|Progress Report One for the 13th Festival
of Fantastic Films
August 30th to September 1st, 2002.
Date: February 2002
Harry Nadler jots down a few personal thoughts on the 12th
From an organising viewpoint, this year's convention had
very few major problems. My own area at the event itself is keeping the programme working
as closely to the printed schedule as possible and I had an able, though smaller team than
usual to see all went pretty well this year. Marge Edwards and Ina Shorrock oversee the
girls and guys on the front desk and Tony Edwards looks after the financial aspects and
worries a lot. Gil Lane-Young takes care of all the Independent movie entries so I have
nothing to do in that department. The absence of Stephen Laws was kindly filled by Stephen
Gallagher, aided by Mike Simpson who took on the interview with Paul Naschy and handled it
with great panache through interpreter Margarita. Steve Hill usually looks after the main
16mm programme and normally we can't drag him out of his 'cinema' from the Friday
afternoon until Sunday night. He loves screening films and does it for a living at The
Metro Cinema in Ashton-under-Lyne where he's the chief projectionist. So we know our 16mm
film section is in safe hands and we always have Tony Meadows to take on the other
projection jobs including the bulk of the video media last year. With Steve Hill sidelined
this time around, unable to get any time off from The Metro Cinema, Tony Meadows took on
the major task of running our 16mm in the main cinema. I relied on various kind folks to
help me run the other 16mm when it was required. My son Steve Nadler and his pal Warren
Varnom handled the mass of video and DVD including all the competition entries, which Gil
dropped onto them during the weekend. Bill Burns looked after the audio and numerous video
projection systems in the main hall and Keith Mather and his crew to set up the stage for
interviews and Ramsey Campbell's auction etc. So I was happy that all ends were tied
neatly. But of course there were those awkward times when I needed to be in two places at
once and it was nice to have folk like Roy and Noel Spence, Mike's Hardman and Lockwood
and Gerry Price to jump in and man the projector for me while I sorted out little problems
elsewhere or grabbed a bite to eat. I mean - you gotta' eat occasionally. Thanks guys -
your help was very much appreciated and I don't think the programme schedule went far
wrong this year. I had of course threatened good old Gil Lane-Young that if he arrived
with arms full of late video entries for the Indie competition, I wasn't shuffling the
schedule around! He seemed to have understood and had all the material on hand well before
the deadline. Thanks Gil.
Our sound sytems worked better than they ever have this
year and the only problem we encountered was in putting a 16mm long-play system in the
main hall in place of the usual 35mm projector, which was another unavailable item this
time. The standard projection lens was unusable because of the length of the main
ballroom, so a zoom lens was used which is fine for a standard sized, non-widescreen
image. But the lens is rather a long piece of hardware and has no screw thread to attach
our anamorphic lens to, so when we had to screen SHE in CinemaScope the only option was to
gaffer tape the anamorphic to the zoom. This gave us a lens more akin to a giant telescope
on the front of the projector, but it worked well - for a while. After an hour or so, the
heat from the projector lamp began to melt the tape and the whole thing started to sag
from the weight of the add-on lens and some of the movie looked a little strange on
screen. When the projectionist of the moment finally spotted the drooping device, the
lenses had to be manually held for the rest of the film! It may look all quiet and normal
from your seat in the stalls, but at the back it was sheer panic!
The bus trip to The Plaza Theatre in Stockport on the
Sunday afternoon was extremely well supported and a delight to be involved in. The venue
was a wonderful old, original Movie Palace and an ideal setting in which to see King Kong
on the big screen. The trip itself was a whole new adventure for us and added a uniquely
different aspect to the Festival for all those who went on it. Professional magician Harry
Nicholls was videoing the trip for our archives and we almost left him behind at one point
when he was taking his establishing long shot of the bus leaving. Never knew you could run
so fast Harry! Our thanks to the staff of the Plaza Cinema Trust, the bus companies who
supplied the transport, the BFI for the print of KONG and Forry Ackerman and Ray
Harryhausen for introducing Kong on the stage and being there with us to add so much to
the experience. There was a very good turn out for the film from the general public with
over 600 people in the cinema.
About an hour after we were back in the hotel, down at the street-level bar if I recall,
into the lobby came Norman J. Warren, Dave Gold and his mates all puffing as though they
had been on a long-distance run. They claimed to have been dumped at the Plaza as the rest
of us 'just drove off in the buses!'... so they walked all the way back. In actuality -
they had trotted off up into the projection box after the show to talk to the staff and
lost track of the time! I think they took a taxi back - though they are sticking to the
tall story that they ran the 8 miles! Movie-mad some folk!
The Guests of Honour this year were superb weren't they?
Paul Naschy was so pleased to be here and the fans took to him instantly despite the
language barrier, thanks to support from his wife and son who spoke excellent English. Gil
Lane-Young managed to find a superb translator, Margarita, for the interviews and Paul
knew how to work with an interpreter very well indeed. The Naschy family managed to get to
the Manchester United football game on the Saturday and toured the shopping areas of the
city determined to make the best of their visit to Manchester. It was good to have the new
short film THE TELL TALE HEART directed by Alfosno S. Suárez, to open the Fest with, in
which Paul Naschy has the lead role. I was so impressed with it and delighted when it won
joint first in the short film competition alongside Andrew Harrison's entry from Northern
Ireland INCIDENT AT BLACK RIDGE.
