in my spare time in screenwriting, so lots of work really. I’ve got over 1000 days on set under my belt, I’ve basically spent my whole working life making films and Tv and hope to continue to do so!
- As I type the world has been thrown into a global pandemic and my heart goes out to those who have been infected with CV-19. This has meant that a lot of film festivals have had to move on line – your feature film Atomic Apocalypse screened online at the Garden State Film Festival. What was your experience of this?
Well our film started it’s festival journey at Sitges in Oct 2018 which was fantastic, and then we were off on our festival adventure, going to awesome festivals like World-FestHouston, GenCon, Iowa Indy, Sci-Fi London and Sci-Fi Berlin, and many more all of which we attended. We were lucky not to have released the film this year.
The Garden State film festival would have been our East Coast premiere and we were very excited by that, had booked flights and hotels and spent a lot of time (and money) promoting it, even printing up flyers, so obviously the festival going on line was disappointing as all the bookings and printing were gone and that’s pure lost time and effort. It’s also very difficult to persuade people to watch your film at an online festival. I mean it’s so hard to get people to turn up to anything, even if there is a free bar! Hollywood realise that if they don’t put a famous person in their movie then almost no one will go and see it, so the perils of online festivals are that what is the incentive to get people to watch your film? There is no ‘occasion’ to it. No chance to dress up, get your photo taken or even have a glass of fizz.
Even cast and crew will often only watch a film once and then never again, and you can try to get them to tweet and Facebook stuff which some will do once and then that’s it!
Garden State film festival were very well set up, they were right at the forefront of the lock down: we locked down in the UK on the 23rd of March and Garden State was supposed to start on the 24th of March, so the fact that they saw what was happening and managed to get things set up for online was an incredible feat of technological effort. There was a lot of uploading files late at night and back and forth with the tech team to get it all working, and they were super lovely to deal with.
The film got shown but how many people watched it I have no idea. We did an online Q and A after, just uploaded to Facebook, which was fun as we had one very interested viewer who asked a lot of really good questions, so we were grateful for that.
I have two short films, At the Cheap End (comedy) and A Midwinter Night’s Dream (one-shot short film, fantasy) on the circuit right now and they played at the Oxford Film festival (online) and the Lift Off Genre Festival (online).
- What do you love most about a live film festival and what’s the main thing that’s missing when they move online?
Meeting people. That’s the only reason for me for film festivals. Once your film is made it’s made. There are only two things to do: sell it (distribution) and get the next project going. These can only be achieved by meeting people. Also, I love to meet people and chat about films but also all the other wonderful exciting things that going somewhere new will bring.
I love to travel and when I am at a film festival I’ll always go and check out the other points of interest in the local area. Especially if there is a castle, or strange building, or a beach. That’s all part of it, being inspired for your next project to take place in your brain. I came up for the idea of Atomic Apocalypse whilst at the Santa Barbara Film Festival.
- Do you feel that online film festivals have been a good replacement for live film festivals during the CV19 outbreak?
Well to be honest, I don’t see the attraction. It’s great to get your film out there but if a festival is screening your film online for free and you are not meeting anyone, or going to a great party, then I do kind of wonder what is the point? You might as well have the film on Amazon/Netflix etc and at least you’ll get the tiny bit of money from views.
- Do you think that industry professionals are still paying attention to film festivals and their content as they move online?
I would be surprised if they were. What’s in it for them?
- What are your thoughts on the ‘We Are One Global On-Line Film Festival?’
Isn’t that Netflix? There has to be a benefit to the film maker or they shouldn’t put there film online for free. It seems to me the online film festivals are another way for film makers
especially indie film makers to not get paid for their work.
- I wonder if online film festivals will complement festivals in the future, and that when film festivals run live there will also be an online element as well running alongside it – can you foresee this happening?
The problem with this is that it just means your film is being shown for free online and people will pirate it. if people can get something for free they will. We already have a terrible problem with indie films being pirated, sales agents not paying and the entire industry in it’s death throws and I don’t see how online film festivals actually help the film maker.
- How have you adapted yourself and your filmmaking career around the CV19 pandemic?
Well, it’s very tough to be honest. I have spent six weeks editing my latest feature film, so that is time well spent and also working on the scripts for a couple of new projects. I had an idea for a film that I can shoot at home and remotely, but I have to nail that script first to make sure it’s really good before I start shooting. I fear that we are on the brink of a tidal wave of terrible short films all shot at home under lockdown by people who are just bored out of their minds and time on their hands. There will be some gems, but there will also be a lot of not-gems.
I’ve also finished my second novel so currently reviewing that.
The lockdown is like being stuck in a tunnel, there is light at the end but we don’t know how far away it is, but I want to emerge from the end with a body of good work to show for it, so I have quite a strict time table every day to get things done, get up and get properly prepared every day (no lounging around in pyjamas!) fit in some exercise and a good walk and then just work all day.
I’m probably getting more actual work done per day in terms of hours as I have ‘reclaimed’ my daily commute time and using that time to get stuff done instead. Also, as I don’t have to get up early, I can work all night and it doesn’t matter so much.
I’m very much a night owl.
- What is coming up next for you once we can begin to get back to normal?
My dream is to get back to Directing TV drama again, but how long we are way from the reality of productions continuing successfully I don’t know. The new BFI industry guidelines are very sensible, but impossible for lower budget production to achieve on their budgets, so it’s the end of low budget films and TV for the foreseeable I think sadly, so I will focus on writing, pitching and getting my next tiny epic (in which I do everything) into production: If you can’t go big, go small!
I think for many people this whole experience will be a very real time to reconsider if the randomness and lack of financial security of the film/TV world is the world they want to live in.
But to end on a positive note, there has never been a better time to get that script written, or that novel finished, so take up the pen, or hit the keyboard and write.
Thank you very much Martin for sharing such valuable insight with my reader! Follow Martin on Instagram – @captmart
Coming Next Week: I offer advice with regards to how to not get anxious during the period where you await news and notifications from film festivals and how to instead be abundantly productive during this time.