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How many special prizes do we need at a festival?

Posted: Thu Mar 07, 2013 10:41 pm
by Dave Watterson
We are looking forward to BIAFF, but wondering how much hard work the Sunday show will be. The films are usually impressive, but it is a very long day cooped up in one large cinema with a few hundred people.

Even that is not the problem. David Newman, the Competition Manager, is good at mixing up programmes to give a variety of lengths, themes and intensities in the mini-cinemas on Saturday, but on Sunday he feels compelled to show as many of the major award winning films as possible. These tend to be longer, "heavier" and to offer less comic relief than other shows.

So what if there were not so many special awards?
Do we really need prizes for
  • animation
    story
    photography
    editing
    sound
    acting
    comedy
    one-minute movie
    club film
    youth film
    junior film
I have nothing at all against most of these per se. (My personal view is that an editing award is almost impossible to choose unless you are a full-time editor. It usually goes to showy edits.) But when each of those has to be presented, if possible, on the Sunday show ... are we going too far?

Re: How many special prizes do we need at a festival?

Posted: Fri Mar 08, 2013 12:11 am
by TimStannard
You do ask some difficult questions, Dave! I'd love to postt an opinion, but I've been struggling with this. It's not that I don't have any opinion, I just don't know what it is. Or perhaps I am juggling too many contrary opinions.

I wouldn't like to see any of those awards disappear, they are all "valid" in my opinion. Certain awards (club, youth, junior) encourage participation among certain groups of people. Others (animation, comedy) encourage people to enter films in those categories given that those types of film are unlikely to beat a drama for best film (the same could be said for the documentary award). The other awards - what me might term "skills" awards all, I feel, deserve recognition. (I'm a little unclear about what "Story" is - is it the best plot, the best script or the best telling of the story?)

Having decided to award these prizes I think there are two compelling reasons to show them on the final day.

1. I would imagine any person winning a top award would feel rather aggrieved if their film was not included among the gala presentations.
2. If I know that Fred Ponsenby-Smyth has won an award for best sound, I want to be able to see that film and try to understand why the judges awarded this and hopefully learn something from it.

But Dave, you make a very compelling argument against showing all these film on the same day - they are likely to be heavier and longer (I actually benefitted from this last year, by having one of my own films screened to provide a bit of "light releif" among the heavies).

One solution might be rather than have a gala final day, spread all the award winning films around the different screenings on Saturday and Sunday. But I realise there would be problems inherent in this.

So I'm none the wiser and I'm sure this post has helped no-one.

Re: How many special prizes do we need at a festival?

Posted: Fri Mar 08, 2013 9:55 am
by Mike Shaw
I actually look forward to the Sunday show at BIAFF, and usually enjoy every film shown. They do tend to be the more serious/heavy offerings of the weekend - and like Tim, I have from time to time had my own (lower graded) shorts included for a little light relief. But I see the main stream Sunday show films as something to aspire to. Why so many trophies? Again, I think it gives people something to aspire to - more chances to win or shine. Remember, one doesn't pick a category to enter: the awards are given on merit.

Years ago I belonged to a club that didn't believe in competition at all, and had very few 'awards' for films made by members. In addition to those few awards I introduced 'Certificates of Commendation', and a special 'Awards Evening' where excerpts from the winning films were shown and the awards given out: up to that point the two or three awards available were given out at the end of the Annual show (often to the boredom of the audience who just wanted to get home).

If you could have seen the look of pleasure and surprise in the eyes of people recveiving their first Certificate, you'd appreciate the value they have in encouraging people with their hobby. Of course, BIAFF winners are usually 'hardened and experienced fim-makers' - but the joy on the faces of those who, from seemingly nowhere, have won a top gong with one of their first films, to me makes it all worth while and says - they are all up for grabs, and anyone can do it.

My problem with BIAFF is I find difficulty in selecting which of the mini-theatres I'm going to visit on the Saturday - all too often two films I particularly want to see - either because of the subject or because of the prowess of the maker - are on at the same time. It is inevitable I guess, but for me, a few extra days and fewer cinemas would be an even bigger attraction.