Forry Ackerman amazed most of us I think with his database
brain of information and anecdotes. He said he was '' here to be squeezed like a sponge''
and when we did the squeezing - the stories that came out were fabulous. Grant Littlechild
had arranged to record a voice-over role for Forry in his ongoing epic COSMIC
BRAINSUCKERS. Grant has a character in the film called the AckerMonster (who lives in a
Forrest!), which will be animated by stop-motion man Steve Archer. They used our bedroom
to do the recording and it was great to see and listen to Forry at work so effortlessly on
his voice-over cameo. He had agreed with the committee early in our pre-Fest discussions
to give a talk on classic horror movies to which he added his own spot quiz and later to
sit on stage with Ray Harryhausen and chat about old times in Hollywood. That spot turned
into a marvelous Q&A session to round off the Festival programme perfectly. Thank you
Forry for making the long, long journey to be with us.
'Uncle' Ray Harryhausen is just magical isn't he. He still
has that amazing 'sense of wonder' that seems to glow from him continually. If you saw him
at The Plaza Theatre trip, he was like the youngster that he must have been when he saw
Kong for the very first time. Full of awe at the magic of not only what was up on the big
screen but at the theatre and the audience. And prior to that at the amazingly large group
of people queuing outside the building as our bus arrived. ''Look at the crowd!'' he
exclaimed as we stopped in sight of the theatre front, ''all these people coming to see a
70 year old movie! That's wonderful!'' Ray's anecdotes and background stories never cease
to entertain and of course he brought along the wonderful tape that the American special
effects industry produced for his 80th Birthday.... '' Do you really think the fans will
want to see this'' he asked me before I snatched it from him and pushed it into the video
player... "Ray....'' I responded '' they'll love it.'' And didn't we just. Grateful
thanks to Grant Littlechild for tipping me off about the birthday tape.
I think my fondest memories this year must include the
wonderful contingent of American fans that came a long, long way to be with us. Richard
Gordon faithfully joins us every year. He travels over from New York as though it was a
quick trip up from Birmingham. It's great to have regular support for our Fest from such
an important contributor to our genre and such a marvelous fan and friend. Already Richard
has been in contact again and offered to bring a good friend of his, a writer of some of
his films, to next year's Fest.
Bill Burns made his second visit - again from New York
though he's a native of Long Island (which is just 'up the road' by 40 miles from New York
city). Bill is our webmaster and created the Festival site (www.fantastic-films.com) but
his origins are much closer to home. Tony Edwards and I have known Bill since around 1964
when we used to make amateur movies together and Bill joined 'The Delta Group' as we were
known. He lived in Eccles, right next door to Manchester at that time. Bill has attended
every British Easter Science Fiction Convention since that year and in fact met his wife
Mary at an SF convention in Heidelberg, Germany and disappeared off to America with her to
get married. Long time ago eh Bill.... but great to see you appear to have added the
Manchester Fest to your annual visits back to England.
Jeff Roberts was a newcomer to our event. He wanted to act
as an aide to Forry Ackerman who of course is about to celebrate his 85th birthday this
year. Jeff is a good friend of 4e's even though he lives in New Jersey, across the width
of the USA from California, Forry's home. Jeff smiled a lot - so we hope he enjoyed the
Fest as much as he said he did as I dropped him and Forry at the airport after the Fest
where they were heading, not back home, but on to the World SF Convention in Philadelphia
three days after our weekend. Bill Burns did the same trip too!
Joel and Marian Denning came all the way from Baltimore.
Joel is the producer of Don Dohler's new science fiction movie ALIEN RAMPAGE, but his day
job is an attorney-at-law. He heard about the Manchester Festival when a young guy called
Tyler Tharpe came into his office for advice on allowing a video company to distribute his
film. Tyler had brought his film, THE LAST ROADSTOP, over to Manchester in 1999 and found
us all to be a great bunch of people. He enjoyed the Fest very much and told Joel all
about it. So Joel took an instant decision that not only was he going to have ALIEN
RAMPAGE screened at the Manchester Festival, he wanted it to be the World Premiere - and
he was going to come over too. We are delighted that he did and that he brought his wife
Marian who was lovely! They both had a fantastic time chatting to everyone, watching
movies, going on the KONG trip and then winning our 'Best Independent Feature Film Award'
to take back home to the film's director Don Dohler. So there was a real happy ending to
ClawMark toys consist of Tom and Diane and what wonderful
friendly people they are. When they first muted, via the internet that they wanted to
bring their Godzilla merchandise over and set up a dealer's table I thought they must
think we are like the big American shows - with thousands of fans to sell to. But, no,
they didn't expect that at all and still wanted to come and visit and join as fans, which
they are. ''Gotta' go on the King Kong trip'' they said from day one of our contact -
''Can you sort that?'' We did and they came and they brought such a huge spread of toys,
posters and goodies that lit up the dealer / exhibition room. I'm still puzzled as to how
they got all that stuff in what they described as four very large suitcases. Can you
imagine the customs at Manchester. ''Anything to declare in that case?'' .... ''Godzilla
toys!''. The fact that they say they did well as dealers and had a fantastic time as fans
makes us all the more delighted for them. They added a greatly to our event and we hope
their promise to be back next year is possible. If not, we'll certainly miss 'em!
Jesse Welles swooped in again - and took us by surprise.
We should be well used to that of course as Jesse (or Count Dread as he announced himself
way back at The Charterhouse event of 1992) has been dropping in and out of our lives for
a long time now. He dashes from one coast of America to another like a ping-pong ball
during his working year. It's very difficult to know if he is getting the PR's that Tony
Edwards mails out to ''the last known address...'' but find us he does and his company is
always entertaining and warm. Keep on coming back Jess.
