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netribution > features > interview with joe morton
Last year Joe Morton was up to her eyes in film as a Media Production and Theory student at Paisley University. This year she took a sabbatical and found herself up to her eyes in film again, organising this year’s very successful Scottish Students On Screen film festival. She’s been talking to James MacGregor about what the job involves.


| by james macgregor
joe morton
| in cyberspace

Congratulations Joe, on setting up such a packed and enjoyable weekend. Have you recovered yet?
I have now, the emotional comedown has been one of the most tricky things I've had to handle yet in this job. Now I realise why people don't do event management forever, though it was a terrific experience.

One weekend seems like such a short time, but the planning must have gone on for months…
There has been seven long and labour intensive months of organising the competition, the juries, the session content, publicity, dealing with all the practicalities - (and the worry!) for this event. Since I am the first, I hope that the groundwork I've put in for the next co-ordinator will make their life a little easier and allow them to develop the project further.

A good standard of entries this year? How did the judges rate them?
The standards were really high, particularly in the animation and cinematography categories. What was platformed finally for the juries choice programmes at Dundee showed a huge diversity in content and production values and was a real stimulus for debate at the event.

The factual winner, Baby Lazarus, from Joseph Bell, was very well received, winning two awards I believe, yet he’s reading philosophy rather than media production. Did you have many entries from the "non-media" student body as it were?
Another winner was a graphic design graduate. Octavius Murray won the 'No Boundaries' category for his time-based art trilogy of moving image work. I think having non-media students is indicative of the often indefinable qualities that it takes to work with any success in the media. It also shows that students with different backgrounds, interests and approaches enrich the industry with ideas and content. This element is complementary to the technical competence and creative ideals present in the work coming out of the conventional media courses and film schools. Together they show promise as an aspect that I predict will create the necessary dynamic to fuel the Scottish Creative and Cultural industries in the future.

One of the intentions of the festival when it was set up, was to provide a good showcase for student filmmaking talent in Scotland. Do you feel it is fulfilling that founding brief? How can we measure that?
The most popular part of the festival has been the screenings, with students and lecturers alike keen to see what is being produced across the range of institutions who submitted work. The benefits to students are immeasurable, it was the best thing I could hope for, being able to physically bring students to the industry and see them setting up contacts. In the post-ceremony buzz in the cafe bar at DCA, I felt I could see opportunities flourishing on the ground for these 'break' hungry students deep in conversation with commissioning editors and producers. It was a very rewarding moment.

This year you managed to widen access to the entries by showcasing them on the internet. Has that proved worthwhile?
Yes, we have another winner to be announced tomorrow for the Metro Digital Audience Award. There was a fully interactive voting system in place. Shot over the two days was an hour-long webcast of the event plus interviews with industry players. This has enhanced the profile of the event no end, while also providing a terrific experience for all the students who were involved in producing it.

It really is a packed weekend programme. How did the workshops and seminars go down with those attending? What kind of feedback have you had on them?
The workshops were well attended, 'The business' in particular, addressing the demands arising for graduates to go into this area of the industry. The feedback from this year suggests that the attendees where more focused as to which sessions were appropriate for them, making them much more useful for all involved.

If you were organising the festival all over again, what would you want to do differently second time around?
Oh, the benefits of hindsight... Well, I was learning on the hoof as it were, but I am going to set my mind to creating more efficient strategies for marketing the festival. There's no substitute for word of mouth, and I am sure the festival's reputation will grow from here. When I was out on the road publicising the event, talking to the students face to face, I managed to generate real enthusiasm, though in holding the festival out of the central belt there are the very real problems of the expense of travel and accommodation for many students. The festival had more attendees this year than last, but still has room to expand.

Do you have much help in organising the festival? Is it pretty well Joe-on-her-ownsome getting on with it for most of the time, or do you have an army of willing helpers?
Since Christmas, I've had a team of dedicated and enthusiastic students working on specific areas of the organisation of the event. They made it all happen, and I can't thank them enough. It was a real, positive practical experience for them. There was also the professional advice and support on hand from the training and education team here at Scottish Screen, who initiated the whole project and have generated generous support from our industry sponsors, Digital Animations Group, Panavision and Lee Lighting Scotland, Kodak and Metro Digital amongst others.

The search is on now to appoint a successor to take on the job next year. Apart from the things asked for in the advert, what about the extras? What sort of qualities does the successful candidate need to bring to the job to do it well?
You have to be absolutely driven and focused, able to deal with everyone else's stress as well as your own - so develop a thick skin very quickly! Never lose an opportunity to stop and enjoy the really good moments, of which there are many.

We know it has been hard work Joe, but was it worth it, professionally and personally, to take a year out of your life and your degree, to take it on?
Best decision I ever made.

And what of the future for Joe Morton? What happens to you next and where do you see yourself heading over the next few years.
I have a few leads in different areas that I am going to chase up. No one can predict the future, especially in this business! I am going to make the most of the creative freedom I will have next year doing my honours. In the media there are plenty of 'wannabes' - I just wanna work hard, stay civil and enjoy!

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