Screenplay, Shetland Arts’ annual film festival has been gathering local and national profile over the past nine years, so 2015’s festival had a lot of expectations to live up to. Curated by internationally renowned film critic Mark Kermode, film historian Linda Ruth Williams and festival director Kathy Hubbard, Screenplay ’15 set out to meet Shetland Arts’ objectives of entertaining, informing and developing audiences, giving Shetland residents access to some of the best screen professionals working today and providing a platform for local film makers, whilst still looking for innovation, as well as simply celebrating film as an art form.
Kicking off with a celebratory brass band walk-down from the Market Cross, we went straight into our first innovation of 2015 which was a live-dubbed film for children, with actors at the rear of the cinema reading the subtitles off the screen as they came up – enormous fun, and introducing children to the world of international film that they rarely get to visit. Other highlights of the first weekend included a screening of the hit dialect theatre show, Tell Wis, and the chance to meet Shetland-connected musician Candida Doyle during a Q and A session after seeing Pulp – A Film About Life, Death and Supermarkets.
We retained our ‘Look North’ strand of screenings, with Village at the End of the World and Bjornoya (Bear Island) selling out – no co-incidence that they are both films about remote island living. The main week saw education screenings at Mareel and at schools in Fair Isle and Brae, whilst a hugely enjoyable animation workshop took place at Symbister School on Whalsay. Regular collaborations with local groups keep the festival rooted in the community and this year we worked with Amnesty International Shetland and Alzheimer’s Scotland to bring two world class documentaries – The Look of Silence and Alive Inside to Mareel, both followed by Q and A sessions.
This year’s special guests were a joy to work with – director Carol Morley, producer Cairo Cannon, writer/actor/director Mark Gatiss and television and film actress Lindsay Duncan all undertook extremely well attended screenings with Q and A or introductory talks and spent a lot of time talking to audience members informally afterwards.
Short films were to the fore as usual, and this year saw some excellent home-made productions, including the ever-sold-out Home Made screening as well as Film Poems and Portraits by local poet and film maker Roseanne Watt.
Along with a packed and rambunctious Festival Film Quiz and a final talk by Mark Kermode about one of his favourite films, Silent Running, we filled ten days with a varied programme which attracted nearly a thousand extra main audience (3815 to 2014’s 2908) and a healthy education and outreach audience in community halls in Fair Isle and Bressay, and a care home for the elderly in Brae.
We also met an increasing number of individuals who had travelled to Shetland specifically for the festival, all of them who had heard of Screenplay through Mark Kermode’s tireless promotion of it over the years. The tenth anniversary next year will have to be something special now.