Watersprite Festival: Two days amongst legends in film

Munira Rajkotwalla 19 February 2018

From the 23rd to 25th of February, Cambridge students will be hosting the acclaimed Watersprite Film Festival. Today, we talk with the Festival director, Benedict Welch, a finalist of Jesus College studying English.

To start off, can you give us a brief run down of what the festival is

Watersprite is an international film festival, which happens over a weekend in Lent term.  It’s run by students from Cambridge and ARU for students across the world.  There’s two halves to it.  The first is a film competition, in which student filmmakers enter their short films. The second half is our incredible range of events that happen across the weekend aimed at helping students and young people get into the film world.  We try and have really practical sessions and more open-ended discussion panels delivered by people at the top of the film industry.  Most of the events are held at St John’s Old Divinity School, while our screenings are at King’s College.  We also have an exciting Open Film Studio event at Michaelhouse chapel.

Tell us more about the films nominated this year – how does the selection process work?

This year 29 films were nominated.  Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors we’re able to bring all of the nominated filmmakers to Cambridge for the Festival. We have filmmakers coming from Russia, the Philippines, Brazil, Denmark, Germany, and the U.S. – to name a few.  The films are always outstanding, with many going on to prestigious prizes at other festivals; some have won and go on to win BAFTAs too.  So we really do represent the best young film talent in the world.  The films are a brilliant mix: from really intimate and illuminating documentaries, to really funny and unbelievably clever animations – there’s really something to everyone’s taste.

A lot of Cambridge students are interested in film production or similar fields – is there anything at the festival for them?

Yes! Watersprite is designed for young people.  We have a whole host of events planned that really get down to the nitty gritty of film finance, of pitching ideas, of film scoring.  We’re also hosting a panel about Fox Networks Group first ever Europe/U.K. TV series commission ‘Deep State’ which will be about how to develop initial ideas into a script into a whole TV series.

What would you say are some highlights to look forward to here?

We’re hosting the acclaimed director Mike Leigh at our Opening Gala event on Friday night which is very exciting!  It’s going to be a fascinating interview from a BAFTA winner and Oscar nominated film director – a definite must for any young people interested in getting into film.

We also have several panels on representation in film, hosted by CUSU Women’s Officer, Lola Olufemi. We’re also hosting the BAFTA-winning documentary “My Son the Jihadi”; contributors from the documentary will be there talking about how it changed their lives and how the filming process went.  

There’s also our Open Film Studio event which is being sponsored by the prestigious camera makers ARRI.  A student film crew is being tasked to make a film in 24 hours, so it’s going to be amazing to see what they come up with.

Is the event exclusively for people interested in film production? Or is there something people interested in acting, music or behind-the-scenes can participate in/learn from as well?

There’s really something for everyone.  If you love just watching film, then you can head to one – or all – of our film screenings, each of which is centred on a different theme.  At the screenings you’ll also be able to hear from the filmmakers themselves in Q&A discussion panels and get your questions about making films while being a student answered.  We also have an event on film-scoring, which sees the culmination of another competition we launched this year.  We’ll have experts in film scoring talk about what makes a good score as they give live feedback for some of the best submissions we received.  If you want something really interactive then you can head to our Watersprite Hub which is sponsored by Mesmerise at John’s Old Divinity School and immerse yourself in Virtual Reality games.

How can tickets be purchased? Is there a day pass or tickets for certain events?

The best part is everything is completely free.  All the events and screenings cost absolutely nothing.  All you need to do is head to our Evenbrite page to reserve a free ticket.

For the future, how can students get involved in the competition itself? 

If you have a film to submit, our submissions will open in July for the 2019 festival.  Films have to be a maximum of 20 minutes long and you must be a student when you made the film.  All the requirements will be put on our website in the very near future. 

We’ll also be looking for a brand new committee too to organise the 2019 Festival, which also happens to be the Festival’s 10th anniversary.  Keep your eyes peeled for information on applying – it’s an absolutely fantastic opportunity to learn more about events organising, marketing, and, naturally, the professional film industry.

Is there any website that you would recommend for people who want to get to know the festival a bit better?

Of course! Head to www.watersprite.org.uk for our full schedule and head to our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages to follow coverage of the weekend itself.