And so with the aims and ambitions of the festival gradually taking root and fuelling enthusiasm for innovative programming, 2010 approached. With the addition of an advisory panel of industry experts (which by 2012 includes Daisy Allsop, Fred Hogge, Olivia Hetreed , Simon Relph and Jonathan Coe) putting their support and backing to the festival, things were rolling. As with all festivals, the dream was to create something that would bring people together “… to make film fun and memorable, rather than sitting in front of your DVD player at home” as Steven says. There are many festivals doing this now – Secret Cinema, Nomad Screenings and other festivals over the country – but at the beginning it was Tilda Swinton’s film festival in Scotland, Ballerina Ballroom Cinema of Dreams.
In a ballroom in Nairn, Scotland, s he held a miniature film festival, deck chairs, bean bags, fish finger sandwiches and home baking. Tilda Swinton said they were aiming to “reinject some romance into the film festival circuit” which chimed exactly with how Steven and Nic were thinking in another little town at the opposite end of the British Isles; not just the” film for films sake” as Nic says, but the whole experience from food (in From Page to Screen’s case, often provided by incredible local baker Leakers) to music to decoration, creating a magical atmosphere.
For From Page to Screen, all these ideas and influences came together in 2010, the first proper festival and a much bigger affair with… number of events…. It also marked the first year of collaboration between Bridport’s two venues, the Arts Centre and the Electric Palace – for Steven, the sell-out showing of A Single Man at the Palace was his best moment of the festival; the combination of the film, the subject matter, and the speaker, Katherine Bucknell. For Nic, the lassoing of Lynn Barber to close the festival with a screening of the film of her autobiography, An Education, was his greatest coup; hearing her talking on a BBC breakfast show, he emailed in an invitation and moments later had the satisfaction of hearing the invitation read out live on air. “That sounds lovely” said Lynn Barber “let’s talk later”. Some talk later, and Lynn was secured as a guest at what would go on to be a sell out screening of this Oscar winning film.
And from there, we moved on to 2011, the biggest festival so far. The greatest addition here was the concept of a Guest Director, something that many literary and film festivals have embraced (most famously with Port Eliot’s addition of Martin Scorsese to programme a few films at their festival in Cornwall). Steven had heard Jonathan Coe speaking about They Were Sisters on Francine Stock’s Radio 4 show The Film Programme (the synchronicity of this not to be lost on us) and invited him to speak at the 2010 festival. To Jonathan’s disappointment, he’d been unable to attend ‘I was very regretful about that because it sounded like a wonderful idea for a festival and I did want to be involved and I assumed as you do when you turn something down that they’re never going to ask you again….”. So when Steven got in touch and asked him to guest direct the whole thing, he was more than happy to oblige. “He was probably the best person we could have got to be the first curator” says Nic “he didn’t see it as a token post but absolutely threw himself into the whole idea of planning a season and having very ambitious ideas which he said probably wouldn’t come off…. what was fantastic was he DID it!”. His ambitious ideas included Kazuo Ishiguro, Bill Forsyth, Nicholas Mosely and many others. (More about the 2011 Festival in a later entry – and keep your eye on the blog for the filmed interview between Jonathan Coe and Francine Stock as Jonathan passes over the mantle…).
To the sadness of all, Steven stepped down from the festival after 2011 to progress to pastures new. The work that he did in establishing the festival never went unappreciated, and his good humour, enthusiasm and boundless good ideas made the festival a pleasure to work on. A good time to sing his praises and THANK HIM from everyone on the committee, past and present. So with 2011 a bright and burning success, and 2012 looming on us under the brilliant guidance of Francine Stock, what does Nic, as only surviving member of the original team, see as the future of the festival? “It’s all about growing the festival bigger and more significant as a place to consider this art form; adaptation” he says “There’s no reason why it can’t become a very important opportunity and an endless exploration of it, thanks to the endless supply of adaptations. Adaptation has always been here and always will be”. With the Flash Film competition making a name for itself among young film makers (250 words of winning fiction from the Bridport Prize turned into 60 seconds of film) and more emphasis on craft and the secrets of film-making this year, the festival will continue to embrace new ideas.
And who would be their dream curators for Francine to pass the baton on to? For Nic, it’s festival hero and friend, Kazuo Ishiguro. For Steven? Because of her heartfelt belief that non-mainstream filmmaking is important, Tilda Swinton herself. Here’s hoping.
Programme Details the 2012 Festival to be announced soon!
And next on the blog, an exclusive interview with Joe Dunthorne!