The problem of course is in the interpretation that is often given on the 'star' rating system: I believe it was last year that a small group travelled from Korea (?) because their film had achieved a very high star rating - and they thought it was the overall winner. However, when understood, I do think the star rating is an excellent way to indicate the 'level' of one's effort in the overall scheme of things - independent of all other entries.

I think we have discussed elsewhere the 'award giving ceremonies' - in particular, the inevitable stock shot photo of winner and trophy giver beaming in standard pose at the camera - that to me is the big time waster that slows down the day considerably. Why oh why don't they just give the award, then have one photo session at the end of the day.

I think I've had more than my two-penn'th ...

Re: How many special prizes do we need at a festival?

Posted: Mon Mar 11, 2013 7:51 pm
by Ken Wilson
Well here is a timely posting as last Saturday we were the judges on the 37th Burnley film Festival. I say "we" as this means my wife Carol and myself.
There was the usual mixture of films, some documentaries on specialist subjects, some quirky ones, a few good dramas. The only thing with Burnley is that there are only 3 trophies. These are "Best Film" Best Comedy" and the Sound trophy for "Most imaginative use of..."
The comedy one was introduced several years ago perhaps around the early noughties and I think we were the first to win it and is the one we have won a few times.
Until this was introduced, there were only 2 prizes I believe. As judges, we had a couple of films we would have loved to have rewarded with a special trophy for editing (sorry if you don`t agree on editing awards but I do) and photography. I have made a suggestion that some certificates of merit could be introduced next year perhaps.

I agree with almost all the contributors on here in the sense that a special achievement should be recognised. But I also agree that the Sunday show at BIAFF goes on way too long and the awards at the end make it even longer. Some awards could be given on the Saturday and this would help to stop the one-hit wonders who never have been to BIAFF before and will not come again. They boycott the rest of the weekend and turn up in the last hour to get their prize and leave. Shame on them!

I always like the Saturday shows better as there is a choice, it`s more informal and fun and the Sunday show is often uncomfortable and very hot with worthy serious films screened which are usually very long. Dave has suggested some changes in the past and the format of the weekend needs looking at I think.

But on Burnley, just to say that dear old Ron Challen who was one of the Burnley team for so many years, died a few days ago at the age of 92 (we were told.) I will do a full write up on the festival in the next FVM.

Re: How many special prizes do we need at a festival?

Posted: Mon Mar 11, 2013 10:00 pm
by Michael Slowe
Ken, what's wrong with 'serious, worthy films"? Some of the very best films ever made justify those labels, should they never been shown? Surely the point of BIAFF is to highlight the best films, whatever their genre. If they are boring then they are poor productions and don't deserve either prizes or exhibition.
I agree that presentations slow up the whole show and that some of the category winners don't always justify their inclusion on the Sunday. As for 'one hit wonders', well, if they've made a very good film then they deserve praise, it's irrelevant how many previous prizes they've won.

Re: How many special prizes do we need at a festival?

Posted: Mon Mar 11, 2013 11:19 pm
by Dave Watterson
Forgive a diversion from topic for a moment:

I am very sad to hear that Ron Challen has died. He was a lovely man with an extremely wide range of talents and interests. One of the great travellers he had tales of many countries to share. His wartime work with the Enigma team was the subject of popular lectures and he was the power behind the Burnley Film Festival for decades. He did not let age and increasing infirmity stop him, for example, from attending last year's UNICA in Bulgaria.

Burnley Club, the North-West Region and a great many of us in the hobby will miss him deeply.

Re: How many special prizes do we need at a festival?

Posted: Tue Mar 12, 2013 1:07 pm
by Peter Copestake
I'm slightly surprised that the editing award goes to "showy" edits, Dave. But I expect you don't mean that they show. I hope not. Edits can be clever in that they juxtapose two shots that carry extra meaning when put together but they shouldn't interfere with the progress of the film, should they?

As long as there are prizes for documentary and separately for drama I'm happy. As I keep saying, the two are so different that it's difficult to compare. If you only make films in the one genre (if that's the right use of the word) that's how you want your film to be compared. I was at Burnley FF too and would not have wanted to be in the Wilson's shoes. I think I marked 4 films 9 out of 10.

