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.

 

Citizens curation – Falmouth Art Gallery

I frequently write about private views, exhibitions and gallery openings around the Southwest on social media and blogs. So I am very familiar with the significant contribution Falmouth Art Gallery make to the community. Inspired by my recent involvement with the Citizens Journalism Network, I decided to enrol on the Citizen Curator work-based training programme.

The programme, provided by Cornwall Museums Partnership in collaboration with seven museums around Cornwall is funded by the Museums Association’s Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund.

As a writer, it is a fantastic opportunity to have hands-on experience of the historical collections within the museums and highlight their stories. Throughout the six month programme, all the attendees have the chance to visit all the associated museums, attend field trips and events, to uncover the hidden diversity of Cornish society. And translating any new knowledge into a form that will engage and inform their community.

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.

Minack theatre – chance of a lifetime

The beginning of June marked the end of a fantastic course ‘Writing for Stage’ with the amazingly talented Jane Pugh – supported by director and performer John Brolly.

This amazing course hosted by The Writers Block at Cornwall College was aimed at new writers, as well as those who had already written plays. So I was among talented company! Although a screenwriter myself and annual reader for the Nick Darke Award, I have never tackled writing a play. So I was intrigued by the difference between writing for the two disciplines.

The course looked at the creativity and craft of writing for the stage and explored theme, story, characters, dialogue, setting and staging.  Each week was a mini-workshop with a group discussion. And when our plays had been suitably developed we gave each other invaluable feedback before we shared our final pieces at The Minack Theatre.

The event on June 8th was amazing. Despite the lousy weather for a few days before, the day was stunning and offered far-reaching views of the Atlantic ocean. With a cluster of friends and relatives for support, we congregated in one of the practice rooms in the bowels of the theatre, eager to hear each other’s play excerpts.

Jane had guided us perfectly to realising our potential and developing a collection of diverse stories. All the plays were very different with amazing characters and flowing believable dialogue. And we were all very grateful for her dedicated input and enthusiasm throughout the eight weeks.

Please click on the MP4 below if you would like to watch the read-through of my play ‘Dealing with it’.

 

 

Living the dream

Who wouldn’t want to soak up the sun and rhythmic crash of the pounding surf over breakfast? For a minority of the UK’s population, it’s a reality, but for the rest of us, it’s just a dream. So when a couple of my closest female friends came to stay, I decided to treat them to a well-earned slice of luxury.

As a year-round visitor to Castle Beach, I had watched the construction of The Falmouth Hotel Suites with envy. To me, they offer the perfect holiday solution – stunning views, full self-catering facilities, privacy to lounge about in your pyjamas, and the bonus of a first-class restaurant & spa just a few yards walk away.

Our first essential stop of the weekend was the squishy sofas by the panoramic windows in the hotel bar. As my friends eased into the coastal lifestyle with a large glass of Tarquins, I glowed with pride as they lost themselves as I often do in the ever-changing sea views.

When we eventually left the comfort of the lounge to explore the lodge that was to be our home for the weekend we were pleasantly surprised. The furnishings were entirely contemporary which gave the living spaces an airy seaside feel without being kitsch. The double rooms were thoughtfully situated at the back of the apartment to avoid the first of the of the suns rays and the inevitable dawn chorus from the gulls. And the terrace was ideal for soaking up the last sunny rays of the day with a glass or two of Curio before heading out to dinner in one of my favourite bars to catch up on each others news over dinner. All in all, it was an idyllic start to a fantastic weekend.

 

A new venture for a new year

March is named after a Roman god, Mars, who the Romans prayed to for help with expanding their empire, so it seems a fitting month to soft launch a project I have been working on for a while.

The Writers Collective went live on social media today. Aimed at writers of all specialisms in the UK and beyond. It has been designed to be an online hub for connecting professional writers with writing services, as well as a directory for businesses to find writers and advertise jobs. Commercially orientated, the website will also provide an arena for writers to share their work,  discover events, courses and jobs.

The Writers Collective Community is hosted from on the Facebook page of the same name and is where all the interaction between writers will happen  – hopefully sparking discussions of subjects which affect all writers from struggles with running a small business, networking opportunities and the isolation of working as a freelancer. All subjects I personally face and have been talking over with my fellow writers in the south-west region.

Wish us luck…

Banishing the black

At nearly 6ft I’ve never been a girly girl. So booking myself into my favourite local spa for a lash lift and tint was an adventure into new territory for me.

I do love a good spa session,  and I have been to many all over the world. But in the past, I’ve always opted for more practical treatments. Massage, detox scrub and even the odd pedicure or two. Venturing into the world of beauty therapy was just something that had never crossed my mind. So why now?

Well, there is a practical reason for my strange behaviour – winter is here! Which for me means no more outdoor swimming. However, for sanity’s sake I still need my watery escape, so I’ve been forced inside by the rubbish winter weather.

I’m not the only one who swaps brine for chlorine during the long Cornish winter months. As soon it feels like they are pushing the limits of masochism, many of my fellow wild swimmers also retreat to the nearest pool to satisfy their aquatic addiction.

The pleasure of diving into crystal clear waters and defying the effects of gravity are proven to be both physically and mentally therapeutic. Personally, my enjoyment comes from letting my thoughts wander as I push myself to the limits through still waters. And more often than not I surprise myself with some very creative problem-solving.

