Watersprite: The Cambridge International Student Film Festival
This past weekend the Watersprite Film Festival showcased a variety of international student films, as well as hosting an impressive range of workshops, talks and events. This young and unassuming festival is also fully loaded with a few more surprises than you might expect from a student film festival.
Now only in its third year, the festival has moved from strength to strength and has already gained some important backers including YouTube, Working Title and BAFTA. The speakers at this year’s festival are testament to this. In Cambridge to open the festival was Duncan Kenworth, producer of films you may have heard of once or twice, including FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL, NOTTING HILL and LOVE ACTUALLY. He was able to share his wealth of experience within the industry, and his role as current chairman of BAFTA. Closing the festival was David Yates, most famously known as the director of the last four HARRY POTTER films, but before that comes from a television background. In between these two high profile guests were an incredible array of speakers who attended the festival, ranging from hair stylists and independent film producers to screenwriters and film critics.
The festival also holds an annual awards ceremony, now twice hosted by actor Tom Hollander, where a wide range of categories mark the best of student film on a global scale.
An incredible array of speakers attended the festival, ranging from hair stylists and independent film producers to screenwriters and film critics
The festival not only opened its doors to submissions from all over the world, but also proudly hosted the BAFTA nominated short films, mostly directed by student filmmakers, two of whom – Arash Ashtiani and Babak Anvari – attended the screenings on Sunday afternoon. This event presented the nominees of the Best Short Film Award from the BAFTAS awards ceremony, held on 12th February (one of which, we’re pleased to say, also won Take One’s best Short Film Award: Rungano Nyoni’s MWANSA THE GREAT). The films are now on a tour of the country following the BAFTAs, the first stop being Watersprite. The filmmakers who attended were both from Iran and now working in London, and spoke about the struggles of emerging filmmakers. They are bound by a very tight budget, which in turn affects the production time and crew, as much work is completed on a volunteer basis. Once completed, however, the next hurdle is finding an audience for the film and then, most importantly, moving onto new projects that will progress their careers.
Despite the stars that appear at the festival, and the prestigious sponsors and funders, the most important aspect is that the organisers have remained focused on the point of the festival: both giving student film and talent an audience, as well as raising it into an arena where it can be aided by insiders from the industry.
This was the subject of David Yates’s closing speech on Sunday night, an inspiring and personal message to young and aspiring filmmakers. Yates spoke about his own career, rising from a film student making shorts, working his way through independent cinema and television, before being given the chance to direct such high-stake cinema as Harry Potter and the way he works within the studio system as it exists today. Before answering questions from the audience, his final advice to young filmmakers was, “Have conviction in what you do… turn ‘Nos’ into ‘Yeses’, even if it’s just in your head.”
“Have conviction in what you do… turn ‘Nos’ into ‘Yeses’, even if it’s just in your head.”
The contrast between Yates’s talk and the Q&A of the student filmmakers earlier in the day highlights the importance of this festival. In just a few short hours, audiences could witness both sides of the spectrum – looking at the industry from the eyes of those who stand at the beginning, and then from an insider, who has made it. The education for filmmakers is invaluable.
This is one-of-a-kind exposure for all student filmmakers, and will hopefully become an important and high profile event in the United Kingdom and around the world. In a sense, however, it is not just the exposure of the films, but – to pick up a point made by Yates – that a festival such as this brings together like-minded people. By opening a network between filmmakers, organisers, crew and many others, important relationships are created and maintained.
We look forward to next year’s festival and all that it will hold, and also perhaps seeing again the talent that emerged over these incredible few days on future and bigger projects.
- NFF2012: Interview with Bernard Hill by Mike Boyd (Editor-at-large)
- The Cambridge African Film Festival Preview by Mike Boyd (Editor-at-large)
- BSFF 2012 Closing Event: Highlights of the British Silent Film Fest by Mike Boyd (Editor-at-large)