I Can. I Will. I Did. Bootleg and the Bootlegacy

DSC_0077

Introduction

Tom Wilton, the maverick filmmaker and founder of the Bootleg Film Festival, announced at the beginning of September that Bootleg NYC would be the final Bootleg ever. In a heartfelt and beautifully honest blog post he laid out his reasons for this decision and while a little shell-shocked the independent film world rallied around to thank Tom for everything he had done and achieved with the fest. Tom had discussed this with me merely hours before and I knew he was doing the right thing. As a festival Bootleg has done so much for so many and as an individual Tom has poured his heart and soul into it. It was his baby, as he puts it, it was a “bad idea that worked” and now it was going to New York where he had always dreamed it would go.

Tom Wilton is not a normal person; he’s not even a normal filmmaker. Normal filmmakers don’t make three feature films (two in New York and one in the UK) and run two film festivals on either side of the Atlantic, all in the same year. Normal filmmakers don’t start film festivals in the basement of a Glasgow coffee shop and see them grow into internationally recognised platforms for undiscovered talent. Normal people don’t care as much as Tom does, or have a single a vision as Tom does, or bounce back from the amount of knock backs as Tom has had or encourage a movement of other filmmakers as Tom has. And when you cross paths with someone like Tom you realise just what it takes to make something of your life, just how much belief, determination and drive you need to succeed and just how attainable it is if you just focus your life on it.

I am extremely thankful to have met Tom, as I know any filmmaker who has engaged with him and Bootleg would agree, and I am excited for what the future holds for him and every filmmaker he ever inspired.

IMG_4261

Tom’s final farewell speech at Bootleg NYC was a rallying call to all filmmakers to lay their ego at the side and help their fellow creatives. He told a tale of losing everything on one of his feature film productions, disappearing into Europe with his tail between his legs ready to pack it all in, only to arrive in Toronto for the Bootleg Film Festival and to be inspired, supported and loved by filmmakers and friends. He asked that as a filmmaker you look out for the ‘other guy’, that if someone needs your help, you offer it. That you remember that as you climb the ladder, you were once at the bottom and you pull others up with you. He asked that we keep the spirit of Bootleg alive and in writing this post I hope that I am in some way doing just that.

Bootleg was never just a film festival, it was a movement, an entity, a family. It was a place where lifelong friendships were made and collaborations formed. Bootleg was about leaving your ego at the door and embracing this little world we call filmmaking and celebrating each and every person in it.

In this multi-media project; I will attempt to share the history of Bootleg from my vantage point. I will share my views and the views of other people associated with Bootleg as well as discussing the Bootlegacy and where we go from here.

Bootleg mattered a lot to many people and was missed by many more. It’s my hope that through this discussion you will be able to feel the love that I myself have for the festival and the people around it as well as experience a little bit of what it was all about and why it mattered.

I Can, I Will, I Did. Bootleg and the Bootlegacy.

First up, please have a listen to this conversation that I had with Tom on Sunday 22nd September, the final day of Bootleg NYC. In it Tom talks about how he’s feeling on this day, the final day of the final Bootleg Film Festival, why Bootleg is ending, what’s next for him, why does he make the films he makes and why is he the way he is. I always enjoy chatting with Tom as you leave feeling you’ve had a worthwhile experience.

Glasgow

I met Tom Wilton through the forum on the Shane Meadows website. Back in 2005 this forum was teeming with indie filmmakers from across the UK and best of all they were the most supportive and encouraging bunch. As an introverted geek I found solace in this little corner of the internet and one day a guy called Tom Wilton appeared with a bunch of short films and talk of the feature he had made called Icharus Broken. Fast forward three years and I’m sitting in a Starbucks in Glasgow chatting to the biggest guy I’ve ever met. By big I mean tall, the man towers over almost everyone and he has the personality to match it. I liked this guy, he oozed enthusiasm and didn’t appear to have the bullshit that comes with so many filmmakers you meet; I didn’t feel that I was constantly competing with him over everything we discussed.

Tom told me that he was starting a small film festival and that I should submit my film (he had seen it on the forums) and after an hour or so we said goodbye.

A few months later I arrived at the first Bootleg Film Festival. It was held in the basement of the Offshore café in the West End of Glasgow.

329_77871730541_3626_n

Walking into the café you would never have known there was a film festival happening. The place was full of students, backpackers and trendy folk sipping their latte’s with their laptops out. It was only when I asked the girl behind the counter about the film festival that she pointed me to a staircase at the back.

I made my way down the staircase nervous about what I would find. I was never the best at social situations and I only knew Tom, having met him that once but as I got to the bottom of the stairs I was met with a massive smile and one of those Tom Wilton hugs that went onto become legendary.

The first thing Tom did was to introduce me to the other filmmakers who were there, namely one Jeffrey P Nesker and his sister Cimberly Nesker. I met other people that weekend but it was the Neskers that would make the biggest impression and who would go onto become lifelong friends.

314_76841355523_65_n

Being a coal miner’s son from Gorebridge the thought that I was talking to a Canadian filmmaker who had travelled all the way to Glasgow for his film actually blew my mind.

All of this distracted me from the fact that there were actually no seats in the venue. None, and for a split second I thought WTF but then I was swept away again by the fact there was such an amazing atmosphere in the room.

I went onto have the most amazing three days watching some of the coolest films I had ever seen and chatting film with people who actually made films as oppose to talking about making films. I watched my short Abbeyhill on the big screen (read shitty projector and small screen) and was surprised when a short I wrote, Away (directed by Ryd Cook, who I had never actually met, another Shane Meadows Forum member) screened without me having a clue it would.

329_77871600541_6771_n

The friendships I made at Bootleg Glasgow have lasted to this very day. The Neskers have spent time with my daughter (and Jeff even commandeered my couch for a couple of weeks for Bootleg Edinburgh), Tom has become one of my closest closest friends and all because I decided to embrace this little festival run in the basement of a café with no chairs and a questionable sound system.

Not everyone embraced the festival as much as I did. I remember the disgusted looks and the mutterings coming from some filmmakers who obviously believed they were above this ramshackle display. “Some film festival this is” they said and honestly, I thought they were cocks then and I still think they are now, though I have absolutely no recollection as to who they were. All I do know is that they missed out on being part of something very special all because their egos got in the way.

I knew right there and then that Bootleg was different, that this guy Tom Wilton was someone to grab with both arms and that I needed to be a part of whatever it was.

Tom was a man who exuded enthusiasm, belief and encouragement. He didn’t flinch when people winced at what was in front of them, he never attempted to apologise for this not being a “real film festival” (whatever one of those looks like), he simply provided his platform for filmmakers to show their films, always smiling and always looking to support anyone who asked.

