Programme cover for Flatpack I
Flatpack Festival grew from three years of smaller events in and around Birmingham, and was conceived as a way of taking the 7inch ‘formula’ out to a wider audience. Over four days from 19 January 2006 (the same day that Sundance opened; they were already quaking in their boots) we put on around 30 screenings and events in venues all over the city, from Digbeth warehouses to the IMAX via various bars and cinemas. Some things that stick out from that first festival: tears of happiness on discovering the world of Henry Jacobs, and then talking to the man himself in Marin county the next night; Gas the designer moving in for a week to finish off the programme; Pip running the first volunteer meeting having just discovered she was pregnant; a frosty night drive to Walsall to collect our first batch of brochures; an enormous suitcase full of 100 black Viewmasters arriving from Portland, shortly followed by our delightful houseguest Vladimir; the event itself, a blur; then continually rereading the feedback afterwards just to convince ourselves that it really happened.
Flyer for Flatpack II
Running film festivals is daft. You spend half the year busting a gut to gather all these films and people in one place for a few days, and before you know it it’s over. But when you’re running from one packed venue to the next, or listening to people rave about what they’ve seen, there’s nothing like it. So we did it again the following year, with more films, events and installations, more venues and a bigger budget. The audience grew too, and 2007 felt like the year when Flatpack took on its own momentum: crossing our fingers during a church screening of the faintly anti-clerical Seashell and the Clergyman; kids hopping around the mysterious, clanking Harrachov installation; Tamworth boy wonder Mark Locke getting the full chatshow treatment including his own theme tune; talking to a group of visiting Israelis at the Electric who had just stumbled on the festival and couldn’t believe their luck. This might be a good time to talk about the programme. We’ve resisted the urge to make Flatpack an ‘animation festival’, an ‘experimental film festival’, a ‘music and film festival’, a ‘trainspotter’s film festival’. There are elements of all those in there, but the overall idea is to put on good things that you might not get to see otherwise and to create a sense of occasion. The digital revolution may be in full swing, but people still love watching films with other people.
There is also an ‘industry’ side to the festival, but again it’s a difficult one to put your finger on. There are many artists, filmmakers, animators and so on looking at different ways of making their work, of getting it out into the world, of making a living. They can talk about these things at Flatpack, meet like- and different-minded folks, and see plenty of inspiring stuff old and new.
It should also be pointed out that the growth of Flatpack would not have been possible without the financial support of Arts Council England, ScreenWM, Birmingham City Council and Businesslink. Form-filling is a vital and not always fun ingredient of most film festivals, but these organisations have been very receptive to our ideas and we are thankful for that. Moving slowly towards the present… After the second festival we decided to give the festival a breather for a year in order to let the grass grow back, work on other projects, and do some proper long-term planning. Now the memories are faded and fuzzy enough that we can’t wait to get started on festival no.3.