Kate O'Hara in Film & TV


Interview: ‘Spaceship’ Director Alex Taylor on How to Make the Most of Film Festivals

Director Alex Taylor entered into our iFeatures scheme to help bring his otherworldly drama ‘Spaceship’ to the big screen. 

Together with the BFI Film Fund, BBC Films and Creative Skillset, iFeatures helps emerging directors develop and produce micro-budget films, with three features emerging from each round. The last time we spoke to Alex, he offered his tips on finding and developing your story for the screen. Since then, he’s completed ‘Spaceship’ and embarked on the festival circuit, with the film receiving a warm welcome at this year’s South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. 

We caught up with Alex to learn more about the reception his film has been receiving and find out how filmmakers can get the most out of their time at film festivals. Read the full Q&A below...

You’ve recently returned from SXSW with your film ‘Spaceship’ - how did you find the experience? 

We had an amazing time thanks, the film did really well. SXSW is also a music festival so the atmosphere is much more lively than other film festivals. Barack Obama even came to do a talk and I got to meet Butch Vig who produced Nirvana's 'Nevermind' and the Smashing Pumpkins - so it was a pretty unique experience. Also there were my two agents, three of the actors, two producers and our editor so we had a nice big group of people. We had a lot of fun! 

From your experience, what do festival bookers look for in their selection process and how can filmmakers boost their chances of being accepted? 

Be yourself and not try to be someone else.  You should make distinctive and original films in your own voice, then festivals will take notice of your film. 

But to be honest they've all got their own styles and agendas, so you normally find your film will fit certain festivals but not others. Mine usually get into lots of festivals in the US, Germany, UK, and Netherlands… but not in France! So don't get stuck on one festival and worry why you didn't get in, find festivals who understand and appreciate your film because ultimately they'll give you a better platform and audience.

What one thing should all filmmakers make sure they do when at a festival? 

Try and get out of the festival! Go see something or meet someone who isn't any part of the industry because this is what will inspire you for your next film or a character somewhere down the line. I think your cinema should come from your life rather than from other people's films.  That said, festivals are also a great chance to see films which might not get distribution, so head for the more obscure gems from around the world, you can always see the bigger films on general release. 

How can filmmakers ensure they get the most out of their time at these type of events? 

Personally I just go with the flow and not try to organise too much because there's so much happening around you you'll suddenly be standing next to someone really interesting - like Butch Vig - and if you're always on the way to somewhere else you'll never appreciate what's right next to you.  ‘Spaceship’ has now been completed and seen by audiences. 

What are your thoughts on the response it has garnered so far? 

It's been pretty amazing and humbling. I thought we'd be lucky to have 30-40 people in the screenings, but they were all sold out and SXSW had to add an extra one. There were even queues of people waiting for standby tickets. The reviews were also great, I wanted to go and give some of those reviewers a massive hug to say thanks because you know, they've taken the time to find ways of illuminating your film, describing it and working it out, which is the biggest compliment.  Reviews are like food that sustains you through the dark times and barren months until the next film gets commissioned - they keep you going!  Some of the words I'm currently surviving on are: 

'a unique experience of sound and vision...a sublime blend of the metaphysical and the psychedelic...Taylor channels Todd Haynes and Gus Van Sant… one for the dreamers, the free spirits, the truly unabashed individuals' - (Smells Like Screen Spirit)

'a day glo fever dream of a movie… closer to the lurid head trips of Gaspar Noe than the urban British Kidulthood' - (ScreenDaily)

'a weird and beautiful film… the uniqueness of ‘Spaceship’ is refreshing, opening it up to a true cinematic experience' - (The Entertainment Section)

'Spaceship comes to life in a way that few movies do… one of the most unique films about teenage life in the past few years… a mixture of Harmony Korine's Gummo and the British television series ‘Skins.’ - (Cinema Slasher)

What have you taken away from the experience of making your first feature film? 

The incredible warmth and bonds of friendship with the cast and crew and the support we had from the execs will always stay with me. 

Ultimately, how do you feel you have benefitted from being involved with Creative England and the iFeatures scheme? 

It's given me the best start to a career in directing that I could have asked for. Our exec Chris Moll has a sensitive and insightful soul and everyone at Creative England was fantastic in their support over the last three years. That's allowed me to grow as a filmmaker and take some risks while also learning how to fulfil some of the more difficult responsibilities when being in creative charge of this kind of project. 

What do you have planned for your next film? 

I've got a new feature film idea I'm really excited about and a TV pilot for a series I'm developing but I can't talk about them yet, as I haven't started pitching and I don't wanna jinx them! 

The submission window for iFeatures4 has recently closed. Details of shortlisted projects will be revealed later in the year. Follow Creative England Film on Twitter for updates.