Frazer Churchill, a filmmaker from London came up to Bootleg Glasgow with his debut short, Hatemail and walked off at the end of the weekend with the best film award. Frazer was no ordinary first time director; he was (or at least has become) a heavy hitter in the film industry, recently credited with work as Visual Effects Supervisor on films like The World’s End, Children of Men, Fast and Furious, Scott Pilgrim vs The World and many others. Frazer was one of the filmmakers who left his ego at the Offshore door when he attended Bootleg Glasgow;

“I’d taken the jump, quit my job in order to make a short film. I’d got some funding, completed it, and was finally ready to get into festival submissions. My illusions of bowing at the croisette were rudely popped as the rejection e-mails piled up. Then out of the blue, it was accepted into the Bootleg festival, not only that, I had enthusiastic communication from the festival director, a Mr Tom Wilton. He told me how much he loved my short and even printed up some stills from it to hand out. It was a much needed boost at a time when my morale was flagging. The film went on to play at Slamdance and numerous others but Tom was the first to programme it. The family vibe he created at the festival was fantastic. I’ll always thank Tom for that much needed leg up, or should I say Bootleg up.”

This is a story that would be repeated again and again for filmmakers across the five years and six festivals of Bootleg. So many people had their films screened for the first time at the Bootleg Film Festival, and not because Tom chose to screen just anything but because Tom was looking at the submissions as a filmmaker, which is very different to the norm.

314_76841370523_976_n

Most film festivals are run by critics, academics and/or enthusiasts. There are very few, if any now, that are run solely by filmmakers. It takes a shit load of work and effort to run a film festival, most people make it their vocation, but here was a guy doing it AND making feature film after feature film at the same time.

I saw so many great films at Bootleg Glasgow, films that inspired and continue to inspire me. Films like Frazer’s Hatemail, Jeff’s Nightclub Story and the wonderful feature film Yeast, shot for nothing in New York by writer/director Mary Bronstein and starring a little known Greta Gerwig.

This film especially really hit me hard, it’s uncompromising subject matter and balls to the wall style. It made me wonder why I hadn’t made a feature film yet and what was stopping me (I’m still wondering). Yeast was so good we chose to screen it again five years later at Bootleg NYC and again it went down a storm.

Bootleg Glasgow was a resounding success, a bad idea that worked. It was small, it was intimate and it was brilliant. Those who embraced it left bolstered, feeling like we could take over the world. It felt like the beginning of something and it would be just that.

 

Swansea

Rough-Bootleg-Logo

In 2010 the Bootleg Film Festival moved to Swansea, which was probably something to do with the fact Tom had moved there. Sadly I wasn’t involved at all. There aren’t a lot of details about the Swansea festival but there is one filmmaker who emerged from it with a new found belief and determination to succeed.

Rob Savage, the BIFA award winning director of feature film Strings screened an early short of his at Bootleg Swansea;

“I screened one of my first short films Sex Scene at the festival when I was 16. It was only after this screening and the people I met at Bootleg that I felt confident to start working on Strings, my debut feature”.

Strings went onto great acclaim and was acquired by Vertigo after winning the Raindance Award at the British Independent Film Awards.

“Bootleg was the first festival that I ever screened at – as a fledgling filmmaker I really took its “I CAN I WILL I DID” mantra to heart and decided that I wasn’t going to wait for opportunities to come my way, but create my own.”

Rob returned to Bootleg screening an excerpt of Strings before it was completed at the London edition and then again at Bootleg Edinburgh screening the finished film and taking part in the filmmakers’ panel.

Rob is a fantastic filmmaker, who would have been discovered without Bootleg but as he says himself, it was this festival that gave him the confidence and belief to just go out there and do it, and that was what I always loved about Bootleg.

 

London

I attended the Bootleg Film Festival London in February 2011 and was once again welcomed by that big Tom Wilton hug. I hadn’t seen Tom since 2009 but he made me feel like we had never been apart. I was also delighted that Jeffery P Nesker had made the trip to London as he was showcasing his latest short film Apocalypse Story. It felt great to be around these guys again. There was never any bullshit or egos, just good solid conversations about life, storytelling and filmmaking. I never felt anything other than an equal, despite the fact these guys had made a ton of work and I was still ‘talking about being a filmmaker’ rather than being one.

182090_10150400352635542_3210975_n

Bootleg London was a step up from the festival I attended in Glasgow. Firstly, it was taking place in an actual cinema with seats and everything, but more importantly the films had gotten better. Digital technology had come a long way in this short time. Tom himself had shot a feature film in New York on a Flip camera called Vinyl and it all just cemented the fact that there really weren’t any excuses anymore not to make films. The only person stopping you was yourself.

I met even more amazing people in London; Tom Sawyer, Harry Macqueen, Rob Savage and his Strings squad and many others. I met Gavin Ellis, a long time friend of Tom’s who was helping out with the festival this time around. Gavin became an Associate Director of Bootleg and is known and loved by many especially those involved in Bootleg Toronto.  Here Gavin shares his thoughts on what occurred over the past five years;

“I was talking with Tommy, shortly after the first Bootleg film festival about what he had just done and how it was such a ridiculously bad idea that actually bore fruit. The idea was to help independent no and low budget filmmakers show their wares. It gave them the chance to display the hard work and tenacity. It was successful in a different way than anticipated. He started showing these unseen works for these hardworking film makers to hardworking film makers. Empathy brought everyone together. It bred positivity, it bred community, it was a showcase for, to and by a disenfranchised bunch of artistes. Not only did they now have a voice, they found people who not only listened but responded and encouraged. And my, how they responded. Never underestimate word of mouth. The whole reason of Bootleg was as an outlet for untapped talent, a chance for the unheard to be heard. One man did this. And by doing this he made us believe that we can do it too.”

Highlights from the Bootleg Film Festival London include Greg Hall’s SSDD, a powerful short film called Sissy and a short animation/live action punk musical called Silly Billy that just really blew me away.

It was at Bootleg London that the seeds for Write Shoot Cut (a blog and event in Edinburgh that you can find out more about here) were sown. I took my own Flip camera down to the festival and recorded interviews with the filmmakers whose films were screened. I asked them all about their work and their aspirations and I also asked them what advice they would give to first time filmmakers. I was asking as much for myself as I was for anyone else and from these interviews I decided to start a blog; Write Shoot Cut. The first posts were about Tom and Bootleg, I just wanted to take all this encouragement and support that I could feel all around me and put it online for a wider audience. Write Shoot Cut became my mini-Bootleg. A monthly night that would have the same ethos and goals of showcasing independent filmmaking talent and encourage people to get out there and do it.

It was also at Bootleg London, sitting around a tall table in the Exhibit Cinema, that Jeff said enthusiastically (as Jeff always does) that there needs to be a Bootleg Toronto. Tom agreed and I nodded along too. I wasn’t sure if this was one of those things people say when they are drinking and everyone forgets about it the next day or if this was real. I shouldn’t have questioned it at all of course, not with these guys. When they say something, they do it.

