Having madly rushed across London at 6:30 on Friday morning, I arrived at St Pancreas just in time to catch the first train to Sheffield. Of course I hadnt factored in the inevitable delay and when I arrived I found I had just missed the first couple of films. Yet by Saturday night Id managed to pack in over twelve hours of films, and there were still hundreds of screenings scheduled for Sunday.
As I got to Sheffield I realised that not having booked a hotel or B&B had been a bad idea, and after an unhappy search I gave up and went to see First Cuts, a screening of four short student documentaries. I had expected a collection of rusty, weird, arty films but instead was immediately impressed. Each film was funny, entertaining, and professionally produced.
Everyday Strangeness took a look at peoples very weird habits and obsessions, like one mans compulsive need to kick his bum with the back of his heel; a slightly more normal example would be peoples determination to avoid the gaps in-between paving stones. The light that followed told the true story of a cinema manager who was unexpectedly shot in his own cinema, and later returned to haunt the building. With brilliant cinematography achieved using DV cameras it is obvious why more filmmakers like Richard Leacock have switched to DV. Making his name in the 1940s and 50s Leacock has remained at the forefront of innovative and creative filmmaking, and the Sheffield docu-fest was a great opportunity to see some of his early films. His style and ability to capture whats interesting and funny about normal life makes you realise how hollow and empty the endless stream of docu-soaps and reality TV can be. Yet while the Richard Leacock masterclass took a look at the history of documentaries Digital Download offered delegates an opportunity to find out what some of the emerging cable channels are planning for the future. The BBC set out its plans for BBC 3, but not having any clear ideas themselves this proved problematic. Commissioning Executive Richard Klein told the audience that BBC 3 would be appealing to people who rarely watched television by broadcasting more factual, and foreign language programmes. But are people who dont like watching TV going to dash out to buy their digital boxes once Beeb 3 goes on air? Artsworld seemed to think so and strongly objected to the creation of another publicly funded channel that threatened to steal its audience. However the Science channel Einstein wasnt too worried, probably because no one is likely to copy its unique scheduling that limits programmes to time slots no longer than five minutes. The onset of digital therefore looks good for filmmakers giving them more opportunity and diversity, but on the downside many of these new channels still have much smaller budgets than the traditional four buttons.