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netribution > features > interview with nick jones > page one
At the recent launch of the Edinburgh Film Festival one would have expected FilmFour's reserved but certainly visible profile cast liberally among the execs and champagne. This was the case but, as Nic Wistreich found out, the corporate pride bursting faces of this ever-swelling channel betray a genuine passion for indie film.
Nick Jones is FilmFour's film buyer, the job many would forsake say, directing for and he clearly still loves the world's oldest film festival. The channel relies on it as a prime spot for casting its talent net and spends a great deal of money supporting it, the world spectrum of independent talent share the old city's hotels - FilmFour's daily bread. So what, apart from first dibs on films and filmmakers, does Jones get out of it? What are his favourite films? And what does the future hold for this popular but niche channel in the infancy of the digital revolution?
Read on.

| by nic wistreich |
| photos by nic wistreich |
| in london |

Firstly, about the festival -what is it about Edinburgh that FilmFour's so attracted to?
It's kind of what I was saying in there. Film festivals can be many things and for me, in British terms and in world terms, Edinburgh represents a fantastic blend of things. It's not embarrassed or ashamed to be experimental. Equally, it doesn't shy away from big glamorous, glitzy personalities and films. It really brings the very best movies from all over the world - it doesn't matter if they come from Hollywood, Asia, Britain or Iceland. And I think it's that kind of inclusiveness that makes it so brilliant. And it's a lot of fun. I go to - not every festival but I go to enough to know that they can be real snobs and take themselves really seriously and it can be very annoying.

Edinburgh's just a brilliant blend I think, it's partly because it's there at the time of all these other cultural festivals, you've got theatre and comedy and fringe and books and so on. So there's a lot of energy in the city and I think that feeds into what is already a very dynamic event.

What does FilmFour bring to that - other than money?
Hah! Well money's important because festivals don't run on air. And it's not just our money, a lot of other sponsors are involved. I suppose what we can help with as well as just the cash is the marketing effort. We can help in making promotional tapes, or with the literature or the banners or the posters or the way the venues are dressed for the occasion. Channel 4 is a big media organisation now - it's not just a TV Channel, it's got pay TV channels, it's got big web presence - it's really spread itself open to a lot of whole different areas.

For us, Edinburgh's important, because I think we live in an age where going to see films is becoming ever more popular. More people are going to the movies. But in some ways, there are fewer movies to see. Multiplex cinemas are a great thing but often you'll find ten screens and on four of them will be the same movie and on the other six there will be the predictable films. It's just bringing in to the culture and the country, you know, films that come from unexpected places.

If you can, and I think Lizzie Franke does this very well, if you can draw people in with some of the more recognisable, with some of the less challenging movies, they might be browsing through that programme and think, "oh I might try this one or that one." That's kind of the same neck to have when you're programming a film channel - you have a few things people might recognise and then you try to introduce them to things they've never heard of.

Do you also use the festival to eye up films that you can buy and sort of the next line of talent?
Yeah, I mean all festivals have that function and Edinburgh's sort of mid way to late in the year so a good number of the films we will have seen elsewhere. But it's certainly a way to become aware of new talents, particularly new British talent and often to meet at first hand those directors, performers or writers so it's very useful, it's not a primary aim for us, but very useful for us.

There almost seems to be a correlation in that there's a lot of films, like Soderbergh's Schizopolis, that you can see at a film festival. You might be able to see at a regional film theatre or you can see it on FilmFour's channel and it seems a shame that there is no where else for these films to be seen.
I know what you mean, it is a great shame and I think there is a place in this country for what you might call an art house cinema chain if you like, I mean there are small chains in existence already, you know The Cameo in Edinburgh is one of those, an Oasis cinema. If every multiplex cinema in the country had just one screen, just one screen that was showing something that wasn't Pearl Harbour I think that would be a good thing.

Certainly for people who live too far away from a big metropolitan centre - if you're not near London or Bristol or Manchester or whatever but you're an hour or two hours drive - it's very difficult to see new movies that are not on the big circuit. I mean, my mother lives in Suffolk which is not the back of beyond but if she wants to catch a new foreign language movie then she has to be very acute and spot the one night that it's playing at the local arts centre.

It's almost gives an extra responsibility to FilmFour in that if it's not shown there then it might actually not get shown everywhere.
And that's why this year we've sort of broadened what we're doing and if you're a Sky customer you can pick up what we call Multiplex channels. One of which is a World Cinema Channel so that's purely dedicated to films which aren't in the English language and there's simply not time in one schedule to give proper airing to all of these movies so by having three extra channels - it's another chance to view.

If you look at the complexion of the three channels it's very much like the festival, I think, you've got the prime slots which will be in the bigger cinemas in Edinburgh sort of eight o'clock - ten o'clock whatever, then you get into the late night zone when you've got all these wild, cultist, violent and strange movies like Battle Royal. Then there's earlier in the day or dotted around you'll find some really interesting but more niche appeal films, the whole is made up by some of the parts really.

What sort of films excite you most in general?
I've got pretty broad taste, I'd say. I mean, just talking about this year's festival programme, I think the opening movie is a fantastic, sweeping, surreal, funny, and romantic epic really and it's great to see that kind of movie come out of France which is struggling like everybody's struggling against the tide from Hollywood. In Hollywood terms there's The Pledge which is by one of the most interesting actor/directors around with one of the world's great leading man, making a really interesting dark, unusual film. So finding that kind of movie from the source of the more mainstream films in the world. I mean, I love Battle Royal which is this crazy Japanese, reality TV spoof. It's described in the programme as "an episode of Survivor directed by Sam Peckinpah and if I was to be really honest, it's in those late night margins where my favourites tend to be - the really weird and the wonderful and strange movies.

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