This year the ECU Film Festival has screened a host of independent films from all over the world connecting audiences of different cultures and beliefs as they discover new stories that mainstream media will rarely pick up.
Founder Scott Hillier has fought hard to make the festival into what it is today, and as the technology to make indie films becomes more affordable and accessible, the ECU Film Festival has become a major venue for bold filmmakers to make their mark.
I sat down with Scott to find out more about his views on the indie filmmaking scene and how he wants to help indie filmmakers succeed. Scott told me that he watches every film submitted to the festival, and had the support of 40 international judges to choose this year’s official selection.
Discover more about his vision for the festival, why he wants to strive for “an environment of excellence,” and what’s been happening behind the scenes at this year’s ECU.
Iain: What’s happening this year at the ECU Film Festival?
Scott: Were showing 95 films, from 32 countries. They compete for 24 awards including the big award which is ‘Europe’s Best Independent Film 2014’. We’re screening films at the 7 Parnassiens cinema in Paris where there are hundreds and hundreds of people attending. It’s a very big success in Paris but we’re not just Paris based. We travel all over the world and we were recently in Brazil showing the best independent films.
Iain: The films screened at the ECU Film Festival are also taken on the road and shown again?
Scott: Exactly. So we have our official selection, but mainly our award winners get picked up by our other partner festivals. In Brazil, the city of Rio flew us over and gave us a cinema for a week. They said “We want to see Europe’s best independent films.” For filmmakers it’s great because you submit one film to one festival and if it’s in our official selection, our partners show them, and they travel around the world. It’s a pretty good deal. I’d like that for my films!
Iain: Do filmmakers get the opportunity to pitch or show their films to TV, potential distributors?
Scott: We’re very much a filmmakers’ festival more than a ‘marketing film festival’ even though every time you’re going to a film festival of course you’re being marketed to. We do have distributors here and we had deals picked up from the festival. A lot of it though is recognition from your peers, the jury and the audience.
Iain: What is it that inspired you to keep going and make the festival better every year?
Scott: It’s not just me, we’ve got a great staff and an alumni who are a part of this. It’s helped them launch their careers. It’s encouraged them to find their voice so you know there’s a big group of people around me that love facilitating good stories. I believe and the people around us believe that fundamentally everybody is looking for a good story. It can be in a video game, on TV, or on Youtube but at the heart of that is good storytelling and that’s what we like doing.
With modern technology the way it is, anybody can make a film. Making a film is easy. Making a good film is hard.
I think the thing that encourages us every year is that there is an evolution in storytelling in the way that modernity is growing and there’s only supposedly 10 stories in the world, and how do you come out with new fresh ones? But we’re getting new stories told in different fresh ways all the time, and there’s no doubt it stimulates my creativity. The idea that new ideas are dead is wrong.
Iain: What makes films stand out to you?
Scott: We don’t have red carpets and limousines. We’re a wall to wall film festival. A good story can be as simple as two guys standing at a bar. You don’t need explosions and bullets or guns or t*** (although they can be great!).
Tell a good story and tell it well. The pleasure you can get out of being an independent filmmaker is that we all have colossal egos, but as long as it’s your story on screen, it’s fine..you have to be a bit selfish. Don’t be scared. It’s the idea of being different…and establishing yourself.
Iain: Any plans to make ECU an Oscar qualifying film festival?
Scott: We’ve tried. They came back to us and said we’re too young. It wasn’t a no, and they said “come back”. We’ve achieved success through the films that have come to the festival, which have been recognized, and nominated for BAFTAs. We will become Oscar qualifying there’s no doubt. It just takes time, there’s a lot of credentials that are needed to make it happen.
Check out our guide on how to make your short film Oscar worthy and for filmmakers looking to expand their knowledge and prepare their films for submissions you can review our film tutorial section for more tips.