Sanne Jehoul: Dive In & GSFF 2020

Co-director of the Glasgow Short Film Festival, Sanne Jehoul, took some time out to chat about the current Dive In Programme, a two week long screening series that kicked off on the 7th of July, in collaboration with many Scottish exhibitors and film festivals. She had some fantastic insight on the power of collaboration to create a more diverse and dynamic film industry. GSFF20 will be announcing their online programme on the 27th of July, and will run during 17th to 23rd of August. You can find out more about Dive In on the GSFF website!

How did the collaboration between GSFF and the partnered organisations come about? Is this something that has come about in response to the current crisis? 

I started thinking about a collaborative project very early on in lockdown and had a tentative conversation with some exhibitors back then, to see if there was any appetite to collaborate, which there was! Our thinking was that most organisations would likely want to do something to keep connected with their audiences online, but at the same time there was such an immediate content overload that it was hard to imagine not drowning in the midst of it all, so a collective effort seemed to address that while also showing connection in a time of isolation. I still question how much need and value there is to adding more content online, but the gesture of solidarity and cooperation amongst smaller independent arts organisations seemed fitting, and several partner organisations, [like for example Scalarama Glasgow and SQIFF, have been doing their own activity to bring people together digitally as well].

After that initial idea – which at the time was a lot more lo-fi! – the project lay dormant for a while, for both personal and practical reasons, but when we started exploring the use of a new online screening platform for the digital version of Glasgow Short Film Festival in August, this also opened up a more efficient and secure opportunity to do the DIVE IN project, with some much appreciated support from Film Hub Scotland. The limit in budget and capacity meant it couldn’t be of the scope that I had naively imagined at one point, so I got back in touch with some of the exhibitors I spoke to initially, while also thinking of how to select others. They’re all organisations we had a good relationship with already, but in that selection we considered remit, location, audience, representation and so on.

We were always in agreement that it should be a freely accessible platform that encouraged donations. We settled on The Unity Centre and Ubuntu Women Shelter as the causes to fundraise for – two organisations that work to support asylum seekers and refugees, which in light of recent events is even more important.

And are we likely to see collaboration being a more core component of GSFF’s programming in the future?

I’d like to think we’ve always had a lot of collaboration at the heart of what we do, both with arts and community organisations, and internationally too. We worked with some of the exhibitors involved in DIVE IN before; for instance, Peter Taylor from Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival co-curated a strand for GSFF20, and Matchbox Cineclub and LUX Scotland regularly contribute to our festival programme.

Of course, there can always be more, and especially more integrated collaboration. Depending on what the future holds, I quite like the idea of using the online platform as a complementary element to our other activity, so hopefully that could involve more collaborations, maybe even with partners that aren’t in our orbit yet!

By pairing with several organisations, do you feel that there’s a shared ethos that’s at the heart of Dive In, and could you shed some light on that?

I think we all have an ethos of collaboration and supporting each other where we can. As small organisations, we all know the precarity of our set-ups, and I’m sure this will become particularly clear now, when times for the industry are looking very uncertain and all of us are in one way or another dependent on other organisations and venues. I think that’s why it was good that as part of this project, we were able to pay each programmer a small fee and put money towards filmmakers and small distributors, who will all be feeling the effects of the crisis. Many of us have been wondering where things will take us over the last months, when the current set-up already creates so many discrepancies, exploitation and low ceilings, that we do need to really consider how we can best lift each other up as an industry.

I think we are all also trying to consistently improve accessibility and inclusion as part of what we do, which is why we decided that all films should have captions for D/deaf and hard of hearing audiences, as well as content notes. There’s plenty more that can be done of course, and it’s good to see that this conversation is really developing. It will hopefully push all of us in the industry to keep doing better and genuinely consider who has access and who doesn’t, without it being a mere formality.

Are the any particular highlights for you in the programme?

Considering they’re all from other programmers you can’t ask me that question ;). I just think it’s a genuinely interesting and exciting line-up, with a lot of different genres, regions, communities and themes represented, while also reflecting each contributing exhibitor’s own identity. Something to point out is that there are some exclusive filmmaker conversations in there that you won’t be able to see anywhere else again, so keep an eye out for chats with Canadian cult filmmaker John Paizs which is presented alongside his first short The Obsession of Billy Botski (Matchbox Cineclub’s programme), with US filmmaker Jenni Olson about her psychogeographic essay film The Royal Road (from Alchemy Film & Arts), and a special event from LUX Scotland around artist Heidrun Holzfeind’s work the time is now., which involves an audio response by Glasgow-based artist Susannah Stark as well as a conversation with the two artists.