Pass The Popcorn, The Charlton And Woolwich Film Festival Is Here. And It’s Free!
After many months of planning (sensibly, most of it seems to have taken place in local pubs), the Charlton and Woolwich Free Film Festival is here! The whole thing kicks off on Friday September 9 in General Gordon Square in Woolwich, so I thought I’d throw a few questions at one of the forces behind it, Paul Chapman. For details of films, screening times and locations go to freefilmfestivals.org and follow them on twitter @CWFilmFestival. The line up looks great, and the venues are fabulous!
Hi Paul, firstly, can you tell us a bit about yourself. Are you a local?
Hello! Yes, I’m a local. A Charlton local more specifically. I am but a small cog in the small team running this years first ever Charlton and Woolwich Free Film Festival.
What gave you the idea for a film festival? Have you run one before?
Not my idea, credit there goes to the mighty Gavin Eastley. Free film festivals have enjoyed a surge in popularity in recent years, particularly in South London it seems, and Gavin has been part of other local festivals, either behind the scenes, as a projectionist or just sat watching. This year Gavin decided to have a go at launching a festival in his own area, and he appears to have pulled it off!
How supportive have people been? (And has the council been helpful?)
The council were really pro-active, getting in touch to offer the use of the big screen in General Gordon Square before we’d even had a chance to ask them ourselves. There’s been a few bureaucratic hoops to jump through to get the two films showing there (Rocky Horror Picture Show – 9th September, Master and Commander – 16th) but the council have come up trumps. They’ve even provided some funding this year to cover various costs, which is great.
We’ve also had great support from other local venues and businesses. St Georges Garrison Church and Charlton Park Academy both approached us very early on, for instance. Everyone involved seems genuinely interested in buying into the ethos of the film festival, even if there’s a cost to them in terms of time or money, which is fab.
And most importantly people seem very keen to come along to the festival! The response from people has been great, so hopefully we’re not going to be screening films to empty rooms (or squares).
Is this a team effort? Who are these ace people?
It is 100% a team effort. Gavin is the brains behind the whole thing and he’s event managing several of the films, as well as being our lead projectionist. So in a team of equals he is clearly more equal than the rest of us. But we’ve also got Dean and Amrit who are hosting Predator at Bunker 51 on the 14th, and they’ve also masterminded the programme design along with student graphic designer extraordinaire Hakam. We’ve got Simon and Wendy who successfully got films into the Blue Nile (Winter of Discontent – 13th) and Bathway Theatre (City of Dreams – 12th), two very cool venues. The lovely Sonia is our Shrewsbury House contact and we’re showing two there: Monty Python and the Holy Grail (16th) and The Peanuts Movie (12th). Charlton writer Matt Goodsell is giving a talk on screen moments that have had a personal impact on him before epic documentary Virunga (10th). We’re also working with a small group of Woolwich-based filmmakers called Select18 who are just starting out and have been brilliant, creating our very own ‘ident’ to be shown before each film as well as creating 3 shorts specifically for the festival, which is great. Too many people to thank really, but we need to try!
Some of the venues sound amazing: the ruined church of St George for instance. Was it always the aim to seek out unusual locations?
Yes, definitely. A big part of Free Film Festivals is that its not just about the film, it’s about the venue. And the real payoff is when you get a great film and are able to screen it in a venue that works perfectly with it. St Georges Garrison Church is a perfect example, it’s a beautiful but relatively unknown place, very atmospheric, and the Third Man is a classic film noir that should be one of the highlights of the festival (September 10th). Shrewsbury House is another one. I’ve never been (shamefully) but people who have rave about it and it’s the perfect excuse to visit somewhere new while seeing a film in the process. We’re also very lucky that Charlton House has provided space for several films, another great venue.
Tell us about the film selection. Are some of these personal favourites you wanted to share? What criteria did you have for choosing?
The way it works (or at least the way it has worked with us) is Gavin threw open the invitation to everyone and anyone to get involved and come up with a film and/or venue. After that a process of waiting to see who kept coming to meetings meant we ended up with a programme. Maybe I shouldn’t be giving away these trade secrets!
As for personal favourites, it’s difficult. I love Monty Python so looking forward to seeing Holy Grail (again) at Shrewsbury House, I may even dress up. I’m going to miss A Field In England (September 11th) at Charlton House which is a shame as it looks gloriously mad. It’s not typically my type of film but Predator should be a complete blast as not only will we get Arnie and his chums eating jungle but Bunker51 – the venue – are dressing their dystopian warehouse as a jungle specifically for the event, and they’re offering discount laser tag beforehand! Finally, I’d be mad not to plug my own event, Shaun of the Dead (September 11th) at The White Swan in Charlton Village. I love the film, but I love that pub even more, and the team there have pitched in with a BBQ beforehand, we’ve got Bunker51 lending us some actual Zombies, we’ve got a member of the cast coming down, it’ll be bloody great fun.
Down to practical details. Where can people get programme and venue info?
The programme has endured a difficult pregnancy, but it’s now just about ready to go to the printers. And again, big thanks to designer Hakam for all her hard (and free of charge) work. Once it comes off the presses then myself and other members of the team will be handing them out at various train/tube stations in the area as well as leaving them in selected venues – look out for posters and programmes from Friday 2nd! And of course all the details are already on our website: http://www.freefilmfestivals.org/filmfestival/charlton/ You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates and general silliness.
What to bring? (Cushions etc?)
What to bring depends very much on the venue. Certainly anyone coming to General Gordon Square and St Georges should consider warm clothing and if you want to bring a garden chair or something that may be a good idea. Most other venues will be providing seating of some form or other. You can of course bring your own food to the outdoor screenings.
What can’t you bring?
The same rules – or common sense really – apply as it would if there was not a film screening. So don’t take your own food and drink to a pub or restaurant, that sort of thing. Gavin is fond of reminding us that free film festivals are generally fairly anarchic affairs, there aren’t an abundance of rules. Probably the best rule of thumb is to remember it’s free so come along prepared to pitch in and, in the smaller venues, be prepared to not get in and to end up having a night out elsewhere.
Will there be food/drink vans at any of the venues?
We certainly hope so. Only a few things are confirmed so far. We’ve got The Yawning Donkey team providing craft ales and ciders at a few events. We think we’ve got some food vans lined up for the big screen but not 100% sorted yet. Some places will have popcorn I think. There is talk of a cocktail pop-up at the Short Screenings night, but these are all the last minute details that are still being finalised.
Will there be loos?
A world exclusive for you here, I’ve just this minute had it confirmed from Gavin that all venues have toilets. Thanks especially to the Council for opening the toilets in Vincent Road for the General Gordon Square events.
Do you still need volunteers? How can people help at this late stage?
Yes we do! We still need volunteers to steward the big screen events, and there’s probably a drink and a sausage roll in it if people are interested. We also need bucket rattlers at various events, it’s a primary source of funding for future events. Anyone interested in knowing more can email Gavin on firstname.lastname@example.org
More than anything else of course we need people to turn out and support the festival. And at the end of it all, after a Blow Up Walk and Talk (September 17th, 5pm) and a screening of the film at Charlton House (September 17th, 7pm), everyone is very welcome to the Closing Party at The White Swan, from 9pm till whenever they kick us out. See you there!