Now in its fourth year Derby Film Festival brings together a vibrant programme of independent cinema, talks and special screenings to celebrate independent cinema and film-making, and recognise cinema as an art form beyond the commercial mainstream.
Storge editor Sarah Lay caught up with QUAD CEO and festival director Adam Buss for a quick Q&A
How did Derby Film Festival start? What was the thinking behind it and how was it received in Derby?
At QUAD we are open 363 days a year showing a diverse range of fantastic films from all over the world but still we are unable to show everything we want to due to release schedules and the fact we only have three screens.
We are passionate about the transformative nature of film and how it can give us unique perspectives on life and also how early experiences of diverse films can be a springboard for the career or life choices for young audiences. Creating a festival gave us the chance to have a concentrated period of time where we explored these themes through curated films, submissions from all over the world, special guests and events.
For me the depth of experience we are able to offer during the festival is the key thing, we are never going to attract the thousands that go to the major international festivals but that is not our objective, the key thing is that every event and film has the opportunity to inspire and entertain.
What is your personal relationship with film / film making? How did Derby contribute to that relationship?
Myself and Adam Marsh who co-directs the festival with me are both huge film fans who have studied film and Adam himself is also a screenwriter and film lecturer so our relationship with film exceeds just our roles here at QUAD. We both studied film here at the University of Derby so the city itself gave us the springboard to want to work in the industry as well.
I’m not sure if this is still the case but in 2008 when QUAD opened Derby had the most cinema screens per capita of any city in the country. QUAD built on a legacy of exploring cinema through the work that happened at Metro for 30 or so years before QUAD opened. Metro was ultimately limited by only having one screen and a building which wasn’t fit for purpose so when the chance came to merge with another organisation and source funding to build a new centre, QUAD was built.
Our remit here at QUAD is to explore the world of film, past, present and future so since 2008 there has been a vibrant programme of non-mainstream cinema and one off events in the city.
What have been the highlights of running the festival? Both in terms of audience reaction and your personal highlights.
So many to list but for me the highlights are always the personal reactions we hear from individuals who attend the festival.
Obviously having guests like Sir John Hurt, Sir Ben Kingsley, Brian Blessed and Dame Janet Suzman brings special memories particularly when you can tell how personal their response is and how generous they are in giving up insights into their lives that you wouldn’t gain from simply reading about them.
A personal highlight for me was listening to Phil Davis talk about his experiences of working on Vera Drake and both the insights into the minutiae of Mike Leigh’s directorial approach and also his deep emotional connection with the role he played and how that was clearly still with him.
How do you see film fitting into the cultural landscape of Derby? Is there a lot of independent film making happening in and around Derbyshire?
In some ways I wish we treated film more as artform in the UK rather than just a commercial entity as that is how we see it and how much of our audience does. QUAD is a centre for art, film and digital media and we work closely with our cultural partners to stage many events throughout the year, we see cultural collaboration and cross media exploration as essential in not only developing those individual artforms but also to create the artists of the future across all mediums.
There is a healthy film making community in Derbyshire and we always wanted to celebrate this during Derby Film Festival hence are long term partnership with Five Lamps Films (a regular event that happens at QUAD where local film makers show there films for the first time on the big screen and network with each other) to ensure that local film makers got the best opportunity to gain from the events and films we screen.
You’ll be paying tribute to Sir John Hurt as part of this year’s festival, as a patron of Quad what did he bring to the venue and in what ways did he support film in Derby?
We were all greatly saddened to hear of Sir John’s passing, he was a dear friend to the organisation and someone who had been our patron since we opened. John’s first cinema experience was in Derby when he was growing up in the county and so he always wanted to ensure that every young person growing up today had the chance to have brilliant experiences here at QUAD. He visited us on a number of occasions and every time he was incredibly generous with his time and many of our visitors got the chance to meet him and talk to him when he was here. His insights in interviews about the nuances of the film industry and the challenges of making it in such a competitive field were invaluable. Our tribute to him is the least we can do and is an important occasion for all of us here who simply want to say ‘thank you’.
What are the future plans for the festival? Is there a particular film or guest you would love to bring to Derby?
Planning discussions about next year are already starting and we will be announcing some interesting changes towards the end of this year. Too many films and guests to mention!
The challenge is always trying to work with guests who are very active in the industry, from a purely personal point of view I would love to welcome Peter Mullan, Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejifor, Sir Ian Mckellan, David Lynch and lots more!!!
Every year we look at our themes that we want to explore and also what changes are happening in the film industry worldwide to see how we can explore these and once again that is what we will be looking to do.
Derby Film Festival continues until 8 May 2017.
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