Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Interview with the Sunday Screenings team

As a filmmaker getting your film seen is what it’s all about and finding that audience comes in a variety of ways. You have festivals, video-sharing websites like Youtube, pay per view websites like Dynamo or you can flog or send out your DVDs. And last of all you have the old-fashioned screening event.

Screening events, often held in or above pubs across the country, remains the best way to experience a short film bar watching it in a cinema. Why? Because you’re watching that film with other people. It is the closest you will get to a cinema experience and there is something magical, collective and personal about seeing films with your fellow man and woman. In an age where many interact more with each other via their computers than in actual person, going to a screening night reminds us of the communal spirit of the medium. It’s that sitting round a campfire vibe. It’s what it’s all about.

As some of you know I help run a film night at The Antelope bar in Tooting, South London. Having attended various screening events across the country and capital over the last few years I can honestly say that the Antelope is arguably the best screening event that is currently going. It regularly pulls in over a hundred people, it serves fantastic and affordable food, it has great Q & A sessions with filmmakers and most important of all it shows some wonderful short films.  I said this blog would be about giving others exposure so I thought I would interview the two organisers and founders of the Sunday Screenings - Phil Deguara and Andy Bate. I caught up with them recently for a chat.

Phil and Andy

So first off chaps, how did the Sunday Screenings come about?

ANDY: We realised that there weren’t any independent short films nights going on in the South West London area that was showcasing upcoming new talent, at least not that we knew of. Also, both Phil and I have trained in film and are into making films so watching shorts is something that we enjoyed doing anyway...I think we were quite happy doing the night for ourselves regardless if anybody else had turned up. But people did turn up and we made some good friends and contacts so we carried on. I think there was also a part of both of us that wanted to show that there is a good arts scene in South London. Everyone always thinks of Camden and Shoreditch as the cool, trendy places where you have to go to for good film nights etc so why not Tooting?

PHIL: I couldn’t agree more. We really started talking about it after I showed Andy the screening room in the Antelope and we realised the potential it had. It took a number of beers before we actually decided to set a date and stick with it and pull our fingers out to get it sorted. The rest is history.

What types of films do you screen?

ANDY: Anything really, as long as it is under 20 minutes and has a narrative and credits. We have had animation, shadow puppets, mockumentaries, horrors, thrillers, comedies...the only things that we don't really accept is music videos for the simple reason that we get a lot of submissions and we had to draw a line somewhere as we try and screen everything that we receive. One of the best things about doing the night is seeing the broad variety of things that we are sent from the super-low budget and student films to the top end funded and financed shorts and seeing that sometimes even the most simplest and basic films can still be amazing if the original idea is a good one and it is done right.

PHIL: I agree with everything Andy has just said.


When is it on?

PHIL: Sunday Screenings is the first Sunday of every month at The Antelope on Mitcham Road in Tooting. We normally start at around 8.00pm and aim to finish by 10.30pm. Oh...and it's FREE!

You’re both actors. Has putting this night on helped your careers?

ANDY: Ummm yes and no is probably the best answer I can give. No in the fact that there tends not to be much money in short film so it's not as if I can quit the day job yet because of contacts that I have made through running the night. But I have met some amazing directors, producers, writers and film makers who I'm sure will go on to do big things in the TV and Film industry so it's a good way to make acquaintances and also to meet people whose films and style you admire and who you would like to work with in the future. Most importantly I think it is just important to be involved in the industry. To be able to watch a lot of short films is also a bonus - to see what you like and what you don't like and to be learning from the film makers and the actors that I see involved in these films.

PHIL: Yes. I met Marc Price through the screenings and we're now making a feature together. I also helped produce a short film with you Carlo if I remember rightly called "The Man Who Stopped" in which the crew (and some of the cast) was assembled from people who came to the screenings. Whether or not any of this has helped my career only time will tell!
Why do you think the nights are so successful? It’s usually packed out. It’s amazing really.

ANDY: Because everyone likes films....don't they? Even if people don't turn up and love all the films that we show that night I can pretty much guarantee that they will have really enjoyed at least one of them and that a few of them will have made them think about the topic that the maker wanted to get across. Also, it’s popular because I think we have a very friendly and enjoyable atmosphere at Sunday Screenings. There isn't the pretentiousness that I have experienced at other screening nights across London and filmmakers and other regular attendees have said the same thing to me as well. What else? The venue is excellent and have been really great with us, we sell cheap hot dogs and burgers which seem to go down really well (and there is normally free popcorn or chocolate!), and we ask that the directors (or someone involved in the film) can attend to introduce the film so that people can connect a person to the work....it's not just some faceless guy or girl who lives in London and made this film....it's ‘this’ guy or girl standing in front of you telling you ‘why’ they wanted to make this particular film and what they enjoyed or hated about the process. I like that. It also then gives people who are interested in that person's work a chance to go and speak to them during the break or after the night.

PHIL: It's just a great event, no pretensions; it’s straightforward and fun. Simple.


Any plans to change the format/hope for the future?

ANDY: We have nearly been running for a year now and the night has started to bear fruit in the fact that as well as just getting together and watching some great films, people involved and who attend the night have started to get together and actually make films together, read through scripts and share ideas. I would love to see the night grow into a bigger network for film making in the South West of London where people can use it as a way to share equipment, contacts and expertise etc and then keep the night running as it does to carry on showcasing the talent and work that is being made. There are also plans and talks about maybe starting a short film competition in conjunction with Sunday Screenings which I would absolutely love to do.

PHIL: I really want to see us get a website started, so we can develop a resource for sharing films, scripts ideas and potential projects.

Where can we find you?

76 Mitcham Road, Tooting. Our email is
sundayscreenings@gmail.com.  We've got a website for the pub and we do have a Facebook group as Sunday Screenings. Or the alternative is to contact The Antelope pub itself and someone there should be able to put you in contact with either Phil or myself.

1 comment:

  1. Cheers for the interview Carlo and for spreading the Sunday Screening love! Loving the blog and will be following your updates for sure.