Encounters Short Film And Animation Festival – Gateway to something big

[decoline]Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival:
[item title=”City”]Bristol[/item]
[item title=”Country”]United Kingdom[/item]
[item title=”Founded”]1995[/item]
[item title=”Edition”]18th[/item]
[item title=”Date”]09/18 – 09/23/2012 [/item]
[item title=”URL”]Encounters[/item]
[item title=”Entry fee”]25€[/item]

UK’s longest running competitive short and animation film festival – the Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival is in its final call for entries stage. Last year around 1800 films were submitted to the festival with only a tenth making it through to one of the festival competition programs. But if you will be one of the lucky 180 invited filmmakers, you will be part of something big! 
Emerging and established filmmakers winning at Encounters qualify for nomination for prestigious short film and animation awards – the Academy Awards®, BAFTAs, Cartoon d’Or and European Film Awards. This makes Encounters the UK’s only gateway to all four of these top competitions.

This year the festival wants to continue showcasing the best in short film and animation from the UK and abroad, as well as bringing together filmmakers and key industry members from all over the world to create a hotbed of new talent development.

Before the submission window closes and the stress of selecting the right films and of all other festival preparations begins, we had the pleasure to interview two of the minds behind Encounters: Managing Director Liz Harkman and Marketing Coordinator Jude Lister. “Encounters is really proud to be a leading showcase and platform for short film and animation talent”, considers Liz Harkman. Both make their message to the filmmakers clear: “We’re interested in your work!“

FilmFestivalLife asked them what else Encounters offers for filmmakers and why you should go to the film festival.


FilmFestivalLife: This year you celebrate the 18th edition. What can the attendees expect?

Liz Harkman: For our 18tth edition the major change is that we now take place in September rather than November (our deadline for entries is also earlier – 6th June). It’s a slightly less busy time of year in the festival calendar, which will allow us to engage more with the industry side of things and further encourage networking. Also in terms of reaching out to new public audiences, better weather means that our outdoor Solar Cinema Tour is now going to be within the festival program rather than a separate event.

FFL: Do you have special guests or highlights?

LH: Well we’ve already confirmed a special focus on Finland, with guest programs of short films and thematic events, and we’re also excited to be bringing ground breaking stereoscopic discoveries from 1930s Russia to audiences. And to mix things up and take our festival further beyond the cinemas, we’re planning screenings in a big top circus tent!
As in previous years there’ll be plenty of workshops, masterclasses, panel debates, gala events and very special guests. There’s a lot in the pipeline at the moment but I’m afraid you’ll have to wait for July’s program launch for more information… But: There’ll be a lot of fresh ideas, partnerships and perspectives.

FFL: Encounters is a really well-known festival in the circuit. How would you describe your position/role in the film festival field?

LH: Encounters is really proud to be a leading showcase and platform for short film and animation talent. We’re also known as an open and friendly event, one which attracts key industry people and gathers them in an accessible environment for some great networking opportunities. Being outside of London helps in this aspect because it allows us to provide a more immersive experience.

Jude Lister: We also have a strong international profile which we’re always keen to build on by developing new transnational partnerships. Creating connections between UK creatives and their international peers is an important element.
 Achieving status as a qualifying festival for the world’s most prestigious short film and animation awards – the BAFTAs, Oscars®, European Film Awards and Cartoon D’Or – has been something of a game changer recently, as we’re now able to offer even more high profile opportunities for those selected in our program.

FFL: What are the festivals main objectives? What is your mission?

LH: For us it’s all about engaging new audiences with short film and providing a platform for developing the next generation of filmmakers and animators. We’ve had a lot of success so far and are aiming for ever bigger, better and bolder horizons.

FFL: Why do you have a focus on animated and short films at the same time?

LH: There actually used to be two separate festivals at different times of year: Brief Encounters and Animated Encounters. Bringing these together back in 2006 was a huge success and they’ve been joined happily side by side ever since.
Keeping the animation element has been particularly important over the years, as the animation community here in Bristol is strong and dynamic: not only are we home to Aardman Animation but there are a large number of production companies and creatives around.

FFL: What do you do for young filmmakers?

LH: Encounters is committed to bringing upcoming filmmakers and animators to the forefront, so we deal with a lot of young creatives. Just one way in which we specifically recognize the work of graduating filmmakers and first-time directors in our competitive program is through the UWE European New Talent Awards.

FFL: How important is marketing to position your festival in the challenging market? Which channels do you use?

JL: Given the abundance of festivals all shouting for attention, it is important to stay ahead with our marketing strategies. We’re on a tight budget so it’s always a challenge as advertising is so expensive… In more recent years like most other organizations we’ve been embracing social media as an important way to reach out to people. We do also collaborate with a number of other festivals for cross-promotion. There’re a lot of great events out there and it all helps spread the word.

FFL: You use social media networks like Facebook and Twitter for your communication with the public. Why?

JL: Nowadays it’s absolutely essential to have an active presence on Facebook and Twitter, because people do use these networks as a reference point. It’s also a really informal and interactive way of engaging with the public: we get a lot of useful feedback through these channels and they allow us to develop different kinds of relationships. As a friendly and accessible festival we do value this added contact point which is provided by social media.

FFL: Is your online service “Our Channel” a success? What feedback do you get from the filmmakers and the audience?

JL: Our YouTube channel is a place to find trailers and full short films and animations from past Encounters festivals, as well as recordings of special talks and events, reports etc. At the moment we don’t see it as a main focal point but it is growing in importance as an online showcase of what the festival represents.
We’re also right now uploading the results of the second edition of our 0117 Film Challenge which took place in Bristol from 19-25 May: 24 short films on the theme of Sports, Games and Play produced in just 117 hours!

FFL: Due to the digital world is there a chance for film festivals to persist?

LH: Absolutely – just look at the rising number of film festivals all over the world, there’s definitely an audience out there! Obviously digital developments mean that festivals have to evolve and develop new strategies; however with regards to short film I think that online channels have actually helped to increase the appetite for such works.
At the end of the day there are things that you cannot experience online though, which festivals will continue to provide: a sense of place and the communal element of film viewing can make all the difference, and then there are the meetings and exchanges which takes place around the programs…

FFL: What is your message for upcoming and established filmmakers?

LH: We’re interested in your work! As a dedicated short film festival, Encounters really aims to put the spotlight on both upcoming and established creative talent and give that all-important industry exposure which can often be lost when you’re part of a shorts program within a feature film festival event.

JL: We’re also a competitive festival so your short films can be up for cash prizes if selected. Not forgetting the amazing chance to be nominated for a BAFTA, Oscar®, European Film Award or Cartoon d’Or.
 The fact that we regularly receive work from established filmmakers does show the value of Encounters. And our Shorts2Features section, which screens feature films from directors with a short film background, recognizes the transition that we’ve seen over the years: short film is clearly still an important springboard for bigger things.

Thanks to Liz and Jude for their openness sharing their ideas and mission!


Jana Dietze

Jana Dietze is the Head of Communications at FFL. Her editorial background includes positions as Editor of N24 News channel and Editor of Fulmidas Media Agency. Her film experience is grounded in studying Film Science, Georg-August University, Göttingen. Reach her at jana(at)filmfestivallife.com