Festival Focus: Shooter’s Encounters #2

Posted September 5th, 2016 by Matt Turner

Last week, we spoke with three Shooting People members who have films included in Encounters Short & Animation Festival later this month. Here, we hear from two more – the talented, comedy focused filmmaker Kate Herron and Finland-born, Edinburgh-based new artist filmmaker Katri Vanhatalo.

Fan Girl (2015, Kate Herron)

Fan Girl (2015, Kate Herron)

Kate Herron is a writer-director, with a particular focus on female-led comedy. One of her first short films, Open House won the Shooting People’s Film of the Month back in 2013, and her subsequent films such as Valentine and Rest Stop have played many festivals, winning her many fans. “I am passionate about making character driven films that are as cinematic as they are funny. I started making films when I was waitress so have come from a background of just going out there and finding a way to get your stories told.”

Her latest comedy short Fan Girl is playing at Encounters in their “Funny Looking Shorts” programme. “It’s about a group of super fans who break into the house of a faded 90s pop-star, played by Steve Oram (Sightseers, Aaaaaaaah!).” Kate was approached by the Central School of Speech and Drama to make a film with their MA Acting students, and worked with two screenwriters she met through twitter (Henrietta and Jessica Ashworth, Screen International Stars and Broadcast Hotshots) on the idea. “I grew up listening to [90s pop], had a Stephen Gately doll, and knowing the dance moves to Saturday Night was a key survival skill needed to navigate through secondary school, so I really connected with what the Ashworths were wanting to talk about and explore.”

Alongside Fan Girl, Kate is involved with another short playing at Encounters. She co-wrote Healey’s House with director Rob Savage (who we profiled in the previous blog.) “These are the first films I’ve been involved in that have played [Encounters] so I feel very lucky that the festival connected with them and liked what we wanted to say. It’s always been a festival I’ve noticed as I have often found myself watching a lot of shorts that have screened there on Vimeo and seen go onto the BAFTAs so feel very flattered to be in that company.”

Though now moving onto features, Kate has a real appreciation for making short films. “Shorts are a great way to keep being creative. You can spend so long in development with features whereas shorts are these bursts of creativity.” “They are opportunities to keep shooting and experimenting and also make those mistakes occasionally which will only make your other work stronger. I also love how accessible they are. Some of my favourite shorts have been made for very little money but the creativity in them is inspiring and exciting. The door is not closed with shorts. It’s just making sure that you write and shoot something that really utilises what you have access to.”

For her, collaboration is “100%” important, especially working with comedy. “Most of my job is casting, not just for the actors, but for the crew too,” so it is crucial that you have a team that works well together. “On Fan Girl we had a lot to shoot and it was very ambitious for the budget we had set but my crew and cast were fantastic and it was easily one of my favourite on-set experiences. There will be times when a film gets stressful or something unexpected happens so if you’ve surrounded yourself with likeminded people who understand not only what you want to make but can bring their own ideas with that to set, it’s going to be a much better film for it.”

“I think Shooting People and similar communities are important because it is hard making films, particularly on no money when it’s your passion project. Having a community there for support whether that’s just for a “you can do this” trip to the pub or feedback on a script or a finished film is vital and I know has been useful to me across my projects.”

When we spoke to her, Kate had just finished a very intense writing month. “First, I will be working on getting my sleep pattern back to normal. I have just written a feature adaptation of my short Rest Stop (Grand Prize Winner for Best Comedy at Flickers: Rhode Island Film Festival) with Toronto-based comedian Monica Heisey which I am very excited about. I also just finished writing a Sci-Fi comedy called Miss Universe which is an alien invasion film set at a beauty pageant which I’ve been describing as “The Thing meets Mean Girls” so I’ll be working on those projects along with others and finishing my sitcom pilot.” Keep up to date on her site.

The Soloist (2016, Katri Vanhatalo)

The Soloist (2016, Katri Vanhatalo)

Katri A. Vanhatalo is a filmmaker, originally from Helsinki, Finland, who is currently living and making shorts in Scotland. “Having established myself in the filmmaking community in Edinburgh over my time in university, I decided to stay in the city to make no-budget shorts and to experiment with forms of audio-visual storytelling. Since graduating I have started to find my style as a filmmaker while still looking for new way to express myself in short film form. I’ve always enjoyed working with an element of improvisation and so writing my work with the actors, but have now also ventured into documentary short filmmaking and I have a few ideas for more experimental short films.”

The Soloist will be the second short film she has had selected for Encounters, after her debut, ‘LOMA – A Family Holiday’ played straight out of university in 2013. “I found the festival extremely important and valuable for my professional growth. The connections I made have lasted these years in between and I look forward to seeing some familiar faces at the festival again.”

Her second film, The Soloist, went from inception to shoot very quickly. “I was speaking to my father, the protagonist, about what he does with his spare time at the moment as he has retired. He spoke fondly about a location on the island we live on in Helsinki where he goes to play his trumpet at every opportunity. I was intrigued by the story and equipped with only my iPhone and a few days to shoot, so at short notice I decided to document his routine. From something that I thought was going to be a scouting for a story, I came out with a story about my relationship to my father.”

Such can be the way with the flexibility and fluidity that short film making provides. For Katri, “short films portray stories about the human condition in bite size portions and are in themselves like poems that you can watch over again to reflect on them.” More and more, shorts are “a medium of their own and not just a stepping-stone into feature length productions,” especially so in Artists Film & Video. “It would be great if there was more funding in between artist films and feature length productions.”

As a student, and now entering the Scottish filmmaking community, Katri has come to value the communal aspects of filmmaking. “Without collaboration and peer review short films could not exist, as funding opportunities are so limited. Communities like shooting people connect like-minded people to each other, thus facilitating the all-important collaborations.” “The artistic power over the film is in the hands of the whole group collaborating on the project, thus making the short film a better film.”

Katri is currently working on a treatment for a 10 minute feminist romantic comedy and a 3-5 minute experiment on storytelling. “The first project is a structured and scripted short film that plays around with the traditional rom com structure. This idea would require some budget to shoot. The second short is a self-shooting no-budget/self-funded short, which is not only an experiment on story-telling on screen, but also plays on the audience’s perception of story.” Find out about her work here, and she’ll be at Encounters this year, should you’d like to talk to her about these projects, the many water towers of Finland, or anything else. 

Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival 2016 takes place in Bristol’s Watershed from the 20th to the 25th of September.

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