Have travel movies ever won festivals ?

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Willy
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Have travel movies ever won festivals ?

Post by Willy » Fri Jun 03, 2011 3:34 pm

I remember that we already had a discussion about travel movies some time ago, but why not talking about it again. I have my reasons. In the beginning of this century I made films about Scotland (gold seal), Ireland (diamond), Brittanny (diamond), the Cotswold (gold), Guernsey (together with my Guernsey friends Mary and Peter)(3stars).

Originality
My earliest films scored best, maybe the standard has gone up in the mean time. Not only in Britain, but also on the continent the judges and audience said that my Cotswolds film was a special one. It was a dramatized travel story. A man in a vintage car, accompanied by his dog Yoda, shows the most beuatiful places. The film has 4 or 5 chapters : the history, life in the villages, special events, etc... I received special awards for originality. I tried this style again together with Guernsey friend Peter Rouillard. A fine mixture of a love story in a travel movie they said on the Continent. At BIAFF the film was not so successful, also because it was not shown in ideal circumstances on a TV-screen. The apologies were accepted.

Some months ago my new Yorkshire film didn't do quite well on the continent. My fiction film "Bakri" and my documentary "I am who I am" (also BIAFF-entries) scored much better. One of the judges said : "We have already seen such a similar film made by that man ! He meant the film about Guernsey. So he referred to my previous film. In his opinion I used the same style.

Now I wonder ... what do I have to do to make a travel movie that is entertaining at festivals? How can I make a travel movie that is not boring? Who could give me some suggestions ?

OK, people say about my film : "Here is a movie that makes the viewer want to book the next flight!". This gives a good feeling, but I must also accept that my ambition must be limited when taking part at festivals. I also wonder if it is not better not enter a festival every year.
Willy Van der Linden

Michael Slowe
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Re: Have travel movies ever won festivals ?

Post by Michael Slowe » Fri Jun 03, 2011 9:21 pm

Willy,it's not the genre that makes a good film but the treatment within that genre. Some travel films can be terrific but there has to be more than "This is the island of somewhere, the mountains are 50 million years old and farming is the main occupation....." You know what I mean. We have all seen travelogues on TV, that's the problem, and very good many of them are, but they're not special and prize winning films have to be special.

There has to be a story. A particular aspect of the place can be explored and explained, a particularly interesting or eccentric character can be featured, a spectacular event can be covered. Do you remember the 'orange festival' that was the mainstay of a successful film at BIAFF a few years ago? You can't make a successful film working to a formula, it has to come from the imagination. I have the same problem as do all film makers working out how to make that 'special' film. Sometimes we manage it, sometimes (many times) we fail. It's no good asking others for help or even advice, it comes from the heart - your heart.

Michael Slowe
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Re: Have travel movies ever won festivals ?

Post by Michael Slowe » Fri Jun 03, 2011 9:21 pm

Willy,it's not the genre that makes a good film but the treatment within that genre. Some travel films can be terrific but there has to be more than "This is the island of somewhere, the mountains are 50 million years old and farming is the main occupation....." You know what I mean. We have all seen travelogues on TV, that's the problem, and very good many of them are, but they're not special and prize winning films have to be special.

There has to be a story. A particular aspect of the place can be explored and explained, a particularly interesting or eccentric character can be featured, a spectacular event can be covered. Do you remember the 'orange festival' that was the mainstay of a successful film at BIAFF a few years ago? You can't make a successful film working to a formula, it has to come from the imagination. I have the same problem as do all film makers working out how to make that 'special' film. Sometimes we manage it, sometimes (many times) we fail. It's no good asking others for help or even advice, it comes from the heart - your heart.

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Michael Gough
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Re: Have travel movies ever won festivals ?

Post by Michael Gough » Tue Jun 07, 2011 8:43 pm

Willy's question about travel films reminds me of a kind of intellectual snobbery that has been around for decades. Taking pictures "on holiday" has been enjoyed by family photographers ever since cameras were invented. However boring the neighbours with them has been the butt of many jokes. Only last week I saw a repeat of a 1960s "Terry and June" sit com in which the whole joke revolved around the neighbours coming round with hours of silent unedited 8mm. holiday film.

Success comes from exciting our audiences’ interest. The problem is that easier travel for everybody makes it harder to find an original focus for our travel films about familiar destinations. As Michael so rightly says we have to find the story and the focus that will make our film “special”

Willy is seeking the same solution as many of us. It certainly seems to be getting much harder to win a top award with a travel documentary but videomakers such as Jean-Pierre Hue and Guido Haesen show that it is still possible if you can find the right subject. However even if we don't win the top prizes we can still seek personal satisfaction in making a well made, entertaining, film that still has audience appeal. I have never seen a bad film by Willy even if he is disappointed by the lower competition awards that he has got recently.

