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British presence at Clermont

Thursday 11 April 2013, by Clotilde Couturier

2013 Clermont Ferrand International Short Film Festival entries are closed for two months but my participation in the festival wouldn’t end without twinkling an eye on British Presence during this festival.

To do credit to British presence at Clermont-Ferrand Film Festival, I am delighted with interviewing Ashley Briggs, “The search for inspiration gone” ’s director.

Clermont Ferrand International Short Film Festival entries are closed for two months but my participation in the festival wouldn’t end without twinkling an eye on British Presence during this festival.

Here we are! And first : British Council Film is back :) Not only did it support the presence of UK filmmakers and the screenings of their shorts at the festival, but British Council also organized a stand for UK Film in the International Market and several other professionnal events during the festival. Promotion of UK short films and British motionmaking is back at Clermont after a two year miss.

Then : I must add that UK filmmakers have also profited from EuroConnection Forum and MEDIA Desk France, two places for European short films co-production. Three reasons to confirm that as a UK filmmaker, Clermont-Ferrand remains a great opportunity for searching a support to create, produce and broadcast your short.

Last and not least : 18 shorts of excellent quality got noticed from this year’s British Productions and were lucky enough for being selected in the different sections of the festival. Most of them, such as "The search for inspiration gone", were featured at the Clermont Ferrand Lab Competition, which I consider the best place to be !

N°9 British presence at Clermont Ferrand Short Film Festival 2013 with "The search for inspiration gone"

Clermont Ferrand Lab Competition is indeed “a competition that would free itself of national representation in order to tell stories in non-traditional ways”, “transgressing the bounds of genres”, “leading to the emergence of new images, new techniques” and “lying at the crossroads”. This definition precisely fits the talented British shorts spread in the Lab Competition, each and every as original, experimental and unique.

To do credit to British presence at Clermont-Ferrand Film Festival, I am delighted with interviewing Ashley Briggs, “The search for inspiration gone” ’s director.

(c) "The search for inspiration gone"- Ashley Briggs - http://www.clermont-filmfest.com/index.php?&c=3&id_film=200030212

Official Website : www.inspirationgone.com

Q&A :

 How did you get into film making ?

Ashley Briggs : I have always been with a camera in hand, stills and video. My parents can dig out VHS animations of tomatoes rolling around the kitchen trying to squash each other if you ask them nicely.

After a very enlightening foundation course at Winchester School of Art I stumbled through a less than impressive Graphic Design degree and came out somewhat confused... but I had experimented and ‘played’ quite a lot with all things art and AV. (I now wish these three years at university were more proactive!). I was a runner in London for some time, freelancing from the outset. This turned into researching, AD roles, art department work, ghost writing and now camerawork and cinematography which really is my calling.

On deciding my career needed a good shake I decided to apply to the NFTS Cinematography MA course, and in order to add something more dynamic to my showreel I prepared a film to highlight my cinematographic style in a more pure and rarefied way. I didn’t get in to the NFTS (I didn’t even get to the interview stage) but I had a film that I saw had potential. I spent quality time, possibly fueled by frustration, crafting this directing debut into something I was truly proud of. This film "The Search For Inspiration Gone" is now enjoying festival success at Clermont Ferrand, Telluride and New Directors New Films at MoMA and as such I am now at a really good point in my career where I have been emboldened and feel really great about my work. I’m continuing to shoot as a DoP whilst I have 2 more shorts on the slate as director-cinematographer and then I’ll see where I am from there (2014/2015).

 How long did you search... for inspiration ;) for that short ?

Ashley Briggs : The inspiration came mostly from a wintery exploration of a wonderful house and gardens called Rousham in Oxfordshire. My girlfriend took me there on a romantic weekend. Around that time I had just been to a fantastic exhibition at the British Library in London, “Points of View - Capturing the 19th Century in Photographs”, and this merging, combining with the longing to kickstart my creative energies again, had such a profound effect that I sought a script to shoot a film that harnessed both of these discoveries.

