Tell us a little about the journey of Aesthetica? How it began and what it has become?
Aesthetica was launched in 2003 when I was an MA student in York. I initially did a publishing internship in New York, where I’m from, as part of my BA. When I came over to York, all I really wanted to do was continue interning for a magazine, but there wasn’t an arts and culture publication in the city, so after six months, I decided that I was going to start my own. I got a credit card and started the whole thing like that. I really have fond memories of the early days. After I graduated, I did a teaching degree, but continued to work on the magazine on weekends and in the evening. For some reason, I just couldn’t give it up, I loved it (and still do) so in 2005 I decided to leave my job and work on the magazine full time. At this point, we had national distribution, but a lot has happened over the past six or seven years, Aesthetica is now stocked in all the major galleries, Tate Modern, Serpentine, ICA, Pompidou, etc. nationally through WH Smith and is exported to 20 countries worldwide.
Many similar publications with your success would have automatically gone to London, what made you set up base in York?
There are a number of reasons really. Aesthetica was started in York, so as the magazine grew our office and staff were based here, so it wouldn’t have been practical to move, not to mention that I have made York my home. When I moved to York, I was at that age where you start finding a niche for yourself – friends, buying a house, all those sorts of things. Besides, London is only 2 hours from York, there’s even a direct service!
ASFF is the first event of this nature that you have done. What made you do it and why in York?
We have always worked with film in some capacity. In the magazine, we always feature really interesting and independent films like Yorgos Lanthimos’ Dogtooth or Guy Maddin’s My Winnipeg, and considering the response that we received with the Aesthetica Short Film Competition, it was only natural to start a festival, not to mention that York city centre, as a canvas for this event is wonderful. The festival offers screenings in some of the UK’s most iconic and historic buildings. I am delighted with the venues, the films and the speakers that we have (Mark Herman, Screenwriter, The Boy In Striped Pyjamas – Ivana McKinnon, Associate Producer, Slumdog Millionaire, Channel 4, the shorts programmer from SXSW). With regards to preparations, I have never been busier, but honestly, it’s what I expected – we are screening films in 15 venues!
Do you see the Festival becoming an annual event?
We are looking at our programme for 2012 and have some really exciting events already in the pipeline, but I can’t say too much! We currently have a number of partners lined up for 2012, but would certainly welcome any expressions of interest from anyone who might like to get involved.
Do you envisage visitors coming from all over the country?
We have people coming from all corners of the UK, but from further afield: the USA, New Zealand, Germany, Denmark, The Netherlands, France and a few other countries too.
What made you choose short film?
A great short film can captivate the imagination in under 30 minutes. It’s a fantastic form because it is the ultimate test for the filmmaker – can they tell a complete narrative in this timescale and engage with the audience? I also work with short films because many of our directors will go on to make features that we’ll all know and love in the future, so to be working with filmmakers at this stage in their careers is a great thing.
What do you think a short film can capture that a feature film can miss out on?
That’s an interesting question and it’s tough to compare the two forms. Short films deliver a narrative in a limited time frame, that means that the filmmakers has to make some tough decisions when it comes to the cinematography and the script, working within these parameters can create some really interesting work.
What experience can residents take from the festival?
In terms of programming, we are offering the full range of genres from art, experimental, documentary, drama, comedy, animation and music video. Let’s remember that watching films is one of the activities that most people have in common, so we’ve created an event, which will appeal to most people. Our programme of talks and networking events also engages with filmmakers directly and brings expertise together in one venue. We are spreading ASFF across the entire city – not only can residents enjoy watching films, but they get to engage with certain buildings in York that they might not normally go in. This, for me, creates a really exciting prospect – watching new films (a contemporary art form) but in a Medieval Hall – it’s just a great way to watch films.
Now, describe ASFF in 5 words.
Explore York and Experience Film.