Clermont-Ferrand 2018: Day 3

Cathedral, Clermont-Ferrand

Director of Programming James McNally is attending this year’s Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival from February 1st to February 8th

I had modest ambitions for today that became even more modest after I woke up at 3:30am and couldn’t fall back asleep until after 7:30am. Eventually, I woke towards noon! All I wanted to do today was get some time at the video library so I could watch individual films and I was able to book two hours from 1:30-3:30pm where I watched a bunch of stuff. The best was Fry Day, a coming-of-age story set on the eve of Ted Bundy’s execution. This female-directed film had a lot to say about the victimization of women, even when it’s not at the hands of a serial killer. I was also delighted to discover that the score was by my friend Ariel Marx, who seems busier than ever these days.

After that it was a quick late lunch at fast food chain Quick (I recommend the “Long Bacon” sandwich) and then home for a quick refresh which of course included a nap, although I kept it to 40 minutes this time. Then it was out to socialize at the Swiss Cocktails at the Hotel Olympia, near the Maison de la Culture. There was a significant queue and I didn’t get in until after 6:30pm, and then didn’t recognize anyone in the crowded room. My least favourite scenario. Luckily, I knew that Gina from Show Me Shorts was coming, and I’d also arranged to meet up with Eibh Collins (of the Galway Film Fleadh, Indie Cork, and more). Even luckier, before that Sven Schwartz (from the Hamburg Short Film Festival and A Wall is a Screen) recognized me and we chatted for a while. He slipped me an invite to the German party which is happening tomorrow night, too. I lost track of Gina quite quickly, but Eibh was lovely and we talked about my upcoming Irish shorts screening, Cork, ADIFF, and more. She also introduced me to Una Feely and James Mulvey from Indie Cork. I also got to meet Sebastian Simon from the Busan International Short Film Festival in Korea. He’s a filmmaker as well as a programmer, and he recognized our logo and said he submitted (unsuccessfully) a few years ago!

I also ran into Jason Anderson from TIFF, and it was nice to chat with him a bit. It’s strange how it’s often easier to meet someone you know locally when you’re both far from home. After a couple of hours, I was tired and decided to leave. On my way out, Ben Bekke Vandendaele recognized me. He’s the co-producer on Deer Boy, by my friend Katarzyna Gondek, and we met just a few weeks ago at Sundance. He also heads up Radiator Sales, so I should talk to him about submitting some films for our festival this year. And then one of the Swiss Films women who were hosting the event introduced herself to me. Aida Suljicic is the Head of Programmes, and I plan to meet up with her again one day this week in the short film market.

So although I felt like my usual introverted self, reading this back I didn’t actually do too poorly. I’ve made a few connections that I can take into tomorrow and the rest of the week. Although I left the party alone and without plans for the rest of the night, I feel pretty good. I can always use more rest.

By the way, I spotted my elusive mentor Danny Lennon on his way into the party but then couldn’t find him later. I’m sure once I find him, he’ll help me kick up the socializing into another gear, but I’m happy to be home writing this blog entry before 10:00pm.

Clermont-Ferrand 2018: Day 2

Crowds at Clermont-Ferrand 2018

Director of Programming James McNally is attending this year’s Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival from February 1st to February 8th

My plan today seemed reasonable: I’d see three back to back programmes in the same cinema. I was up in plenty of time to get to the Salle Vian (the smaller of the two cinemas at the Maison de la Culture) by 11:00am for I5 (International Competition 5). All the films were quite strong, but the highlight for me was probably Miss Wamba, a stylish film from Spain about unexpected connection at a funeral parlour.

Miss Wamba (Still)

I was able to exit and come back in for the next screening, L1 (Lab Competition 1), another strong lineup with the standout being Proch (Dust), an absolutely devastating Polish documentary about the journey of the body and personal belongings of a recently deceased person, apparently without family or friends.

My plan was to exit and re-enter for I6, but by the time I got out, the line for the cinema was overwhelming, spilling far out into the lobby. I decided I could see the whole programme another time, or just watch the films in the viewing library.