But the plain fact about the Fest is that it is the people
who attend who are the most important part of the weekend. So many of our regular folk
come great distances - the German lads, Ewe, Ingo, Olaf and Yorg - and they haven't missed
a year in recent memory. They just have to be part of the event and we'd miss them if they
weren't around the bar area. (Come back soon Paul Barrett and Vanessa Bergman - no good
reasons exist for you to miss next year!) The gang from "Northern Ireland of the
1950's" are among the nicest people on the planet. You have to bribe your way onto
their table for the dead-dog party quiz. They are so smart around their pet subject
Many of the faces we see during the weekend have been with
us from the early years - we perhaps should do a head count of first-event fans - and we
have a number of special people who originally came at our request as Guests of Honour.
They have now adopted us as warmly as we have adopted them. Janina Faye's ever smiling
face is a delight to see and she is such a lovely person that we want her to be a
permanent part of this event. Norman J. Warren enthuses film and has such a great
knowledge of the genre and the industry that his stories keep us entertained, usually in
the bar lounge area, throughout the weekend. I've already mentioned Richard Gordon of
course, but how much enthusiasm for Fantastic Films do you need to travel from the USA
each year to join fellow fans as Richard does?
Whether it's the first time (and we had a good number of
first timers this year thanks to the special offer idea) or the tenth, the event is really
all about the fandom of the genre we are part of. We enjoy rekindling old friendships, we
enjoy making new ones. We love the movies - the good, the bad, the old and the brilliant.
We delight in getting together to celebrate our kind of thought-provoking, imaginative
Roll on the 13th Festival of Fantastic Films - there are just so many films I want to get
to see again with the people who really matter.......
2002 Dates, Venue and Rates
The 13th Festival of Fantastic Films, the annual
convention of The Society of Fantastic Films, will be held at The Renaissance Hotel,
Manchester over the weekend of August 30th / September 1st 2002. We had a great deal of
soul searching to do with the offer we had received from Bradford's National Museum of
Photography, Film and Television to take our event to them next year. The fact that they
have wonderful facilities to stage a Film Festival and already are host to a number of
superb events was very, very, tempting. However, from the amount of correspondence we have
received on the subject, and our own deliberations it is felt that although the cinematic
side of the event would be enhanced at Bradford, the social and fannish atmosphere that we
have in our present structure would not survive the transfer. So we stay with the
excellent facilities and quality that the Renaissance Hotel has provided for the last two
years while still keeping the possibilities open to stage an additional film festival
style event with The NMPFT.
More about that later.......
The only bad news is that the convention hotel has
increased the cost of its function rooms and accommodation charges to us. Whilst still
offering us a very good package well below their normal rates, we will have to increase
the membership registration fees by a fiver a head to £65 in order to cover this. It
looks like another five pounds per room per night for accommodation. Having held the
registration steady for a couple of years, we are hopeful that this will meet with your
approval. Children's rates will stay as is and we will also NOT increase the Membership
Registration rates further down the line to the event as we normally do. But we hope this
will not delay you in showing your support for next year's Festival so please do not hold
your own registration back until the last minute. Remember that the budget for the
Festival is only generated from your registration fees and the fund raising events over
the weekend (auctions, raffles etc.). We have no outside help or grants for the ever
increasing costs of running the Fest - despite many attempts to obtain them! So we can
only allocate money that we are sure of to the programming when we know how much we have
to spend. So it is very important that you sign up as soon as possible. Our treasurer Tony
Edwards will be delighted to see your cheque arriving in record time!
If shelling out for Registration is a big chunk for you,
please pay half as soon as you can and the balance before the end of July 2002. Tony Ed's
will issue you with 'supporting registration' status at a cost of £35 and you can then
upgrade to 'full registration' by paying an additional £30 before July 31st 2002. You
will be sent all the Progress Reports as we publish them with full info on the convention.
We intend to print a list of members in each subsequent PR so you can see if all your
friends are with us and encourage them to join if they are not!
Guests of Honour
Gil Lane-Young is currently contacting some exciting names
for next year - so stay tuned.
Early daze - as we start to think of themes and talks that
will be of interest. A lot of the programme's fine tuning of course depends on the
eventual final Guest of Honour line-up, as we like to provide as much programme time to
each guest as is possible. This means knowing how long each guest will be with us for and
what material we can track down to screen and discuss before we can spoon in additional
Gerry Price, who presented a gargantuan programme of
television science fiction this year, received nothing but praise for his informative and
humorous approach. He dashed around helping with projection chores, introduced his own
programme and screened most of the film material himself. We have been asked by a great
many fans if he'll return next year. Gerry enjoyed himself very much indeed on his first
ever visit and has already suggested a number of themes for 2002. Among them are THE
MOVIES OF POVERTY ROW - a look at the horror, sci-fi and fantasy films from the small
American studios of PRC, Monogram, Lippert and Republic. Some of the titles that would be
included for screening include BLACK DRAGONS, THE LADY AND THE MONSTER, MAD DOCTOR OF
MARKET STREET, FLIGHT TO MARS, THE LOST CONTINENT, THE INCREDIBLE PETRIFIED WORLD and
Best ever FANTASY MOVIES, Best ever SCIENCE FICTION MOVIES
and Best ever HORROR MOVIES are three major themes for next year.... and they all need
your help in voting for your own top five in each category. The films that receive the
most votes will be included in our programming - so get your emails, postcards or letters
in to us now. Just list your top five films in each category - SF, Fantasy and Horror.
They can be from any year of any decade.
YOUR SUGGESTIONS are eagerly asked for - what would you
like to see on next year's programme? Can you volunteer a talk of any kind? Suggest a
director or producer to showcase.... do please write to us via the old postal system,
email us to [email protected] or visit the website at
www.fantastic-films.com/festival and leave your ideas on our Guest Book pages.
