Watersprite is the world's largest international student film festivalAlex Brian with permission for Varsity

At the Watersprite Awards Ceremony, I lean over to my editor and admit, “I will never make a movie.” My time at the Cambridge-based film festival began months before this ceremony: since Michaelmas, I had attended weekly meetings led by Head of Events Flora O’ Neill. Back then, March felt ages away. Soon, however, it had slammed into my waking brain with the speed of a script’s page-turn.

The weekend began on Friday 1st March with a new initiative: Watersprite Hubs, a series of free workshops for underprivileged filmmakers across the UK. After the final workshop on pitching, I dashed off to set up the Opening Ceremony, featuring an interview with screenwriter Abi Morgan. She discussed her time in the industry, wisely reminding writers that 90% of their work will always be scrapped – so we shouldn’t waste time getting too precious.

Watersprite celebrated its fifteenth anniversary this yearYouTube (Watersprite Film Festival)

Unfortunately, I do get precious about my work. As I checked tickets for ‘Reimagining the Film Set: Access as the New Norm’, I couldn’t help thinking about all the questions I’d written for my panel, and how I would only get to ask five of them in the face of the chock-full timetable. It turned out Abi’s advice applied just as well to a first-time moderator as a screenwriter. Thankfully, I’m inclined to think the panel went well. My panellists, Kit Redstone and Arran Shearing, were extremely gracious in sharing their experiences as a creative duo, and I urge you to check out their endlessly interpretable work.

As the sun set, I found myself setting up huge floodlights in the Babbage Lecture Theatre for the Awards Ceremony. When the time came, I was sitting at the back, free to watch the nominees make their way to the stage to accept their prizes. (I personally recommend Kiarash Dadgar’s The Steak, Gillie Cinneri’s Allégresse, and Li Shuqin’s To the Moon and Back).

“As an aspiring film critic, I am often a level removed from the people behind said films”

I love film. However, as an aspiring film critic, I am often a level removed from the people behind said films. I end up holding their work to a standard that fits my imagination, rather than appreciating their humanity. Watersprite remedied this arrogant failing. The people in that hall were a reminder that those we watch on the big screen are just as fallible and human as us – though they may be more talented. The ceremony ended and I walked out into the Zoology Museum with its giant whale skeleton, suddenly remembering that I would have to somehow remove the floodlights around it. Vive le student film!

The Watersprite Awards Ceremony took place in the Babbage Lecture TheatreAlex Brian with permission for Varsity

As I was legally obligated to dance the night away, I did so. Sunday dawned with alarming urgency and I was soon in line for the closing discussion, ‘Taskmaster: Tactics, Treats and Tasks’ with series director Andy Devonshire. Andy let us peek into the huge whirring machine that is a successful game show, and the audience was treated to a kinder task than usual, alongside a virtual appearance from Sidney Sussex alumnus Alex Horne.

“At the festival, I discovered that I much prefer an existence behind the scenes”

However, the wicked – in this case, film buffs – never rest. It was then on to the Arts Picturehouse for the winning films’ screening, where I scoffed chocolate and surprisingly found myself appreciating a documentary (Niccolo Salvato’s careful Near Light). Upon leaving the theatre, my fellow Events Officers looked equally rejuvenated (and this is not a platitude) by the work we had just seen.

The weekend closed with a small ceremony at the University Arms Hotel, where festival director Zeb Goriely, producer Amber Hyams, and chair Hilary Bevan Jones spoke about their love for Watersprite while I found the cookies. I will never make a movie; I don’t have the temperament for it. At the festival, I discovered that I much prefer an existence behind the scenes.


Mountain View

Meet the students behind Best Experimental Film finalist Beresheith

If it tempts you, try it out – it just might be what you’re missing. Expect tired eyes, multiple spreadsheets, and at least one week in which you’re writing multiple essays. Be prepared for 8am starts. Pros, however, include talking about Scorsese with a short film team who showed at Cannes, red carpet photos, and the sweetest mail from present and future filmmakers. (Also free soap, if that’s what you’re into). It wasn’t the most relaxing weekend, or the most studious, but if you love film, are curious about how a large event is organised, or are even just appreciative of tote bags and student art, this festival is for you. Personally, I’ve just had my first good night’s sleep this month and I’m already missing Watersprite.