180537_10150400353650542_2128621_n

And so that’s what happened.

Bootleg grew arms and legs and flew across the Atlantic to the Tranzac in Toronto. It was here that this little festival called Bootleg cemented itself within the film industry.

 

Toronto

Bootleg Toronto was huge.

It was held over three days during May 2012. Tom and Gav flew over, Jeff and Cim came up trumps, roping in several helpers including the amazing Jeff Grable and Nikki Yee. They put on an extravaganza of films, live comedy, karaoke and so much more. The online buzz was amazing…

… and I watched it from the comfort of my kitchen in Edinburgh. I didn’t make the trip out there as I was a new dad, in between jobs and desperately trying to salvage my own life. It was tough. You only have to look at the photos from Bootleg Toronto to see how good it was and add to that, that I had an actual film screening at the festival – I was a tad jealous.

I can’t cover Bootleg Toronto in any meaningful way, other than to say that it looked and sounded amazing, so here are the insights of those who were there;

First up, Nikki Yee, Festival Director;

“In 2012, my brother from another mother Jeff Nesker offered me the chance to help out on The Bootleg Film Festival. At that point, I was in my third year of uni, and fairly new to the festival world. I worked with the Bootleg Toronto team to put on the best damn fest I could, and eventually moved on from assistance to Festival Director. The second night of Bootleg Toronto we did karaoke and that weirdly brought all of us together. That’s when I knew that I felt closer to these people than I did with other people I met at film festivals. I felt like I grew up a lot during Bootleg. It spanned from the middle of my university career to my post graduation. When you’re young and new to the game, it’s nice to have a welcoming environment where you can actually make friends as opposed to being a just another cog in the unpaid intern machine. After being one of these unpaid interns for a few years, it seemed like a nice place to come home to, and Bootleg truly is.”

2012 - 2

Cimberly Nesker, Festival Director;

“Bootleg has really opened my eyes to a whole new world of film – the back of house aspects. As someone who has always been interested in production and the “behind the scenes” aspects of film, being involved in this film festival has given me even more knowledge of the processes that go into making these incredible visions. In addition, the friendships made and renewed are the greatest possible payoff one could have ever hoped for.”

2012 - 1 (1)

Ryd Cook, Filmmaker;

“I’d known about Bootleg from the very beginning. I knew of several filmmakers through the Shanemeadows.co.uk online forum. Tom Wilton was one of them. He posted about the Glasgow festival in the forum, I’d just directed my first film with proper actors; Away written by fellow forum friend Neil Rolland. An early version of the film was screened at the festival; me and Neil received some excellent feedback on how we could improve. Unfortunately I couldn’t go to the festival, but it was fantastic to have a screening in a festival this early on, and it really gave a boost and direction for both of us. I recut the film, it got screened in another festival and then I moved on to the next. I was aware of the next two Bootlegs in Swansea & London, but I felt I hadn’t anything worthy to submit and couldn’t attend. When I heard about Bootleg Toronto 2012 I had a film I’d just finished that I was very proud of; Thrown. I submitted through Withoutabox without contacting Tom. After months of quiet (from all festivals actually, apart from Cambridge) I get an email that raises my smile to my ears and makes me jump for joy! Tom emails me to say that he is over the moon that his selection team have selected Thrown. He felt the need to tell me ahead of the official selection, as we are Meadows Maniacs after all. The best thing about it is that the film was selected by people who has no idea who I was. So Tom was delighted to see my name pop up on the credits once he’d seen the films that had been selected. After being selected I decided I just HAD to go to this Bootleg, not only because I had a film screening, but also because I’d never been, and it was in TORONTO! By chance I was on the same plane as Tom from London to Toronto, so on the other side of the pond I met Jeffry P. Nesker and Cim R. Nesker straight away, and those guys kindly gave me a tour of the city. You can read all about the adventure in a blog post here. I loved the city, and I thoroughly enjoyed the festival. The screening of my film had a great audience with a positive response. I was having an awesome time and awards were the last thing on my mind. I wasn’t even aware there were awards until the 2nd day of the festival. At the awards I heard my name called out, I could not believe it. I had one Best Director Short film. Absolutely hands down one of the greatest moments of my life. I thank the festival crew from the bottom of my heart. Amazing.”

Bootleg Toronto really did put the film festival on the map. No other festival was travelling around the world showcasing independent cinema and a lot of people sat up and noticed. I remember telling someone fairly high up in the Scottish Film Industry that I had a film screening at Bootleg Toronto and they said “that’s that moving Film Festival isn’t it? Very cool”. Very cool indeed.

So cool in fact I just had to bring Bootleg to Edinburgh.

 

Edinburgh

2013-03-30 16.18.14

Bootleg Edinburgh was conceived on my 30th birthday. By chance both Tom and Cim happened to be in Edinburgh on that date and joined me to celebrate with a bunch of friends.

That night I took Tom to the Banshee Labyrinth where I had been running the Write Shoot Cut monthly short film nights.  I thought it would be a perfect venue for a Bootleg Film Festival and while I was aware Tom had plans to run Bootleg in New York, I really thought we could do one in Edinburgh as well.

When we arrived at the Banshee Tom poked his head into the cinema space then instantly said “yep, let’s do it” and that was that; the Bootleg Film Festival was coming to Edinburgh in 2013.

418878_10152629171800542_1527179876_n

I was beyond excited, there was going to be a lot to do but I really couldn’t wait to throw myself into it.  Bootleg had inspired so much in me that I wanted to create the best event possible, something that would be a testament to the ethos and energy of the festival.

Being on the inner circle for the first time I learned all about the Bootleg selection process, which was unlike any I had heard of before.

299289_451541308259787_600816964_n

Jeff Grable, from Bootleg Toronto, had come up with a scoring matrix and a very simple form that was used by everyone who was watching the submissions (and we had a whole team across the globe watching all the films). How it worked was that all film submissions had to be watched by at least three people (and films that hadn’t been watched by three people were flagged and watched to ensure this always happened. The films were scored by the individuals on areas like; directing, sound, originality, story; as well as an overall score for the film. These scores would then be pumped through a generator and any films that received an average score of seven (out of ten) from three people would then be considered by the Creative Director and Tom to be part of the programme.

Photo 30 Mar 2013 21-28

The vast majority (if not all the films marked above seven) got into the programme at Edinburgh as Tom and I (and everyone else) were quite adamant that we didn’t need to like something to screen it, we can appreciate a film without necessarily liking it and if three of our trusted screeners liked it, then it must have something going for it. I myself watched EVERYTHING that was submitted for Bootleg Edinburgh and New York (as did Tom) because I wanted to know everything and I just love seeing good films.

