Category: Uncategorized (page 1 of 2)

The 18th Cornwall Film Festival

Written for Creative Culture South West

If you are a screen addict like me, a film festival is a perfect place to get a sneaky peek of the latest releases before they hit the mainstream cinemas. It’s also a great place to catch up on all the diverse indy features and shorts that don’t make it as far as your hometown screens. 

Some festivals follow film genres other follow themes. The 18th Cornwall Film Festival took place last weekend with the theme ‘Evolve’. It’s not quite in the league of the most prestigious film festivals in the world like Cannes, Berlin, and Venice, but it has a heart of gold and still attracts some great films. It celebrates the undiscovered, the old and the new. This year the festival headliner was Jojo Rabbit a sidesplitting black comedy written, directed and in parts acted by Taika Waititi. Based on Christine Leunens book Caging Skies, the plot revolves around a young boy in Hitler’s youth army who finds out his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their home. 

The Cornwall Film Festival isn’t just about the most popular films. It hosts masterclasses by world-class professionals for anyone starting out in the filmmaking business. And a schools programme which celebrates film and brings visual education to 5-19-year-olds, and their teachers. This year’s film screenings, to help their creative and personal development included Diego Maradona documentary, Revolting Rhymes, Jellyfish and the skateboard film MID90S written and directed by Jonah Hill.

The masterclass highlights for the first day of the festival weekend included a scriptwriting session with Alex Kendall, and talk about Alex’s route into the industry, developing work for shorts, feature, various productions. The second of the day was from BAFTA winner Joan Stribling giving a talk on makeup for the film industry, with a demo and Q&A. Richard Cambridge, co-founder of WeAudition was the third masterclass which highlighted the opportunities that have opened up by digital casting for actors and how filmmakers can extend their reach for projects. And the fourth was a BFI NETWORK, Show and Tell – South West funded films session, with speakers, Sophie Mair, Dan Gitsham, Rebecca Wolff and Yazmin Joy Vigus. The panel-led forum was a group of filmmakers, all of whom had recently received BFI NETWORK funding. The discussion included invaluable information on applying for funding, the pre-production and production process, and distribution plans in relevance to recent case studies of funded work. The BFI networking event which followed, plus bubbly, set the ideal tone to enjoy in the emotive documentary film ‘Cliff Top Session’ produced by the very talented Martha Tilston who closed the evening with a few songs.  

The core events for the Cornwall Film Festival span a long weekend. Still, traditionally the most popular days are Saturday and Sunday. It’s also a chance for regular pass holders and drop-in film buffs to sit back and enjoy the cornucopia of Regional and International shorts, classic films (The Blues Brothers and The Breakfast Club), and new releases. Good Posture, the sharp-witted comedy starring Emily Mortimer and talented newcomer Grace Van Patten lightened the mood before the hard-hitting feature System Crasher. The beautifully shot Only You was the Saturday evening gala film which was accompanied by a Q&A with the film’s very talented writer/Director Harry Wootliff. Who also generously gave her time to run an afternoon masterclass.

The final day of the festival featured the compelling documentary-style film Honeyland (Tamara Kotevska). The heart-wrenching story of a deserted Macedonian village, a 50-something woman, and her invasive neighbours who turn her life upside down and threaten her livelihood. The hard-hitting Monos (Alejandro Landes) followed. But Jojo Rabbit brought the cheer back to the auditorium as did the crazy but amusing Australian zombie flick, Little Monsters (Abe Forsythe) which closed the festival.


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Citizens Journalism – podcast series

In the first half of 2019, I joined the Citizen Journalism News Network course at Exeter University.

This course was designed to give attendees the confidence and skills to actively engage with the local news networks and spread information within Cornwall. My aim of the course was to gain the skills necessary to create a series of podcasts which would highlight the achievements of an unrepresented group of professional writers throughout the southwest. 

I started this course with no knowledge of how to produce or record a podcast. All I knew about the media was first-hand knowledge from listening to a variety of other podcasts.

One of my hobbies is scriptwriting, so I set out to apply similar writing and structuring techniques to the podcast script. By the end of June, my first dummy version of the Writers of Cornwall podcast for The Writers Collective was complete. Although not perfect, it was a great learning experience, and hopefully, further podcast episodes for the Collective albeit with a better production quality will follow soon.

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Blogging – is it a practical solution for marketing your business?

As part of a university module, I recently launched myself into researching the benefits of blogging for a business. As an aspiring writer and future small business in my own right, I was intrigued as to whether the plus points for this source of marketing outweighed the drawbacks.


What the professionals say…

The number one reason for any company to start a business blog is the hope that it will increase traffic to their website.

So how do people normally find your website?

Typing your name/web address into an internet search engine is one way, but this implies that your audience already knows that your business already exists, so really you are not attracting anyone new. More likely they will find you by searching the terms that define your website.

