Interview With Helen Wells of Corona Fastnet Film Festival, first published in The Evening Echo 2014-5-22

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While only celebrating it’s fifth year of existence the Corona Fastnet Film Festival, which is held annually in Schull, has already become a firm fixture on the Irish film circuit. The chair of the organisation Helen Wells spoke with Ronan Leonard just before the festival opened on Wednesday/yesterday.

Like many organisations in Ireland it wasn’t formed in a very formal situation, “the festival came about through a chance conversation, Pauline Cotter and I organised an event for ‘Art in Schull’ in 2007, where we screened films chosen by Maurice Seezer (a musician and composer who has worked extensively with Gavin Friday), David Puttnam (a film producer responsible for ‘Chariots Of Fire’ and ‘The Killing Fields’ amongst many others) and John Kelleher (the Director of Irish Film Classification from 2003 until 2009) who all spoke about their chosen film from their particular area of expertise. From this event we felt that a film festival in Schull would be ideal, so from there we brought together like minded people who loved film.”

As Helen explained there was one immediate stumbling block when they started organising their first programme in 2009, “Schull is a village without a cinema!” but with that the festival adapted to the town, “first we used the hotel in Schull and the Cinemobile (a converted articulated truck that transforms into a fully kitted out 100 seat cinema with tiered seating, professional sound system and projection) as venues. Unfortunately the hotel closed a year or so later, so we for second year in a row we had to rethink how to run a festival without a cinema. We’ve used a horsebox, a micro-cinema, a cycle cinema, pubs & restaurants, and even the bookshop to screen the submission entries. Our Village became our screen.”

The festival has also moved outside the village itself, Helen revealed how inventive the festival has got, “last year we had a cinema on Long Island, a 10 minute ferry ride from Schull. Visitors were ferried across to the island, watched an hour-long programme of shorts, had popcorn and Corona and then back to the mainland. We are doing it again this year due to popular demand.”

The festival team behind Fastnet have not just embraced every screening venue opportunity but also all rapidly improving technologies to make it a thoroughly modern film festival, “we bought our own server and with the help of our local internet provider, Digitalforge set up ‘Distributed Cinema’, so that we can screen the submission films throughout the town. Any smart phone, iPad or computer can logon via our website to the Intranet and view any of the submission entries or archive footage from the previous 5 years of the festival, plus this year’s submissions. This is a free service, which can be used in Main Street 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can sit outside in the sun, and we have been blessed with the weather over the past few years, and watch the films! We are continually trying to improve the service with and we also offer free Wi-Fi throughout the town for the duration of the festival.”

Helen is very happy with the programme this year’s festival has produced, “we will be having screenings of ‘Run and Jump’ and the Oscar-winning ‘Philomena’. ‘Run And Jump’ will be screened with a Q&A by the film’s writer Ailbhe Keoghan on Friday 23; ‘Philomena’ will be introduced by Steve Coogan, who is one of the patrons of the Shortnet Festival, and it’s director Stephen Frears, with a Q&A afterwards led by Greg Dyke, a former Director-General of the BBC and another patron of the festival.”

Helen made a point of explaining that the festival has an educational strand as well as screenings, “this year we are focussing on the ‘Collaborative Nature of the Film Making Process’; we are running a series of seminars and workshops covering all elements of film production such as sound, cinematography, direction, composing and many others. There are several public talks and workshops for film makers, “David Putnam will talk about working with Alan Parker; Jim Sheridan, Jack Gold and Maurice Seezer will discuss Music in Film; and film producer Sandy Lieberson will speak to John Kelleher after the screening of ‘Performance’, a film made in 1970 starring Mick Jagger.”

But as the title of the festival implies, Short Film is the main focus of Fastnet, Helen reeled off a the extensive list of film and filmmakers involved, “we will screen 174 entries from all over the world over 27 different film programmes in 5 days. We always screen a wide selection of films; as well as local interest films, we have a World Cinema Programme which includes films from China, Poland, Spain, Indian, Lebanon, Latin America and Mexico.”

The Fastnet Short Film Festival runs until Sunday 25 May, full details of the programme, ticket prices and accommodation can be found at http://www.fastnetshortfilmfestival.com.

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