The whole process was fairly new to me (submission for Write Shoot Cut were always sporadic, one or two a week) and I enjoyed it. My wife and I would crack open the laptop and spend evening after evening watching films and discussing them; it was fun, exciting and at times frustrating.

Photo 30 Mar 2013 21-36

It’s amazing what you notice about yourself and your judgement.  I found that I made a decision about a film based on its opening frame, yep FRAME. If it inspired me then I was excited and it would have to go very wrong for me to hate it. If however, the opening frame did not inspire it had a lot of work to do to save the situation and nine times out of ten (for me) if I didn’t like the opening frame, I didn’t like the film. It was just one of those little quirks and insights that seemed profound to me. I realised that people screening for any festivals out there probably felt the same or had similar prejudices.

The other point to note from a screener’s point of view is the length of a short film. It’s no secret that a long short film (over twenty minutes) is a difficult sell. It almost has to be approached like a feature film in the way you watch it and when I looked at a submission and saw the length was over twenty minutes I began to get prickly, do I really want to watch this right now? And again nine times out of ten, I would skip it and watch a shorter short first, saving all the longer ones for later. It’s worth noting however that the film that won Best Film at Bootleg Edinburgh, Plastic Love is actually 26 minutes long and the film that won Best Film at Bootleg NYC, Bridge’s New Jacket, is 22 minutes long.

Photo 30 Mar 2013 21-02

Bootleg Edinburgh was an absolute blast. Having missed Toronto I was adamant I would make this Festival as big. I wanted great films, great parties and a great atmosphere; and I think (hope) we achieved that. Tom and Jeff came to Edinburgh a couple of weeks before the fest and we started getting everything ready. Edd, the owner of the Banshee Labyrinth was nothing short of legendary, giving us the run of the venue for the entire weekend. It was like our home as we got there at 10am and left at 3am each day.

The filmmakers of Edinburgh embraced the festival, as did the many that travelled from all over to be there. Folk like Maria McIndoo, the Broke But Making Films guys and so many more. That’s what always got me about Bootleg; people actually wanted to come to it. They travelled from all over the world to this little festival and took away so much. There is nothing better than seeing a filmmaker watch their film and receive the love and support of everyone around them. It’s a truly humbling experience.

Photo 30 Mar 2013 21-32

We always prided ourselves at Bootleg on the fact we made every film personal. We allocated ample time for Q&As with the filmmaker, ensuring they happened straight after the film, as well as showcasing interviews and previews on the website and Write Shoot Cut prior to the fest. It’s all about the personal touch. We’re filmmakers and we knew what made the difference. That was always the heart when Tom started the festival and it remained the centre throughout.

Running Bootleg Edinburgh was hard, but at the same time, it was the easiest thing in the world. It’s a bit like a long-term relationship; when things are tough they’re tough but when things are good they’re great; it’s a very emotional experience, you love it and hate it equal measures; it’s a rollercoaster because you care and the good always outweighs the bad.

Photo 30 Mar 2013 21-05

Anyway, Edinburgh happened and it was immense. An experience like nothing else I have experienced and something that will stay with me for the rest of my life. The festival was nothing short of epic and I think it shocked a lot of people who thought we were just running this teeny tiny screening event in a pub in Edinburgh. There were so many highlights, too many to mention but I will say that the Saturday night with Bloody Cuts is up there as the highest buzz. Seeing the cinema bursting at the seams, shovelling more and more people into the cinema (heath and safety anyone?) was just incredible and watching the BC guys themselves being bowled over by the response was just magnificent. When people use the expression “the atmosphere was electric” they must be referring to the feeling we had during that event because that’s exactly how it felt, like a current pulsating and connecting every single person in the room, all of us having the same experience. Electric.

Ben Franklin, the creator of Bloody Cuts shares his experience of that night;

“Our experience at Bootleg is one of the biggest highlights of my professional career, and I’m sure fellow Bloody Cuts team members Anthony Melton, Jonny Franklin and David Scullion would say the same. Being witness to the heaving screening, with people actually being turned away at the door because it was full to the brim, was both crazy and thrilling. The screening was even delayed in order to get everyone in and comfortable for what would be a unique experience to all of us – an hour of our back to back films. A few of the audience even said the rhyme to “Suckablood” out loud whilst the film played – which to us was the equivalent of being in a band and having our lyrics sang back!

We were actually premiering our latest film “Don’t Move” there, with the Edinburgh crowd pretty much being the only people to have seen the film on earth aside from Anthony and I. So it was scary to see the reaction, but fortunately it went down a storm, and the following Q&A sped by even though I’m sure we were probably up there longer than we were supposed to be!

The biggest takeaway for us however, was just how cool the world of indie filmmakers is, and how we adored being part of it. Filmmakers out there, just doing it for themselves and with the support of people like Neil Rolland and Tom Wilton, being given the chance to put their passion projects on a big screen to a bunch of like minded individuals. Making a film is hard work, no matter what the budget, size of story or crew, or ambition of the filmmakers. Bootleg gave those individuals a chance to have a voice, and the festival market is a poorer place without it – it will be missed!”

734237_451188924961692_1885295621_n

I was delighted that a couple more filmmakers from Edinburgh were willing to share their experience of the fest;

Oliver Semple, writer/producer of the feature film Kenneth;

“Bootleg was the first festival to show our film and not only that but awarded us best feature screenplay and best lead actor. Since making the film we had all become a bit despondent through the lack of support and encouragement we found within the festival scene, Bootleg’s recognition reignited our passion and gave us a new found confidence in our abilities as writers and film makers. I cannot overestimate the feeling of satisfaction I had after winning the best screenplay award for Kenneth, it has to be one of the highlights of my entire life. But Bootleg was much more than that for all of us at Monster Island Films, it was and always will be the first festival to give us a chance and treat us seriously as film makers within a friendly, warm and inviting environment and for that we will all be forever grateful.”

Deloris Collins, director of the short film Once Upon A Time;

“Bootleg was our first ever film festival. It has the most friendly welcoming and fun atmosphere I’d never expected from a film festival and helped raise the profile of our film. And now thanks to you guys, no other festival will ever live up to it…..Thanks a bunch guys! No seriously thanks a bunch!”

Bootleg Edinburgh was a major highlight in my life but it was only the halfway point for Bootleg in 2013, next up was Bootleg NYC.

 

New York

Bootleg New York was Tom’s dream. Having started Bootleg in Glasgow with the idea that he would provide a platform for undiscovered, underground filmmakers; the kind of filmmakers that no one gives a shit about, he always wanted to give those filmmakers the biggest possible stage and what bigger a stage than the home of independent cinema in New York City? Everyone wants to screen a film in New York. Those of a certain age in the UK have grown up dreaming of NYC, every single film in the 80s and 90s was set there; I myself have been in love with New York ever since Home Alone 2 and Ghostbusters. So the idea of running a film festival in this city was just unreal but what Tom sets his mind to, Tom usually gets and so Bootleg was on its travels across the Atlantic once more.