Paid adverts can guide people towards your site, but social media is becoming a more effective tool for driving users to follow a direct link. A blog is a persuasive, useful add-on to this type of marketing which can deliver more compelling information concerning your product. Once an audience has clicked through to read your blog on your website, they are more likely to stay on your site and explore the content. This could convert into wider recognition and future sales, which is your main aim.

How else does a blog help your website?

Sites are constantly scanned for activity, so new content is a big plus with the search engines. A higher ranking on the net makes your site more visible to a potential client. So each blog is one more opportunity be found, which is one more opportunity to drive traffic to your website and one more chance than you had before.
Blogging also gives you a chance to post consistently on social media sites with interesting and relevant content. A like on a social media post is good, a share is better, a comment is great, but a click through is the best result of all as you have engaged your audience. This is the first step in creating a bond with your user, however, it is a delicate game playing in a social arena and new online relationships need to be nurtured to gain results.

How do you convert your online customer relationship into a lead?

A call to action is a good solution and the offer of exclusive information, free products/samples, seminars etc., is the best way to tempt a new viewer and future customer to give you their email address. Once you have this you have a subscriber, which means that you can now legitimately keep your potential customer up to date with your product/news. It also means you have the start of a mailing list, an invaluable asset, with the long-term aim of a sale and hopefully a personal recommendation.
The long term benefit of a blog is that it continues ranking in cyberspace, which means it could continue to gain leads for days, weeks, months, and even years and lead to many more new relationships over time.

What should make up the content of your blog?

Anything that could be helpful to your audience is a good place to start as it establishes your authority. If there are any questions you have asked tutors, peers or professionals that have helped you, then pass this on. Give feedback on something you have read, somewhere you have visited or attended, your information could be useful to others.
If you have a new idea for a book or article, writing a blog about it can also be a useful method of gauging market reaction to an idea, without sinking precious time and money into a project that may be dead in the water.


What do the businesses say?

So armed with all the information from the professionals who recommend blogging, I spoke to a number of companies from the south-west who use a variety of different formats to market themselves.

Many use social media effectively and are aware of the benefits to business. The best of these focus on ‘crafting the stories and imagery to define brands, grow followings and improve performance’.

Their blogging strategies identify all the right buzzwords: authoritative standpoint; SEO rankings; increased visibility etc., however, their methods differ greatly. Those who really understand the power of the blog have developed creative approaches which are usually generated from seeing past the obvious delivery platforms. They are using podcasts, prose, poetry and much more to engage their readers.

It is clear that the rules of writing contribute heavily towards the best blog posts and that the better the skill of the writer the better the blog. This is easy when you are a writer yourself but for those who have no such talent within their business investing in the right person to create the right tone of voice or create the right content is not always seen to be cost effective. Undoubtedly those who do, create a better following as consumers choose what they see and hear, so in order to reach them you need to offer them great media content that they can engage with and enjoy on a regular basis.’

From talking to the business owners the biggest common mistake is the creation of content which is solely business orientated, focused on the work they undertake. Many who fall into this trap, found their blog stats soon dwindled due to a lack of fresh content. Diversity and storytelling achieve the most followers which in turn drive visits to their websites. The reader clearly wants a reward for their attention, entertainment or information.

Some of the companies I spoke to realised they should make more use of their blogs to raise their profile and to elevate their website rankings, but declared a lack of enthusiasm by their staff and a lack of time in the working day to write the content.


So what is the answer? Is a blog good for business?

It is quite clear from talking to both sides of the fence that blogging is not a ‘wham bam thank you ma’am’ process. It is a gentle dance of familiarity and trust to convince the reader that a product is worthy of investment. This is not an easy task and takes writing talent.

Transforming content into an engaging and effective marketing tool really makes a difference. So if you’ve got it flaunt it and use it as best you can to promote yourself and your craft. If you haven’t then outsourced, but either way, be prepared for the long haul as any worthy relationship takes commitment and requires a long-term time investment. These are your keys to marketing success via a blog.

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A similar experience – BBC story

A friend shared a story with me this morning that featured on the BBC news website, concerning a guy who discovered the flat he rented on Airbnb was used as a pop-up brothel.

We had a similar experience when we ran a chalet in France, which included three sex workers and a couple who organised the whole event. They were obviously very practiced in what they were doing and I have no idea if they charged for their services or not, despite an extensive google search.

It all happen over a weekend at the end of our ski season. The couple who had booked the chalet would welcome a group of clients who arrived from all over France (we checked the car plates) at about 8’Oclock. Then for both the Friday and Saturday night, everyone sat down to have dinner (so French!) and later in the evening watched a full on erotic performance. Obviously fluffed by their voyeuristic experience the guests then disappeared to all for corners of the chalet to continue their evening.

The organisers left the place spotless, but we lived downstairs so heard everything (earplugs were definitely needed!) and the neighbours later reported on having a very entertaining weekend.

