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ÉCU-The European Independent Film Festival


ÉCU - The European Independent Film Festival is dedicated to the discovery and advancement of the very best independent films from around the world. We are a festival who believes in our independent filmmakers and their artistic talents. ÉCU proudly provides a unique platform that brings together diverse audiences who are hungry for something other than major studio productions and original and innovative filmmakers. 

 
The 16th edition of ÉCU - The European Independent Film Festival will take place on 9th-11th April 2021. Now open for submissions!

 

 

 

For more details regarding the festival, please visit our website at www.ecufilmfestival.com

 

 


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On Independent European Cinema: An Exclusive Interview with ECU’s Scott Hillier

 

Project CineMaas presents an exclusive interview with Paris-based Scott
Hillier, an Academy Award winning Australian filmmaker who founded ECU The European Independent Film Festival.
Read on as he clarifies a wide array of issues, from the film
festival’s evolution and his definition of independent European cinema
to the judging process and his visions for the future.

 

The sixth ECU The European Independent Film Festival took place this year in Paris, France on April 1st to 3rd.

The author has taken the liberty to edit the interview for brevity and clarity.

How did ECU The European Independent Film Festival start?

It is quite simple. After I came back from New York and having had
films play at Sundance, we were investigating and asking the students I
teach at a film school here what they were doing with their films. They
said they are going to send one to here, one to there….and figured out
that there is nothing quite like a European Sundance. So I said, “Well, I
am going to start it.” I thought about it late one night and the next
day, on a train to Switzerland to do a shoot, I had my assistant sit
down there with Dreamweaver, created a website, and we put it online
that night.

What role has the web and online social media played in your festival?

It is an interesting part of revolution. I remember sitting there the
first year, just scrolling, trawling through the internet trying to
find independent filmmakers and literally writing to them, asking “Hey,
what are you doing with your films? Have you thought about us?” Social
media is the way to go for us.

Having experienced the film festival this year, I have
observed it to be small and intimate, a big contrast to the bigger
festivals out there. Is it your intention to keep it low key instead of
presenting a big spectacle?

It is a small festival, it is a filmmakers’ festival. We do not have
the red carpet and the limousines but we work very hard in making
everybody that comes, to be part of it. We would like to think that you
are going to stay with the community as the filmmakers and our audience.
It is a fun community to be in. However, I think it is going to evolve
organically. Financially, it is a burden and we need money. That is
always the pay off.  Will we ever get as big? We would like to hope so.
But I think just because you get big, you do not need to lose the
personal feeling. Also, it honestly really is about the people working
with you on it. If people are just there for a job and are there for the
weekend, then that is not fun at all. You actually have people invest
time in it. It is never my festival. They are all a little bit pregnant
and I would like to think that is their festival, everybody who works on
it through the year. I honestly believe that you can run a big company
and run a big film festival as long as you infuse people with that, the
investment they put in is worth it, it makes everybody’s experience
really good.

We do not have the red carpet and the limousines but we work very hard in making everybody that comes, to be part of it.

Six years on, how much has the festival changed through the years?

It has become a name now. It is getting known better in the circuit. I
would like to think that the change in fact is that it is better
organized these days. We have the systems in place and processes to
follow. In the end, I do not think the ethos has changed. You had a
great time and we actually enjoyed having you and the other people, and
that is the aspect. The spirit has not changed. We might be in different
cinemas and different places, but the festival as such has not changed.
I would actually be disappointed if some of these have changed because
we do try to keep the “ECU family” type of thing.

Do you collaborate with other film festivals?

We do actually. Just because we are better known now, people are
happier to partner with us. At the beginning when I first started
suggesting partnerships, I cannot even tell you how much push back I
have had, how many people said that is a stupid idea. Everyone said,
“They are our films and they are playing in our festival, why would we
share them with you?” It is insane because as a filmmaker, you want to
show your work in as many places as you can. So why would you not
partner up?  Do not keep it all to yourself. It helps us and it helps
other festivals. We had a festival just the other day that said, “We
played all of your winners form last year we want to do the same this
year.” This in the States and they said it went over very, very well.
That is good and I am probably going to seven or eight festivals before
next year and present some of ours and pick out films that I really
think are going to work well for our audiences next year.

How do you define independent European cinema?

It is the same as Hong Kong independent cinema. It is the idea that
people go make a film because they want to tell a story. Europe is a big
place with a lot of different people and a lot of different views that
makes it really exciting. You have Greek, Orto, Basque, Bulgarian…which
are more or less under one banner of Europe. It is a mixed bag of fish
and I think that is the interesting thing. Independent cinema in Europe
is sort of new, no doubt about it. In the States, everybody is making
films, while here, everybody is very much: “Let us wait for subsidies
then let us do this and let us do that”. People are learning now that it
is not that hard, just pick up the camera and tell a good story and you
can do it. Independence is the fact that you know you are just going to
do it. You do not need to be breastfed and all these…just go and bloody
do it.

People are learning now that it is not that hard, just
pick up the camera and tell a good story and you can do it. Independence
is the fact that you know you are just going to do it. You do not need
to be breastfed and all these…just go and bloody do it.

For the festival awards, do you have any established criteria for judging? How do you and the jury determine the winners?

