Today we caught up with Mark Brennan, connoisseur of the film festival in Basingstoke, where we find out more about Exit 6 Film Festival.
Tell us about your festival…
Exit 6 is a one-day short film festival that takes place every September in Basingstoke, Hampshire. That’s right, Basingstoke. We’re well aware our beloved town can be the butt of many jokes (mostly involving roundabouts), but don’t let that fool you when it comes to our festival. We have a passionate team of filmmakers and film fanatics alike, wonderful screening venues that include our local Vue cinema, and a host of local businesses, restaurants and volunteers helping to make the day as welcoming as possible for all our guests.
As well as screening over 40 short films throughout the day, we also invite attending filmmakers to have an on-stage interview with our fantastic screening hosts right after their film has played, so they can share insights into the making of their work. In addition, we have guest industry speakers give intimate talks on various aspects of film production. Last year’s speakers included Manuel Puro, a Casting Director who has gave advice on how to approach profile cast for film projects, BAFTA-winning Producer Stewart Le Marechal on his journey from shorts to features, and of course the fabulous folk at Festival Formula who are able to offer filmmakers another potential avenue for their short films going forward [FF: aww shucks, we aim to please!].
At the end of a packed day it’s drinks and chat galore as we all get together for our after-party, after which everyone leaves Basingstoke with a bunch of new friends, great contacts and (very possibly) sore heads.
We’re also very proud to have been on FilmFreeway’s Top 100 Best Reviewed Festivals list since our first year – a list on which we intend to remain a firm fixture.
What made you start your film festival?
As I mentioned before, many of us on the team are filmmakers who have travelled to other film festivals all over the country, and beyond. It was all this travelling that got us thinking it would be nice to have the kind of event we’d like to go to right on our doorstep. Between us we had enough contacts and experience of festivals to try our hand at putting one together ourselves, so we put our money where our mouths are and gave it a shot!
We’d learned so much from other events we had attended, that we put a lot of thought in to how Exit 6 would run. For us, we wanted to create an environment where filmmakers could celebrate their work and feel celebrated themselves – after all, we know how hard it can be to get a film made in the first place. For that reason, our focus is always on the experience of the filmmakers, who either join us for the day or have their work screened as part of our official selection (but especially those who can join us on the day, who’ll also get a goodie bag and… did I mention the after-party?).
What are you most looking forward to in your next edition?
First and foremost, it’s all the new work being sent to us. It’s always so exciting to have a fresh new programme of films to show and filmmakers to meet. We’re also looking forward to the increased interest we’ve had in the festival locally now that we’re in our third year, so there will be another great and growing mix of filmmakers and film lovers.
It will also be nice to treat our attendees to a refurbished Vue, complete with fully reclining electric seats!
Personally, I’m hoping we have more overseas visitors. We had a couple of wonderful Swedish filmmakers fly over last year (shout out to Albin Glasell and Daniel Bajnoci), who we were able to arrange accommodation for and I was able to collect from Heathrow, with beers in tow, the night before the festival. Sadly, I had to drive so couldn’t join them, but I caught up the next day!
What have you learnt the most from being involved with a film festival?
It’s apt that festival ‘director’ is the title of those who run film festivals, because running one is like shooting a film. You have all the prep and pre-production leading up to the big shoot day, where everything MUST go right. And if it doesn’t, on the spot problem-solving to make the best of anything unexpected thrown at you can save the day in ways you don’t expect.
Most of all, like with filmmaking, it all comes down to the people around you. I am blessed to have a fantastic team of passionate, creative and enthusiastic collaborators around me who excel in all their roles. I’ve learned Exit 6 couldn’t happen without them.
I’ve also learned how long I can go without sleep without going crazy. Well, without dying.
How does your selection process work?
Every film submitted to Exit 6 is watched by a minimum of 3 of our selection panellists, which this year is made up of 9 filmmakers and cineastes. Each panellist gives a rating for the film based on several criteria, and then each film is given an average rating. We then spend a couple of days as a group discussing/debating/fighting over which films should make the official selection, and which 6 films should be included in our Judge’s 6 – which puts them in contention for winning our Best Film award.
The Best Film award is decided by our guest industry judges who are sent screeners of the 6 films ahead of the festival day, and then they present to the winner at the evening screening.
There is also an Audience Choice award decided by a ballot vote on the day and presented at the after-party.
What’s your protocol for sending out rejections?
Each applicant is emailed directly by us to inform them of the outcome of their submission. We also ensure that notifications of rejection, or acceptance, are delivered on the same day so all of our filmmakers know where their submission stands.
Length of short film – discuss…
Films up to 15 minutes in length can be submitted to Exit 6. The duration limit is in place for both logistical and ethical reasons. As we are a one-day festival, the time we have to screen films is limited compared to larger festivals who can programme films over a few days. Plus, when you take into consideration the time we give filmmakers to talk about their films after they screen, we only have so much time to actually screen films – and we’d like to screen as many as possible.
Knowing from the outset it would be hard for us to programme many films longer than 15 minutes, we made the decision to have a cut off so that we didn’t waste anyone’s time and money by submitting to us. As filmmakers we know how hard it is to raise funds to make a film in the first place, so we wouldn’t want anyone spending their money submitting to us knowing we’d find it hard to programme their film.
Describe your festival in five words or three emojis
Fun. Friendly. Buzzing. Fresh. Amazingstoke.
What’s a personal favourite film festival of yours?
My favourite film festival is Aesthetica in York. I went there with a short film of mine a couple of years ago, and I was so impressed with how the whole of the city seem to be in on the action. Bars and eateries with deals on for delegates, loads of great workshops and events, even more great films. I met many other filmmakers up there I’m happy to still be chatting/working/drinking with today.
What do you wish more filmmakers did, and didn’t do?
That’s a good question, especially as I can see either side of the line as filmmaker and a festival director. As the latter, I do wish that if a filmmaker can’t attend the festival, they do still engage with that festival. We love to hear from all the filmmakers whose work we select, even if they can’t join us on the day. It can be a shame not to have that contact when we’re still keen to promote them and their work.
What questions do you get asked the most by filmmakers?
Can we have a waiver?
What’s your favourite film?
Ever? I have an incurable weakness for Ridley Scott’s Black Rain.
And drink of choice whilst the festival is underway…?
Anything with caffeine followed by anything with alcohol (after 5pm of course…).
The earlybird deadline for the festival is 21st March on Film Freeway, so get submitting!