Stephen Laws, busy at the moment on a pilot script for a
supernatural comedy UK TV series, hopes very much to be back with us next year and it will
be great to see the two Steve's - Gallagher and Laws - back in action together to guide us
through the weekend once again. Stephen Gallagher did a wonderful job for us this year in
Mr L's absence. It really is a major area off the programming worries to know we have the
support of these guys to front the intros and interviews along with Ramsey Campbell, Mike
Simpson and Gil Lane-Young on a regular basis.
Letters and emails
Simon Scott (by email)
What a great festival. I know I say this every year, but it really was excellent.
The highlight, for me was that fabulous showing of 'King Kong' at the Plaza. it's
something that will stay with me for a very long time. When the announcer asked people to
transport themselves back to the thirties, I felt like a little kid again! the only other
time I can remember feeling like that was when my auntie took me to see 'Sinbad and the
Eye of the Tiger' all those years ago, when I really was a little kid. It was truly
magical. It's what fantastic films are all about.
Regarding the venue for next year's festival. Sod Manchester! They haven't done a thing
for us in twelve years, neither has the (Manchester) Evening News, so, if Bradford
actually wants us, then I say let's go where we're wanted. Plus you, the rest of the
committee and our trusty projectionists will get to enjoy the festival with out the worry
of setting up, breaking down, projectors and stuff. I think a lot of people forget about
you guys, I don't.
The other thing is, as you mentioned at the closing ceremony, plush surroundings,
wonderful facilities and the chance to see those films that we couldn't otherwise get.
Some people talked about the lack of an atmosphere at such a venue, well, they have a
point, but I believe the people there create the atmosphere. The surroundings help but,
wherever two or three fans of the fantastic gather, I believe a good atmosphere generally
wanders in to see what's happening. So, I say, Bradford - hey ho, let's go!!.
Once again, Harry, pass my thanks on to everyone for a great weekend.
Roll on 2002!!
Ed: We agree that Manchester Council or the local press
and media have never gone out of their way to support us - and we have pressured them many
many times. But Manchester does seem to have an attraction to the majority of the Fest
fans who have been in contact.
Ged Jones (by email)
Just a quick line to express my thanks for a wonderful weekend, (I for one know just how
much work goes into organizing these things). I believe that you could have easily
arranged a whole weekend around FJA, he was GREAT!
I've been thinking about the change of venue, and as long as there are no problems with
the range of movies shown, remember how much video and DVD was shown this year, I would be
prepared to give it a go.
Hope that more details will follow so we can follow the progress of this chain of thought.
Once more THANKS A MILLION TO THE WHOLE TEAM.
Take care, GED
Langley Ravener (by email)
Thanks for another excellent festival this year.
I don't know how you keep so cool with all that organizing etc. I must add that Bradford
sounds like a good idea for a change of scene, but, I must say the festival may loose it's
relaxed feel if hotel and film venue are apart and besides I enjoy visiting Manchester and
the friendly atmosphere we receive at the Renaissance and the people in the city. It's
really excellent that you have given the festival goers this option but personally I would
like to see it stay in Manchester and especially our current venue.
All the very best to you and all the festival organizers
Don Dohler - Baltimore USA (by email)
Joel left a message on my machine that Alien Rampage won a prize at the festival. That's
Are you putting anything on your website about the festival results?
Let me know.
Ed: Our website has been updated now and we have added a
Guest Book which we do hope you folks will use to feed back to us. Congrats Don on your
Des Bradley (by email)
Just a line to say what a great time I had at this year's Festival. It is now my 3rd, and
our hosts Hotel Renaissance have definitely got their act together hosting this event for
us. My thanks to you and all the committee for all their hard work. Being someone who is
also involved on a committee I know that a lot of hard work goes into making these events
One of highlights of the weekend for me was the trip to the Plaza, and the screening of
King Kong, despite the technical problems early on. Even the professionals can get these
things wrong from time to time! If the festival is in Manchester next year, could we go
again and see another film?
I thought the guests where brilliant, with a special mention going to Forry. What a
talker! Myself and my friends where all bowled over by his tales and humour.
I thought the choice of films where very good this year, with only the disappointment that
the screening of THE CURSE OF SIMBA did not take place.
The only other film related criticism was the print of SHE which was such poor quality
that it was very hard to watch. We had someone with us who is normally quite unaware of
these issues that found the quality too distracting.
But these are minor gripes. Breakfast, although so much better than last year, needed a
little more gusto from the staff on our floor, getting coffee, tea etc was a bit of a
battle, but generally very much better than last year.
You threw into the audience, at the last minute of the closing ceremony, the mention of
Bradford as a possible next venue. It was a hot topic of debate that evening during the
dead dog party, I can tell you! Initially people seemed to be saying no to the idea,
because of the great social aspect that the festival has. As you know, many people don't
get to see even 1 film all weekend, and enjoy catching up with old friends, or people they
only see at the festival. But surely this will always carry on, wherever we are? It is the
people, not the venue that makes this kind of weekend.
But many also felt that it was time for the festival to move on. I have to say that I feel
that it is a tough call. I would need far more information about what the Bradford people
are offering us, what they would want from the deal, would the committee still have
control over the films selected, would guests who normally come along to see us and only
ask for their costs to be paid be expecting a fee if a so-called more professional outfit
was involved? Would the event be more expensive?
