Flatpack Festival
Film, and then some

Flatpack Unpacked

Saturday 14th March, 2009

After recovering from the mania of Klaus Kinski (was slightly worried about him turning up in my dreams for a final bout of preaching), I woke up bright and early and headed down to the Fazeley Studios in Digbeth – grand converted factories. The studios were host to a day-long set of panels aiming to ‘unpack’ various Flatpack filmmakers. The event was brilliantly organised and really well attended with a mixture of artists, students and cinema-goers hoping to find out more about the creative process behind making films.

First off, David O’Reilly, currently creating a big buzz in the animation world, screened his recent work, Please Say Something: a beautiful 3-D animation centring on an abusive relationship between a cat and mouse, at once blackly comic and strangely emotional. After the screening, David gave us a whistle-stop tour of his creative 'manifesto', explaining the difference between his commercial and personal projects and his desire to create authenticity in animated worlds. David was a really insightful speaker and it was exciting to hear more about his wider cinematic influences (Tarkovsky, Bresson). Plus, as a nice touch, he had made a short film of computer screen grabs, taken from his desktop while he was creating Please Say Something – a real look at how an animator works.

The rest of ‘Unpacked’ presented a series of panels – I caught both ‘Flipping Heck’, which looked at artists using pre-cinema techniques, and ‘Real Journeys’, a discussion between documentary filmmakers coming from artist / animation backgrounds. The artists on the ‘Flipping Heck’ panel showed their works commissioned by Animate Projects and talked us through their approach to filmmaking. Coming from fine arts backgrounds, the artists were refreshingly experimental in their approach to film. Mark Simon Hewis described how he asked students to stand on a spinning fairground ride with notebooks in hand to create a life-size human zoetrope. Refusing to use computer technology, Mark had gone to unbelievable lengths to keep his short film live-action.

In 'Real Journeys', we heard from Kieran Evans and Jeanie Finlay about their documentaries – Vashti Bunyan: From Here to Before and Goth Cruise – playing as part of the festival that evening. Both films explored people hoping to retreat from the mainstream – Vashti Bunyan in the 1960s on her horse-and-cart journey to the far reaches of Scotland and 150 goths spending a week on a Caribbean cruise in 2007.

Pip told me after the sessions that these talks and panel discussions were a new feature at Flatpack. I hope that events like 'Unpacked' become a regular part of the programming – the day was incredibly stimulating for anyone interested in finding out what makes filmmakers tick.

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