Anyway, to cut what has now become a long story about mindfulness short. The leisure suite where I swim also has a spa.  And December’s bargain-priced promo was a Lash lift and tint, which was just too tempting to miss. As much as I love swimming, most waterproof mascaras don’t live up to their hype, and I often come out of the pool looking like Alice Cooper. So my creative problem solving came into its own and today’s little lash lift experiment will hopefully banish my scary post swim appearance for once and all –  well for the next three months anyway.

The colourful worlds of Hew Locke & Krijn de Koning

I have attended two thought-provoking but very different sculptural based lectures at Falmouth School of Art this month.

Hew Locke was giving his last lecture as his post as Visiting Professor and Krijn de Koning was doing a favour for a former colleague.

Both showed a mix of very different, older, recent, large and smaller projects. They also discussed their research and creation of their pieces in response to the environment. In Locke’s case, his influences are very political and culturally based.  The site-specific work Krijn de Koning is more present day than historical. He analyses and tries to understand a particular existing situation, seeking the possibilities within the space and letting his thoughts emerge from it. However, the connections he makes in the in situ are similar to those Locke makes within his historical research.

Both have had the opportunity to exhibit in open spaces and churches.
But their work although equally as colourfull is strikingly different which for me was a significant reminder of the beauty of individuality in the fantastic world of art.

Full blogs for both feature as journal entries on my art blogging page

The end of summer

As the summer draws towards a close so does the astounding Groundworks Art programme and the end of my time as a volunteer.

It was a sad moment for me as I have revelled in the opportunity to engage with this outstanding art programme of installation art. The gift of spending time immersed in the same space as such great pieces of art has been priceless. From Christina Mackie’s intriguing contemporary sculptural installation at Godolphin House, Helston. To the inspiring immersive films of Steve McQueen, Francis Alÿs & Laureana Toledo, and the highly emotive Forty-Part Motet by Janet Cardiff. I have loved them all.

 As an avid filmgoer and aspiring scriptwriter, I have been captured by the power of filmmaking as an artwork, enough to be inspired to dabble in the genre. But the biggest surprise to me was my response to the Janet Cardiff sound installation in the revitalised Richmond Chapel, Penzance. Not a religious person and definitely not a fan of 16th-century choral music, I found myself never tiring of the Thomas Tallis piece she had so cleverly manipulated. It wasn’t just me either. Time and time again local residents returned for their ‘daily fix’. Whilst visitors from further afield cajoled their nearest and dearest into experiencing the piece first hand. I did the same to mine too, and they loved it too.

Volunteering is such an uplifting way of lending your support to something you believe in. And the Groundwork Art programme message of ‘Art for All’ was definitely worth spreading. The opportunities the programme has presented for the general public to experience work of internationally recognised artists, curators and producers have been enthusiastically grabbed with both hands by everyone I met during my onsite sessions. And I sincerely hope there will be many more similar well-curated programmes, in such inspiring locations, to come in the future.

So I would like to say a huge THANK YOU to all of the funding bodies who helped make this art programme possible and an even bigger THANK YOU to all the organisers, staff and fellow volunteers who gave up so much of their personal time and without whom this programme would not have succeeded and touched so many people’s lives.

 

Virginia Woolf – To the LIghthouse

Divine, is the only way to describe my total absorption into the world of Virginia Woolf recently.

Not only was I privileged to explore the recently opened Virginia Woolf inspired exhibition at the Tate St Ives on a personalised tour with director Anne Barlow. But I also spent a whole day at Porthmeor Studios with two renowned Virginia Woolf experts.

The intriguing new Woolf exhibition, housed in the new extension is inspired by her writing. It offers a narrative with a feminist perspective on landscape, domesticity and identity through modern and contemporary artwork. The exhibition includes some outstanding work by  Laura KnightGwen JohnVanessa BellWinifred NicholsonSandra BlowBarbara HepworthClaude Cahun and Dora Carrington.

Inspired by the premise of the exhibition I then joined a small group of twenty on a windy but bright study day, in St Ives. Sarah Phillips and Claire Nicholson, our Masters on Woolf for the day, bestowed on us a deeper insight into the Virginia life. Focussing particularly on her St Ives inspired novel To the Lighthouse, one of my particular favourites, the study day further opened my eyes to the influence of her childhood in Cornwall on her writing.  Symbolically the rare glorious sunshine illuminated the stunning seascape beyond the studio window’s, making it easy to understand how Woolf had been so taken with the landscape that surrounded her during her early years.

Claire Nicholson, is a specialist in Modernism, the history of women’s writing and Virginia Woolf who frequently lectures in Cambridge.  Sarah Phillips, who has made a career of studying the Bloomsbury art and literature has more recently focused her attention on Woolf as a Cubist Writer. Both knowledgeable speakers on all things Woolf, they are naturally also Executive members of the Virginia Woolf Society.

Unfortunately, I shall miss the Virginia Woolf: Art and Ideas conference, scheduled at the Tate St Ives on the weekend of the 2-4 March. Delivered by a huge collection of highly respected speakers and focusing on Landscape & Place, Performing Identity, Still Life, the Home & The Private Self, the conference will no doubt offer further in-depth insight into Woolf’s personal life and writing.

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