One of the advantages of the Manchester location is the shops. There are some great places
to shop for film related stuff and unusual knick knacks. We would definitely not have that
I personally feel you owe it to yourselves to look into the approach you have had from the
Bradford people, not only for yourselves but the possible success and future development
of the festival. One thing I did notice during Stephen Gallagher's speech in the opening
ceremony where he asked for a show of hands of established members of the festival and
first timers was that there where a lot of new people, largely thanks to you special offer
this year, I am sure.
What if we did not have these people this year? Numbers may well have been very low. Maybe
these new people will be back next year, who knows.
When I spoke to Gil on the way out of the hotel on Monday morning he said that we would
definitely not be going to Bradford, which confused me somewhat. He said that the general
feeling he got from people was they did not want to go to Bradford. I think folk need to
have more facts and to sleep on the idea before dismissing it. There are many issues for
you to consider, but I am sure I would be just as happy, wherever the festival is.
I know from what you have said that the festival has been experiencing declining numbers
in recent years. Is this the crossroads for the event? Is it time to give it a boost, and
move it on? More premier films could be made available if we go to Bradford. We may
attract more star guests, and the festival can be taken more seriously.
I do hope you do give this idea some thought, and not dismiss it before it has started.
I wish you luck with your decision.
Very best wishes
Des Bradley, festival devotee!
Ed: Thanks for your contribution to the Bradford
discussions Des... We hope our decision to stay with The Renaissance is the right one -
but as you can read elsewhere, we haven't abandoned the Bradford Museum's offer. I do
apologise for the problem in the main hall this year with the 16mm films - The print we
screened of SHE is in fact a very nice original Technicolor print, which is the best
quality you can get on film. But the dye-printing process involved makes Technicolor
prints very dense and they need an awful lot of extra light from the projector lamp. I
miss-judged that fact that the distance to the screen was so great and our lens for
widescreen had to be taped onto the zoom lens we were forced to use. This meant a lot of
extra glass elements to get the light through and the projector lamp wasn't good enough to
get a bright picture on our 25ft wide screen even on the maximum setting. We will remember
for next year!
Ingo Streker - Germany (by email)
Hello my friends. I hope that all who were in Manchester on the weekend have returned
safely as we did. It was an excellent festival for us and we had a great time. And we even
have new guests for our film club with Richard, Norman and Paul Naschy agreeing to pay us
a visit in the future. Thanks to you and all the boys and girls who worked on your event.
I am sending you along some greetings from our crazy friend Take from Japan. Enjoy his
letter. On the journey back we thought about the festival and the possible move to other
facilities. I think what makes your festival unique and worth visiting is the private and
family like atmosphere where there is enough space to talk to the guests and friends. My
fear is, that moving to another place than the hotel could be bad for the atmosphere of
the whole thing. Sure it is great that these people asked you to come and that is proof of
the good work you did over the last years. But I think you should be careful not to damage
the overall feeling of your festival. It is a very difficult decision. Well, we´ll see.
Thank you again for the great weekend, greetings to all of you, Ingo
Ed: See you guys again next year - same time (almost!)
Paul Cotgrove (by email)
Thanks again for a great Festival of Fantastic Films 2001, I really had a great time and
can't wait until the next one, please pass on my good wishes to the rest of the team, and
let them know how much I appreciate all your hard work. Regarding your proposed move to
Bradford, well I certainly prefer Manchester for the Festival, but would not mind if it
switched to Bradford as long as you and the team stayed on as consultants, I feel that you
have developed a unique festival over the years and I would not like to see this
Mike Simpson (by email)
Gil, Harry, Tony,
First, a huge thank you for a terrific weekend. I had an absolute blast, met old friends,
met new friends, drank vast amounts and even saw a few films. Everyone I spoke to agreed
that the 12th FFF was one of the best.
On a personal note, it was a thrill and an honour to be asked to interview Paul Naschy. A
lot of people told me over the weekend that they really enjoyed the interview, to which I
can only say that all I did was ask a few questions. If the interview worked it was
because Paul was great, and because of the sterling work of our interpreter, Margarita.
Translated interviews are always tricky but Paul was a real pro and really knew how to use
The King Kong trip was terrific. Despite a few technical problems (hey, I hear they had
those at Frightfest too - only much worse), the screening was a big hit, and with Ray and
Forry there, and the magnificent surroundings of the Plaza Cinema, it was something we can
tell people we were at for years to come.
I thought the mix of films (I saw four or five) was good this year: a few new ones (and
obscure new ones too - a chance to discover something brand new and untried), some old
classics, and some - like the Paul Naschy flicks - which weıve all heard of but rarely if
ever had the chance to see. I finished the festival off with Zombies On Broadway - a real
Every so often I heard one or other of you mention a few behind-the-scenes problems. Let
me assure you, there was absolutely no sign of those from where I was standing (apart from
the odd technical kafuffle between video formats, only to be expected!).
And so we come to the big question: Bradford - yes or no?
This house - myself and Hillary - vote aye on this.
Twelve years is a ridiculously long time for three people to run an annual convention.
Iıve run conventions and I know the work that goes into organising one, let alone twelve.
Youıve done a fantastic job, but every year it gets harder to live up to your own
standards: great guests, great films, good mix of oldies and new stuff. And then thereıs
all the preparation that most people never see: liaising with guests, agents, travel
details, hotel liaison, technical preparation, badgering distributors for prints, tracking
down people and films all year, in the hope that it will all come together at the right
time in the right place.
Guys, youıve done a fantastic job. You can be massively proud of yourselves. Now - go and
have a sit down. Talk to your families. Have a pint. Watch your own video collection.