1268258_534975789916338_1781079258_o

The calibre of films for New York went up ten-fold. It was tough to decide the programme and because this time we had a venue to pay for (the Banshee was free in Edinburgh) we had less time slots to fill and so less films. We decided upon quality as our guide. At the time we didn’t know New York would be the last Bootleg but anyway we wanted it to be the best Bootleg in terms of quality films. Since we were screening at the Tribeca Film Center (Robert DeNiro’s private screening room with Harvey Winstein’s office above) we wanted this festival to be all about the movies we screened and the filmmakers who made them. We weren’t having music, comedy or karaoke like we did at Edinburgh and Toronto so people had to be blown away by what they saw and not the razzmatazz around it all. We were really strict with there would be no slack, no freebees and no excuses. In many ways Bootleg NYC resembled Bootleg Glasgow more than any of the other Bootlegs. Glasgow was one room with the films and filmmakers front and centre, so was New York. It had all come full circle.

2013-09-26 12.07.33

Many of us were making the trip to New York; Tom, Jeff, Cim, Nikki , Phil Giley (a legend of a man, who volunteered to be chief photographer having taken snaps at both Toronto and Edinburgh) and me myself. And it turned out that we weren’t the only ones; tons of people were making the trip from the UK and beyond.

John McPhail, a filmmaker from Glasgow whose film Notes won an Award at Bootleg Edinburgh, was coming over with his latest short V For Visa. John is another one of those people it’s impossible not to like, he bubbles with energy and enthusiasm and he completely encapsulated everything that Bootleg is all about. He was kind enough to share his experience of Bootleg with me;

“Bootleg means a hell of a lot me. When I think of bootleg I don’t think of my first award or first screening, i think of all the people I’ve met on my journey, the people who want to support me, who have supported me, and the people who are there to lend a hand. It was a fantastic festival to be a part of and it’s a massive part of my film making career and always will be.”

2013-09-26 12.05.27

Ryd Cook also made the journey over to New York as he had a new short Buccanearly and we were giving it its World Premiere;

 “I met up with Tom by chance in London in late 2012.Tom informed me that Bootleg was happening TWICE in 2013. Edinburgh & New York. He also asked me if I would like to screen a film in New York as part of the “All Stars” programme. I was over the moon and honoured to have been asked. I told him I didn’t have a film ready, but I could make one in time, and he trusted me to do so. So i went ahead and made the film. I knew I was heading for NYC. Before I knew it (after a 4 week adventure down the west coast of North America) I was there. I was in filmmaker heaven; Bootleg NYC. Familiar faces from Bootleg Toronto greeted me, as well as Neil Rolland (only the second time I’d met him). It felt fantastic. Bootleg NYC was a stunning collection of films, as well as many brilliant filmmakers attending the fest. Directors, writers, composers, editors and so on. You name it. I met John McPhail who is like a long lost twin, feels like we’ve known each other for ever. Bootleg NYC was bittersweet as I knew it was the last but what a way to go out! I had a blast with the Bootleg Family again, and what an incredible place to do it, the Tribeca Film Centre blew my mind, literally between the Ghostbusters firehouse and the Tribeca Skatepark. This was meant to be.”

Fillmmaker, Matt-Willis Jones, who is based in Oslo Norway, had one of his films screen at Bootleg Edinburgh. He submitted another to Bootleg New York and we were all fans of his quirky humour. When Matt heard that Bootleg New York was to be the last ever Bootleg, he booked his flight to join us;

“As a filmmaker trying to get your film out there, you routinely send your masterpieces to various festivals and eagerly await the inevitable rejection emails. Occasionally you get acceptance letters. This is most likely due to a fault with the festival’s mailing system – but regardless, you send you film in, and hope nobody notices the error until after your film has been screened. But when this happens twice with the same festival, once in Edinburgh and again in NYC, you start to wonder how an organisations mailing system can be quite so faulty. To save the organisers any further embarrassment I flew out to NYC to see for myself.”

More and more filmmakers from across the pantheon of Bootlegs joined together to celebrate what had been a life changing 5 years.

2013-09-26 11.57.21

Bootleg NYC was intimate, it was special and it was exactly as it should have been. The atmosphere, camaraderie and love resembled exactly my first experience in Glasgow. It was a band of rag-tag filmmakers joining together connected by the fact that we all have the same passion, desire and dream to make movies. Matt-Willis Jones, again, sums it up so perfectly here;

“My films have been to over 20 festivals in the past year, some big, some small. But the Bootleg festival turned out to be the most rewarding. In many ways it’s more of a filmmakers’ conference than just a festival of screenings. Bootleg gave us our first interview, and also the first write up of our films. Not to mention the gold mine of information I gained from the guest speakers and Tom himself. What made Bootleg different is the emphasis is on ‘what now’ rather than merely ‘well done’. It’s truly a filmmaker event, not just a place for an audience to watch some great movies. Which reminds me: to have your films screened among such a high calibre of filmmaking is an award in itself.”

The final hours of Bootleg New York were spent in a bar reminiscing about the past five years while also immersed in conversations with new friends and collaborators. We all knew it was the end of something but it was also the beginning of something else.

2013-09-26 11.50.35

The Bootlegacy

What made Bootleg special were the people; the filmmakers and their films. The folk who embraced Bootleg got the most out of it. There were loads of filmmakers who ignored the fest, even when their films were selected (and had even won awards) they still had no interest in this little thing called Bootleg, but for those who jumped in fully; they took away so much.

I’ll never know exactly how Bootleg came across to other people. I’m sure there are many who saw it as an exclusive club that they could never be a part of; but that was never the case, it really was an open environment that attempted to be welcoming to all who left their ego at the side. As we all know filmmakers have egos, hell I know I have one but the ability to let it go, to care about others as well as (and above) yourself, well that’s a wonderful thing and that’s what I got at Bootleg.

Tom Wilton is a humble man, someone who never asks for thanks but someone who deserves the thanks of hundreds of filmmakers from across the world and for those people (and from me) I say thank you. Thank you Tom for everything you have done for me and so many others; for all the inspiration and encouragement, for the platform and the plaudits. You created something out of nothing, a little corner of the world where connections were made and a family were brought up to maturity. Many films have and will be made because of what you did and the world is a better place because of Bootleg. The filmmakers and the films will be the Bootlegacy and I cannot wait to see what’s created now the foundation has been built so high.

