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An Inside View of the Aesthetica Short Film Festival

The Aesthetica Short Film Festival recently took place in and around York City Centre, and I’m here to share with you my festival experience.

Opening Night

No day of an event is as hectic as the first. From faulty technology to an unexpected audience turnout, Opening Day began with a bang and only went up from there. Come the afternoon, outfitted in my Opening Night dress, I helped set up the screening event before mingling with filmmakers, press, jury members and more at the drinks reception. Following the entry into the theater and rifling through goodie bags, the Director’s pick of films were screened, including a dark comedic take on relationships, the beauty of the seas we are destroying, and a look at the power of the creative arts. After the screening, all in attendance were gifted with a live set from Falle Nioke, the subject of Tom Dream’s music video. 

Virtual Reality Day

I spent my Thursday in the Screen School, an exhibition sponsored by the University of the Arts London’s College of Communication. The Screen School showcased student and professional work in virtual reality (VR) films and games.  Some of the experiences pushed the limitations of film by enveloping watchers in an interactive and subversive world while others focused on more interactive experiences, but all of the projects aimed to engage watchers in conversations about how we communicate, move and create. Having worked closely with Hamline faculty on the expansion of VR, this exhibition gave me loads of ideas to bring back to my academic work. 

A festival participant painting in space using a VR program. Photo by Kat McCullum

My “Day Off”

Due to my class schedule, the midpoint of the festival became my “day of rest” as my assignment required minimal effort on my part. As a screening attendant, I warmly invited guests in, recorded the screening audience size, and answered the odd question when a confused or lost festival goer popped by. 

Pitching Day

One of the more unique opportunities Aesthetica provides for its filmmakers is pitching sessions with some of the biggest production companies in and out of the UK. I oversaw the pitching sessions for Film4, Guardian Documentaries, BBC Films and Ifeatures. For obvious reasons I cannot disclose the details of the day, but I can tell you this; magical things happened behind those closed doors. Every filmmaker came in bursting at the seams with passion for their project and the stories they wanted to tell, and engaged in real conversations with the studio representatives about their work and the impacts it could have beyond the screen. 

Following my pitching sessions, I finally got to partake in some of the remarkable film lineup, taking my time to enjoy film genres new and familiar, all of which challenged my preconceived understandings of storytelling and the process through which we engage with the world around us. 

Closing Night

After another day as a screening attendant, the gear up to the Awards Ceremony began. Working with the event planner and my fellow Aesthetica Staff, we transformed areas of the Yorkshire Museum into an elegant awards show, displaying the sleek and renowned awards as well as preparing the main gallery for the cocktails after. I was privileged to sit in on the awards, getting an exclusive screening of the majority of winning films surrounded by the people who made them. With awards handed out and drinks had, the party moved to 1331, a nearby bar where the whole staff let out a sigh of relief and finally kicked back with filmmakers and festival-goers to celebrate an exceptional festival. 

Aesthetica Film Festival awards. Photo by Kat McCullum​

Being a part of this festival was a dream I didn’t even know I had come true; and, I’d like to thank some of the incredible people who helped that dream come true. To the Aesthetica staff, you have taught me so much about art, life and enjoyment in these past few months and I will cherish those memories forever. To the festival volunteers, thank you for the laughs and stories we shared, you made the stress melt away. To the event photographers, you all were so kind and always around to crack a joke or smile when we needed it most. And to each and every filmmaker, thank you for having the courage to create, I admire you all immensely.

Kat McCullum

Hamline '21

English major with Creative Writing tendencies