Inspiration seemed like a wise topic to base the film on; as a well-rounded start to my filmmaking. The research of romantic poetry, symbolist art of the 19th Century and all things early motion picture fed into the project. I gave a early collaborator, Rob Makin, a range of briefs and he wrote several initial ideas for shorts, I took one of these on and I developed it into “The Search For Inspiration Gone”.

 Do you often feel your inspiration fading ?

Ashley Briggs : It fades normally due to procrastination or just trying to deal with the ‘to-do list’. Nothing is more inspiration fading than spending day after day submitting to film festivals and battling archaic application websites. More excitingly I have huge bursts of inspiration when I’m in any sort of cultural environ that’s engaging me, and mostly whilst out and about in fantastic landscapes and places. A recent visit to the Met in NY created a sort of internal explosion of creative possibilities - I’m still reeling from it. For narratives, nothing is better than focused brainstorming with a good creative companion whilst out walking.

(c) "The search for inspiration gone"- Ashley Briggs

 How was the production financed ?

Ashley Briggs : My production was financed 100% by myself. I freelance within the advertising industry working with companies such as Smuggler, Knucklehead, Sonny, Believe and Tony Petersen to name but a few. That income fueled this film and is still doing so as I plough money into it’s festival strategy. It’s also how I’m funding the writing of new shorts and my ’no-fee’ cinematography works. It’s a careful balance between cash flow and investment for my future whilst utterly disregarding getting on the housing ladder.

Thankfully the majority of my fine cast and crew worked gratis, so it could easily be said each collaborator who worked as such also helped fund the film, which I am trying to pay back via the honour of festival successes and continued screenings - I keep them all updated whenever something rolls in.

 Did you use European funds such as MEDIA Programme ?

Ashley Briggs : No. Being new to the actual production of short films and with no previous directing or writing under my belt, and with such an extreme (some say experimental) treatment, I didn’t even bother with finding funding. (My co-producer Dee Meaden became attached after I’d decided to self-finance the production).

I might try in the future, but jumping through hoops to even be considered for funds is one aspect of the process that is permanently at the bottom of my list. Perhaps I’ll give it go for short no.3, and I await a producer to help with this! I’m also quite independently minded and perhaps I enjoy the successes more so if I go at it completely independently. From completed examples of films I have seen as products of funds such as these I’m occasionally less than impressed by the outcome, and the fact that funding has been secured to create such works only additionally disappoints me. There’s nothing worse than a well funded mess!

 Did you work with professionals actors ?

Ashley Briggs : Yes. My casting net was wide and spent a good time in the water. My God, Michael Grinter, has long been seen on British television, mostly as a well loved character in children’s TV.

Charlie MacGechan, the Poet, is a recent graduate of Guildford School of Acting and will be a big player. I consider myself to have discovered him (I’m laughing)! He’s outrageously talented and such a lovely young man. My co-producer, Dee Meaden, and I were blown away by him in the casting and he formed the key-stone in the cast. If I could I would buy him out and not let other directors near him.

Yuliya Fytsaylo acts, models and performs dance and music. She was the perfect balance between Charlie and Michael, and even though there was tough competition for the part (I had at least 40 hand-picked actresses casting for this part) she was by far the one I had in mind. I really loved my cast and what they provided to the film.

 What difficulties did you encounter ?

Ashley Briggs : Everything was difficult. But I love a challenge so it didn’t matter, although the production constantly flirted with disaster I guess.

The first challenge was that I wanted a wintery shoot and we missed the first year’s winter as I wasn’t quite prepared. Then volcanic ash from Iceland grounded me in Egypt the following late winter and I panicked and almost pulled the plug on the shoot. Back home, two weeks later, I came to terms with the fact that a early spring shoot could work and I went ahead into a crazy schedule. The art department became very stretched and I had to throw money and my own energies into it to remedy problems at the pre-pro stage; we even finished the scenic painting on set as the light was fading.

Finding 450 rolls of 35mm Kodak Tri-X was an unexpected trial, I had to buy from several suppliers and I only got hold of 1/2 of what was required as we went into production. I had one supplier ship in a fresh delivery the moment it arrived in the UK up to our location. Stress!