I'd like to add that they, Ken & Carol, did a good job and didn't say a more technical film was not suitable for a festival. Unless a film is pornographic or gratuitously violent I cannot see that there is such a thing as not suitable.

For BIAFF I'd say the more categories the better but the results are known to the audience aren't they?
Prize giving ceremonies are enjoyable for the recipient but less so for the audience. Couldn't prize winners all receive their awards as quickly as possible and all be congratulated at once? The photo is of less importance.

Re: How many special prizes do we need at a festival?

Posted: Tue Mar 12, 2013 4:23 pm
by Ken Wilson
Hi Michael. I think either you have got me wrong or I expressed it poorly.
Yes the Sunday show is full (usually) of very worthy films and they deserve to be shown. The usual problem is that such films on war, drugs, depression. loss and such like, tend to be the award winners and are then placed within the top awards show on Sunday. Most of them also tend to be longer than many others over the weekend.
Competition managers have tried to break up the mood with short 4 star comedies to help the mix. But the one large room is full of people, hot, uncomfortable and with heads bobbing around trying to see subtitles etc. Others have said the same thing. These are the reasons why I enjoy/ prefer the Saturday shows.

A number of times film makers including yourself, have sent me some films to view at home and as such in the comfort of our own lounge I do enjoy them very much more. The discomfort factor is a big issue for me. Also the stuffyness and the high risk of bugs being passed around.
I was very ill with a vomitting bug from one of the BIAFF Sunday shows at Harrogate a few years ago. I was supposed to go to work on Sunday night but was so sick I had to ring in and was off for a whole week. So all in all, the Sunday shows are not my favourites.

The issue with the one hit wonders doesn`t mean they are also not worthy winners and deserve their places on the podium to get an award. But what irritates me is the arrival of groups of people in the last interval break on the Sunday to get their award. Most of us have supported the IAC events for very many years with entering our films and attending the festivals. We have been to them all since we joined the IAC in 1994 except for last year at Weymouth when we had a wedding. But it seems like such people think: "We`ve come for our award thank you very much. A nice addition to our CV, but we can`t be bothered watching anyone else`s films." That`s how it reads to me.

Thanks to Peter for your kind comments about the Burnley judging. I have decided to do my next article for FVM on the festival as we have been to that event many times over the past 12 or 13 years and it`s worth a promotion for them and as a tribute to Ron Challen.

Re: How many special prizes do we need at a festival?

Posted: Wed Mar 13, 2013 12:14 am
by Willy
"We've come for our award thank you very much. A nice addition to our CV, but we can't be bothered watching anyone else's films. That's how it reads to me. That's how it reads to me, too, Ken. You are right. Sometimes I take the opportunity to visit an area of outstanding beauty like the Yorkshire Dales (Harrogate) and the Peak District (Chesterfield), but having the possibilty to watch so many films ... that's fantastic... and having a nice chat with old and new friends during the breaks and at the bar. BIAFF is unique. Perhaps many IAC-friends don't realize it.

I am not against many awards. There should also be one for "best humour". I remember "The Party" shown at Royal Tunbridge Wells some years ago... Oh, dear. My brother who was with me still talks about it.

However, it must be difficult to make a programme for the winners' show. It's a pity that the filmmakers are not always present. The presentation of some awards could also be done on Saturday as someone said.

About Ron Challen of the Burnley Movie Makers: I had a chat with him at BIAFF in Weymouth last year. I think he passed away at the age of 94. One of my English friends, who is very interested in the history of WWII wrote a message to me saying about Ron: " He had led a clandestine life during the war. It's such an interesting story that it would take me days to tell you about it. He kept his past secret until three years, and he revealed that besides being an M16 agent, he had also worked on General Eisenhower's staff as well." My friend attended Ron's funeral. I am looking forward to reading your article in Film and Video Magazine, Ken. All your articles are interesting. Congratulations!

