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Edinburgh Short Film Festival // Paul Bruce

Interview / by admin

We caught up with Paul Bruce, Festival Director of Edinburgh Short Film Festival, so we could find out more for you about the festival, and what they’ve got planned this year…


Tell us about your festival…

The Edinburgh Short Film Festival dates to 2011 and our aims are to bring some of the UK and the world’s best short films to Edinburgh audiences.  We also aim to bring film-makers and film practitioners together, celebrate outstanding short film through best film awards, develop partnerships and projects with other festivals and arts organisations, and generally have as much fun as you can fit into 8 nights in Autumn in Edinburgh!


What made you start your film festival?

I’m a film-maker myself and back in 2005, I’d just completed an ultra-low budget comedy called ‘McTarzan’ only to find that there was nowhere willing to screen a cheap, edgy comedy set in the jungles of Africa but filmed in Dunbar…

Along with a few other equally impecunious film-makers, I began screening locally-made short films at the Leith Festival, and I ended up essentially being talked into running the film exhibition strand for the Leith Festival for about 5 years.  The madness, stress and caffeine-fuelled chaos of the Leith Festival stood me in good stead, and running the ESFF feels like a cakewalk in comparison!


What are you most looking forward to in your next edition?

I’m always pretty stoked to find a few stunningly brilliant short films and genuinely original film-makers out there, so for me the highlight is finding those gems and showing them to the audience. Being able to award our trophies at the award ceremony is another genuine thrill – especially when the winner is present and doesn’t know they’ve won!

It’s also great to meet the visiting film-makers and professionals that come along and the closing night party at Summerhall is the one time you can relax and let it all go, so I always look forward to that.



What have you learnt the most from being involved with a film festival?

1. Always back up your files

2. Plan as far ahead as humanly possible –  years ahead if you can do it!

3. Get as much prep done as early as possible, once you are a month away, free-time falls off a cliff.


 How does your selection process work?

We have a selection committee which is about 8-10 strong, consisting of our staff, film-makers, film studies graduates and film bloggers. Each film is watched at least twice. Two Yes votes and a film is longlisted. After our final deadline in June, myself and Carys Evans (Assistant Director) and one or two others reduce the longlist to the shortlist. This can involve removing 20-30% of the films on the longlist. We may look for balance across the programme so if only a few docs for example, make it onto the shortlist, we might protect docs, otherwise we aim to screen the strongest programme from submissions.


What’s your protocol for sending out rejections?

We issue an email advising the film-maker their film hasn’t been selected. We usually stress that this doesn’t mean they have made a bad film. If a film is shortlisted but doesn’t make the programme, we will highlight that to the film-maker.


Length of short film – discuss…

How long is a short film? Shorter than a long film! Every film festival has its own reasons for setting a maximum length, for us 25 minutes fits in well with our programme lengths which can vary from venue to venue. Some venues we require an interval and others we don’t, so 25 minutes allows us to screen a minimum of 4 films and usually up to 12 at most venues.


Describe your festival in five words or three emojis

Engaging, Fun, Sociable, Diverse, Globetrotting [I can’t do emojis on this PC  – it’s the same age as Alan Carr’s jokes.]



What’s a personal favourite film festival of yours?

I absolutely loved the Fastnet Film Festival in Ireland, if you want to meet film-makers and film pros it’s crawling with them, and there is no finer place to network on Earth than Hackett’s Bar! It’s also unique in that the whole village gets behind the film festival and lacking a cinema, they turn every spare building into a one, even taking the audience to a deserted island by fishing boat to watch films in an abandoned fisherman’s cottage! They even bring you back again!

Another festival I loved was the Sardinia Film Festival run by the outrageously hospitable Carlo Dessi and his dedicated team. It’s full of night-time open-air piazza screenings in wonderful coastal towns, late evening drinks receptions, trips to the beach and some lovely people and cheap seafood! It runs every June and the technician who runs the open air screenings, claims it hasn’t rained on the SFF for 13 years!


What do you wish more filmmakers did, and didn’t do?

Making their films a bit more original and working harder to make them stand out from the crowd. We get a few films with the same plotlines almost every year (eg blind racist person in hospital being attended to by an ethnic nurse). So please check your film idea hasn’t been done to death already.


What questions do you get asked the most by filmmakers?

Can I have a waiver? The answer to which is no, unfortunately! We couldn’t exist without the submission fee as running the ESFF costs not far short of 10k annually to run.


What’s your favourite film?

Feature-wise I am pretty fond of ‘The Maltese Falcon’ and ‘Bedazzled; (The Peter Cook/Dudley Moore version) and of course ‘Withnail and I’. Shorts wise, I love a 1970s Spanish short, a surreal horror called ‘La Cabina’ and a rough and edgy comedy featuring Johnny Vegas called ‘Dark Net’.


And drink of choice whilst the festival is underway…?

I always insist on the finest booze known to man, so I go for a bottle of Erdinger, Old Rosie Cider or a few nips of Old Antiquary whisky. Sometimes more than a few!



Submissions are open for this year’s Edinburgh Short Film Festival edition and their next deadline is 25th May – get submitting!

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