The criterion is very simple: a good story. Tell us a good story and
tell it well. You can tell that with a hundred euros, you can tell that
with a million euros. It has to be a good story, well told. Then the
nature of the thing is we vote out of twenty (jury members). We have
specialists. We have the guy that shot the Besson film, The Big Blue, so
he is obviously the lead in cinematography. We have a girl who produces
documentary for National Geographic and Discovery Channel, and she is
the lead in documentaries. The cool thing about the judging room is that
is the heart and soul of the festival because you get all these people
who screened and won at ECU over the years and they come back in. We
have got the ones that have been with me from the start, that keep it
right and true. And you have got these new people that come in, who, not
only I, but the other judges, respect immensely as filmmakers, just
sitting there saying, “whoa, this, this and this.” It is so much fun, it
is ridiculous. I work really hard on trying to pick the people that I
respect that I think are going be good faces of the festival. They
establish who is going to be representing the festival in the next year.
It is flexible and free but it is also tough in there, it is tough in
the judging room because people are saying this and that but there is no
criteria, the film just has to really touch everybody.

In terms of the official film selections, looking at the
European categories in particular, what parameters do you use in
identifying a film as European?

It is based on the director and the crew. For example, we have a film
shot in Bangladesh this year, which was done by a guy in London.
Everything is done in Bangladesh but it is an English film. Basically,
it is the director, the funding and not the places where the majority of
the scenes were shot at all.

What is the role of Paris in the film festival and why did you choose the city as a host?

I live here and it is also because it is the capital of cinema. There
are statistics that show how many films are played here every year and
how many people go there, it is truly astonishing. One of the cinemas we
were at, the little Action Christine Cinema, you can go there seven
days a week and they will play all black and white films. I went and saw
Cary Grant the other day and they had a whole thing on Hitchcock. On a
Sunday afternoon at 4 o’clock, the place is full and you just got to
love that. Try and do that in America, you never could do it, in
Australia, no chance. Here are these little cinemas that just keep on
turning things. It is really part of the city.

Based on the films that were screened, is there any specific recurring theme or topic?

There seems to be lots of sex and violence (laughs). No, I do not
think there is. That is because of the whole crazy fruitcake of what
Europe is. There are too many different things. What is more interesting
for me is which countries stand out more? On year two, we had so many
Greek films that had these amazing, free, wonderful stories, but the
year after, we had nobody. Spain is always really strong. Year four, we
had two Italian films that were really, really amazing and one of them
won Film of the Festival actually. This year, the Italian film just did
not rise to the top at all.  It is really much more the countries and
the economics of the countries.

…so which countries dominated this year?

UK, Spain, Germany and crazily enough, Israel (non-European), which
was quite strong. France had a lot more this year than we have had the
past year. I am careful about that by the way because the festival is in
France. We have never played more than 10%, maybe not even 5% of films
from France. This year, the level was better because the French are
starting to realize that they should start making films and not wait for
the subsidies anymore so you have young people going out and just doing
it. The Film of the Festival 2011 (27m2) took five years to make.

What are your visions for ECU The European Independent Film Festival? What can we expect in the years to come?

I figured that I would have more gray hairs (laughs). It is all about
offering filmmakers a chance to tell their stories. What are the
visions? Bigger, better. I want do things, I want to create a channel
dedicated to the films because the most asked question after the
festival for me is “How do I see this films again and how can I share
them to my friends?” While it is nice to have a weekend for the festival
it would actually be nice to share these stories all the time. We need
more sponsors, and money behind us. In years to come, I want to travel
the festival. I want to have a version in Barcelona, one in Rome, one in
Moscow, one in London.

Interview conducted by Clarence Ceniza, photograph by G-Technology

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About ÉCU-The European Independent Film Festival

Hillier Scott
(ECU)

 

 

Scott Hillier, Founder and President of ÉCU - The European Independent Film Festival
 
Scott Hillier is a director, cinematographer, and screenwriter, based in Paris, France. In the last 20 years, Hillier has gained international recognition from his strong and incredible cinematography, editing, writing, producing and directing portfolio in both the television and film industries.  
 
Scott began his career in the television industry in Australia. In 1988, he moved to London getting a job with the BBC who then set him to Baghdad. This opportunity led him to 10 years of traveling around world for the BBC, mainly in war zones like Somalia, Bosnia, Tchetcheynia, Kashmir, and Lebanon. After a near fatal encounter with a Russian bomber in Tchechnyia, Hillier gave up his war coverage and began in a new direction. 
 

He moved to New York City in 1998.  He directed and photographed eight one-hour documentaries for National Geographic and The Discovery Channel. Based on his war knowledge and experience, Hillier wrote and directed a short film titled, “Behind the Eyes of War!" The film was awarded “Best Short Dramatic Film” at the New York Independent Film and TV Festival in 1999. From that he served as Supervising Producer and Director for the critically acclaimed CBS 42 part reality series, "The Bravest” in 2002 and wrote and directed a stage play called, "Deadman’s Mai l," which ran at Le Théâtre du Moulin de la Galette in Paris during the summer of 2004. He then became the Director of Photography on a documentary titled, “Twin Towers." This was yet another life changing experience for Hillier. The riveting documentary won an Academy Award for "Best Documentary Short Subject" in 2003. In 2004, Hillier changed continents again, spending three months in Ethiopia. He produced “Worlds Apart,” a pilot for ABC America / True Entertainment / Endemol. As you can see, Hillier was and is always in constant movement and enjoys working in a number of diverse creative areas including documentaries, music videos, commercials, feature and short films.

 
Scott studied film at New York University and The London Film and Television School. He also studied literary non-fiction writing at Columbia University. Hillier's regular clients include the BBC, Microsoft, ABC, PBS and National Geographic. Between filming assignments, he used to teach film, a Masters Degree course in Screenwriting at the Eicar International Film School in Paris, France and journalism at the Formation des Journalistes Français in Paris, France. 
 

 


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