General Eisenhower... Before filmmaking one of my hobbies was collecting autographed photographs of Presidents, Prime Ministers, etc. I have Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton, etc... Also Ted Kennedy who did not become a president. But also Harold Wilson, Macmillan, Edward Heath, Margaret Thatcher, James Callaghan, etc... An impressive collection. Willy Brandt even wrote a short letter to me. But now I am not talking about filmmaking. Sorry.

Re: How many special prizes do we need at a festival?

Posted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 9:50 am
by fraught
Getting back to the topic, i think the Special Awards are a must. Sometimes, a 4 or 5 star award doesn't do certain aspects of the film enough justice.

I remember.... back in 1993 i think it was... i won the first (and last) 'Best Youth Action Movie of the Year' Award... still treasure that one. :)

Re: How many special prizes do we need at a festival?

Posted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 1:47 pm
by John Roberts
Sometimes more awards can stimulate activity and almost 'refresh' a festival or competition.

The venerable annual inter-club 'South Yorkshire Amateur Film Competition' had since it's inception more than 50 years ago the single award - the 'winning' film walked away with the shield on behalf of their club, everyone else walked out with nothing. Last year one of Sheffield Movie Maker's more forthright members managed to get the participating clubs to agree to additional awards. The competition rule (which was not changed) allows a programme of films from each club of up to 20 minutes; there could be any number of films within that time span, of any subject matter. But what appeared to be happening was this: 'clubs' would enter their best film as part of the 20 minute programme for their chance of winning, and not really care too much about the remainder of the programme. So audiences often found themselves sitting through a fantastic 5 or 10 minutes, and 10 or 15 minutes of 'filler.' Multiply this by a potential five times (five clubs are currently active in the competition) and the seeds for a very long night were sown...

So - the 'extra awards' idea was accepted. In addition to the coveted shield for best film, there is now an award for 'highly commended' or runner-up (giving the clubs a second chance at an award) as well as an award for 'best club programme' which was designed to reduce the possibility of 'one killer, three filler' programmes from clubs. Sheffield Movie Makers also brought in the idea of a judge from 'outside the area' of any of the clubs (so the chances of the judge having seen the films before in any other inter-club competitions would be reduced) as well as pre-judging by submitting the films to the independent judge one week before the competition as opposed to judging on the night (which must've been an absolute terror of a job!)

In my opinion the standard of films presented on the night has gone up and there is certainly less 'filler' than before. Clubs feel 'refreshed' and possibly a little less under pressure or disheartened because they now have three chances of walking away with a prize instead of just one, and attendance figures remain healthy and are on the increase.

Sorry if it's slightly off-topic, but I think if the number of awards is in keeping with the status of the competition then that must surely be right. All that remains is to decide what is the correct number :lol:

Re: How many special prizes do we need at a festival?

Posted: Mon Apr 08, 2013 2:53 pm
by Ken Wilson
I have mentioned in another posting, that Carol and I judged the Burnley Film competition a few weeks ago. We had 3 awards to give away, but these are very specific.
There is the trophy for BEST FILM which is self explanatory. The others are BEST COMEDY and MOST IMAGINATIVE USE OF SOUND. It quickly becomes obvious that there are many films which don`t qualify as comedies and also don`t have anything particulary special about sound, so once the BEST FILM is chosen, there are limited options. As such I suggested a couple of extra "certificates" which could be non-specific and could reward ANY special achievement in any other area. I have been told that this idea is being considered for next year. It is more flexible and costs next to nothing.

This is the case already for the SAM (Scottish Amateur Moviemakers) competition which we have just returned from today, held in Perth. Unlike Burnley who like the judges to do it "live", we had the films sent to us beforehand to judge at home on tape or DVD. We then travelled north to deliver our verdicts. The films were all screened of course, before our comments were given.

We had to choose the first and second placings and had the option of up to 3 further certificates to give if merited. This did make it much fairer rewarding several movies for certain achievements.

Can I just add that once again the members of SAM are brilliant hosts, extremely friendly and generous in their hospitality and looked after the both of us like Royalty, so a huge thank you to them all.

I suppose you are wondering what won the competition? It was "The Prophecy" by XDL. Congratulations to them too.