FANS Youth Film Festival isn’t the most high-profile festival on the scene but it’s an important gig for young filmmakers in Scotland. The festival is designed and delivered by a group of 17- to 22-year-olds, with help and funding from Film Access Scotland.
Young filmmakers and the Scottish film industry are somewhat of a minority focus in the film world, which is why this festival is of particular importance. This year FANS ran a program of shorts entitled ‘Girl Power’ which showcased six films by female filmmakers or featuring strong female leads.
So what stories did Scottish, young, female filmmakers choose to tell?
You can separate the films into two camps: the films which focused on story and the films which let narrative fall by the wayside. Those in the first camp were all longer, script-dependent and had a bigger cast than the films in the second camp; they are ambitious projects, but if well executed can be very impressive.
The longest film at 13 minutes was MILESTONES created by FYI (Fun Young Individuals), a youth organisation in Perth which supports care experienced young people. Milestones was perhaps the most ambitious in terms of cast and storyline. Two girls, born in the same hospital, grow up through school, university and eventually land their first job; one of them grew up in a typical family environment and the other grew up in foster care. We see each story unfurl literally side-by-side, the screen being split in two and the two stories happening simultaneously. As can be expected with such an ambitious project there are both technical and creative flaws, but in the Q&A after, members of FYI spoke about what a profitable experience making the film had been; so who cares if it’s a masterpiece or not?
GRACE by Alex Cormac also featured an ambitious storyline, about a barmaid and amateur photographer who had become a victim of domestic abuse. There was some beautiful camerawork, especially considering the film was shot predominantly in the dark and involved a lot of action. Unfortunately, it was a very script-heavy storyline and although the acting was, on the whole, pretty good, some lines felt quite forced.
The last film in this camp is BOX OF FROGS by Louis Martin and was the most successful in telling a story. BOX OF FROGS is about an aspiring writer trying to get a job at a publishing house named ‘Pidgin’, where her favourite author works. With strong AMÉLIE overtones, the story is built from the bottom up, introducing the character, then understanding the context and finally reaching the present situation. It’s also left on a cliff-hanger. BOX OF FROGS is quirky and different and shows just how successful youth film can be.
The second camp of films are less conventional and more artistic than the first; they demonstrate what an individual filmmaker can achieve with limited resources and so are crucial in a festival wishing to encourage and promote young filmmaking.
FINAL CUT by Fiona Burton matched artistic visuals to spoken word poetry. The highly personal film was about the filmmaker cutting her hair and feeling its absence, the poem expressed the change she felt in her personality and the images complimented the personal tone of the film.
NICE BUT WITH A WARM BREEZE by Johanne Deffarges was the shortest film in the program at only 30 seconds. The simplistic, animated film captured a very precise and universal moment – diving into water – in two shots. It reminded me of a short story writing exercise where you are challenged to write a story with a beginning, middle and end, in only three sentences.
MOON GIRL by Delilah Niel is about a girl who wishes to travel to the moon, she climbs into the sky on a rope and finds herself amongst the stars. The film is very creative in avoiding the things which seem impossible for zero budget filmmaking, the moon and stars are a combination of paper and VFX. When the girl climbs to the moon, Niel turns the shot on its end to make it seem as though the girl is climbing vertically rather than walking horizontally. These little creative loop holes are endearing and really make the film stand out.
MOON GIRL, FINAL CUT and NICE BUT WITH A WARM BREEZE were the only films in the program which were masterminded entirely by women. Although BOX OF FROGS won the prize of Best Film in the FANS festival’s overall shorts program, it is ironic that on the website it didn’t even credit the female lead.
Amended November 24th, 2018 to reflect BOX OF FROGS victory was across all eligible shorts strands, not only ‘Girl Power’.