In recent years, the 60 Hour Film Blitz has become one of the most unique and exciting events of the year in St Andrews, and a golden opportunity for aspiring filmmakers in the area, students and locals alike. It offers not only an opportunity to gain valuable practical experience and have their worked screened for a jury (and to potentially pick up an award), but also to push their artistic boundaries by working within a novel set of limitations (think a friendlier version of The Five Obstructions). Ahead of the Blitz, I sat down with two members of this year’s committee – president Reuben Morris-Dyer and social media coordinator Kitty Howie – for a chat about their experiences working on the festival what to expect from this year’s iteration. We discussed advice for prospective participants, what audience members can expect, and why you should give it a go even if you’re not a film student – or even a student at all
Milo: Would you both like to introduce yourselves?
Kitty: Hi, I’m Kitty, I’m the social media coordinator.
Reuben: Hello, I’m Reuben, and I’m the president of the Film Blitz committee!
M: For anyone in the audience who might not know, could one of you give a quick explanation of what the 60 Hour Film Blitz is?
K: So, the Film Blitz is a competition where you have sixty hours to make a film. The theme is usually released, there’s a big build-up, I think it’s usually released about a week before, then you sign up, then you have sixty hours to make the film, and then all the films are judged by a jury that we select. And then there’s a gala, and a screening, and everyone enjoys watching them, and we announce the winners.
R: It’s very exciting, and everyone should definitely enter.
M: Fantastic! So, why is it that both of you decided to get involved with the film blitz?
R: I haven’t entered a film in the 60 Hour Film Blitz, although I’ve always wanted to, I always missed it for crazy reasons, like not being in town, and, so, this year I definitely wanted to be involved – either making a film or being on the committee. When I saw that the position of Festival Director was open, it just seemed like too good an opportunity to turn down.
K: Yeah, I think I was pretty much the same reason, every year I was like ‘I really, really want to do this’, and every year something would come up, and so this year, to make sure I was involved, I wanted to be on the committee.
M: For anyone who is entering a film this year, planning to make a film, is there any advice you would give them?
K: Take as much liberty as you want with the them, really think about it as creatively as you can.
R: Yeah, I think the most important thing is to come up with a really good hook to get the audience interested, because you’ve only got three minutes, and you’ve only got whatever equipment is available, so you’ll probably be quite limited, and you’ve only got sixty hours. So, if you embrace the limitations, and embrace that you can’t make a super-polished production in that time, and you think you can have a lot of fun with it, and as you say get really creative. So, yeah, try and come up with something unusual, with something that’s going to grab people.
M: That’s a good answer. Would you say that the 60 Hour Film Blitz is valuable to the student culture of St Andrews, and if so, why? What does it offer the town and the student community?
K: I think it offers the opportunity to share your own ideas and your values, and to bring (students) together across subjects, it doesn’t just have to be a film student, you don’t even have to just be a student, it also allows you to interact with the community, across years as well as disciplines – post-grads and younger children too.
R: Yeah, definitely. I think what’s fantastic about the 60 Hour Film Blitz is that it’s something anyone can enter, and as I’m sure many people know, our jury will contain Joe Russo, the director of the most successful film of all time, Avengers: Endgame (co-directed with his brother Anthony), which we’re incredibly honoured and excited about. The chance to make a film which will then be seen by him is, I think, a unique and extraordinary opportunity that you might never get again. It’s too good to turn down. It contributes a lot, therefore, to the film scene in St Andrews.
M: That’s interesting. To people in town who might not know about the festival, who might not have been before, why would you say they should come?
R: Well, we’ve had our winners in past years who have not been a part of the student populous, and I think, regardless of who you are, it’s a really interesting film opportunity, because it has the limitations of the time on it, which forces you into quite a creative corner. I think, regardless of who you are, that’s something exciting and something that could be embraced. It’s a universal plus, if you can do it.
M: Would you say that working on this festival as part of the committee has taught you anything about film, or about film festivals?
R (To K): I’m gonna let you answer this one!
K: I think it can be really fun, to work in that kind of scene and that kind of set up as well, and there’s something nice about giving people that opportunity, I think, and working to create that for people and knowing that they’re going to get this enjoyment from it and this value, can be really rewarding.
R: Yeah, I think I have definitely thought more about the process that is undertaken when you take on organising a film festival, and how you decide how to structure everything, and what themes you want to look at. Obviously, the theme is yet to be announced for this year, but we certainly thought hard about what direction we want to take the festival in. I think there’s a lot of creative fun to be had in deciding what kind of festival we want to be this year. Because one of the joys of having a new committee every year is that you innovate, you constantly innovate, and one year will be completely different to the next, there’s, sort of, infinite variety.
M: So, when is it that the festival will be taking place?
R: Well, we can’t reveal the exact date yet, however, everyone should be following all of our 60 Hour Film Blitz Social media to see when shooting begins, when sign-ups will be taking place, and when the Gala itself will be being held. It’s all going to be very exciting.
K: And the theme (will be announced)!
R: And the theme! Crucially!
For anyone in St Andrews with an ambition to get involved in filmmaking, or simply the curiosity to throw themselves into a new experience, the 60 Hour Film Blitz is a can’t-miss opportunity. Those with behind-the-scenes careers in mind, meanwhile, ought to give thought to being part of next year’s committee. But more than its potential as a stepping-stone to a future in film, the 60 Hour Film Blitz is worthwhile simply as experience in and of itself – a chance to experience new types of cinematic storytelling, whether as a filmmaker or an audience member. These are strange times for film, ones in which the medium seems to be both broadening and narrowing; in which there are welcome, overdue calls for diversity of perspective as they industry becomes ever less diverse in genre and budget; where Green Book can win Best Picture one year and Parasite the next. Above all, these are times which require bold, distinctive filmmaking. So, why not come take some in – or make some yourself?