Nothing lasts for ever (as somebody once said: ''Even Camelot didnıt last for ever. It
was only 98 minutes.'') and you want to bow out while youıre on a roll. Otherwise, sooner
or later, one of two things is certain. Either there will come a year when, for
logistical, financial, health reasons, whatever, you canıt put on a festival. Or you will
run an FFF which leaves everyone saying, ''That was awful. There was nothing there. What
If there was a bunch of enthusiastic young Turks waiting in the wings to take over the
festival, that might be a different thing, but I donıt see them anywhere. An annual event
like, say, Novacon survives for 30 years because itıs run by different people every year.
Folk start as gophers, become stewards, then maybe Head of Ops, then theyıre on the
committee, then they hand over to some-one else. Itıs not the same three fellas slaving
away year after year.
Now, here we have an offer from the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television.
They love cinema. I just saw their new brochure: a JB Priestley celebration, including
screenings of James Whaleıs The Old Dark House; a Patrick Stewart day with four of his
films, a Trek episode and then a talk with the man himself. Oldies, newies, 3D, IMAX,
If the folks at the NMPFT wanted to, they could just organise their own fantastic films
festival. They already organise the Bite The Mango festival of Asian cinema and BAF, the
Bradford Animation Festival. They know what theyıre doing in that respect.
But theyıve come to you guys because you know what youıre doing when it comes to horror,
fantasy and SF. You know what people want to see, and what they donıt want to see because
theyıve seen it a million times. You know who to invite, why to invite them, how to
invite them and how to treat them when they turn up.
Itıs very easy to get this wrong. Iıve seen so many people try to organise SF movie
conventions who have no experience and fail because theyıre viewing fandom from the
outside. You guys are on the inside. Acting as consultants and advisors to the folk at
Bradford (who I trust - Iıve dealt with them as a journalist), you could make a Festival
of Fantastic Films that was bigger and better than ever - yet still retained the FFFıs
What are the advantages to staying in Manchester? Familiarity. Everything in one hotel, on
one floor (and yes, the Renaissance is a great venue). Easy access to your own
collections, projectors, etc.
That's about it.
Disadvantages to Manchester? It involves an enormous amount of hard work. Remember all
those names Steve Gallagher read out at the closing ceremony? Every one of them has been
working over the weekend: sitting behind the registration table, loading up projectors,
setting up tables and chairs, taking down tables and chairs, finding people, finding
things, making sure everything runs smoothly. Thereıs a small army of people, led by
yourselves, who are like the swanıs feet, paddling away like blue blazes in order that
the bit we can see glides smoothly and gracefully. All that work, all that effort. Weıre
grateful, you know we are, but you donıt have to do it any more.
Here are some advantages to Bradford: itıs a BFI-affiliated cinema, which means that we
can get hold of 35mm prints of pretty much anything we want, if it ever had a UK release;
state-of-the-art projection facilities, so thereıs no more ³Switch the lights back on
while we try to work out which jack-plug should be in which socket.²; a real cinema, not
a bunch of chairs in a hotel ballroom; additional facilities, like live music for silent
screenings; real kudos with distributors, that can get us major new releases, plus some of
the cast and crew doing their contractual publicity gigs; national and international
publicity, that can raise the FFF to the level of other festivals like Sitges, Brussels,
Helsinki or Fantasporto; a great combination of professionals doing the work while
knowledgeable amateurs provide advice.
Disadvantages? Maybe it will lose the intimate atmosphere. Or maybe it wonıt. If we can
still buy an all-films festival pass for about the same as current FFF registration, so we
can pick and choose what we see, we have the option to lounge around in the hotel talking
toot long into the night. Let me tell you, Iıve been to Fantasporto twice now and despite
the thousands of people who buy tickets for the screenings, those of us who are staying
for the whole festival band together and have a great old time - an intimate atmosphere at
the centre of a big, nationally important event. Will it cost more? It shouldnıt. As a
regional film theatre, the NMPFT is subsidised. Itıs a state-funded organisation, not a
grasping, money-making enterprise. Further away? Only if you live in Manchester. If you
live in Yorkshire itıs a good deal closer, and from most of the country the difference is
negligible. And the only reason to be in Manchester is because you three live there and
need to keep popping home to find that three-pin jack plug that you need to connect the
DVD or whatever.
What about timing? You told me that Bradford were considering May. Well, hereıs what I
say. If lots of regular FFF folk want to keep September as a date in their diary, thereıs
no reason you (or someone else) couldnıt organise a mini-FFF for the normal weekend. No
special guests, just one small programme of fun films on 16mm or video (old favourites)
and a chance to sit in the bar with friends and chat. All the social aspects - which is
what makes the FFF unique - with minimal organisational hassle.
To sum up, I think a move to Bradford, and a handing over of all the hard work to the
organised, experienced folk at the NMPFT, is an excellent idea, which has come along at
just the right time. It allows you to bow out gracefully, but maintain the legacy of one
of the very best genre conventions anywhere in the world.
Speaking to people on Sunday night, all I heard was positive endorsement of this idea.
Frankly, I think to expect you three to continue running the festival year on year is both
selfish and ultimately self-destructive. All good things come to an end, but the best ones
Hillary and I will both be very disappointed if you pass up a chance like this. We want to
be in Bradford next year, and we want you three (and your army of assistants) to actually
enjoy the festival, not spend the weekend hard at work.
Wherever you end up, you have our continued support. I will continue to do what I can to
track down new films and film-makers for you where I can. Iıll continue to plug the
festival where I can. And if you need any more guests of honour interviewed, you know
where to find me.
Thanks again for a wonderful weekend.
