A few weeks ago I found myself in a club in London, surrounded by people in their finery and listening to a rather good swing band (albeit a little loud for making conversation). This is not the kind of event I’m used to attending so I was a little bit hesitant at first. A room full of producers, writers, actors, directors… Should be the dream for someone wanting to break out, right? Maybe?
The event was the Independent Filmmakers Ball hosted by the Raindance Film Festival. My experience of high society balls from film and television led me to expect flowing gowns, masquerade masks and lashings of intrigue (with at least one dastardly murder by the evening’s end). However, apart from a few gowns, this ball was decidedly vanilla and in danger of being spoiled by televisual expectations (it wasn’t, and with hindsight I suppose a murder wouldn’t have been that much fun, but you can see why I’d be worried).
The night began the way that I imagine most events of this type do; the event’s VIPs were separated from the rest of us ordinary folk. The VIPs were led to what looked like a red carpet photocall from a World Premiere, whilst the rest of us waited for the flashbulbs to stop popping (check out the photos and you might just catch the back of my head in a couple of shots). When they did stop, we were able to pass through, ignored by the gaggle of bored-looking photographers (this may sound like bitterness, but I assure you that it is nothing more than simple envy). Once we were through into the venue proper, we were confronted by a table covered in tarot cards with assistants (who looked more like models, really) explaining how the night’s game worked. You were supposed to pick a tarot card that you had some kind of affinity with and then find someone else with a matching card. You could then break the ice, exchange pleasantries and then claim a free drink with that person. Simple enough.
Having a penchant for comedy writing (along with the stunning realisation that I was absurdly out of my depth), I chose The Fool. There with my filmmaking partners and friends Tom and Paul (The Devil and Temperance, respectively) we first met a young producer named Patricia who took it easy on us by making the first move and introducing herself. After that initial conversation our confidence grew and we met many more talented people throughout the night, with the music and the drinks acting as an incredibly efficient social lubricant. There was Jenny (the redheaded Scottish producer), Nick (the film student and fellow Fool) and Sarah (the German scientist with no filmmaking intentions whatsoever). These were good people. There were also some people who embodied the worst media stereotypes; fast-talking, no substance, all show. I didn’t enjoy the company of these people as much.
All in all, what it did show me was that there is talent all across the country doing similar things in different places. Independent film is happening all over the place, and the people that do it are the same everywhere; the shy but skilled visionary, the unrecognised hard-worker, the talentless braggart.
Once I realised that, the whole event seemed far less intimidating. And although I didn’t gain a great deal professionally from the trip, I met some cool people that helped me to remember why I enjoy the independent film scene. I figure that was worth the price of admission (even if I didn’t end up in the photocall).