THE 13th edition of the Aesthetica Short Film Festival will be bigger and better than ever with big industry names, new features, more masterclasses and a 50 per cent YorkDays residents’ discount each day.
Significantly too, the festival is determined to highlight York’s status as the UK’s first and only UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts, not only through a festival with one eye on the future, but also through the newly launched Reignite drive, propelled by Aesthetica director Cherie Federico, to highlight the financial impact of York’s creative sector and the need to transform York into a knowledge-based economy.
“The time for complacency is over,” says Cherie. “York has a unique cultural heritage and we must re-define ourselves as a regional city that thinks nationally and internationally, with a strategy for start-ups, education and inward investment.”
At the heart of the five-day festival, spread across 15 venues from November 8 to 12, will be 300 films in competition, including new works by Rick Gervais, Maxine Peake, Ben Whishaw and Oscar-winner Tim Webber, from Framestore.
The 2023 Official Selection of shorts, feature-length films and documentaries VR experiences and games screenings has been curated into five themes: Now, In This Very Moment; Standing at the Threshold of Change; A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins With One Step; Be Free From Yourself and It’s Nice to Meet You.
The Guest Programmes for 2023 come from BFI Doc Society, Iris Prize and We Are Parable, among others, while the New Wave initiative provides a platform for up-and-coming directors. Issues such as gender, identity, the climate crisis and social injustices will be prominent throughout the festival film choice.
Festival films span 12 genres: advertising; animation; artists’ film; comedy; dance; documentary; drama, experimental; family friendly; fashion; music video and thriller. They can be experienced on the big screen at assorted locations during the festival run or streamed from home via the festival’s Virtual Platform, open for viewing On Demand until November 30, along with the masterclasses.
Top film industry organisations will be participating in more than 60 masterclasses and practical workshops for adults and children from November 8 to 11, with pre-booking recommended.
The 2023 event welcomes directors and cinematographers such as Sarah Gavron (Rocks), Mark Jenkin (Bait), Nicolas Brown (1917), Diana Olifirova (Heartstopper) and Kathryn Ferguson (director of the Sinead O’Connor documentary Nothing Compares), to give sessions on their experience working in the industry, from editing, sound design and cinematography to screenwriting, interactive storytelling, games, AI (artificial intelligence) and VR (virtual reality).
Festival-goers can go behind the scenes with multi-award-winning British animation studio Aardman; BBC Studios will demonstrate its work in the Natural History Unit, producing series with David Attenborough, while Ridley Scott Associates will delve delves into The Future of Storytelling.
Aesthetica also welcome George Lucas’s VFX studio, Industrial Light and Magic, alongside Oscar winners Framestore, to discuss the world of visual effects and post-production.
One event asks What is the Role of the Intimacy Co-Ordinator, while another looks at the female gaze and what it means for women to depict women. Other compelling topics will be: Next Level Scriptwriting, Developing Award-Winning Animations; Where to Shoot Your Film; the Power of True Stories and Composing for Screen.
Practical sessions take place at Pitcher & Piano, the StreetLife Hub, the Guildhall and York Theatre Royal, hosted by key organisations, from the London College of Communication to the Pitch Film Fund.
Festival visitors can travel to the past to uncover the magic of traditional printmaking or look to the future in Testbed of AI Generators and Writing in 360°: A Practical Workshop. Look out too for sessions on how to pitch, a virtual production demonstration and a showcase of Canon’s cinema cameras.
Children can learn to direct, edit and make their own films in Do You Want to Be a Director and How to Make a Film, led by the Pauline Quirke Academy. New for 2023 is How to Make a Game and Do You Want to be a Game Developer? from Impact Games: a chance for young people to learn the secrets behind their favourite games. Pre-booking is essential.
In its 13th year, ASFF becomes the first British film festival to introduce a Games Lab, at Spark:York, inviting audiences to explore new worlds and interactive storytelling with 40 new independent games to play in a celebration of game culture, design and production on PC, console and headset. Workshops, events and masterclasses will accompany the Games Lab too.
“The video game industry is undergoing dramatic change culturally and technologically and is now larger than the film industry and music industry combined,” says festival director Cherie Federico. “We see journeys into narrative design as a crucial way to understand how storytelling is evolving in the 21st century. We see gaming much like film, but as a player you are involved in bringing a story to life.
“The inaugural Games Lab marks a new chapter in the festival’s story and reflects how the screen industry evolving. It’s an exciting moment to take stock of and recognise the impact of gaming culture, and how it touches our daily lives.”
Twenty VR projects in the Screen School VR Lab will be part of the festival’s ever-expanding offering of Virtual and Expanded Reality experiences, presented in tandem with Investigative Games and Kit Monkman’s York-based special effects studio Viridian FX.
This year’s Aesthetica Fringe comprises a sound installation, looking at feminism and women’s experiences in public places, at Bedern Hall; the Inside [Out] exhibition by three female photographers, celebrating women behind the lens, at City Screen Picturehouse; a display of contemporary film posters from the Official Selection at StreetLife Hub and workshops in printmaking, gaming and film for children and adults.
For the festival programme and tickets, head to: asff.co.uk.