Ed: Mike - Thanks for such a lot of nice comments up
there. We also appreciate your feedback and your thoughts on Bradford and perhaps our way
forward is to do this gradually. If we can get an additional event up and running at the
NMPFT in their Film Festival format but with our programming style we feel it would allow
us all to feel out the venue for bigger things in the future. We also need to encourage
new blood onto the Fantastic Films committee to help with running the Manchester
convention and these new faces should be in place for next year. There really should be a
plan in place for our event to continue after a time when the present trio hand in their
film cement and that means bringing in younger minds now.
Joel Denning - Baltimore (by email)
We arrived home safely and with fond memories and new friends. I must say that I have not
had as much fun on any trip I've ever taken. We do intend to return.
Phil Lister is a huge fan of SF and Ray Harreyhausen, when I told him the news (about the
award for Alien Rampage) and that I obtained an autograph for him he was ecstatic. Also,
the Kong show was incredible!
I thank you immensely and I will stay in touch over the coming months. We look forward to
seeing you and the crew again.
Joel and Marian Denning
Following is from Steve Gallagher after I sent him thanks
for his work for us.......
If thanks are needed, it's from me to you... I had an excellent weekend. The 'fit' of our
occasion with the Renaissance is probably the only real counter-argument to the Bradford
proposal, and there one might say that after two magical events we may go back next year
and find that our 'Renaissance moment' isn't infinitely repeatable. The only unfortunate
aspect about Bradford that I can see is the separation of hotel and venue. One of the
pleasures of the FFF has always been that it's like a house party writ large.
However, we've also got to recognise the huge effort put in by you guys and the strain of
holding it all together both technically and organisationally, and it would be churlish to
deny you the reward and recognition that the Bradford offer constitutes... you've earned
the right to the international status that's implied and to the state-of-the-art
facilities being made available. With that weight off your shoulders, maybe you'll even
get a chance to join your own party at last!
Much depends on whether the Hilton (at Bradford) will make a reasonable response, I
suppose. If they won't play, then I don't see how it can work.
Thanks again and all the best
Adele Hartley - Dead By Dawn, Edinburgh (by email)
Some thoughts on the Imax/Museum offer, for the committee....
Bearing in mind that this is only my second year at the fest, and there are many who have
been attending for far longer, following are some of my thoughts on the festival as it
stands and its future.
As of February next year, there will be a new Sci Fi festival in London which will be
catering entirely to the populist end of the market - Babylon 5, Dr Who, Star Trek. FFF
obviously caters to the other end of that spectrum.
As it stands, it seems to me that FFF attracts a very large percentage of its attendance
year after year, but does not seem to attract many new faces. While this produces a
comfortable, congenial, relaxed and familiar atmosphere, it does not promise an
environment which will allow the festival to grow.
My suggestion, at its most basic, would be to draw attention to the festival through
similar events, national SF societies, universities, film societies - places that attract
the kind of film fan that FFF does.
Another way is to have festival reports appear more widely, or to involve someone like
filmfestivals.com or aintitcoolnews to provide their very high profile specialist coverage
to the event. These are people with whom I deal frequently and I would be happy to be
involved in this process.
One of the other things I feel strongly about with regard to FFF is that when you have
three programme events running concurrently, the audience for each is minimised and also
on the move a great deal of the time.
Although this certainly offers people much choice, it also means that the audiences for
each screening are smaller and so less atmosphere is generated, which is a great shame.
I'm not sure I know the answer to this one, but I do feel that it would be good to see the
numbers increased at each screening.
Also, I would hate to see the festival relocate. I do not feel that it would be beneficial
or popular, and I think there are alterations that can be made to the existing format
which will negate the need for the move. The hotel is a great venue for the event, but
work really does have to be done to increase the numbers. I talk to people all the time
who think the festival sounds wonderful, but had never heard of it!
Even having a more populist streak as part of the fest would bring in additional people,
albeit for perhaps only a portion of the weekend, but it might also help raise the
profile. I don't see that the festival has to compromise itself, but simply broaden its
offerings and publicity to include people who would be attracted by such a unique event as
first-timers - a group I don't think the festival attracts in sufficient numbers.
I really would hate to see the fest leave the hotel, and would of course be more than
happy to contribute to its continuation, should that assistance be requested.
Even something as basic as part-sponsorship by the sci-fi channel might be a start...
Anyway, I'm sure you've been inundated with everyone's tuppence worth, so I'll leave it
Ed: Publicity is always a difficult area and I know for a
fact that Gil sends out volumes of paper to the media each year. You own contacts with
convention and Festival organizers and the Internet could be very useful Adele - we shall
talk to you very soon.
THE BRADFORD DECISION
The idea of moving the Festival to Bradford's splendid
National Museum of Photography, Film and Television has many plus factors and of course a
number of minus ones. The facilities we have been offered include the use of both The
Pictureville and Cubby Broccoli cinemas. The Pictureville Cinema was specifically built to
be able to show all available widescreen formats of film using 35mm, 70mm and even
three-strip three projector Cinerama on their deeply curved louve screen! They have video
projection and excellent sound systems for film, video and on-stage speakers and panels.
The cinema seats around 350 people. The Cubby Broccoli Cinema seats 110 people and is
equipped with 35mm and 16mm film projectors and video projection. The museum site also
houses the giant Imax Cinema with state-of-the-art 3-D and the museum areas have permanent
exhibitions of film, photography and television history including the Hammer Films make-up
collection of Roy Ashton.
