MANIFF: Jury Select Panel

On the last day of the Manchester International Film Festival, an hour-long panel dedicated to a selection of the official 2017 Jury, chaired by programming director Al Bailey and film critic Tom Percival, gave an insight into the competition and what they thought about the year’s selection of films, with a Q&A session available for the audience at the end. Guests included Jane Anderson, Tori Butler Hart, Matt Butler Hart and Neil Jeramy-Croft.

Opening up the discussion, Percival encouraged the guests to discuss how the program for the festival is organised. Bailey began to explain that the main aims for the festival include objectivity, attracting a wider audience and attempting to envision how the film would look on the big screen.The discussion then progressed onto how the selection of the films that had been submitted, were eventually narrowed down. It was stated that the process was split into two sections. The first including how the film had been written, its structure and how it would be observed by the audience. And the second including how the film had been directed and how the characters were performed by the actors.

It was explained that the amount of films that were watched were split among the 15 jurors, with the head juror making the final decision if there’s a tie between two films. The dedication among the staff to provide viewers with the best experience is clear from Bailey having watched over 70% of the films submitted, to the incredibly long process it takes to watch all the films (From May to November) and it’s paid off. It can be seen that the festival itself has increased in popularity as the amount of films that have been submitted has increased from 600, to just under 1000, to the 1500 films submitted this year. Out of the total 1500 films that were announced, only 91 films were selected for the festival, short films take up the majority of these films. Tori Butler Hart explained to the audience what was important to her when selecting the films: ‘If [the feature length film] grabs me in the first 10-15 minutes that’s a very clear indication of whether I’ll like the film or not’.

When the audience were given the option to ask any questions, the guests were given the opportunity to mention the features that really draw them to a film, such as its uniqueness; This comes through especially when regarding the short films, as it allows for them to truly explore such an amazing art. They also discussed what can put them off the film, including bad sound, arguing that if the audio doesn’t sound right then it can ruin the whole viewing experience. A member of the audience then asked if they jurors already know how many films they’ll put into each category or if they decided once they have the films. To which they replied that everything is directed by what type of films they get, it just happens to be that they always receive more short films.

Another member of the audience then asked if any of the guests had any tips for actors. Anderson and Tori Butler Hart then both agreed that serving the story the best that the actor possibly can and making sure that it doesn’t become about yourself is incredibly important. Another member of the audience continued this discussion by asking if the jurors can overlook flaws in an actor when judging a film as a whole. While the general answer was, yes they can, especially if the film is truly engaging, Anderson however, did point out that a good director would bring out the best performance possible in their actors, which is important to consider too.

The Manchester International Film Festival has been running for 3 years now, with it’s growing success, it was fascinating to see the process of how the company keeps on working to improve itself. While the guests may have been hungover from the extremely busy few nights before, the informal atmosphere made a great relaxing last panel to attend.

We teamed up with Humanity Hallows to bring you complete coverage of the Manchester International Film Festival. You can view the full list of reviews which is being updated as we post new content here.

Evelyn Sweeney

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