GSFF screened The Turtle Terminator on Thursday, March 16 as part of Blueprint: Scottish Independent Shorts, a special engagement of the ongoing short film showcase that brings ultra-independent productions to Glaswegian big screens every three months. Hosted at the CCA Theatre, the event was a special engagement with a bill devoted entirely to the shorts of Glasgow Film Crew, a grassroots creative network that fosters collaborative projects between filmmakers at different career levels.
"Events like GSFF are indispensable for indie filmmakers," says C.J. Lazaretti, director of The Turtle Terminator. As a seasoned festivalgoer who's attended film events in America and Europe, C.J. knows first-hand how the exposure of festivals can prevent non-mainstream films from vanishing in the overabundance of audiovisual content that pours out of the many digital screens so much of our culture is made of these days. "A big-screen world premiere announces your project with a bang. Daring, boldly curated festivals like GSFF amplify that noise even more by attracting an engaged, curious audience hungry for unique films."
A Rich and Daring Programme
Bold curation was the underlying principle in the GSFF programme. Next to The Turtle Terminator, the Blueprint bill included Ian Hendry's internationally acclaimed silent drama Blizzard and sketch-turned-meme Bruar. Also on the menu were the world premieres of Aimie Willemse's The Distances Between and David McCarrison's Last Request, an ambitious family drama fragmented both in style and content.
A second Blueprint showcase, titled Blueprint: B-Roll, featured 23 international short films that probe the boundaries of propriety and acceptability in a formidable stampede of controversial mayhem. The audience cheered, cackled and groaned at the likes of Eat My Shit, a scatological tale of revenge against online censorship, and No One Is Thirsty, Matt Lensky's film adaptation of the eponymous Perry Bible Fellowship comic strip. B-Roll was fully curated by experimental maverick Bryan M. Ferguson, featured elsewhere in the GSFF programme with similarly edgy productions like the irreverently deadpan Rubber Guillotine.
Many of the most distinctive films screened at the five-day festival were as provocative as they were short, often lasting no more than two minutes, or even one. Glasgow Film Crew founder Ryan Pasi attributes that to an "indie rogue feeling" inherent to GSFF. "The fact that Blueprint had two programmes speaks volumes," says Pasi, who has collaborated on featured shorts directed by himself and by others as well (and co-produced The Turtle Terminator). "These filmmakers may not have had any aspirations further than sticking their film online and sending it to friends and family. To give them the chance to screen it to a sold-out theatre is something I'm really proud of, and in debt to the festival for."
In fact, sold-out screenings have proven to be the norm with the series. "Blueprint has consistently demonstrated the quality of work that exists in non-institutional short film practice, and the appetite amongst audiences to support it," says Hans Lucas, who launched Blueprint at the Glasgow Film Theatre in September, 2015, with support from GSFF. "It's time our cultural and institutional leaders recognised this too. Selling out two programmes in one weekend is a special feeling and I hope it represents a watershed moment moving forwards."
Party With the Film Industry
A wide range of industry-focused events permeated the GSFF schedule, proving that professional standards and ambitious development are not the preserve of big-budget blockbusters. The best illustration of that committed ethos was arguably The Magic Lantern Returns, a programme of sophisticated shorts by female directors off the beaten path, some of which have since gone on to become household names in their own right, like Jane Campion and Margaret Tait.
Penelope Bartlett. Like her filmmaking heroines, Bartlett achieved great success in her career, moving from the humble beginnings of a shoestring short film night to influential roles in curation and programming for ShortOfTheWeek.com and Filmstruck, the streaming website operated by TCM and the Criterion Collection, after similar positions with the Palm Springs Shortfest and the Tribeca Film Festival. Now based in the US, the Scotland native also contributed her expertise to Is There Life Online, an instigating and informative panel on digital distribution opportunities and how to combine them with a constructive film festival strategy.
Great films may be the essence of a good festival, but great festivals expand that brief into a raucous celebration of the art form. True to that spirit, the tenth GSFF offered ample opportunity for a right knees-up in after-parties hosted at the Joytown Grand Electric Theatre in Garnethill. Sponsored by Auchentoshan whisky and the Brooklyn Brewery, the late-night revels treated festival passholders to concerts by Jacob Yates and the Pearly Gate Lock Pickers, as well as London jazz quintet Ezra Collective. Rounding up the festivities was DJ Ronan Leonard (of RingoMusicBingo.com fame), manning the pickups after the awards ceremony on Sunday and plugging Indie Cork, an Irish festival of independent film and music.
The entertaining power of short film events is constantly in the mind of John Perivolaris, award-winning screenwriter and director of Random Clock films. "There's little point in making an ambitious short like The Turtle Terminator, with a 30-strong cast and crew, if we can't get films and audiences to connect. GSFF provides the spark to ignite that furnace of creativity. Filmmakers and audiences are all the better for it."
Follow the Glasgow Short Film Festival and Blueprint: Scottish Independent Shorts on Facebook for the latest news from Glasgow's fiercest purveyors of short film brilliance. We cannot disclose all that's in store yet, but can assure you that 2017 will bring exciting new developments for local indie film fans. Stay tuned!