Members of our Festival committee have attended many events at the museum. The annual
Bradford Animation Festival and the Widescreen Weekend plus special day events including a
day of Patrick Stewart films and a personal appearance by Patrick were terrific. The
atmosphere at these events had a very close feel to our own Fest in that they were
friendly and enthusiastically staged. But the big negative for transferring our Festival
is that without being in the hotel environment we are used to, the social side of the
Fantastic Fest would not be the same. Our mix of films, talk and drink seems to be a key
factor in making it gel so well, and any event outside of a hotel would lack these vital
ingredients. There is a hotel close to the Museum - The Hilton - but they quoted us
horrendous fees for their function rooms and carrying your beer glass across the road into
the cinemas is out of the question! Accommodation at The Hilton seems on par with The
Renaissance so that wouldn't be a problem. The suggested dates for any co-event with the
Museum is towards the end of May, in order to fit into their current programme of
Festivals throughout their planned year.
Tony Earnshaw is Head of film programming at Bradford and is a very keen fan of fantastic
film. He attended this years Manchester Festival to get an idea of what our event is all
about. ''Terrific'' he said -''what you have at Manchester is superb!'' Tony added that he
would not like to be the one who talks us into moving from Manchester and killing off what
we have here.
We decided against moving the Manchester Festival of Fantastic Films to Bradford in the
light of the negatives mentioned above, but this does not rule out the idea of putting
together a more standard style Film Festival devoted to our genre. A Bradford Festival of
Fantastic Films would have the advantage of the Museum's pulling power for new movies and
Guests that are currently working in the industry of today. We do feel that we could have
a very exciting event up at Bradford and at a time of the year that is ideally spaced from
our Manchester dates to be advantageous and even help promote our annual convention. For
that is what the Manchester Fest actually is - a movie convention with the focus on the
fans who attend to avidly discuss the genre rather than a full blown cinema based film
festival. Our title is one we are happy with but it does give the appearance to outsiders
of us being something we're not.
We do plan on further discussions with Bradford's team of Bill Lawrence and Tony Earnshaw
and will update you next time.
Best of the Fest
We want to initiate a new award this year and give a
chance for you to vote for the one item that you thought was the highlight of the weekend
of highlights at the 12th Festival of Fantastic Films. Tony Edwards has made up a list of
the items we feel eligible in that they are events, talks or specific areas that we can
physically present an award to. No point in voting for the 1931 DRACULA as it would be
difficult to send Tod Browning an award and the present heads at Universal would just bin
it! Here's his list - but do vote for anything else you feel fits the mood of the award -
Best of the Fest 2001.
Each year we have an exclusive T-shirt design and produce a limited number of sweat shirts
and T-shirts. Many of the early years are now out of stock but it will be possible to have
a limited re-print made of the first ever Fest's NIGHT OF THE DEMON design (drawn by Gary
Fellows) which has been asked for by many of you. Please order this now if you'd like one.
The original was printed on a white T-shirt, but our special edition will be done on a
black shirt (the most popular choice it seems). These Spec Ed Demon T-shirts will cost
£10.00 each and Sweats are £15.00 each both including postage and packing. (Please add
an extra £5.00 for US and Worldwide orders)
Please remember to tell us your preferred size. Allow up to two months for delivery as we
cannot process the final print run until all orders are in.
This years humorous Ape & Monolith design is by John Hughes and we have a small supply
in stock in Large size only. This 2001 T-shirt costs £8.99.
The remainder of stock for previous Festivals is as follows:
2001 Cartoon 1 x Large. 10 x XL. 2000 Rocket 2 x Large. 7 x XL.
1999 10th 1 x Med.
1998 FFF (Silver) SOLD OUT
1997 Castle 8 x Med. 7 x Large
1996 7th Logo SOLD OUT
1995 Bride of Frank.. 7 x Small. 9 x Med.
1994 Gorgon 21 x Med. 12 x Large.
1993 Kong SOLD OUT
1992 Man Planet X 2 x Small
1991 Creatures 1 x Small. 5 x Med. 3 x Large. 2 x XL
1990 Demon SOLD OUT
Festival Sweat Shirts
2001 Cartoon SOLD OUT
2000 Rocket 1 x Large.
1999 10th 1 x XL.
1998 FFF (Silver) 2 x Med.
1997 Castle 2 x Med. 7 x Large. 5 x XL.
1996 7th Logo 5 x Med.
1995 Bride of Frank.. SOLD OUT
1994 Gorgon 3 x Med.
1993 Kong 1 x Med
1992 Man Planet X 1 x Med.
1991 Creatures SOLD OUT
1990 Demon SOLD OUT
The Official 2001 Video has been produced once again by
Mike Hardman and contains highlights of the 12th Festival of Fantastic Films. This
includes extracts from the main interviews and much more besides.
Don't forget we have quite an archive of past Guest interviews and these are available to
special order. You can select any two full-length interviews on one tape from the
TONY TENSER (Part One - 1991 and Part Two 1992)
SCREAMING LORD SUCH
NORMAN J. WARREN
ROY WARD BAKER
EDDIE POWELL (Part One 1998 - Sachas Hotel. Part Two 1999 - The Britannia Hotel)
FORREST J ACKERMAN
*Note: Ray Harryhausen has made three Festival
appearances. Stephen Gallagher interviewed him this year and he also appeared on stage
with Forry Ackerman, On his previous visits Ray did his own presentation and Q&A.
These items would be one tape and count as two selections.
You can also order the official video of each year's Festival Highlights. Just pick your
year from 1990 (shorter tape but contains build-up and television publicity) to the
current year. The video for 2000 was photographed by Harry Nicholls.
All Festival Videos cost £9.99 each including postage in
the UK. Tapes are VHS and in PAL format.
The Society of Fantastic Films 95 Meadowgate Road, Salford, Manchester M6 8EN.