The idea of the Norwich Film Festival first arose over a coffee between two friends in the spring of 2009. One had just completed a short film, but had nowhere to screen it; the other had just returned from travelling and was yet to find a job. A film festival sounded like an easy way to increase the opportunities of filmmakers to get their work screened in public, while also offering audiences something different and exciting to watch. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to help each other out.
Within a few days a website had been created and a series of basic online adverts had been posted. A few weeks after that, thirty films had been submitted. A few months after that, over 300 had been submitted. After weeks of making selections and then narrowing them down further, over the course of one week in September and five locations across the city, 94 films were screened from 13 countries worldwide.
Initially intended as a one off event, the success of the first festival persuaded founder Kellen Playford to bring the festival back as an annual event.
The second film festival took place in April 2012 at the Hollywood Cinema, Norwich, screening 41 short films in total. New patrons and judges were brought on board to help raise the profile of the festival, as well as to aid in the final judging process, with the likes of Notting Hill actor Tim McInnerny and Lord of the Rings actor Bernard Hill signing up. More Q&A sessions were held with film directors, and audiences were given something new to experience at the cinema. People from all overEurope came to watch the films and many filmmakers were given their first public screenings.
With the third festival almost upon us, we’re bracing ourselves for another hectic week of events which will be yet another step on our learning curve. We’re always adapting and trying new things to suit our filmmakers and our audiences. We’ve screened feature films, short films, micro films, animated films, documentary films, student films and so much more. We’ve had guest talks with filmmakers and we’ve had celebrity judges too.
This year, between April 28th and May 4th we will be at CinemaCity inNorwich, screening over 40 short films across three evenings. These will include seven shorts that were nominated for this year’s BAFTA’s, one that was nominated for an Oscar, and lots more that have been nominated for and won countless awards worldwide. There will be something for everyone, and with our audience feedback surveys, we hope to keep on learning and keep on evolving.
Next year we already plan to expand and offer a screenplay competition, giving writers a chance to get their work read by industry professionals and hopefully see their words get transformed into films. We’re also planning more Q&A sessions, filmmaking workshops and special film screenings across the city. We’ll look to offer opportunities that encourage friendly debate and learning, while still being entertaining and exciting. Depending on what our audiences tell us next month, we’ll be looking to add more to the line up too.
But with the next festival starting this week focus remains on making sure that we can put on a great show for those who like to be entertained. As long as filmmakers keep submitting their work, and audiences keep turning up, we will always be here to put on a festival for you, and in the words of Stephen Fry, “it’s wonderful to see Norwich is continuing to support our local film industry with such vim and vigour!”
So thank you for supporting us, and we hope to see you soon!