AFTER MANY A SUMMER DIES THE SWAN: A London Short Film Festival Fundraiser

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LSFF Artistic Director Philip Ilson chats about the forthcoming fundraiser event and looks at how the Festival has managed to survive over twelve years.

Above: LSFF (previously Halloween Short Film Festival) co-founders Philip Ilson and Kate Taylor in 2004.

Since the London Short Film Festival was founded as a labour of love (as the Halloween Short Film Festival) by myself and Kate Taylor back in 2004, taking place as four days in screen 2 at the ICA, it’s been sustained by the dedication and goodwill of a constantly evolving team of amazing people. Twelve years on, as we career towards the next Festival in January 2015, it’s changed into a fantastic behemoth of a festival lasting twelve days across multiple London venues with thousands of submissions, cross-arts film & music events and an industry focus.

But the personality that drove the Festival when myself and Kate popped out a flyer back in 2004 with our faces on (Kate drinking a mug of tea and myself in a Get Up Kids t-shirt, as above) continues to this day. Since Kate’s departure in 2008, the Festival has developed with some amazing personalities that have helped build on what myself and Kate founded; people who have also dedicated a lot of time and love into creating the LSFF that we know. A negative side to this organic growth into what the Guardian Guide called “the best short film festival in the world” (thanks guys!), is that while other film festivals were losing the major grants and funding that kept them afloat as serious contenders on the global scene, LSFF has managed to carry on regardless as the major funding was never in place for it to be cut. In the late 2000s, following the demise of the UK Film Council and Arts Council budget cuts, both onedotzero and Birds Eye View, two of London’s most important film festivals, took some well-documented time out; both were vocal in their outrage of the cuts they suffered. Rushes Soho Shorts also folded around the same time, due to sponsorship cuts.

Over twelve years of LSFF, we have received some small funding grants from the UK Film Council, Film London, Skillset and the BFI, for which we’re obviously extremely grateful. But the reason LSFF has kept going and developing is that I personally have a philosophy to do the Festival regardless. That philosophy can be negative as there can be an understanding that if the Festival is going ahead, it can’t be in trouble, so why does it need support? I have threatened a year off on a number of occasions over the last twelve years, but as January comes around, people start asking about the next Festival and so things go into motion. But it’s a good point. And everyone must realise that to continue and to grow requires budgets, particularly if more staff are being brought in to work on an ever-expanding Festival.

In 2011, LSFF did a small crowdfunding campaign through Indie-Go-Go; it was only open a couple of weeks, as an experiment, and a few thousand was raised. Sheffield Doc/Fest, Scalarama and East End Film Festival have all run successful crowdfunding campaigns, but though there is initial goodwill by people who love these festivals, and we were thankful for the love and support we received too, this isn’t an annual model to keep a Festival running. That love and goodwill will run out. So, for the next Festival looming in January 2015, LSFF has decided to hold a summer fundraiser bringing together the type of film & music event that LSFF does well. Although we have a ticket price in place, we’re also working with the crowdfunding model of offering rewards for more money donated.

The fundraiser came about when the Festival was approached by Domino Records to provide a platform for a new short concert film by These New Puritans. The timing was perfect, as we were already discussing a crowdfunding campaign in the office, but doing a fundraiser event seemed to make more sense. With thinking caps on, working out how to bring the short film, live music and networking elements of LSFF into a single event, we approached Oval Space Hackney, a live music venue that has an on-going film programme. Around the TNP film premiere, we’ve built an event that brings together live acts from the Domino Publishing roster alongside a programme of curated short films as selected by those Domino acts.

With summer drawing to a close, we chose a title to reflect the changing seasons, and After Many A Summer Dies The Swan is both the title of a 1939 Aldous Huxley novel and a line in the 1833 poem Tithonus by Lord Tennyson. It seemed suitable to use it here to reflect on the death of a season as the nights get darker and the winter chill starts to get noticeable. LSFF is so synonymous with the depths of winter, and it always seems strange to be working on it when the sun is shining and it’s positively hot out.

We’re announcing the line-up of the fundraiser over the next week, but can confirm that Domino acts Laura Groves and Boxed In are confirmed, alongside the These New Puritans concert film premiere. We’re also asking the said acts to curate a favourite short film, so, here’s a chance to see Chris Morris’s BAFTA winning short My Wrongs #8245–8249 & 117 starring Paddy Considine, and we’ll be announcing more classic shorts as the date gets closer. You can follow this on the @LSFF Twitter and Facebook pages.

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