It was a bit daunting to see the calendar change on the front of the 72 website. Whilst we are getting well prepared, there is still a lot to do. More worryingly, there is a lot of different stuff to do, that we’ve never encountered before.
One example of this is the audience building. In previous years the festival has developed the audience and we’ve tapped into it. I’ve mentioned this before, but one element that I haven’t discussed is the foreign factor. Where we gain a home advantage by filming in locations that we are familiar with, we don’t come into the city with the curious appeal of the new kid at school. I believe we really benefitted from the foreign factor in Galway and Melbourne; we came with no histories, the invitation from the festival was our only endorsement that we were legitimate. But that arrival, that newness, is a strange advantage. People are keen to help you out, forgive you for mistakes and get involved with no fear of you coming back for more. It is a cut and dry relationship, as we’ll get back on the plane soon.
The majority of the crew has always been local, and the driving force behind the projects. Perhaps their desire to be involved comes from something that I can never really be associated with; we were fashionable. We were the flavor of the month, and when that is combined with the infinitely fashionable locals like Paris Thomson in Melbourne, people start to take note. It is a further endorsement.
Birmingham has a very unique filmmaking community that is quite disparate; they are all very different and have no real commonality that warrants comparison. There certainly isn’t a big feature film community. There is also tall-poppy syndrome, which is a classic British trait that I think we would encounter in any city, particularly outside of London.
I can give you an example. I recently met with an old colleague who questioned why we were promoting the 72-hour filmmaking ethos. He hadn’t come to any presentations, hadn’t asked me any questions, hadn’t read any of the website, he had just arrived at the sentiment on the basis that the title and the premise didn’t appeal to his taste. Despite his fundamental misunderstanding of what we were actually doing, I’m guessing that he isn’t going to change his mind in time for next July to come and see the movie. We will never be more than a gimmick to these people, and we will be spoken of disparagingly in their circles purely because they hate the transience of fashionable things.
So we have a new dynamic. Whereas the fashionable image worked in Galway or Melbourne, in Birmingham we have to represent more than a transient experience. As a community, we are sick of the transient organisations that popped up to foster a culture but left no legacy. There has to be more substance, more of a clear idea of what will follow. Something that says that the process doesn’t end in the cinema with our film, it starts in the cinema with our film, and then great things will follow for us all.
Our challenge is how we develop that and how we communicate it. We are up for that challenge.