The day that never was

October 9th, 2020 was going to be a very important day for Suffolk Shorts. This was the day we would have launched the festival, with our awards evening. Two days of screenings were to follow, on 10th & 11th, with guest speakers and workshops, networking opportunities and a good time was to be had by all.

The festival has been a long time in the planning and even longer in my heart as an idea that loomed a couple of decades ago when I first visited the Sundance Film Festival. I thought – if they can do it here, by a mountain in Utah with thick snow on the ground, we can do it in Suffolk. And we still will!

(I also thought Robert Redford was tiny, Christian Bale was terrifying and Kyle MacLaghlan was the nicest man I’d ever met.)

Having made the decision to postpone the launch back in June it was really hard to keep momentum going, especially under the circumstances. Each member of the team had their own issues to deal with (see previous blog for selected examples) and it took us time to realise that this was actually an opportunity. Gradually it began to dawn on us that this enforced delay to the launch would give us the chance to develop and become more flexible. A chance to look at how we could adapt to find our place in the new world. To add to our existing offer, rather than scale down.

Catherine Mary Stewart
Can you name the film?

Times of crisis are when creative people thrive. Adversity makes you think differently, subvert expectations and find truly original ways of doing things. Not only does this mean we are feeling energised, but we are already seeing films being submitted that have been formed in an environment of challenging circumstances. Yes, the studios have all the insurance, budgets to pay for bubbled crews with doubled teams, but the independent short films are finding ways to make work that’s different. And not necessarily pandemic themed.

Cineworld announce closure

The recent news about Cineworld/Picture House has been devastating. A good deal of blame has been placed squarely on the shoulders of the studios. Mulan, Black Widow, Kingsman and Wonder Woman 1984 all delayed their release, or went straight to streaming. Then the new Bond “No Time to Die” delayed its release AGAIN. And they are being short sighted. It’s a simple catch 22 situation: do the cinemas open even when the studios aren’t releasing their films? If they close do the studios carry on production if there is nowhere to screen them? One member of the Stevenage Cineworld team was quoted in The Guardian:

We have literally been killed by James Bond

No Time to Die Poster

Film critic Jason Solomons goes one step further and says that he fears the public will “lose the passion we have for cinema.” We can’t let this happen. Our mantra is that short films are the future, and this is an opportunity to introduce a wider audience to shorts.

Two things have kept me going. The support and commitment of the team and judges was an instant boost as we counselled them all on the decision to delay. The judges were unanimous in offering whatever they could to ensure that we make next year the year of everything for Suffolk. The team were reassuring and active behind the scenes.

Some of the Suffolk Shorts Team at leiston Film Theatre

The second thing that not only kept me going but kept me entertained and stimulated was the filmmakers who have submitted their films. I’ve been blown away by the standard of work that we have attracted as a total unknown entity. The first month of lockdown was quiet and allowed me to really catch up on the most recent submissions. Then there was a week when all I could do was lie down and watch films due to a nasty bout of shingles. Lucky/unlucky.

Oh, and coffee, lots and lots of coffee.

Damned fine cup of coffee and Agent Cooper

I want to thank the team and judges for all their support and all the filmmakers for giving us the privilege of considering their films (yes, I’ve watched every second). We will do you proud next year, and new developments are afoot…

Claire Whittenbury

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