twitter/@WaterspriteCam

It’s fair to say that the Watersprite Festival is the place to be in Cambridge if you’re into student filmmaking. From its inception in 2010, it’s grown year on year to become the fully-fledged, professional outfit of today. A quick look through their beautiful website is enough to know that this one holds up against any other film festival around.

Festival director Isobel’s enthusiasm for the Watersprite project is immediately apparent. She tells me that this is the third year she’s been involved with the festival - she keeps coming back for more! When I ask her what Watersprite’s all about, she’s buzzing:

‘So Watersprite is a festival in two parts. One part is international short student film, and we screen all of those at the festival.’

This year is their most international yet, with films from 24 countries

If you think a student film festival means a lower quality of entry, think again: all 750 submissions to the festival have been filtered by the awards team, graded, and hand-picked by students, juries, and industry professionals to leave just 8 films per category. This year, they boast the film Daughter, which was nominated for an Oscar; previous Watersprite entry Edmond also won a BAFTA. ‘So,’ Isobel neatly summarises, ‘it really is the best of student film.’

This year, too, is their most international yet, with films from 24 countries including Kazakhstan, Paraguay, and Brazil, as well as the UK (including the intrigue-sounding Scene from a men’s toilet at a ceilidh, a film directed by an ex-Watersprite committee member!).

Chien-Yu Lin's The Sound of Falling, to be screened as part of the NAHEMI Showcase on Fridaytwitter/@WaterspriteCam

What about the other half of Watersprite? Various film-related events, workshops, masterclasses and such like for people interested in film or in getting into film. As Isobel tells me, it’s a huge operation, and a credit to everyone on the committee that it all comes together every year!

We want to celebrate student filmmaking as much as we can

There are events for every film or television enthusiast: conversations with Anthony Byrne, the director of Peaky Blinders, and The Vicar of Dibley co-writer, and panels with creators of His Dark Materials and with Sex Education actors and creators - just in the TV world! There are masterclasses in screenwriting, big gala events, and a live recording of the podcast Best Girl Grip.

Isobel is especially excited to discuss Watersprite 2020’s focus on access into film, and her passion for increasing opportunity for people all across the industry is so apparent. ‘Last year we introduced the women’s mentorship, and this year that’s become more official. We also introduced an LGBTQ+ mentorship this year too.’

Peaky Blinders director Anthony Byrne heads Watersprite's Saturday lineupInstagram/antobyrne75

Another new aspect is the BBC Three Creative Futures day, aimed predominantly at sixth form students in Cambridge. ‘It’s about creating access and opportunity for people in the local area. And obviously it’s really exciting for us to be partnering with a company like BBC Three!’

The unbelievable thing about all this? All Watersprite’s events are completely free.

Quick-fire Q&A

  • What is it about film in general that interests you?

‘I think good film shines a light on what’s happening in the world and opens it up to conversations. I think it can be provocative and addresses issues that aren’t always talked about.’

  • What’s been a personal favourite Watersprite-nominated film?

‘So my favourite was called Ernie. It won at the 2018 festival. The production design is all cardboard boxes; it’s really beautiful. And the story’s beautiful! - it’s about an old man and a boy who are neighbours.’

  • What’s special about a student film festival?

‘There’s such originality in the films, and there’s fewer commercial films. Watersprite is particularly special because it’s students making the festival for other students, so the atmosphere is so warm. We’ve done it because we want to celebrate student filmmaking as much as we can.’

  • What’s it been like being festival director?

‘It can be quite crazy! It’s a fantastic experience. Before, I didn’t really have any idea about awards - now I have a lot more gratitude to the Heads of Awards! And I think you’re thinking about the marketing and creative design side, too - we rebranded in October - all these things which develop the festival for the future.’

  • Where do you see Watersprite going in the future?

‘I think Watersprite can expand beyond Cambridge. Its appeal reaches so many universities; I’d really like to see it expanding into those universities.’

  • Why should people get involved with next year’s committee? What have you learnt?

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‘I’ve learnt just about everything - marketing, design, event planning. It’s a great thing to put on a CV and talk about in an interview. People who have been on the committee have had a lot of success - our 2018 Head of Marketing now works at Avalon.

I should say, too - it’s really fun! It’s really rewarding when you see it all come together.’

Watersprite 2020 runs from Friday to Sunday this week. For screening and events timings, see the Watersprite website.

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