The Screen Stockport Independent Short Film and Television Festival will open this month on Sunday 14th October at the Plaza Super Cinema, showcasing a variety of short films, music videos and feature length movies.

Launched just last year by 18-year-old Joe Barratt, the film festival has gathered pace thanks to the help of key film industry figures including a donation from IMDB Founder Col Needham.

Barratt, a passionate young filmmaker, wanted to create a festival that would give local talent the opportunity to connect with industry professionals. By reaching out to key players in the Manchester area, as well as elsewhere, Barratt managed to put a huge momentum into the local festival, which launched successfully in September 2011. Now with this year’s final preparations underway, he wants to expand its reach to become a leading event, highlighting young creative talent.

Some of the selected films for the 2012 Screen Stockport Film Festival include ‘Welcome to Leathermill’, ’82′, ‘Out Of The Woods’, ‘Escape Plan C’ and ‘Harold’s Going Stiff’, written & directed by Keith Wright.

Find out how this young filmmaker decided to launch the festival, how he gathered support and his personal tips on getting into the industry.

Interview with Joseph Barratt

Iain: What made you decide to launch the Screen Stockport Film Festival?

Joe: I decided to launch Screen Stockport Film Festival because I felt young people from the area could really benefit from having a space to have their work screened to an audience, as well as an opportunity to connect with industry professionals.

It all really started over two years ago when I made a short film with my friends at school which we wanted to show after the annual school production. I found out that there was a huge cinema screen at the theatre, the Romiley Forum, that we could use to project on to.

We then went to work making the short film, which was a skit about our teachers, and we had a great time writing it, filming it and acting in it. The film got a great reaction on the night when it was screened to the audience. Hearing people laugh and react to something which you’ve worked on was just a great experience. I wanted to give other young people the same opportunity, so I went to work creating Screen Stockport.

The festival then just grew and grew really. Soon we had a really wide, diverse selection of films with lots of entries coming in from students from all over the country. We had loads of great music videos that came flooding in as well as an International category with entries that had been screened at Sundance and Cannes.

The ethos of the festival was also about being truly grassroots and inclusive and, as well as screening films that had been shot in and around Stockport, I interviewed directors, producers, writers and actors who had a relation to Stockport for our videos section, in order to try and inspire the next generation of young creatives from the town.

Last year we had some really great positive feedback from young filmmakers who travelled to Screen Stockport. A quote that stood out for me was by one of the shortlisted filmmakers, Jim Martin, who said that Screen Stockport was:

“an unpretentious, friendly and welcoming festival where music promos & shorts are celebrated for a filmmaker’s originality not budget”.

I think Screen Stockport was about more than just the films though, it was about an environment in which you connect with people who share the same passions as you, and, in the case of last year, lots of connections were made which have resulted in filmmakers collaborating on projects for this year’s festival.

One of the highlights was having director Phil Hawkins come to the festival to show his film ‘Being Sold’ and doing a Q&A with around 300+ students. ‘Being Sold’ was shot in Stockport in two days, becoming the fastest feature film ever to be shot, and ended up winning the ‘Best Film’ award at the London Independent Film Festival. Phil was also a local college student, so it was great for the students who came to the screening to see what he’d been able to achieve.

In a nutshell, Screen Stockport is all about giving people the opportunity to meet other passionate creatives, network with industry professionals, see a wide selection of short films across many genres, and be inspired to pick up a camera and take part in next year’s festival.

Screen Stockport Film Festival Trailer 2012

Iain: What can you reveal about this year’s official selection and are there any film directors or producers that we should look out for?

Joe: I’m very pleased to say this year we’ve got a fantastic festival programme starting on Sunday 14th October at The Plaza Super Cinema in Stockport with our panel discussion on ‘Music and Film’ and ‘The Art of the Music Video’.

Director Mat Whitecross will be talking about his experiences directing Coldplay’s most recent music videos as well as the Ian Dury biopic ‘Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll’ and the upcoming ‘Spike Island’, about the legendary Stone Roses gig. He’ll also be talking about the journey he took from being a student to becoming a feature film director, working with director Michael Winterbottom on ’24 Hour Party People’, ‘The Shock Doctrine’ and ‘The Road to Guantanamo’.

