There is definitely something of a renaissance going on in the world of filmmaking. I don't say that because I read it in the media! I say it because I put together the International and British programmes of Bristol Encounters short film festival and this involves watching over 400 short films from around the world by way of preparation. This affords me my very own litmus test of emerging talent in the world of filmmaking and I can say quite categorically and without fear of contradiction that there is something of a renaissance going on in the world of filmmaking.
This reveals itself in the quality and ideas that emerge whilst working my way through the short films. Yes, there are some poor films - whether amateurish or lacking direction or poorly scripted. These however are easy to notice, as indeed are the exceptionally good ones. It's funny that both extremes reveal themselves immediately. It's the ones in between that are the challenge. (More of that dilemma later.)
It does feel to me that despite recession, austerity, and depression taking up the slack, there is a sense of confidence and urgency within the global filmmaking community to explore ideas through short filmmaking and to communicate their visions. Subject matter ranges from the effects of an earthquake on a small village in Peru to the effects of mental fragility on a man in Iceland. In one breath you can move from a single take where the past taunts the present to a rich complex film where the past haunts the present or from a lyrical dream to harsh reality and from a harsh dream to lyrical reality. All the genres are covered: from comedy to horror, sometimes in the same film!
It is at festivals like Encounters that we can begin to see the new and the next generation emerge. If you take the current critical successes in the feature world of We Need to Talk About Kevin directed by Lynne Ramsay and Wuthering Heights directed by Andrea Arnold, both those directors emerged through and were known by the short film world before they made the transition to feature films. In fact both of them won awards at Encounters for their short films.
In order to profile and promote this next generation we have established a Future Encounters - our very own stars to watch. This year it includes filmmakers such as Karni and Saul who are currently developing a project with Will Self, Douglas Hart formerly of Jesus and the Mary Chain who has made an wonderful observation of the relationship between a father and son in Long Distance Information and which stars Peter Mullan.
Also from the UK included is animator Jessica Ashman who has just won a Scottish BAFTA for her film Fixing Luka. Further afield, Iranian born Danish director Behrouz Bigdeli's film To all my Friend is one of the most passionate and energetic depictions of multiculturalism in modern Europe and Icelandic director Bokur Sigthorsson's exceptional thriller Come to Harm. All of these are names to remember.
However, whilst we rightly celebrate these films and their makers I can never escape the twinge of guilt about the ones that got away. In my watching spree - usually mid-August - I always think about the guy who famously didn't sign The Beatles. His foolish lack of foresight sits heavy on my shoulder as I go from film to film discarding some, putting forward others, swapping it all around. In the final stages this can become a heightened state of anxiety, the bead of sweat forming as I possibly consign John, Paul, George and Ringo to the "not selected".
So this year I am doing a one-off special entitled The Programmer's Fear of Missing the Masterpiece wherein I will screen two films which were in the programme up until the 11th hour. I will be discussing with the filmmakers - who have kindly agreed to take part - their experience of filmmaking and festivals.
So if you want to take the pulse of the next generation of filmmakers either come to Bristol between the 16-20 November or go online to www.encounters-festival.org.uk. And if you want to experience some micro short filmmaking go to www.depict.org.
Follow Mark Cosgrove on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@msc45