I got a good start on distributing the Shorts That Are Not Pants bookmarks I had made. I’m hoping to attract some filmmaker submissions from people visiting or showing films here.

Then I headed home for another 40 minute nap that turned into a two hour nap. Earlier on, I’d messaged with Gina Dellabarca, director of the Show Me Shorts Festival in New Zealand, and we arranged to meet up at 7:00pm for dinner. Gina was one of the first people I met here back in 2014 and it was really nice to reconnect. We ate delicious gallettes and washed them down with cider at Le 1513, a restaurant housed in a 500 year old building. Their web site looks nearly as old. 🙂

After that, we walked down toward the Maison de la Culture again so I could pop in to L’Univers, a brasserie that’s open late that seems to be the go-to spot for festival insiders. Danny Lennon of Prends ça court! had mentioned we should meet up for a drink there sometime today, so I thought I’d see if he was there. Coming up empty, I just walked home and was back by 9:30pm. Hope to connect with him and a few others tomorrow, and figure out the video library, too.

Clermont-Ferrand 2018: Day 1

Opening Night at Clermont-Ferrand 2018

Director of Programming James McNally is attending this year’s Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival from February 1st to February 8th

Jet lag was still a factor today, as I woke up initially at 5:00am and then ultimately slept until 11:30am! There wasn’t much on the agenda today except to pick up my accreditation and the office didn’t open up until 2:00pm. So I wandered up the familiar Rue de la Treille and found my old spot Le menhir, where I stopped in for a lunch of a gallette called “Le poulet grand-pere” which was filled with chicken, potatoes, and mushrooms. Delicious!

I got to the Maison de la Culture around 2:30pm and had a good hour’s wait in line to pick up my pass, catalogue, and shoulder bag. A sense of familiarity was welcome as I found my way to the right place. I also picked up a ticket for tonight’s opening presentation at 8:00pm.

After a quick browse at FNAC on the way home (no, I didn’t buy any more DVDs!), I returned to my room and quickly fell asleep. A planned 40 minute nap turned into two hours (again) and when I woke up, I only had a few minutes to get ready to head back down to the Maison de la Culture.

I had a very good seat near the front, and after I picked up my headphones for English translation, I settled into my seat. There were a few speeches, but not many, and it was mostly about introducing the various juries and programmes for the week. It was all interspersed with a selection of older short films, which I assume have played here in the past. The festival is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, which is a remarkable accomplishment, and it was inspiring to hear Antoine Lopez, one of the co-founders, still speaking passionately about how the festival was founded to defend short film as a valuable art form. He has grown the festival from 1,200 visitors in its first edition in 1979 to more than 160,000 visitors last year. It’s always inspiring to hear numbers like that, and to look around the Salle Jean Cocteau to see 1,400 people who love to watch shorts.

Having neglected to eat dinner, I was feeling a bit hungry on my way home. What a surprise then that my hostess, Delphine, had left me a lovely note telling me that she had made crepes and that there were two waiting for me in the fridge. She has been so kind and generous to me; last night she left a note on the door for her children telling them I’d had a long flight and not to make too much noise.

Well, tomorrow is the first full day of screenings, so I’d better crack open the massive catalogue and start making a schedule. One of the themes this year is gastronomy, so it’s not too inappropriate for me to talk about a feast of short films. Now to go and look at the menu! 🙂

Clermont-Ferrand 2018: Before I Go

Festival de court metrage Clermont-Ferrand 2018

Director of Programming James McNally is attending this year’s Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival from February 1st to February 8th

Well, technically, I’m here already, but the festival doesn’t begin until tomorrow. I arrived around 2:00pm this afternoon after a nearly 24-hour travel odyssey (or more accurately, ordeal) that involved three flights and lots of dragging my luggage to distant terminals. I’d spent the last couple of days after Sundance relaxing in Los Angeles with my friend, film composer and rock star Carla Patullo (White Widow) and her partner Elizabeth. They graciously allowed me to sleep on their couch and do laundry (and I had a LOT of laundry). I also ventured out to the Silver Lake area of LA to get my hair cut at a funky little record shop called Sick City Records. Yes, in addition to cool vinyl and vintage rock t-shirts, they had a barber chair and I got to talk to Franky about PJ Harvey, Savages, and our favourite new bands while he snipped away.