Bootleg-Film-Festival-01

Filmmakers’ Feedback

I put out a call to anyone who had crossed paths with Bootleg to let them feedback about their experiences. The final part of this review will be about the Bootlegacy from the filmmakers; now Bootleg is over what does it leave behind? I’ve had my say, now it’s over to everyone else.

bootleg_film_festival

What has Bootleg done for you?

“Bootleg totally revitalized my desire to make movies. After I made Say It Like It Is I wanted to bury it. I never thought I was over with making movies, I just thought it would take me a long time to recover and move away from it. Screening it at Bootleg and getting positive feedback was so incredible and beyond anything I had imagined a few months prior to being there. Beyond that, Bootleg has connected me with so many filmmakers I consider friends now and shaped that network I was looking for when I was alone trying to make my first film.”

Maria McIndoo (screened feature film Say It Like It Is at Bootleg Edinburgh)

“Bootleg has given me a greater understanding of art. Bootleg has enabled me to meet people that I am in awe of. Doers, people who don’t hear the word No. Stubborn folk at times and complex individuals but visionaries and creators. I got to ask these guys questions about life, the universe and everything. I am better because of Bootleg, it opened my eyes, ears and mind.”

Gavin Ellis (Associate Director of Bootleg)

“It gave me the chance to see my first film on the big screen, surrounded by people who love films and filmmaking as much as I do.”

Ana Gonzalez Bello (star of feature film Communion, which screened at Bootleg NYC)

“Bootleg was the first festival to show our film and not only that but awarded us best feature screenplay and best lead actor. Since making the film we had all become a bit despondent through the lack of support and encouragement we found within the festival scene, bootleg’s recognition reignited our passion and gave us a new found confidence in our abilities as writers and film makers.”

Oliver Semple (Writer and Producer of feature film Kenneth that screened at Bootleg Edinburgh).

“Bootleg was the first festival that I ever screened at – as a fledgling filmmaker I really took its “I CAN I WILL I DID” mantra to heart and decided that I wasn’t going to wait for opportunities to come my way, but create my own.”

Rob Savage (writer/director of Sex Scene that screened at Bootleg Swansea and feature film Strings that screened at Bootleg Edinburgh)

“Bootleg was our first ever film festival. It has the most friendly welcoming and fun atmosphere I’d never expected from a film festival and helped raise the profile of our film. And now thanks to you guys, no other festival will ever live up to it…..Thanks a bunch guys! No seriously thanks a bunch!”

Deloris Collins (screened Once Upon a Time at Bootleg Edinburgh)

“Bootleg has given me motivation and strength to keep on writing scenarios, hoping that one day I’ll actually shoot one of them. Seeing so many young and broke filmmakers convinced me I could also do it.”

Letizia Finizio (audience member at Bootleg Edinburgh)

“What hasn’t Bootleg done for me? Starts by being the first festival to accept my first film, when I attended it I was given the confidence to keep on the path I was on. I received my first award which not only is a pat on the back but a massive thumbs up to my team and I to keep doing what we are doing. Since then my team and I have grown in confidence made another 3 films and are on the right path.”

John McPhail (writer/director of Notes that screened at Bootleg Edinburgh and V For Visa that screened at Bootleg NYC)

“Made me realise how much brilliant filmmaking talent there is in the world, beavering away in the undergrowth, generally producing far more original and exciting work than ever makes its way to our cinema screens.  It’s also helped enormously, by example, with my late flowering screenwriting. Finally, I’ve met loads of talented, fascinating, weird, outrageous, stimulating people I would not otherwise have had the opportunity to discover. Which is a long-winded way of saying that What Bootleg Has Done For Me is to give me a massive dose of INSPIRATION.”

Michael Daviot (star of Extra Time that screened at Bootleg Edinburgh)

“Bootleg has provided a platform to not only screen my work to an audience but also to spread word about me as a filmmaker which is also incredibly important.”

James Webber (screened Driftwood at Bootleg NYC)

“My films have been to over 20 festivals in the past year, some big, some small. But the Bootleg festival turned out to be the most rewarding. In many ways it’s more of a filmmakers conference than just a festival of screenings. Bootleg gave us our first interview, and also the first write up of our films. Not to mention the gold mine of information i gained from the guest speakers and Tom himself. What made Bootleg different is the emphasis is on ‘what now’ rather than merely ‘well done’. It’s truly a filmmaker event, not just a place for an audience to watch some great movies. Which reminds me: to have your films screened among such a high calibre of filmmaking is an award in itself. They really must get that email system fixed….”

Matt-Willis Jones (screened A Short Film About Conformity at Bootleg Edinburgh and A Short Film About Freedom at Bootleg NYC)

“Introduced me to some great films and great people.  Bootleg was one of the best festivals I have been to as there was so much enthusiasm and no egos.  The guys did a great job bringing the festival to life and it’s going to be missed.”

Deanna Dewey (screened Tales of the Troll at Bootleg Edinburgh)

“It bestowed on my eyes the wonderful films of Yeast, a documentary on American Rugby in Australia and an indie romance about a schizophrenic artist. Interesting stuff. Also I saw the greatest film which debuted in Edinburgh 2013 called Say It Like It Is. I loved how the first time movie directors talked about their work/process over a free-formed panel discussion.”

Francesca Altamura (audience member at Bootleg Edinburgh)

“Bootleg gave me the opportunity to premiere my latest films in a public environ while still being surrounded and supported by friends. That wonderful mix of family and an audience is not found anywhere else.”

Justin Kelly (screened The Seder at Bootleg Toronto and A Song For Torah Jane ast Bootleg NYC)

“Because of Bootleg I got to meet some amazing filmmakers and people. It was an inspiring experience that I will never forget. Plus, it was also the first festival to accept my film. It has open doors for me that were otherwise closed.”

Brian Barlow (screened Bridge’s New Jacket at bootleg NYC)

“I felt like I grew up a lot during Bootleg. It spanned from the middle of my university career to my post-graduation. When you’re young and new to the game, it’s nice to have a welcoming environment where you can actually make friends as opposed to being a just another cog in the unpaid intern machine. After being one of these unpaid interns for a few years, it seemed like a nice place to come home to, and Bootleg truly is.”

Nikki Yee (Associate Director of Bootleg)

“It’s put me in contact with so many great filmmakers and people. Opening up opportunities across the board for me.”

Louis Clark (part of the media team from Bootleg Edinburgh

“Bootleg has really opened my eyes to a whole new world of film – the back of house aspects.  As someone who has always been interested in production and the “”behind the scenes”” aspects of film, being involved in this film festival has given me even more knowledge of the processes that go into making these incredible visions.  In addition, the friendships made and renewed are the greatest possible payoff one could have ever hoped for!!!!”

