Awards & Festivals

A Conversation with the Organisers of The Nottingham International Film Festival

The first ever Nottingham International Film Festival set to take place from the 7th to the 9th of October at the Savoy Cinema. We sat down with the organizers, Neil and Al, to talk about the festival, independent films, and more.

This is the first year that the festival is taking place, can you tell our readers a bit about what it is?

Neil: The Nottingham international film festival intends to bring films from around the world to have their premier in Nottingham. We have feature films, documentaries, and short films as well.

I understand there’s a lot of variety in genres, as well as places of origin. Was that an intentional choice?  

Al: Just to give a bit of background, we were also responsible for the Manchester film festival, and its sister festival in Oxford. We began with those festivals in year one establishing the foundation, then we start to think about improving it. So our idea is that the more mixture we can start at year one the better and we can then start to cater to specific genres.

Do you plan on branching out after Nottingham?

Al: Well I think that’s enough for now, we’re busy enough. Especially with the small festivals and the Manchester festival taking off in such a big way.

What appealed you to come to Nottingham?

Al: We’re from a film-making background. We were making an independent film ourselves and realised there was no identifiable independent film festival in Manchester with any credibility. That’s where we got the idea to start. Manchester was kind of obvious given our backgrounds but then we thought, “what’s internationally recognisable that hasn’t got a credible film festival in the UK?” Oxford stuck out obviously, and then Nottingham, with its story-telling flavour coming from the stories of Robin Hood.

Neil: We knew there was an annual genre festival obviously, the Mayhem film festival that’s here every year, but there was nothing with broader appeal. It’s independent films but they are accessible to everyone. They’re not artsy films that people should be intimidated by or need to be pretentious to watch.

“It’s just films made outside of the studio system but they’re really great stories and anybody really could come and enjoy them”

Your website states that you have a prize-giving system called “Robin Hood Awards” for a number of features. There’s a jury who votes and then the winners are announced in a ceremony. Who makes up the jury?

Al: It’s very similar to the one we have in Manchester. We have Gareth Jones who is an executive producer that leads the Manchester jury. What we tried to do in previous years was involve alumni of festivals, so directors who have had their works in other festivals. This particular festival in Nottingham has 6 jurors.

The awards also include a screenplay category. Why is that?

Al: As I said, we’re in contact with Gareth who is an independent film producer who is constantly looking for new material. So the winners will then be passed on and if they want to work with Gareth they can do that. What we’re trying to do is an introduction into screenplay competition.


The festival takes place in the Savoy. What is the reason behind it?

Al: It is obviously in a student area and these kinds of things do appeal to students. And then we wanted something city centre based that we weren’t able to cement so we’re having a hop at Das Kino.

Neil: This is to entertain the filmmakers. A lot of them are coming. We’ve got the director, producer and more from 79 Parts, we’ve got the director, cinematographer, and lead actress from Hear the Silence, then the director from The Returned. We’ve got the directors from Made in Taiwan, and a lot of the short films have the directors and producers and actors joining us. So after pretty much every screening there’ll be a Q&A in the cinema which is really great.

Straight after the screening finishes, we drop the music on the credits and we invite the producer or director or whoever’s there to come to the front. It’s the audience’s chance to ask the filmmakers questions about the film. Which, as we’ve seen in Manchester and Oxford, is something that really adds value to the screenings and the audience really appreciates it. It may well be the first screening ever of the movie to an audience, and they then get to ask questions and give feedback to the director and find out what their process was.

Al: Like how are you going to change it?

Where do the films go after these screenings?

Al: They go on to the festival circuit. At Manchester we have a lot of distribution representation at the festival but that’s kind of tricky to implement at year one.

Neil: But we pass on any films to our contacts with independent distributors in the UK if we think any of them can fit with a certain distributor.

Al: The golden egg for any independent film is to get distribution. It’s tricky if you haven’t got a pre-sale deal before, which a lot of these films haven’t, but the festivals help the films and give them the best platform.

There’s also a lot of shorts, experimental films, and Music Videos in the festival’s line-up. Why do you showcase these non-traditional forms of film-making?

Al: With a lot of these the director is showing what he can do; it’s a showcase for them. For shorts in particular, it’s all about festival circuit, and making contacts, and “look what I can do with a 15 minute short” to possibly get funding for their first feature. To me short films are all about making contacts, moving on to the next step in the ladder.

Neil: We’ve also programmed many of the shorts to play in front of the feature films. The feedback we got from doing this in previous years is that the audience really appreciates it because they get to experience something they wouldn’t normally go and see. If we sold a ticket for just experimental films, we’d limit how many people are really interested in going to see them, but actually when people experience them in front of a feature they really enjoy it.

“Because I think that’s what film festivals should really be about: experiencing different types of films that you wouldn’t normally see at a cinema”


And what are your hopes for the festival, going into the future? 

Neil: We really want to establish a good platform to build on in year two. Hopefully we can really engage with an audience in Nottingham and potentially grow to more screens in future years. Really just want to build a really great platform for filmmakers to come and share their films to an appreciative audience

Al: Filmmakers that haven’t shown their film to an audience yet really want localized feedback. So the more festivals they can get into through out the world the more different the kinds of feedback and that’s really important. We want to get people of Nottingham, students of Nottingham, to give that feedback because it’s about the filmmakers first and foremost.

Where can we buy tickets for these screenings?

Neil: All tickets are available from our website which is We’ve got student discount because we’re at the Savoy. One of the things we really liked about the Savoy is that we can just go with their pricing, so it’s student tickets 4.50£, and we’ve done a range of passes as well from our website. It’s really affordable to get to go and watch all these films. 16£ will get you into any 4 films.

Al: And there’s a launch party on Friday evening Das Kino where we get all our filmmakers along, play the trailers, just to create a bit of atmosphere before the screenings. It’s open to anyone.

Do you have a favourite feature?

Al: You can’t ask me that. My favourite would probably be Made in Taiwan, in terms of a first time independent film. But of course that’s just my personal opinion. Don’t ask me which is my least favourite.



Nicolas Caballero

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