To celebrate the final month of the Aesthetica Short Film Festival Call for Entries, we caught up with previous entrant Ben Blaine of the British filmmaking duo the Blaine Brothers. Their comedy, The Maestro, screened at ASFF 2011, and stars Robert Bathurst, Tim Samuels and Sirine Saba. Originally produced for BBC Comedy Online before being shown at ASFF, The Maestro has also featured in a number of other festivals across the UK and internationally. They are now producing a new feature film, Nina Forever, and Ben chats to us about his new film, his experience at the film festival, and gives advice to filmmakers considering entering this year.
A: What did you enjoy most about ASFF 2011?
BB: I was excited by the whole concept of ASFF. Too often film festivals do not connect with other art forms, so to have one rooted in a broader artistic world through Aesthetica magazine is wonderful. This is especially so as it’s a short film festival; sadly, the short film is often just a stepping stone, so it’s a great that these complete works are celebrated in themselves. A short film is a thing of beauty.
A: Which of your competitor films stood out to you the most in 2011?
BB: I particularly enjoy the drama category winner Lin. I found it both beautiful and powerful. Years after watching it I still find myself thinking about it – I’m not sure there’s any higher praise for a piece of art than that. Lin is a true demonstration of how a short can stand alone as a complete and valid artistic statement. To see a film of that calibre in the festival was a real indication of the quality of the event as a whole.
A: What advice would you give filmmakers who are considering entering the festival this year?
BB: Be true to yourself. It’s the advice I’d give to any filmmaker starting out on any project, but the great thing about ASFF is that it rewards those who are able to do this. I’ve certainly had my fair share of good advice too, and mostly it has revolved around not being self indulgent and remembering that there is an audience who will be sat through your film to the end. Speaking as an audience member, I love it when I see a film that doesn’t do what all the other films do. Sometimes those rules of not being self-indulgent and of caring about your audience are best served by confusing them, irritating them, shocking them and surprising them. As long as you’re doing that to a purpose it’ll work and they’ll love you for it.
A: Why do you think festivals are so important for filmmakers?
BB: As a filmmaker, it is incredibly important to feed yourself as an artist. You have to watch films, and not just the films that make it into cinemas. Festivals are also a great place to meet your audience and fellow filmmakers, and continue the dialogue created in your film. Making a film is a conversation with the audience; ideally it is something that works purely on screen, but if working with my brother has taught me anything it’s that you have to keep talking. Hopefully then you’ll be one step closer to saying all you need to say in that moment in the darkness.
A: Has being part of ASFF 2011 had an impact on your career?
BB: We were very proud to have played at the first ASFF and to have been part of the festival’s history. Whilst our focus had shifted to feature length work by late 2011, the encouragement myself and my brother received at ASFF was wonderful and had a lasting impact. The journey leading up to creating our feature was often a difficult and disheartening process, having our work screened to a receptive and appreciative audience was a great boost at the time.
A: Tell us about your new film Nina Forever.
BB: Nina Forever is in some ways quite a departure for us. It’s the story of a girl who died in a car crash but impossibly, awfully, reappears to her former boyfriend and his new partner, at selective and often inappropriate moments. The story follows the new girlfriend’s attempts to make this bizarre and blood splattered relationship work, in a film about the grief and the baggage brought to a relationship. Though at times Nina Forever is uncomfortably funny, it’s much deeper and darker than our shorts. It is, however, the most beautiful film we’ve yet made yet and hopefully with this one we have been true to ourselves, which is what I believe will make it exciting to watch.
1. Lenka Rayn H.