I had a lot of shots to cover after the principal 4 day shoot with all the cast and crew, and so the loneliness of shooting all the animation and pick up shots set in. I spent several months shooting additional material and carefully double-exposing the effects in-camera. Trying to keep my chin up whilst hand-processing all the negative and also whilst scanning it in at 5K resolution was also a challenge, all whilst balancing freelancing, keeping my personal life from sliding into an abyss and not becoming a weird hermit. A really big difficulty was gauging whether or not to keep pumping money and energies into the project as it was sucking a lot in, if festival’s had not of taken up the film I’m not sure how I’d be feeling right now.

Then the whole world of festival application! My word - that is a challenge. I now consider myself to have the world’s most sophisticated festival spreadsheet and spend so much time emailing, posting, writing, updating, blogging, traveling…. I’m learning as I go and sometimes the balance isn’t right. But difficulties = learning, and I’ve never been professionally happier or more content.

 Had you ever been at Clermont Ferrand Film Festival before ?

Ashley Briggs : Nope. I wasn’t even really aware of it until I’d finished the film and began looking into the world of short film festivals.

 What did you expect before you first came ?

Ashley Briggs : Having, as a filmmaker, only properly been to Leeds International, Aesthetica, Telluride and Premier Plans d’Angers prior to Clermont-Ferrand I had no idea what to expect as these four festivals were so very diverse. What I had picked up on though through talking to others prior to Clermont-Ferrand, was the quality of the projections, the size and quality of the audiences, the buzz of the interest and the possibilities available for professional meetings and networking. All of this proved to be true.

 Do you think it is different from other short films festivals ?

Ashley Briggs : It seems to be. Nowhere, I think, offers selected films up to eight screenings; one a day. “The Search For Inspiration Gone” played to an estimated 2,250 people; which is just beyond fantastic (and it never even screened in the main 1,200 theatre). And the quality of the audience is so good and diverse.

Ashley Briggs in Clermont : read more

The Clermont Ferrand Film Festival’s market was a very enjoyable and lucrative experience for me, thankfully UK Film had just been reformed /rebranded and I made it my base on their pink carpet. The lovely British Council had granted me a short film travel grant and so I felt quite good about things. I made it my primary goal to introduce myself to as many international festival programmers as possible, together with meeting many possible collaborators and those who provide services. I came home with a double box of business cards and material, of which I expect a high majority of it will become of use. This certainly didn’t happen at the festivals I had previously visited.

For me Clermont Ferrand was high intensity networking whilst being a really friendly environment to be relaxed and one’s self. I’ve made friends and future collaborators too; both short term stuff and the long term contacts that pop up 5, 10 years down the line.

 Which screenings are planned now and for the future ?

Ashley Briggs : I’ve been extraordinarily lucky. “The Search For Inspiration Gone” just played at New Directors New Films hosted by The Society of Film Lincoln Center and MoMA in New York. I’m over the moon. I’m the only director from the UK to feature this year in either the features or shorts. To be honest; you don’t get into Sundance, you don’t get into SXSW, you don’t get Cannes or Tribeca but then a festival such as New Directors New Films says ’yes’ and I’m jumping around my lounge-office throwing my arms around, dancing on the spot, and the whole process has suddenly been worthwhile. (I did the same for Telluride and Clermont Ferrand of course!).

I have just played three ’international film festivals’ too; Hong Kong, Uruguay and Sofia. All fantastic. Sofia IFF is a British Council screening which is great. Mecal in Barcelona is playing it and I’ll be out there supporting the film. It just played at a start up festival in Stanley Kubrik’s home town in the UK; St Albans, a lovely and very impressive 1st festival. It just played Flatpack in Birmingham (UK) and Mediawave in Hungary and Norwegian Short Film Festival are coming up soon. “The Search For Inspiration Gone” will play the festival circuit into 2014 and beyond....

Editor’s note : Next screenings in Athens, Barcelona... details on : http://www.inspirationgone.com/screenings/

 Thanks for your answers !

Ashley Briggs : Thanks for letting me discuss my film.

If anyone has further questions, or would like to find out more about this film, please get in touch via www.inspirationgone.com.

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