Digital entrepreneur Andy Wood will be talking about his role in co-creating the ‘Whole World Band’ app, with 10cc band member Kevin Godley, which gives users the chance to jam alongside musical greats such as Ronnie Wood from The Rolling Stones and The Edge from U2, innovatively fusing together music and film through the use of an iPhone or iPad.

There are so many great filmmakers on show, so it would be hard to pick one person out because the standard is so high. Some of the team behind the Virgin Media Shorts winner ’2.20′ have done a really funny student short film, and we’ve got everything from gangster cats to Winnie the Pooh: The Theatrical Trailer and loads of other quirky, thrilling and imaginative films in between.

Our screening of ‘Harold’s Going Stiff’ on the evening of Friday 19th October is something which should definitely interest a lot of people, especially DSLR fans. ‘Harold’ was the first feature films ever to be shot entirely on the Canon 7D and is probably best described as a zombie comedy drama set in the middle of Yorkshire.

Alongside that we’ve also got the short film ‘Escape Plan C’, a sci-fi comedy drama starring Clint Boon from the Inspiral Carpets and Bez from the Happy Mondays. The film’s director JP Bankes-Mercer will be doing an introduction about the film and will talk briefly about their plans to turn it into an ongoing TV series starring a list of celebrities, including John Thompson, So that should be a really interesting evening!

Iain: How did you get the backing of IMDB Founder Col Needham and other industry figures for your festival?

Joe: Well it came from an incredibly bizarre discovery after reading an article about the founder and CEO of IMDb.com, Col Needham, in the Manchester Evening News. In the piece, it said that Col had been inspired to make the database after seeing films at the Romiley Forum in Stockport, the very venue for our film festival!

We immediately got in touch with Col to see if he’d do an interview for our site all about his incredible story. Col agreed to it and we ended up going down to IMDb HQ in Bristol to meet Col and do the interview. It was an amazing experience and I managed to get probably the first truly conclusive history of IMDb, everything from Col selling computers in Currys in Stockport to signing a buyout deal with Amazon.

When I was raising money for the film festival last year, by crowd funding on IndieGoGo, Col personally pitched in $500 which was absolutely amazing. The support from IMDb has been great, all the winning filmmakers this year will be getting an IMDb Pro membership courtesy of IMDb and Col is coming down to the festival to give his talk on how IMDb began and grew to become one of the world’s most popular websites.

In terms of other industry figures it was mainly just a case of getting in touch and asking them if they wanted to be involved, in the case of Helen Bullough, who is Head of CBBC Production, we went to do an interview with her at MediaCityUK and this year she’s coming to the festival. I met independent filmmaker Danny Lacey, who has recently worked with Philip Bloom on his short films, at BVE North and he’s agreed to come to this year’s festival.

I think that’s something I’ve definitely learnt since starting Screen Stockport: not to be afraid of approaching people in the industry, or sending e-mails and making phone calls to them. Often it can lead to some really great conversations and opportunities. (read more underneath)

Joe Barrett interviews Col Needham

Iain: If you could have any ‘dream guest’ appear at Screen Stockport who would it be?

Joe: Having Mat Whitecross down at the festival this year definitely feels like having a ‘dream guest’, but I’d also love to have people like Danny Boyle, Shane Meadows and Gareth Edwards be involved at some point, because I think they’re three British filmmakers who are simply great, for different reasons, but also fit the ethic and ethos of Screen Stockport. That would definitely be my dream team.

Iain: Where would you like to take the festival in the coming years, and do you have a particular goal or objective to help young talent in the Manchester area?

Joe: I’d just like to see more and more people become involved and benefit from Screen Stockport in different ways. My ambition is for it to assert itself as one of the leading film festivals in the North West and one of the leading student film festivals in the UK, which I definitely think is possible in the near future.

Last year Screen Stockport definitely felt like a family environment, with lots of people keeping in touch after the festival, so if we can keep that feeling while broadening our reach I’ll feel like we’ve accomplished something special.

Iain: Can you give any tips for young filmmakers looking to make a break in the industry?

Joe: Get involved in Screen Stockport! I think my advice would be that you’ve got to be ambitious, dogged and passionate about what you want to do in order to succeed in anything.

This truly is the time for independent filmmakers, mainly because of how democratised and accessible technology is now, so seize the opportunity, make your film and immerse yourself in a creative community like Screen Stockport and you never know what might happen!

The Screen Stockport Film Festival runs from 14th October – 19th October