I have included their antics in an episode of a TV series Seasons, I am writing with mentor Eleanor Yule, based on my experiences running a chalet in a french ski resort.

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Ink and paper – Palace Printers

Excitement is building for the small crafty National Trust book which I am project managing for Wyl Menmuir and Falmouth University.

Today we took one more step towards final production when the lovely guys at Place Printers in Lostwithiel gave us a guided tour of their premises and walked us through how our book would be prepared, printed and bound.

Wyl’s final copy will be ready at the end of the month and the book should be on the presses in June, so there is still a lot of work to be done yet!

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Book signing – Paul Lewin

What a difference a day makes!

I know, out and about two nights in a row, what is the world coming too?
But last night’s treat, a talk by Paul Lewin and Paul Gough at Waterstones in Truro, was just too good to miss.

I have been aware of Paul Lewin’s work for a while. As a painter and business owner I am an avid follower of the art world and follow the courses run in Newlyn, St Ives and Falmouth.

I knew that Paul was tutoring for Newlyn School of Art and had seen some of his fantastic paintings in the Trelissick gallery while out and about on weekend dog walks. As I also keep an eye on new books emerging from Cornwall, I knew a new book of his work had been published. I had missed his book signing in Penzance at the Cornwall Contemporary gallery in November last year, so I was delighted to find out there was another planned for the 30th March in Truro.

Last night author Paul Gough, an ex-tutor from Paul Lewin’s Bristol days who now lives in Aus, also attended the signing, which was a great bonus.

Paul Lewin’s later confessed that the evening had been unrehearsed, but you would have never have known. The two Pauls thrilled the audience with a fluid, eloquent talk about all things to do with writing and painting en Plein air. It was a real treat.

A big thank you must also go to Waterstones for having the foresight to host such an event and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for lots more of the same.

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Tate lecture – Jessica Warboys

Jessica Warboys, a Falmouth alumni fine artist, gave a lecture last night at the Woodlane Campus of Falmouth University.

Her large-scale paintings of Zennor and films which have been commissioned for the opening of the Tate St Ives tomorrow (31st March) will be showcased in the newly renovated galleries.

It is her first solo show in a UK national gallery and her paintings were created by casting mineral pigments directly onto a damp, folded canvas and then submerging them under the sea before being pulling them ashore. An exciting concept as the waves, wind and sand, shift and scatter the pigments, creating the images on the canvas.

Unfortunately, no canvases were present last night and she did not deliver an accompanying lecture which informed on how her latest work had been created by the technique of ‘sea dipping’. Our only brief glimpse of this body of work was via a digital slide presentation of similar painting she had created in the South East of England. The majority of the lecture highlighted her uninspiring past film work.

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Great entertainment – Graham Rawle

Tonight was another surprising treat, this time at the Woodlane campus of Falmouth Uni.

Graham Rawle is best known for his distinct narrative illustration style which blurs the boundaries between typography, illustration and now film-making with his collage effect montages. He is also an author and a true storyteller, who delights in asking his audience to create their own narrative from the simplest of images.

Graham Rawle, best known for his Lost Consonant series, was appointed visiting Professor of Illustration Falmouth University in 2016. He also teaches on the MA Sequential Design/Illustration at The Faculty of Arts (University of Brighton) and is Visiting Professor in Illustration at Norwich University of the Arts where in 2012 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate for services to design.

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Wow! – London Book Fair

I can’t believe it was nearly a week ago that I was on the cusp of pounding the corridors of Olympia for my first visit to the London Book Fair.
What a fantastically exhausting week I had!

Amongst the many authors I met, who spoke about their lives as writers and latest work, Ruby Wax, Olga Tokarczuk,  Rosanna Ley,  Amanda Jennings, CL Taylor really made an impact on me.

Jemima Forrester (David Higham) and EuanThorneycrof (A.M.Heath.) gave some interesting up to date insights for finding a literary agent.

Farah Abushwesha and Ben Weiner (winner of the 2016 Rockliffe new writers competition) were amazingly informative for wannabe screenwriters.

A whole host of editors, publicists, event managers etc., all provided invaluable information on the traditional and self-publishing industry as well as the abundance of opportunities which exist in both worlds. Rebecca Lewis-OakesMiriam RobinsonCatherine ClarkeEllie PikeEleanor HelsbyJudith WattsJoanna Penn and Gabriel Mercer were amongst the contributors.

All in all, it was a great week and I’m really looking forward to doing it all over again in April 2018, although I will definitely travel lighter and leave the laptop at home next year!

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You Are Not Safe in History – Natasha Trethewey

Another inspiring, topical lecture tonight at Falmouth University, this time by Natasha Trethewey (American Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner).

Her lecture – You Are Not Safe in History: On Abiding Metaphors and Finding a Calling, focussed on her wounded past which inspires most of her work. Really relevant to most of the writers I know, including myself.

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