Edinburgh film festival considers August start

Mark Adams said Edinburgh International Film Festival would probably be staged in August if it could afford. Picture: Andrew Ross
Mark Adams said Edinburgh International Film Festival would probably be staged in August if it could afford. Picture: Andrew Ross
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THE Edinburgh International Film Festival is to explore rejoining the capital’s other flagship cultural events in the calendar as it enters a new era.

Newly appointed artistic director Mark Adams said the festival would probably be staged in August again if it could afford to, saying he was keen to work together with the other summer festivals.

Mr Adams, who has over 25 years’ of film industry experience, admitted choosing the right dates were a “hot issue” for the festival, which will mark its 70th year in 2016. It was last held in August in 2007.

He has announced a review of the event’s slot in the calendar less than a year after the Edinburgh International Festival decided to move its dates into line with the Fringe for the first time in 18 years.

Fergus Linehan, the EIF’s new director, said the move was designed to allow audiences to make the most of the unique “electricity” in the city when its major events like the Fringe, the Tattoo and the book festival are also in full swing. The Edinburgh Mela has also brought its dates forward a week.

However, Mr Adams admitted dwindling sponsorship for the arts meant that the event may not be able to meet the costs of hiring venues, and paying for transport and accommodation for visiting guests.

Mr Adams said: “I’ve been coming here since the late 1980s and have been through the transition into June. From the outside world, if you were coming here as a journalist or a guest, it was always lovely to be part of the Edinburgh Festival and feel the whole vibrancy of the city in August.

“We can’t not look at this. It’s really important to investigate it, especially as Edinburgh is ‘the festival city’. We’re quite joined-up and there are conversations now between all the festivals. You do fear that you would get a bit lost in amongst all of the excitement and other distractions in August, but at the same time you think if you could cross-pollinate you could help each other. I do want to try and link in with things like music and theatre.”

When the EIFF announced its dates change in 2007, then artistic director Hannah McGill said the move was aimed at giving the festival “breathing space to expand.”

Mr Adams added: “It’s a tough one. People get used to change gradually, but I know it is a hot issue which everybody has an opinion on.

“You really have to work out the numbers and look at how it might work and the practical realities of going back. I haven’t done any investigation yet, but I’d imagine that a lot of venues are booked up, transport and accommodation are more expensive and it’s also a time when sponsorship in the arts has dipped and dipped.

“In practical terms, London Film Festival has moved from November to early October. You could have a window of a month and a half between two festivals which end up fighting for lots of the same films.”

Mr Adams, from Leicestershire, has taken over from US writer and critic Chris Fujiwara, who stepped down in September after less than three years in the post. Although he was widely credited with restoring the event’s reputation following a disastrous “rethink” in 2011, audiences did not reach the level they had been under previous artistic directors.

Mr Adams, who praised Mr Fujiwara for the “intellectual rigour” he brought to the festival, said: “I think the standing of the festival is really strong at the moment.

“I don’t know what it feels like in Edinburgh, but I’ve been on the circuit for a long time. When you talk to international sales agents, national film bodies and other film festivals, they have an amazingly high regard for Edinburgh, because it has such history and such lineage. It has an amazing reputation, but sometimes one forgets that. It’s great when you hear that on the other side of the world.

“It’s great to have guests here, because in the crassest way they obviously bring media attention on the festival. But it has to be practical.

“We can always say we would love this or that Hollywood celebrity, but I’ve seen the realities and heard terrifying stories of how much that can cost sometimes.

“There are enough people in the film world who are passionate above movies who want to support their films. They will be there.”

Mr Adams, who has most recently been the chief film critic for industry magazine Screen International, was previously head of programming at the National Film Theatre and director of cinema at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, both in London.

Mr Adams said: “It was the idea of a real challenge that was the exciting thing (about the EIFF job). I’ve been coming here for so many years, I’ve been a film journalist for a long time, and I’ve dipped back and forth into the industry.

“When festivals work really well they can be amazing things. The best feeling in the world is to introduce a film or a big guest and see the audience reaction. It’s quite rare to feel that you can come in make a difference, really excite audiences and get their passion going.

“You can see things at film festivals that will never get shown anywhere else in the world.”

Despite is long history, the EIFF has missed out on a number of high-profile Scottish films in recent years, including We Need To Talk About Kevin, Filth, Sunshine on Leith, Under The Skin and What We Did On Our Holiday.

Mr Adams said showcasing Scottish film talent would be a key priority for the event, which will run this year from 17-28 June.

He added: “It’s really important for the festival.

“If you are coming here from overseas you do want to come and see local cinema. If I’m going to Japan or Korea I want to see what films are being made there.

“Clearly you can’t show everything, because there are only so many films being made in Scotland. Some of them will be on domestic distribution, they will be on at other festivals, or they just won’t be completed in time.

“I want to be able to show a really good selection of Scottish films and, touch wood, there could be some really interesting ones around this year. It’s also about getting filmmakers here so they can feed off each other.

“The key thing for festivals is that coming together of a community and the forming of relationships. You don’t really get that otherwise.”

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