Cimberly Nesker (Associate Director of Bootleg)

“Back in 2008 it gave me that initial boost early on that it was worth making my film. People had seen it on a big screen and responded to it. People had given me constructive feedback that meant I could take a step forward. This was absolutely invaluable to me. Every filmmaker wants their work on the big screen, it was a small dream come true.

Toronto 2012 was just gigantic for me. I’d put my all into the creation of Thrown and after an initial excellent screening in Cambridge; nothing was happening with it. Even screening in Toronto meant the world to me; but getting an award was unexpected and life affirming. This was a huge dream come true. it boosted the film in that it got 3 more festival screenings, it’s online release earlier this year was huge, reaching over 1000 views and getting featured in my local Newspaper. I consider the film to be my greatest success. And I swear that the film may not have even existed without Bootleg’s (& Tom’s) influence & inspiration on me very early on.

Being an award winning filmmaker has boosted my credentials as a filmmaker, as well as a filmmaking teacher. I knew I was a filmmaker before, but now I can say it with more umph. I AM A FILMMAKER.

New York was just an unbelievable opportunity for me. Knowing I had a screening in New York just blew my mind. And it blows everyone else’s too. Getting out there and seeing all the Q&A’s from other filmmakers is always interesting, and educational. Every filmmaker should see other films, meet other filmmakers and chat. You just must, it’s essential. Bootleg creates this no bullshit, no fancy pancy, down to earth atmosphere. Where everyone is on the same level. Everyone feels a home. Post screening drinks & parties have been some of the best in my life. Because of the fantastic people. Anyone arrogant, self righteous or pretentious doesn’t understand it, and thus, they miss out.

Bootleg has made me a filmmaker, inspired me to carry on being a filmmaker, it has taught me how to be a better filmmaker, it has shown me the some of the best indie films, it has created some of my strongest friendships, it has provided me with knowledge & experience I could not get elsewhere, it is a huge part of who I am.”

Ryd Cook (screened Away at Bootleg Glasgow, Thrown at Bootleg Toronto and Buccanearly at Bootleg New York)

“After experiencing a bit of the NYC film festival scene, I feel like I was in a discouraged state. Much like a lot of the other people I met at Bootleg. But I feel like not only did I meet some of the most amazing filmmakers I could imagine, and get to join in an extremely supportive community, I also had my faith returned in my own craft, and the art form in general. It showed me a different side to filmmaking that was integral to where I am in my career and continuing my passion.”

Kris Byrnes (screened Bind at Bootleg New York)

“A better question might be – “What hasn’t Bootleg done for you?” Through my experiences with Bootleg, I’ve made lifelong friends all over the world, met kindred sprits, seen far too many great films, and had far too many great times. It has made me a better filmmaker.  It has made me a better person.”

Jeffery P Nesker (Director of Bootleg Toronto and Bootleg).

images

What does Bootleg mean to you?

“It means a lot and the end of it I think marks a new era for everyone that was involved. It is so exciting to see so many people take it into their own hands to just make something- and I love people finding that inspiration within the festival from other’s work. I think it means what Tom said in his closing speech- just use what they’ve worked so hard to build, and it will all have been worth it.”

Maria McIndoo

“Bootleg means: honesty, directness, reality, plans, great people, great films, purpose, worthwhile networking, and a bit of jet lag. It also meant a great time. Love.”

Matt-Willis Jones

“Besides being a place to showcase emerging filmmakers, the amount of effort put in by the organizers to spotlight the films on the program was unprecedented. It’s inspiring to know there is a festival that works so hard to help promote filmmakers.”

Evan Marlowe (screened Smasheroo at Bootleg NYC)

“Bootleg = Family, somehow I have become an Associate director of the greatest film festival. We took the world on when everyone was telling us it wouldn’t work. It has shown me that anything is possible. That one man’s dreams can inspire and encapsulate all of those it touches. Suddenly we all had something in common.“

Gavin Ellis

“What I saw in Bootleg was a family, a group people who have a great passion for making films whenever, whatever way possible, without any barriers and overcoming second-guessing and doubt; a group of people who want to give other passionate filmmakers the chance to show their work. I love that. I think the slogan I can, I will, I did, sums up how I want my life in the acting business to be always.”

Ana Gonzalez Bello

“I cannot overestimate the feeling of satisfaction I had after winning the best screenplay award for Kenneth, it has to be one of the highlights of my entire life. But Bootleg was much more than that for all of us at Monster Island Films, it was and always will be the first festival to give us a chance and treat us seriously as film makers within a friendly, warm and inviting environment and for that we will all be forever grateful.”

Oliver Semple

“Bootleg is about having something to say that is unique and personal. It’s about not forcing that idea through the crucible of development meetings or test screenings, but ripping the film from your chest and putting it on the screen. For better or worse, nothing at the Bootleg Film Festival is ever compromised.”

Rob Savage

“Neil, Tom, Jeff, you make Bootleg an unbelievably amazing experience. With no other festival like it, it will be sorely missed. There’s a hole in the world without it. I am sorely jealous of everyone who got to go to Bootleg NY and enjoy its final days. If I’d have known…well I still wouldn’t have been able to afford the trip, ha ha. But what’s worse is there won’t be another Bootleg! Bootleg Edinburgh is a memory I will never ever forget and lots of love to you guys for making such a memorable & fantastic experience.”

Deloris Collins

“A great independent festival that helped indie filmmmakers reach a wider audience.”

Jamie Hooper (screened Plastic Love at Bootleg Edinburgh)

“Bootleg means anyone can make a film if they want to.”

Letizia Finizio

“Bootleg means a hell of a lot me. When I think of bootleg I don’t think of my first award or first screening, i think of all the people I’ve met on my journey, the people who want to support me, who have supported me, and the people who are there to lend a hand. It was a fantastic festival to be a part of and it’s a massive part of my film making career and always will be.”

John McPhail

“Encouragement, Inspiration & Hope.”

Michael Daviot

“I’ve been lucky enough to be screened at quite a few festivals now, big and small, around the world but Bootleg is different to almost all of them. It’s a festival by filmmakers for filmmakers. The team behind Bootleg know the blood, sweat and tears that go into making a film and I think that it is this passion that makes the Bootlegacy that extra bit special.”

James Webber

“To me it means a great two hours plus an added bonus of pub chillin’ with all these cool film people, of which I would never have met otherwise. “

Francesca Altamura

“An extended family made up of like-minded artists.”

Justin Kelly

“Bootleg means a lot to me. After being turned down by every other film festival (so far), I was feeling discouraged. Bootleg proved that there are people out there that enjoy what I do. Talking to Tom was one of the highlights of attending Bootleg. I learned a lot from his experience in making features, inspired by his work ethic (three films in one year), and amazed by his infectious enthusiasm. Bootleg may be gone but really it’s not.”

