Films in London this week: THE BUZZER at Walthamstow Smartphone Film Festival (23 NOV).

INTERVIEW: Walthamstow Smartphone Film Festival [23 NOV 2018]

Documentary specialists Last Frame Club are hosting their first Smartphone Film Festival in Walthamstow this Friday (23 NOV 18:00). RADIANT CIRCUS chatted with co-director Vera Hems Anderson about new adventures in handheld movie making.

WHAT IT FEELS LIKE at Walthamstow Smartphone Film Festival (23 NOV).
WHAT IT FEELS LIKE at Walthamstow Smartphone Film Festival (23 NOV).

[RADIANT CIRCUS]: How has the smartphone festival come about?

[Vera Hems Anderson]: It is part of a larger project called Last Frame Club, which started in the borough of Waltham Forest back in April. Our aim is to provide affordable filmmaking workshops and screen films, predominantly documentary, from and about underrepresented people. The festival will be a night of screenings, discussion panels and networking to encourage those already working in film and those just starting out to come together to appreciate digital storytelling and help make filmmaking more accessible.

[RADIANT CIRCUS]: With ever more powerful smartphones in our pockets, is mobile documentary making breaking new boundaries?

[Vera Hems Anderson]: We think so, yes. We were somewhat inspired by our friends at Rainbow Collective to look into smartphone filmmaking. They’ve worked across the globe working with people on limited budgets and affordable equipment. Most recently they’ve been doing a lot of work with The Ledbury Action Group and The Grenfell Action Group. We saw that they were attending protests and speaking with locals and by using low key equipment, they were able to get interviews and footage online quickly. They are still there long after the major news channels have lost interest. People are still homeless and no answers have been provided but smartphones and social media have allowed people to keep telling this story and exposing news as it happens. Access to equipment like a smartphone also means the right people can be the ones telling the stories. We’re not only reliant on reporters or tv studios to do it for us anymore.

[RADIANT CIRCUS]: Does the use of a smartphone result in new form / genre or, as David Hockney insists of the iPad, is the tech just a tool?

[Vera Hems Anderson]: This is an interesting question. We actually have one film we’re screening that could be very much the result of a smartphone genre film, if there is such a thing… The entire film consists of a text message conversation and is a thriller in style and story. It’s interesting how this film still grabs your attention and has you on the edge of your seat in suspense but essentially there is no change in visual, you are literally watching a back and forth text message conversation. We had quite a few horror submissions and I think the style lends itself well to that genre as it’s so relatable. The audience are thinking ‘this could be me’ – much like how the ‘found footage’ approach using low cost camcorders lent itself to the genre in the late 90’s/early 00’s with films like THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, CLOVERFIELD and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. So, I’m not sure if it’s creating a new genre as such but it most definitely is creating new styles within the genres and is pushing filmmakers to use new techniques.

[RADIANT CIRCUS]: What does all this mean for audiences?

[Vera Hems Anderson]: Audiences are getting harder to fool, for sure. Audiences are more tech savvy and are less forgiving. I don’t think this is a bad thing though – it’s pushing filmmakers to try new approaches, use new equipment and create new stories. New tech and new platforms have opened documentary up to audiences who would have likely avoided it in the past. If you look at the success of series like MAKING A MURDERER on Netflix, this is largely down to accessibility – Netflix is really an affordable and constantly changing modern day video shop (I’m not saying I don’t want Blockbuster back, we all do…) but this makes for quite an exciting time for a genre like documentary.

[RADIANT CIRCUS]: What kind of delights can audiences expect at the festival?

[Vera Hems Anderson]: You’ll get to see some docs from local filmmakers with no prior filmmaking experience. They were given the task of shooting a short doc on women within their community. They had their smartphones and 3 weeks to this, so we hope the results encourage curious audience members to get out there and have a go themselves. There’s some great examples of genre filmmaking – horror, comedy, thriller etc and filmmakers that are really pushing themselves to produce great storytelling on a budget.

[RADIANT CIRCUS]: You regularly screen great documentaries in Walthamstow. What’s coming next?

[Vera Hems Anderson]: Our next event will be a great screening of the award winning doc TELL SPRING NOT TO COME THIS YEAR followed by a masterclass with the director, Saeed Taji Farouky. After this, we’ll be taking a small break until the New Year then, fingers crossed, we’ll have more on offer! The workshops and screenings have been hugely well received and we’re starting to see regular faces attending the events. Building an audience takes time but there’s clearly a need for new things in Waltham Forest so we hope to continue.

… and that’s the meat of it.

BUBBLES at Walthamstow Smartphone Film Festival (23 NOV).
BUBBLES at Walthamstow Smartphone Film Festival (23 NOV).


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