“Nottingham Needs Something Like This,” Says Derry Shillitto

Thomas Humphrey

Could you tell us a bit about the path that led you to set up New Wave Short Films?

Well, I went to De Montfort University and participated in Confetti. Then I graduated two years ago, and I used to live in Leighton Buzzard near London, but there was nothing happening there. There was no opportunities or anything. So I moved up to Nottingham in November, 2013. Then since the end of uni me and a few others have been developing this. And the Creative Director of the now disbanded Bang! Film Festival started helping us out, as well as a few others from that team; because we all feel that Nottingham needs something like this.

So what do you want to achieve in Nottingham?

Eventually we want to have just a two-day festival, on a weekend. Nothing more than that. Not like a week festival, because there’s a lot of issues with that. With a week festival it doesn’t become about the films, it becomes about filling a schedule. Whereas if you have a two-day festival with fifty amazing short films (that are all of a high standard) that’s much better. So that’s the goal in the next year. It might be a day festival, but then by the following year it might expand. Whether that will be at Broadway or another place is still to be confirmed. But at the moment we’re just trying to build a name, as this is our second event. The last one was quite successful – and this one’s got shorts like The Phone Call, so hopefully it’ll be even better.

Though our long-term goal is to become like a production company. So if somebody had a script, and needed a crew, you could come to us and we’d supply the equipment, or even director. Everything you need. That’s the plan, anyway. Then we could act like a hub for people who need crew, basically.

Would you be aiming at short or feature film production?

Short films mostly, but then if there was a feature that was too good to miss out on, we’d definitely do that too. But mainly shorts and music videos, because to make a good feature you need at least a hundred grand, so…

Do you think Nottingham has real potential to be a film hub?

I think it does. I think there are a few cities now that are actively trying to building media platforms. Obviously London’s always going to be number one, top dog. Though after that there’s Bradford, Nottingham, Birmingham and then a few others. And Nottingham’s rising faster than those other cities at the moment, because so many people are moving here to live affordably. Which is important in this industry, and will be a good thing for Nottingham, I think. We have quality filmmakers here, and great actors locally like Joe Dempsey and Jack O’Connell, so this city is definitely a creative centre for the East Midlands.

And what kind of short films do you like to champion?

I have a quite particular taste for short films, I think (it’s probably subconscious, but people have told me this). I do really like psychological films. Not like thrillers or anything tense necessarily, but films where the thought and investment put into the characters is very clear, so they become almost real characters. One of my favourite films is Sideways, it’s well worth a watch if you haven’t seen it. I mean a lot of people will say, well, there’s not a lot that happens. There’s only four characters, so maybe they’re right, but two in particular seem so real and interesting. So that’s what I look for in a short film really, interesting characters. Or if the premise is engaging as well, that can be another thing.

So are you accepting submissions, or are you mostly going out in search of films?

Only two of the films we’re screening on May 9th are films I sought out. Those were the Oscar-winning The Phone Call and A Million Miles Away, which is a really good film from America. So the others were all submitted through our website. I’m not sure how many we got in total, but we got quite a few. There was a period of about two weeks where we’d have a least 5 films a day to go through, which was really nice. There may even be a few I’ve not got back to, as there were so many.

Then as soon as we’ve screened these films, we’ll take more submissions for the next event. So we’re always accepting films through the website.

And do you feel you’ve already become a bit of an international platform?

Definitely not, we haven’t got to that stage yet. We’d like to keep it mainly local, actually. But if we screen one major international film each time, just to show everyone, “look, this is excellent, have a look at this.” Plus, they won’t get to see it anywhere else, because it’s hard to get festival tickets or find these things online.

So basically we just want to create a space for exhibiting good short films (that aren’t online, as only one of the films on the 9th is online). We do want to keep it Nottingham, too. So there’s four Nottingham films in this programme, one international, a couple from London and The Phone Call – and, well, that’s just an Oscar-winner.

Was it really difficult to get hold of The Phone Call?

Yeah, because I had to go through three different routes. The director got picked up by this guy called David Carr, who’s basically like the number one producer in Hollywood, so then the director couldn’t even be reached. So I had to go through the producers, and then they referred me on to Network Ireland Television, who are the distributors. So yeah, I then just had to keep pestering them and pestering them. That’s defiitely what does it.

And is there any advice you would give to local people who also want to get into film or even film programming?

Yeah, my first bit of advice would be: get to know as many people as possible. Meet loads of people. Get loads of people round you with experience (in things that you haven’t got). Speak to them. For example, I phoned up Donna Bowyer, who was creative director at Bang!, and I spoke to her for like a good hour. I’d never met her before, and she spoke to me for an hour on the phone, if you can believe it? [Laughs]. I’d spent time on preparing questions to ask her, and she gave us loads of hints and tips on how we can possibly improve on the work that Bang! did, or at least continue their legacy. And then I’d advise you go to social meet-ups, like the Film and TV Tweetup, that’s definitely worth going to. Also Shooters, at the Orange Tree.

The only other thing would be to save up money! You’ll put a lot of your own money into this kind of thing, and hopefully it will all come back one day, but you’ve got to understand that you won’t make much money distributing films or anything like that.

For more information on NWSF’s event on 9th May, 10am-12pm at Broadway, click here.