Brian Barlow

“Seriously? The second night of Bootleg Toronto we did karaoke and that weirdly brought all of us together. That’s when I knew that I felt closer to these people than I did with other people I met at film festivals. But here’s some other things that will always remind me of Bootleg: Gavin’s amazing dress shirts, Phil’s sneak attack photos of me, Grabes’ terrific commitment to karaoke, Cim being my festival mom, Jeff being my festival brother (and singing “Love Shack” with both of them), bonding with Neil because we’re both bitches, and most importantly, Tom Wilton’s choreographed dance to “Pony” by Ginuwine.”

Nikki Yee

“It’s difficult to put into words, I only hope now that I can go out there and show everyone who put bootleg together what it means to me.”

Louis Clark

“Bootleg, to me, is a dream that became a reality – created by one of the most genuinely beautiful and pure people in the world to bring film makers together and expand the knowledge and passion that he exudes with every breath.  The bonds created each and every year have been some of the best relationships I have had the privilege of having.”

Cimberly Nesker

“Bootleg means so much to me it’s hard to write this down. I feel it is about celebrating the indie filmmaker, it’s about us indie filmmakers celebrating each other. It’s about saying i will make a film, making it and getting it out there. Bootleg has inspired people to say “”I will”” it’s allowed people to get the connections to do it, and it provides a platform for those talented filmmakers who’ve done it. All at a down to earth, human, non-pretentious level. It’s a beautiful beautiful thing. And it is absolutely necessary.

Tom has taken us chatting on the Meadows forum about each other’s films in a small corner of the Internet, and made it happen in real life and on the big screen. All over the world. It’s amazing. I have a huge amount of love for Bootleg and what it stands for.”

Ryd Cook

“Bootleg is a symbol of all self-starters and filmmakers that buck the status-quo that is the current bureaucracy of the industry. It stands for all of us who continue to do what we love in the face of adversity and insurmountable odds, not alone, but together.”

Kris Byrnes

“Bootleg means the world to me.  It stands alone at a mountaintop.  We should be so proud of what we’ve accomplished in five short years, and excited by the future, now that we are taking a break to concentrate on our own endeavours.  We have created a worldwide network of colleagues that would take a bullet for each other.  We have inspired and motivated hundreds of people to make great art.  In all measures I’d care to calculate, we have been a resounding success.”

Jeffery P Nesker

522397_451541368259781_1437072918_n

Conclusion

I want to wrap this all up with two posts from other people. Gavin Ellis wrote a poem that I will share with you, something creative inspired by something creative.

 “With one man’s dream and vision in hand
We headed to Bootleg Toronto unplanned
Much work input, a mass consumer of time
Seeking out, the new, the bold and sublime
Until we left and from the moment started
Nothing was half arsed or half-hearted
Our sanity questioned, our very souls bared
Everything came right when art was aired
Positivity blossomed, camaraderie formed
Leaving memories long and friendships warmed
All expectations exceeded and quickly overthrown
From the depths of humanity came effort unknown
What was ‘his’ became ‘ours’ as ‘I’ became ‘we’
Our new found international family
You gave us strength and the belief to empower
The chance to view from our creative tower
We drew blood from stones, turned great from good
Never asking why, or wondering if we could
With a new found chivalry, we treated each other
Offering hot coffee or warm bosom of mother
Time and money were spent, we could barely afford
We all closed our eyes and jumped onboard
Our experience quickly reimbursed our debt
Replaced by memories we shall never forget
No drink, drugs or concoction of potion
Can ever recreate that mixed bag of emotion
Our phobias conquered, our problems solved
Much more than much love to all involved”

And the final words I will hand over to a filmmaker, Stephanie Hough, whose film Heart screened at Bootleg NYC. I didn’t know Stephanie before her screening in New York and even afterwards we got to chat but not greatly. I always wonder what’s going on in the minds of those filmmakers who attend the festival but who perhaps for whatever reason I don’t spend a lot of time with. Stephanie emailed me her thoughts and I was just so humbled by them. They exemplify everything that Bootleg means to me and what I think Bootleg was meant to be.

TomW

I thank you so much for reading this, for being a part of Bootleg in whatever way you were, whether a diehard veteran of five years ago or just someone who stumbled upon this page. Bootleg holds a very special place in my heart and I will always be thankful to Tom and the Bootleggers for their time, patience, encouragement, support and friendship. Together we rise, forever we soar.

“It’s hard to say yet what Bootleg has done for me as I am still processing one of the most significant experiences I’ve had as a filmmaker.

When I first found out my film HEART was going to be screened in this year’s fest, I was beyond excited. As a student filmmaker, this was the first time my work was screening in NYC (a huge dream come true!) After pulling some strings, I was able to arrange to stay with some friends in Brooklyn and attend the screening.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I’ve been working at festivals for almost 10 years, and work at a non-profit film school and exhibition program in Portland, so I am no stranger to the festival world. When I arrived at the TriBeca Film Center, I was excited and nervous to have my little film screened in such an incredible space. I was immediately greeted by Tom, Neil and the rest of the Bootleg crew – and was a little taken aback when everyone knew me and my film, personally greeted me and were so engaged in my experience. The screening and Q & A went great and will certainly be one of those moments I always remember.

What stands out most to me from the fest though wasn’t necessarily my film screening, or the other AMAZING films I had the pleasure of viewing during the fest, but was Tom’s “goodbye” speech before the awards. His words were so moving and inspiring – I sat in the audience with tears. What he had to say about independent filmmaking, building a supportive community and why we continue making films even through the worst challenges and set-backs will always stick with me.
I submitted my film to Bootleg not knowing much about the festival. I left Bootleg full of hope, inspiration, community, strength and appreciation. I wish every festival could be like this one; run by an incredible team of passionate, supportive, understanding human beings who know what it is like to be an independent artist and will rally to support one another through the good and bad.

Something really special happened in NYC for me. As cheesy as it may sound, I will always carry a torch that was lit by this festival.”

Peace, Love and Bootleg.

Neil

550045_451070354973549_924423699_n

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “I Can. I Will. I Did. Bootleg and the Bootlegacy”

  1. Amazing, I’m in tears. That’s not happened in a while! x I’m so proud of this and all my fellow Bootleggers who made this work. I love & miss all you guys and gutted that this particular light of my world has gone out. I am thankful for everything you gave. We made it work.
    Neil – such beautiful words & work.
    Peace Love & Bootleg forever.
    Looking forward to the 10 year anniversary reunion.

  2. Oh my lord, Neil. I had to read this in stages due to the tears. Beautiful, beautiful piece that really does a phenomenal job of capturing what these last 5 years have done and how many people this little festival touched. It’s a beautiful thing Tom created that we can all carry a bit of in our hearts and souls forever. “I can. I will. I did” has never had such a profound interpretation. Peace, Love & Bootleg.
    Cim

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s