Film Festival of Solitude: 'All of us struggle with the feeling of loneliness, a feeling only increased by our current living situations'

Film Festival of Solitude: 'All of us struggle with the feeling of loneliness, a feeling only increased by our current living situations'

John McEwan-Whyte

John McEwan-Whyte discusses the Napier Filmmaking Society's COVID-inspired film festival and connecting with others while under self-isolation

As the COVID-19 pandemic shutters the doors to our favourite haunts, and social distancing becomes the law of the land, we've all had to find ways to adapt to this new, strange reality. Live streaming, social media and the all-powerful, all-seeing Zoom have now become important tools we use to stay connected, even when we must remain apart, but the Napier Filmmaking Society are looking to take things one step further with their new self-isolation film festival, titled the Film Festival of Solitude.

The Film Festival of Solitude is asking members of the public to submit short, ten-minute films within the confines of their own home, with whatever equipment people have got on-hand. The hope is that the stories people tell during this remarkable time will not only offer a measure of escapism, but help break through the loneliness that many feel during this period of self-isolation. 'Film has always been a way for people to connect,' says John McEwan-Whyte, the society's president and festival organiser. 'Just look at this year's Oscar winning Parasite; a story in a foreign language about a country that most of us haven't been to, yet it was a story that we connected with, that introduced us to a different culture that had all the same problems and difficulties as our own.'

Film Festival of Solitude: 'All of us struggle with the feeling of loneliness, a feeling only increased by our current living situations'

Parasite

Though the specific circumstances of our collective self-isolation are unprecedented, McEwan-Whyte suggests that there's something to be said about the universality of what many of us are struggling with – something that cinematic storytelling can help us express and connect with. 'One thing that connects us all, no matter where you are or where you come from, is our desire to find our place in the world,' he says. 'Whether it's Luke from Star Wars or Chiron from Moonlight, all of us struggle with the feeling of loneliness, a feeling only increased by our current living situations. With film, we can get lost in a story about someone that shares those struggles, and we can accompany them on that journey out of isolation – hopefully resulting in us feeling a little less isolated too.'

Participants are asked to upload their submissions before 5pm on Mon 4 May, after which the Napier Filmmaking Society's committee will have 'a number of non face-to-face meetings', wherein they'll whittle their favourite submissions down to six. The final shorts will be screened online via Facebook Live, during which the winning film will be announced and receive a £100 grant towards their next film project. The Napier Filmmaking Society will also be soliciting donations for the Salvation Army during the live stream. 'What we are looking for is simple stories told well and ideas that connect to us naturally,' says McEwan-Whyte. 'But most importantly, something that opens a discussion, that makes us walk away from the screen wanting to talk about what we have just seen.'

Film Festival of Solitude: 'All of us struggle with the feeling of loneliness, a feeling only increased by our current living situations'

Moonlight
Everyone's situation under quarantine is different: some may be balancing the struggles of homeschooling their kids, or working from home, or just the sheer anxiety of this uncertain climate. Does McEwan-Whyte have any advice for those who might be looking to get creative, amidst the stress of the lockdown? 'Creativity can be a distraction from the stress and anxiety we will all, understandably, be feeling right now.

'By doing something fun, we are hopefully replacing a little of the melancholy with a little bit of joy. The hardest thing will be the first step, but as soon as you make the first move – whether it's drawing an idea for one of your shots or writing a line you want to be said by one of your characters – everything is downhill from there. Creating a film may be a huge task but I like the saying, "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time." However, I really love elephants, so I would recommend no one try to eat an elephant.'

Deadline for submissions to the Film Festival of Solitude ends Mon 4 May at 5pm. Please read the submission guidelines on the festival's website. The screening will take place Sat 9 May at 7pm via the festival's Facebook page.

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The Film Festival of Solitude

The Napier Film-making Society host a film festival of short films made under self-isolation. Anyone can submit a short film they've created while under lockdown before the 5pm deadline on 5 May. The screening will be live streamed via Facebook Live, and will feature six shorts. One film will be selected the winner and…

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