Another lovely edition of Encounters. World War Cup suitably baffled people in the Late Lounge XXXtra programme, plus I saw some solid films including the deserving winner of the Audience Award: Toma Waszarow's Red Light (Bulgaria/Croatia), the winner of the Grand Prix: Brady Hood's Sweet Maddie Stone (UK), and also Price James' Battlefield Casualties (just bloody funny), Sunit Parekh's Machine (utterly sublime to stare at), Anouk Fortunier's Strange Bird (a very pleasant surprise which turned out to be something I helped script-develop in Belgium a few years ago), and Ibro Hasanovic's Notes On Multitude (my personal favourite amongst the inevitable swathe of refugee-themed films).

This article covers my recent masterclass at Dokufest quite accurately. Also, World War Cup will be screening at the BFI London Film Festival next month.

A week late in posting this due to a hectic workload. Having heard plenty about this festival over the years I was pretty excited to finally experience it for myself, and it certainly didn't disappoint. The only drag (apart from my luggage not arriving in Kosovo until a day later) was that a heckish schedule prevented me from arriving earlier to enjoy a longer stay. It certainly isn't the only festival to be staffed by such friendly, welcoming hosts, but this combined with lush weather and landscape, plus a bulging programme of films, made for a very special festival indeed.

I was in attendance to present a retrospective programme of my fiction work, a masterclass, and a competition screening of my most recent short film World War Cup. Mere hours before the masterclass, at a morning press conference, I joked to festival journalist Una Hajdari that it would be fun to present myself wearing a toupee. Lo and behold, three hours later, myself and host Alexei Dmitriev were gifted with middle-aged-lady wigs for the occasion. It got pretty hot under there but we managed to keep them on for the whole hour, oh yes.

The screening of World War Cup was open air and, despite the plummeting temperature, I have to say I enjoyed it immensely. I really felt its freshness in the context of a narrative short film programme and, technically speaking, it was bright, loud and lairy. Too much volume can be incredibly abrasive and damaging for film exhibition (much worse than being too quiet, in my opinion) but al fresco worked a treat.

Speaking of loud volume, the mosques' enchanting yet eerie call to prayer, echoing across town through loudspeakers five times a day, was especially haunting when experienced from the quiet of a hotel room at 5am. Perhaps inevitably, it became slightly less welcome after several nights of interrupted sleep, but shall always remain a key memory (as will the terrifying abundance of selfie obssessives).

Massive thanks to Samir Karahoda for inviting me to this wonderful festival. If any filmmakers out there get the opportunity to attend, I highly recommend doing so!

Ahhhh so nice to be chosen. Look at those views rocket upwards!

Jam Today selected for Short of the Week.

Finally released my short film Jam Today online. If you're lovely enough to comment or give it a like, please hop over to its Vimeo page.


DokuFest in Kosovo have made a promotional clip for my upcoming retrospective:


Before Slovakia, I went to France to investigate Dinard further since whizzing through it 7 months ago. Despite the chill it was like a holiday with sun, sea and sand. Just what the doctor ordered. Then it was off to judge the short film competition at ArtFilmFest in Kosice (another genuinely delightful trip with Air France, who are always so nice to me). I last visited this festival in 2008 when it was based in the idyllic northern town of Trencianske Teplice, but this year it relocated to Slovakia's second largest city.

What a damn fine time. Amazing hospitality, scorching weather, great food and strong films. How many other festivals would allow the jury to spread out on the comfort of bean bags in screenings? The whole experience was so good that I extended my stay by a further 3 days to be there for the awards ceremony and my birthday (incidentally, both the festival and restaurant staff presented me with birthday goodies!). I was somewhat starstruck by fellow juror Kati Outinen, the legendary Finnish actress from a whole number of Aki Kaurismaki films. Such a funny lady with fantastic stories.

The festival boasted the first post-Cannes screening of Ken Loach's Palm D'Or winner I, Daniel Blake and I had much fun hanging out with Daniel Blake himself, actor Dave Johns. It just so happened that England played Slovakia in the European Championships while we were in town, and while I couldn't give a monkeys about football it was really something to see it in a huge outdoor theatre, on the biggest curved screen I ever saw. We were a tiny pocket of Englishmen amongst many Slovakians, but Dave is an utter charmer and somehow managed to join in the local chants.