Unfortunately even in our exalted company there are those who reject the serious intent of a travel documentary because of the humble origins of the holiday on which it was shot. I heard a BIAFF “Best Documentary “ travelogue dismissed as being “nothing more than a holiday film”. This is a very amateur related criticism. I can't imagine a TV documentary about Blackpool beach ever being derided as being "just a holiday film"

So let's believe that a documentary about a place is as valid a subject as any other documentary. Lets continue to seek inspiration on our travels. Let's seek out the cultural differences that enlighten our knowledge of the world. Let's look for the dramatic event, the fascinating story, and the people that define the individuality of the place. Especially let’s look hard for that “special award winning” focus and if we are lucky let's hope we recognise it and have the skill to make the most of it. Finally let's work hard to edit those experiences in ways that will hold the attention of our audiences.

But if it is harder to get a Five Star Award let's be satisfied that we can still make an entertaining film. I think it will be many years before Willy need worry about the lack of appreciative audiences.

ned c
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Re: Have travel movies ever won festivals ?

Post by ned c » Wed Jun 08, 2011 10:50 am

Yes; Travel Films can and do win both prizes and respect. Willy, 'Travels with Yoda' was a worthy winner; it fullfilled a very real filmic need; a well structured; central theme. In this case a man,a dog and a car tour an area linking the sights and providing the backbone of the film. The man spoke to camera easily and informally; your photography was superb the editing excellent. It was a winner at AMPS and one of our judges visited the Cotswolds on your recommendation. I think the basic need is to recognise the importance of people; places provide the essential background but people are much more interesting and bring things to life. It can be either the people on holiday or the local people but remove the people and you have a collection of brochures.

Another point; voice over/narration is very difficult to do well; many professionals have a hard time doing it so seek out someone who can do it or use the voices of the participants.

ned c

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Willy
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Re: Have travel movies ever won festivals ?

Post by Willy » Sat Jun 11, 2011 7:55 pm

Many thanks for your replies dear friends. Of course I am very happy with my festival results of the last ten years. I was only terribly irritated when one of the judges at our regional competition in Belgium said : "We have already seen such a film made by that man!" He referred to "Guernsey, I Love You", made by Peter Rouillard and me. Yes, my film "Together with Yoda" was successful at AMPS, Ned. It was second and won the award for "best travel movie". My documentaries "Breendonk" and "Will 'Ye Go to Flanders" even won the first prize. I am very proud.

Nothing more than a holiday film
Indeed, Michael Gough, success comes from exciting our audiences' interest and I always try to avoid that the audience say that my travelogue is "nothing more than an holiday film". I can find personal satisfaction in my travel movies. That's the most important thing, but I also try to create satisfaction in the hearts of the viewers.

Polar bears and Oranges
Actually both Michaels have given us excellent inspiration by referring to excellent filmmakers like Guido Haesen and Jean-Pierre Hué. For instance I remember Guido's film about polar bears "A Vanishing Wilderness". It was not the overall winner of a festival I think, but it won special awards like 'best photography' at Guernsey. And you are right, Michael Slowe, I remember the "Battle of the Oranges" made my Bernard Hausberger. We miss him enormously, don't we ? Both examples mean that there has to be a story in the film, even in a travel movie just like in "Vanishing Wilderness" and that we must try to seek out the cultural differences that enlighten the differences like in "Battle of the Oranges".

Commisioned by the British Tourist Board
After having made some travel movies I have the feeling that it is better not to give the wrong impression that we make travelogues commisioned by the British Tourist Board for instance and only to encourage people to visit these places. I was impressed by the polar bear film, but I am not eager to visit the North Pole and I don't want to risk my life in the "Battle of the Oranges".

A film about the cheese rolling competition
Thinking about my Cotswolds film I could have made a documentary about the "cheese rolling competition" for instance, a very spectacular event that takes/took place every year and that attracts/attracted thousands of tourists. I could have interviewed one of those mad young men that tried to catch the cheese. Actually I met one of them. He was the boss of a restaurant in a Cotswolds village ("The Plough Inn" at Ford) and I had a chat with him, but I never filmed him. Stupid of me. The year after his victory he was seriously injured and taken to hospital. I could still see a scar in his face. Actually, at that time I missed the chance to create a fascinating film story. I could also have made a film about that the football match in that shallow river running through Bourton-on-the Water. Maybe, it's time to go back !

From your heart
After all I don't think that it is possible to win a national or international festival by making a stereotype or "cliche-ridden" travel movie. You are right, Michael Slowe, you must make films that come from your heart. Thanks to my films "Breizh" (Brittany) , "Guernsey" (together with Peter), "An Irish Moment" etc... I know these places much better. I am interested in history, in British areas of outstanding beautiy etc... I can find enormous personal satisfaction in them.
Willy Van der Linden

ned c
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Re: Have travel movies ever won festivals ?

Post by ned c » Mon Jun 13, 2011 8:48 am

A further thought about travel films. With the explosion of travel to the Antarctic we have received many entries at AMPS shot in this extraordinary area. However, there can only be so many shots of penguins, seals, birds before the sunject is exhausted. What about those people in the Zodiacs, why are they there; what do they expect; what is life like aboard the ship; the crew; the lecturers? It's all about story telling!!
ned c

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