I’m glad to be back in Clermont-Ferrand, and I think this time I’ll be able to approach the festival with a bit more confidence. By a stroke of luck, my friend Caitlin Mayberry introduced me to a young man named Ilias who was working with her at Sundance this year. He just so happens to live and study here, and today not only did he arrange to pick me up at the airport, but he loaned me a SIM card so I can use my phone while I’m here. He’ll be volunteering with the festival, too, and it means a lot to have someone bilingual who can help me navigate the festival and the city, too.

I’m also staying at a really wonderful apartment. I’d originally booked it through AirBnB but about a week ago they abruptly refunded me saying the host hadn’t submitted some verification. Luckily, both Delphine and I had printed out the reservation since it completely disappeared from the AirBnB site. She got in touch and offered to honour the reservation and I happily agreed. It’s a gorgeous room in the apartment she shares with her daughters, and it overlooks the Place de la Victoire, right next to the Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption. In fact, it’s quite close to where I stayed in 2014, and that means it’s near two of my favourite restaurants from last time, Avenue and the creperie Le menhir. It’s also a pleasant 15 minute walk to the Maison de la Culture, where nearly all of my screenings will be held.

So far, I haven’t had a lot of time to check out the festival programme. Immediately after checking into my room, I slept for three hours! Then I took a short walk around the neighbourhood and bought a few groceries. Tomorrow, I’ll pick up my catalogue and credential and do a bit of research. Hoping to meet up with some of the people I’ve met over the past few years in the short film world. At least Danny Lennon from Prends ça court! has promised me he’ll take me out more this time. Back in 2014, we didn’t meet until quite late in the festival, and I felt like I missed out on a lot of socializing. Hoping for a different outcome this time!

Sundance 2018: Day 13

Sundance 2018 Official Selection Laurels

Director of Programming James McNally is attending this year’s Sundance Film Festival from January 16th to 28th.

Festival Day 11

Despite the late night (morning?), I had to be up at 8:00am in order to pack and vacate our condo by 10:00am. Three hours sleep definitely wasn’t enough, but I got out in time, leaving my luggage at the reception desk of the Snowflower Condominiums. I grabbed my usual morning coffee and walked to the Holiday Village Cinemas. These are normally the venue for all the press and industry screenings, and they just opened up to the public yesterday. It was a day of screenings of all the award-winning films, so the schedule wasn’t really known until this morning. I ended up staying to watch two films back to back.

Shirkers was a knockout. A personal documentary about a feature film made my the filmmaker as a teenager that was essentially lost for 25 years when her mentor disappeared with all the materials back in 1992. It was one of the first independent films made in Singapore, and watching pieces of it now is fascinating. For the director Sandi Tan it’s like a time capsule of her teenage years but also a painful reminder of an experience that nearly destroyed her creative ambitions. It’s a unique document that is visually striking and emotionally moving.

Time Share was a bonkers dark comedy from Mexico, in which two families are mistakenly booked into the same room at a time share resort. One of the men gradually becomes unhinged as the tone goes from slapstick to darker psychological territory. I found it uneven but still watchable, with some excellent cinematography and art direction. Not as subtle or deep as, say, a Yorgos Lanthimos film, but in the same ballpark.

At the screening, I met Adam and James, two of the volunteers I’d been hanging out with over the past few days and nights, and after the film we walked over to Este Pizza for a late lunch. We were all sharing a shuttle to Salt Lake City at 5:00pm, so it was nice to spend a bit more time with them. On the shuttle ride, I met Slava, a young woman living in Brooklyn who had just volunteered for her first festival. Everyone is so friendly and curious at Sundance, and I have made a whole lot of new Facebook friends. I hope I’ll see everyone again next year!