Also watched another Cannes monster, the German comedy Toni Erdmann. At almost 3 hours long, I never imagined I would get through it, but ended up loving every minute. The following evening, the festival treated us to a lovely sunset trip to Tokaj Macik winery, out in the hills near the Hungarian border. This involved a lengthy tasting session in cooling subterranean caves, by candlelight, and is a memory I won't forget in a hurry.

Then there was the numbing news that the UK is leaving the EU (a Slovak said to me during the hotel breakfast "Enjoy your English breakfast"), which was impossible not to mention during the awards presentation. With the exception of 'Brexit' and returning to a still-raining, uncertain country, I have nothing bad to say about the whole experience. Thank you ArtFilmFest for a fantastic time, once again.

Some favourite shorts were Tim Ellrich's The Bathtub (Germany/Austria), Even Hafnor's Small Talk (Norway), Jorn Threlfall's Over (UK), Radu Barbulescu's 0068 Sniper's Nest (Romania), and once again Symbolic Threats (Germany) by Mischa Leinkauf, Lutz Henke & Matthias Wermke, which we awarded the prize..

Bit of a nightmare getting to the airport for my departure to Hamburg. One weirdly congested road in Nottingham meant I had to take a taxi to Luton. Do you know how much a 100+ mile cab fare is? Plus the cost of the pre-booked/missed train. Brrrh, shudder, etc.

Slightly alarmed but amused by the festival's choice of still image for the catalogue (having personally selected an image with the phrase 'Come on England' and having it replaced with one exclaiming 'German Bastard'), I have to admit to feeling apprehensive about how the content of World War Cup might be received by German audiences. Certain that someone would stand up and holler disrespect, the film was ultimately received in good humour.

In other news, I played barman for an excellent three-hour party in the festival club, and also fell down a hill during sunrise. Sort of. How my feet managed to stay on the ground is by far my greatest accomplishment of the trip.

For my taste, some of the international shorts were medium-length films, some of which felt better suited to gallery exhibition, but other favourites were: Francisco Forbes & Matthew Barton's Sit and Watch (UK), Martina Carlstedt's The Love Agency (Sweden), Maximilien Van Aertryck & Alex Danielson's Ten Meter Tower (Sweden), Simon Schnellman's Das Leben ist Hart / Life is Rugged (Germany), Anja Dornieden & Juan David Gonzalez Monroy's The Masked Monkeys (Germany), and Duncan Cowles & Ross Hogg's Isabella (UK). I only just noticed that 4 of these 6 are co-directed, which must be the new big thing in films. Like 3D. Or lesbians.

It's always hectic creating festival deliverables because I always (!) notice tiny mistakes that need ironing out (and this is after multiple "ironing out" passes). On the slightly more nerdy issue of creating a DCP for film festivals, it's no secret by now that you can create one from the convenience of your computer for free. For the last few years I followed Danny Lacey's excellent OpenDCP tutorial, until a mysterious audio issue caused me to switch to the much simpler DCP-o-Matic. Further to this, though I have yet to test it myself, I'm intrigued by a new way to view and test your DCP (previously only possible via a friendly cinema projectionist) in the shape of NeoDCP. Reviews are promising.

But better than all that stuff, Graeme Crowley, co-producer of my latest short World War Cup, just designed this smashing poster for the film:

Pleased to announce that my new short documentary World War Cup is receiving its world premierein competition at Hamburg International Short Film Festival. Given that I recorded the source audio for this film in Summer 2010, it's been a long time coming. How German audiences will respond to the chants of drunken, knuckle-dragging English football supporters remains to be seen.

In other news, it's been a hectic few weeks working on other projects. After a quick documentary shoot in Wales it was off to Scotland to film a short for a friend, where I got to try out the crazy little DJI Osmo camera (pictured below left by Peter Brill). Exciting times!n