Artbeat: Organisers of East London’s Fringe Film Fest 2015
November 23, 2015
Fringe Film Fest 2015 is happening right now! Since beginning five years ago, it has rapidly grown from a long weekend of 20 events to 60 events over six days this week. It came into existence following the funding cuts to BFI Flare, offering a complementary range of queer film and performance that has proven to be immensely popular and captures the community spirit of East London. This year’s festival has a number of themes including queer people of colour, transgender, and sport and sexuality. I met with Festival Director Alex Karotsch and Head of Film Programme Muffin Hix to find out more.
Describe London in three words.
Alex: Expensive, culturally rich, big yet also small.
Muffin: Bustling, possible – if you’re living here, and want to do something, you can just do it, FOMO (fear of missing out because there is so much to do!)
What or who inspired you to do what you do?
A: I studied cultural studies and always wanted to work in that field. It didn’t happen straight away, and I began by running club nights. Then in 2008, I decided to focus on film and culture which happened at a time when I’d been made redundant and gave me the push I needed.
M: I studied film and film curating and knew I wanted to do film programming, however there weren’t many jobs in this field. It’s always been a passion and I love that I get to put on films that no one else would and bring new ideas to people and see how it connects with them.
What was the song of your youth?
A: Violet by Hole. I remember seeing the video on TV and being torn, in that I loved and hated the album – needless to say, it’s still with me.
M: This one’s easy – ‘Wannabe’ by the Spice Girls. It was totally was about girl power!
What do you love about what you do?
A: Getting to see a lot of films, and having conversations with people about what connects them and their audience. I enjoy working collaboratively with people, including our team but also the wider community. I actually enjoy organising.
M: He has the Excel spreadsheet – his own system! For me, I do this for the people that come, I just enjoy putting on a screening and talking to people afterwards, hearing how excited they are, as well as having the opportunity to show them something they would not normally have seen that has touched them.
Both: It’s great to get feedback from people, you can feel it in the room! This year we have 60 events however 22 are free, we want to make it accessible.
Both: Not enough hours in the day! We’ve become a good medium sized festival and are trying to operate through the part time hours of volunteer staff. We feel the pressure because we want to put on a great festival and experience.
M: We get through it chocolate, biscuits, LOLcat videos. And wine!
A: And cake!
What makes London’s arts and culture scene unique to you?
A: There is so much on offer, you sometimes can’t decide. If something you’re interested in isn’t happening, you will find that you can fill that space, and there are usually people who are interested in being a part of it too.
M: It’s a melting pot! You have everyone from everywhere; be that age, background, intellectual background, pretty much everyone is represented .
Who should we be keeping an eye out for on the arts and culture scene?
A: Prem Sahib – he has recently broken through and has his first solo exhibition at the ICA. He has an event coming up next week….
M: Yeah, it’s with Jeffrey Hinton. For me, it’s Club des Femmes who are a queer and feminist film collective. Also, ‘I Am Dora which is a film/culture night looking at how women interact with one another. And I have to mention Brian Lobel, a fantastic performance artist. You need to know of him!
A: And Liz Rosenfeld
What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done?
A: Moving to London, it was scary but also exciting. I knew I always wanted to go abroad and live in a big city! Also somewhere where there were gay community. The Indie Britpop scene was also a draw and came to work as a volunteer.
M: Ditto, moving to London with one suitcase and no job! I’d been here before and really connected with it. I’d never lived in a city before but I felt a real kinship to this place.
Share something about you that would surprise us!
A: I had 50 pen friends when I was younger! You could order addresses when you were younger from an organisation in Finland – they were all over the world and it was global! Not to mention lots of writing!
M: I used to be a competitive ballroom dancer at university. I met my best friend and dancing partner on the first day of class. I came back to it in London after 9 years – there is an LGBT Ballroom Dancing Club in Highbury & Islington!
What’s your favourite spot in London?
A: My bed – it is my space for calm. Except my personal belongings are everywhere.
M: When living in loud, big city like London, I love to go to The Delaunay – it’s a posh restaurant but they have this amazing inexpensive breakfast. It’s just a beautiful, calm environment, my oasis.
Who do you love to follow on Twitter/Instagram?
A: I use it so much for work, so I don’t really use it personally
M: I’m the same, I tend to use them for the organisations and projects I’m working on. But if I need a bit of snark, I will follow ‘She Has Had It’ on Twitter.
What’s the last country you visited?
A: Germany, Berlin for Naked Boys Reading
M: Greece, San Torini. My mum came over from the States 2 months ago, it was just beautiful.
Who would you want to play you in a movie of your life?
A: Jake Gyllenhaal. He is dark-haired and very good looking.
M: Elizabeth Moss. She would storm in as my life and sort shit out!
What are you doing after this interview?
We both need to eat something! It’s an intrinsic part and tradition of the Fringe Film Fest.
I later found out that Alex and Muffin had enjoyed Popcorn Chicken! Who doesn’t love Popcorn Chicken?
Fringe Film Fest is showing now! Book your tickets and find out more at