Big screen still thrills

Sheffield Adventure Film Festival 2011'TUZGLE'''
Sheffield Adventure Film Festival 2011'TUZGLE'''

IT’S a fast-changing world we’re living in; so fast that I quite often question the need for such speed.

It’s easy to sit back and reminisce about the good ol’ days before we were on the end of a mobile phone, we had just three TV channels and if you wanted to go shopping you actually had to go to the shops.

But at the same time it’s pretty cool! Spending too much time languishing in the past and accidentally missing the opportunities of today is a waste.

So where does that leave film festivals?

Go back 25 years to when the original mountain film festivals started up. There were far fewer people taking part in the activities that form the core of mountain or adventure sports, therefore there were fewer people making films about them and subsequently fewer film festivals.

It was a small world and a no-brainer to send your film to the festival who would consider screening it.

Compare to today: every adventurer and his adventurous dog has a video camera of some description (plenty of them all-singing, all-dancing, high-definition beauties) and a computer to edit with.

It still takes a lot of effort to knock out a film but it’s not rocket science. That said, the best films clearly have an element of craft to them that does not come on the back of a cereal packet or a YouTube tutorial. Thus there are a lot, lot, lot more films. Thus there are a lot, lot more festivals.

You’d think it would be easy to sit back and wait for the films to come rushing in as filmmakers wanted to screen their films but there are a few hurdles.

Festivals don’t make much (if any some years!) money so don’t pay filmmakers much and filmmakers need to make a living.

If you want to get your film shown to a large audience sending it to a festival with an audience of a few hundred isn’t really going to achieve that. Video-sharing websites are a much better way of achieving the latter and with a little bit of nouse on the sponsorship front, can achieve much better returns than a cash prize from a festival if your film manages to beat the opposition.

As a result plenty of filmmakers are now doing both: submitting to festivals and uploading to the web. You’d have thought on the face of it that would kill the festival crowd but it hasn’t and it won’t.

Why? Partly because even if you have a 42in screen and are downloading HD films via the net it’s never going to compare with a big screen at a cinema, with a professional in-house sound system.

Even if you get a few mates around to watch at home with you, the atmosphere won’t compare to a full house of mildly inebriated small groups of friends who, once one person laughs or sighs, sets off the rest of the audience.

In the same way that I hope technology won’t kill the good old paperback, I don’t think that big screen cinema will die either. No amount of technological advance can replace a crowd of real, living, breathing, laughing, crying people.

Another reason is that we do the work of finding the films for you. Sure, you could spend a few days trawling YouTube for the best clips, but a) you haven’t got the time, b) when you find them, or are sent them by a friend, the quality is often lacking and you might get some buffering, and c) you certainly won’t find as many as we festivals can.

We’ve spent years developing mailing lists for as many filmmakers as we can and are pretty good at ferreting out more every year. This year ShAFF is negotiating with some 200 filmmakers and I’m pretty excited at the line-up that’s taking shape.

Some you can see at other festivals, some will be on the net, some you can buy, but rest assured that there will be some premieres, plenty you have never heard of, and they will be all shown on a big screen and you’ll be able to share them with other people from the community you love.

I guess there’s also the other stuff that takes place at a festival. The speakers, the kit sales, the exhibitions and the competitions. You don’t get them on a DVD!

The Sheffield Adventure Film Festival is on March 4-6 at The Showroom Cinema. It’s in its sixth year and so far 100% of visitors have said that they will come again and will recommend it to a friend.

And yes, we do have a few Youube films in the programme this year. Come and check them out compared to watching them on your phone and you’ll be quite surprised... for more information.