“Who will be the next great storyteller?” So asks YouTube’s Your Film Festival, a global competition to find the world’s best storytellers, connect them with a global audience, and provide one deserving entrant with a truly career-changing opportunity.
All the videos seen will be under 15 minutes in length. The great thing about this competition is that not only does it reach a global audience but that submissions can be in the form or movies, web-series, pilots and anything else that tells a story
On June 11, YouTube and Emirates, in partnership with La Biennale di Venezia (the Venice Film Festival) and Scott Free (Ridley Scott’s production company), announced the 50 semi-finalists in the Your Film Festival competition. This 50 made it through an exhaustive selection process from over 15,000 submissions from more than 160 countries.
It is now up to the YouTube community to view and vote on the semi-finalists at youtube.com/yourfilmfestival this will help decide which 10 film makers will attend the Venice Film Festival and compete for the $500,000 grand-prize. The film maker will use this money to produce a feature piece for YouTube in conjunction with Scott Free.
Damien Power, originally a Tasmanian and now residing in Sydney is an Alumni of Australian Film Television and Radio School and has had a great deal of success early in his career, not only with the two films in the Your Film Festival, but with his award winning short film Peekaboo and a number of other projects in development.
Written and directed by Power, Peekaboo is going gangbusters. It has won the Audience Award at the Canberra Short Film Festival; Best Tasmanian short film at the Breath of Fresh Air Film Festival; Showtime talent assist award; Best editing Flickerfest; SBS award; Audience award at the 18th World of Women’s Cinema Festival; Best film judged by industry at the West End Film Festival; Best Australian film at the Mudgee International film festival and Emerging Screenwriter at the Shorts Film Festival. This is all in addition to being a finalist in multiple categories, official selection at multiple festivals, including International Festivals and it is currently in competition in Seattle and India.
Power’s two Your Film Festival entrants are very different. Bat Eyes is an exploration of love, sex and language. It is about reflection and emotion. Bat Eyes is a power packed piece of cinema for a short film and well worth looking at. Boot is a story about friendship, youth and tragedy. With the tag line “can you save a friendship with a lie?” This explores in only 10 minutes, youth culture, friendship and the consequences of our choices and action, or inactions.
I recently caught up with Damien Power for a chat.
Adam Hennessy – What does it mean to you to have 2 films in the top 50 for the YouTube Film Festival?
Damien Power – Producer Bec Cubitt, who was in London at the time, broke the news to me in an email that started, ‘Are you sitting down…’ Actually I was just waking up. The only thing that stopped me doing a cartwheel was the fear of permanent injury.
I’m especially pleased that both Bat Eyes and Boot were selected for YouTube’s Your Film Festival because the films were made together, as part of the same project, with mostly the same crew. I would’ve been over the moon to have one film in the festival – but secretly disappointed for the other one. With two films in the top 50 I can just be unequivocally happy!
Also, I love that anyone with an internet connection anywhere in the world can watch these films anytime they like. I want Bat Eyes and Boot to be seen by as many people as possible – of course it helps if they vote too!
AH – How long was the process of making the films?
DP – I first read the monologues on which the films are based in August 2011. We shot the films back-to-back in just three days in December 2011. And both films were finished by March 2012, when we launched them online. The whole process was really fast. Having a deadline helped.
AH – Is it more difficult to direct someone else’s written work?
DP – Whether you’re directing your own writing or someone else’s it’s an act of interpretation. When you direct your own script you have to try to look at it with fresh eyes, which can be difficult. When you direct somebody else’s script you have a bit more critical distance.
This process was a bit different because I worked closely with the writers Jess Bellamy (Bat Eyes) and Jo Erskine (Boot ) on the adaptation from monologue to screenplay. I didn’t quite have that distance, but I did have two great collaborators.
AH – Which film do you like more? Why?
DP – That’s a bit like asking me to choose between my children! Also, the films are so different it’s impossible to pick. The things I love most about these films are often surprises or things that exceeded my expectations. I have pretty high expectations so if my work ever exceeds them it’s always exciting. I love the unexpected humour in Boot , and the complexity of the kids’ relationships drawn in so few strokes. I love how it manages to tell the story of the complete disintegration of a relationship entirely in the cut between the final two scenes. Oh, and (spoiler alert) if you look closely you can see a shooting star in the wide shot of the crash scene. That has to be good luck.
In contrast to Boot , Bat Eyes has such a delicate tone. I hoped people would connect with the film, but I’ve been surprised (and delighted) by strength of viewers’ responses. People seem to really love it. Wonderful work by all involved but I’d like to particularly highlight Sasha Zastavnokovic’s sound design and Brendan Woithe’s score. They make the film almost vibrate with regret and longing. And the Yeats poem is just beautiful. Jess’ original monologue is told from Adam’s point of view in a wonderfully poetic rhythm. One of her challenges in the adaptation process was to find a colloquial speaking voice for her characters, while preserving the strength of her voice as author. Ironically the film came full circle in the editing process and we replaced the last of Adam’s monologue as voiceover with the Yeats poem. At the outset of the process I expected that both films would retain some of the monologue as voiceover. In the end, neither did. I’m sitting on the fence: I love them both.
AH – What do you look for in a script/story, what appeals to you?
DP – Whether it’s a feature or a short film I’m really interested in situations that I see as pivotal moments, in which actions once taken can never be undone. A good example of a recent feature film that explores this territory is Kieren Darcy Smith’s Wish You Were Here. The Boot scenario had several of those moments. And yet the scenario is one that could happen to anyone. It was no surprise to later discover that Jo had been inspired by a real life incident.
Jo’s original monologue felt like a film on the page. It was very easy to visualise. It also struck me as very dramatic – the stakes couldn’t be higher – but (importantly for a short film) contained. I was moved by the central friendship between Dana (the narrator of the monologue) and Julia. While the monologue (and the film) tell Dana’s story, it’s very much the story of this friendship gone wrong.
When I read the Bat Eyes monologue I was struck by the power of the narrator’s memories – how a moment can stay with you for the rest of your life. I thought there was a truthfulness to its depiction of the casual cruelty of teenagers and the confusion of first love/sex. And, of course, the Yeats poem that coloured the whole piece with its tone and rhythm.
I’d also long been interested in showing the world from the point of view of someone who is short-sighted – maybe because I wear glasses. It struck me that the eye test was a great way to frame the action of the story, and a great metaphor for the short-sightedness of Adam’s past behaviour.
AH – Any insight on what the feature will be if you win it?
DP – It might not be a feature. It could be something shorter. It could be a web series. The brief is pretty open. At the moment I’m focused on getting the word out about our films. I’m only just starting to think about what I might pitch if we’re selected for Venice.
To find out more about Damien Power and his work, check out his official website, then head on over to YouTube and cast your votes!