An interview with Cerise Howard. What is success in a film festival?

Written by: Henrique Barbosa Macedo

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On Wednesday 12th of September 2018, we had the opportunity to meet and interview Cerise Howard, the artistic director of the Czech Slovak Film Festival of Australia, during our Lecture in Monash University Caulfield. She is a New Zealander peregrine film critic and freelance writer, musician and performer based in Melbourne. She is also involved in Melbourne Cinémathèque and tilde: Melbourne’s Trans and Gender Diverse Film Festival committee.

     During her guest lecture, she explained the process of creating and organising this edition of Czech Slovak Film Festival. The process of this festival started one year ago, even when was happening the 2017 edition. According to Cerise, they need to be connected with the time to apply for cultural support in cultural policies to get money to make able the next edition. Another important point questioned by one of the students was how is the organisation of the film festival, she explained that they have a committee with a few chairs with president, vice president, treasury, secretary, and other different positions that are very important during the beginning of the process and were more active in that period. She gave essential insights for young film festivals organisations to keep in a small group in the beginning and achieve the fan base or volunteers later to have more help, during the event.

    I asked her about how was in the first edition of this film festival. Cerise laughs and started to explain in her own words how many hardships they had to cross in the beginning. She mentioned that in the first edition, the committee was not good enough in their responsibilities and attached to each other to run the festival in a more fluid, and “easy” environment. They started without money and using one alternative space in RMIT, where the projection equipment was not used properly, so they had issues during some projection, and that was a great learning to guarantee in the next edition that all the movies and equipment should be tested before the event. She said: “It was a tough time and situation, imagine you have a screen room full of people, and you said that the film would be available with English subtitles and because our mistake to do not test the equipment we figured it out in the event that there is no possibility to show the subtitles, so we gave the money back and said sorry about it.”  

   After that we asked her: “in your opinion, how can you measure success in a film festival?” She mentioned that it depends. For her, a room full of people in the audience is a success. However, for the treasury, if the festival finishes with a little bit of money in the bank account, making possible to start the next edition with some budget it is a success because sometimes is hard to keep the bank in a safe place until the next edition, and that causes a lot of anxiety for the whole committee.

Run a Film Festival is not easy, but it is very engaging and it is a great way to achieve, educate, and open discussions about some themes or subjects, putting them in evidence for the community. According to Cerise, that is one of the best achievements we can have. And what do you think about it: What is a measure of success in a film festival to you? Let your comments below.

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