TSOTA meets Ilkley Film Festival Director Martin Pilkington
The first ever Ilkley Film Festival took place back in February 2014 welcoming over 3200 film fans to 22 film events across two venues: King’s Hall and Winter Gardens, and Ilkley Playhouse. This puts them as one of the most popular first-time film festivals in the country and this year the festival has expanded and looks to big bigger and better.
TSOTA caught up with Ilkley Film Festival Director Martin Pilkington in the run up to the festival to talk film, music & the cultural life of the fine city of Bradford.
TSOTA: The festival is now in its second year. What do you think went well last time?
MP: I was amazed at the number of people who attended; we attracted over 3500 in total, which blew away any of my targets and expectations. We’re currently on target to surpass that figure as well by quite a lot which is astonishing. I thought it would take a few years for the festival to establish itself; the support has been incredible. I was also happy with the live events – Paul Merton and Neil Brand, British Sea Power and Stephen Horne all received great audiences who were very complimentary about them. It’s always a gamble to programme live music and film events due to the overall cost of them but I think it’s important to build an eclectic programme that perhaps surprises people but gives them something different. Live music and film events are beautiful, seeing the film come to life before your eyes is incredible and something I would highly recommend.
TSOTA: What are you hoping to achieve this year?
MP: I just really hope that audience members have a great time and see some fantastic films. I spent a great deal of time programming the festival trying to fit in previews and premieres alongside local films and more; and I hope that people might watch something they wouldn’t normally watch and experience something different. I think the second year is more important that the first, it’s an opportunity to really cement yourself as a festival.
TSOTA: With British Sea Power appearing to perform their score to ‘ Man of Aran’, what’s your take on the relationship between music & film?
MP: I just had to bring them back for a second year – British Sea Power was the only event I watched last year; I’d seen them before in Sheffield but seeing them within the intimate yet grand setting of the King’s Hall was superb and highly moving. Man of Aran is a beautiful film and the score is so immersive. We also have Summer Camp performing live to Beyond Clueless and Asian Dub Foundation playing live to La Haine this year. I will always make sure I programme live music and film events; music plays such an important part in film – it creates the tension, the suspense, the comedy, the love – everything! When you see the score come to life before your very eyes and you see the artists create those emotions, it really is breath-taking and unforgettable. I love it and it seems audiences do too!
British Sea Power – Man of Aran:
TSOTA: How do films come to be selected for festival screening?
MP: As a new festival we are limited in what we can show – Glasgow happens at the same time as Ilkley so they get access to the previews and premieres first as they are a bigger and more established festival but distribution companies are a lot more giving compared to last year – we’re starting to be taken a lot more seriously. I look at and watch what we can have access to and then I have to work out what audiences will enjoy and what will be slightly different. It’s easy to just pick the mainstream films, those which will sell, but it’s important to give the smaller films a chance to find their audiences – we can do what the major cinemas are unable to in programming these. We’re also lucky that the BAFTAs and the Oscars happen around the time of the festival so people have an interest in seeing what films are nominated; we always programme some of these; it’s good to guess what we think will be nominated or will win.
TSOTA: Do you think the choice of different venues for different films plays into the overall cinematic experience for the viewing audience?
MP: Without doubt! This year we’ve hired in the Picturehouse Cinemobile; a truck that transforms into a 100-seater cinema venue – it’s just like being in a real cinema. This has allowed us to screen a greater number of independent films and previews including the new Michael Mann film Blackhat, the Screen Yorkshire backed X+Y, the preview of Michael Winterbottom’s Face of an Angel and more. The King’s Hall is our main venue and is so versatile, it works as a cinema and a music hall – we’ve upgraded the sound in there which will increase audience experience. The Playhouse is a lovely venue and works well for the anniversary screenings or recent releases. I thought it would be difficult to start a film festival without a cinema but the venues all work incredibly well and in fact take people back to cinemas of old, giving them a completely different cinematic experience.
TSOTA: Can you tell us a bit more about the Cinema Coach?
MP: It’s amazing to see. It’s actually the backend of a truck that is able to extend in width into a 100-seater venue with a DCP cinematic projector, a large screen, surround sound, heating and comfortable cinema-quality seats. When I first saw it, I had to book it – it’s just a perfect venue to have in Ilkley and again allows us to do something completely different. The cinema chain Picturehouse owns it and we’re the first film festival to use it – it’ll be brand new and worth a look!
TSOTA: What was the thinking behind introducing cinema to Ilkley?
MP: I love Ilkley, it’s a beautiful Yorkshire town and has loads of charm to it. When I moved to Menston 3 years ago, I went to Ilkley for a coffee during the Lit fest and just felt the excitement and buzz in the air – I knew then that I wanted to create a film festival here. When I saw the King’s Hall and the Playhouse, my vision was realised and I just had the arduous task of fundraising to make it happen. When I spoke to councillors, the MP, local residents and businesses they were all very keen on the idea and supported it from the start.
TSOTA: Is five days really enough to encompass the scope of the festival programme?
MP: The festival was three days last year and we programmed 21 film events then; we’ve jumped up to five days now and 41 events so we’re growing! I’d like to increase the days and films, include more local films and add to the variety of strands but I think it’s also important to be realistic and to make sure we can walk before we run – we’re growing at a good rate and I’m incredibly happy with the programme of films we’ve got this year.
TSOTA: What role did the Arts Council play in the process of establishing the festival?
MP: The Arts Council have been great in supporting our live music and film events; we started a year-round programme last year that went from September – December and included Goblin playing live to Suspiria which was a sell-out, DJ Yoda DJing live to a mix of Sci-Fi films, Stephen Horne playing live to A Night at the Cinema in 1914 and more. I think we’re one of the few film festivals to gain funding from the Arts Council which is great – their support has ensured the programme and the festival have grown and that artists are able to play, which is what the funding was set up for. We’re very appreciative of their help and support.
TSOTA: Do you see any long-term gain for the city of Bradford & its creative community since it has been named UNESCO’s first-ever City of Film?
MP: David Wilson is doing a brilliant job in highlighting Bradford as the City of Film. His work on the Film Summit is superb and his enthusiasm, passion and work ethic is admirable; he wants to get the best out of Bradford and show off the talent this region has and the beautiful locations it has to offer to location scouts. I hope it continues. I know that one of the reasons I set up Ilkley was because of the City of Film tag – it inspired me so hopefully it’ll continue inspiring new people to tackle the world of film.
The Ilkley Film Festival has a 5 day run from 18-22 February 2015
For more info and tickets visit the Ilkley Film Festival’s website at www.ilkleyfilmfestival.co.uk