Interview with Stephen Byrne (WATERFORD FILM FESTIVAL)

The Waterford Film Festival was established in 2007 by local filmmaker Stephen Byrne. His objective was to bring something new to Waterford’s arts and cultural scene, promoting local, national filmmakers and writers, but in particular independent film.

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1) What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

The Waterford Film Festival is a big supporter of short films and especially independent films. We screen a mixture from 1st time filmmakers to award winning films and have done so since our foundation in 2007. We also hold a short screenplay competition and this part of the festival is to support the writers.

Since the foundation of the festival, we have screened 500+ films from filmmakers around the world as well promoting writers with the short screenplay competition. Filmmakers from across Ireland, UK, France, Germany, Holland and as far as Canada and USA have attended the festival.
The festival has awarded prizes worth in excess of €35,000 with our partners at FilmLab, since 2007.

2) What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2018)?

This years festival we are in a new venue for us called Central Arts, which caters for a lot of different events throughout the year. This years event will be an intimate setting but we are also trying something new. The venue itself allows alcohol in the screening room so we want to bring that element into the festival.

The idea of seeing a wide range of national and international short films of different themes and genres while you sit back and enjoy a beer or a glass of wine, we feel will be a very enjoyable experience for all whom attend. We are currently working on our plans but we aim to put on a series of different events over the course of the 3 day festival.

3) What are the qualifications for the selected films?

There are a number of different reasons. We get several 100 submissions every year and the decision is never easy as there is a great body of work out there. We aim to have a variety of national films, foreign films from professional filmmakers to student and 1st time director/writer/producers. A strong story and well written script would be a big factor. We consider all films up to 20 minutes.

4) Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?

As an independent filmmaker myself I have had my work both accepted and rejected from film festivals, so I do have experience from being on the under end of things as well. There are many legitimate reasons that a film may get rejected from a festival. However I do think some film festivals and especially the big ones in, may be biased in certain cases. For example a big film festival may have influence from powerful producers and distribution companies.

My advice would be to do your research before submitting to a festival and the type of films that they have screened there in the past but also keep in mind there is a lot of competition out there. Certain festivals have mixed themes while others have a theme that may suit their project.

5) What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

When I founded the festival it was may objective to bring a world of film to the Waterford scene, to support independent film and it still is. The love of film and being apart of something where we get to view and screen films from all walks of life with different themes and to provide a platform for filmmakers is a major motivator for us. We enjoy the process of seeing so much talent and meeting a lot of great people during the event itself.

6) How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

The festival is new to FilmFreeway and so far it is great. The system for us is very easy to use , to manage and judge the projects. Since we opened for submissions we have had entires from Ireland, UK, USA, Japan, Australia , Germany, France, Italy, Lithuania and surprisingly Iraq which is fantastic to see. The festival does get international films every year, however so far we have seen an increase from them and from more countries this year. We are looking forward to watching the projects and providing a wide variety of national and international film screenings at this years event.

7) Where do you see the festival by 2023?

Honestly hard to tell. Even though the festival is successful in many ways in the terms of the amount of submissions we get and we always get a good audience, our funding is very limited. We take one year at a time. It is my hope that we can keep it going, build it up and expand the series of events that put on.

8) What film have you seen the most times in your life?

Ha tough one! I have watched a lot of films many times over the years. Up there would be Shawshank Redemption, the Godfather, Back to the Future trilogy

9) In one sentence, what makes a great film?

A well written story with strong developed characters, performed by excellent actors.

10) How is the film scene in your city

Waterford has many beautiful spots for filming in the City and County. There is a lot of talent out there in the short film scene but in terms of funding for films it would be behind other cities in Ireland. There are people in the filming community who are working together to try and improve this and encourage filmmakers to use Waterford as a location, which is great to see. However In my opinion more investment is needed but I think within 5-10 years the overall scene will be bigger and hopefully we will see more filmmakers using Waterford as a filming location in the future.

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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