Film feast to return next year as organisers hail success of Manchester’s first festival

The Manchester International Film Festival has been dubbed a huge success… despite some personal pain for one of its founders in the process!

Co-founders Neil Jeram-Croft, 34, and Al Bailey, 36, say they were thrilled with the success of the festival and have already confirmed the event will be back next year.

With more than 70 films and thousands of happy film-lovers – not to mention filmmakers – the pair can be rightly proud of theirs and the festival’s success.

But the whole process of organising and staging the event wasn’t without it’s hiccups, as Al found out.

He fell down the stairs and broke two ribs the day before him and Neil were due to fly out to the Berlin Independent Film Festival to do some market research in February.

But all’s well that ends well and, speaking to MM, the founders spoke of their pride at filmmakers’ reaction to the first event.

Neil said: “It was a great validation and hearing the filmmakers talking about the festival and saying it outshines some established festivals they’d visited was fantastic.

“Having so many of the attendees stop and congratulate us and say ‘Manchester needs something like this’ is real proof there is a huge audience for quality independent film in the city.”

For the pair, who are both filmmakers at The Film Mill production company, it seemed strange that a city as large as Manchester didn’t have its own film festival.

Al, a writer, said: “We were sure we could put on a festival that we would be proud of, having learnt what we liked and didn’t about other festivals.

“Once Neil formed the opinion that it was something feasible we then took our time to research other festivals and see why some events really worked and gained an identity and why some didn’t.

“We then started the process of putting all our plans into action.”

The pair then had the enviable pleasure of whittling down the selection from over 1,000 submitted films and said the final result this weekend was a ‘film-lovers party’.

No doubt in the coming years Manchester will thank the pair for their efforts in creating this cultural calendar event.

For Manchester the pair feel the festival means the city can ‘further extend its claim to be the centre of culture in the North of England’.

Neil, a producer, said: “The city already has such a proud heritage in film and this will further add to that.

“Bringing filmmakers from all over the world to Manchester and showing them what we had to offer was great, for many it was their first time here and they’ve all commented on what a cool vibrant city it is.

“They are all going home with an amazing impression of Manchester.”

One proud centre of culture in Manchester seemed absent from the festivities: HOME, a real supporter of independent and international film in the city.

“HOME was obviously considered but we set about finding our location seven to eight months ago which was when HOME was being built, so reaching out to them proved difficult,” Al said.

“When we approached AMC they were really excited about the project from the off and came on board as a partner which was amazing for us.

“We love the Great Northern as a whole. It came on board, as did Manchester 235 with some event space for the filmmakers’ studios and parties.

“With all this support it was a no brainer and the decision to stage the festival there gave us real scope to put our own independent mark on it.

“We really wanted to keep everything under one roof to create a real festival feel.”

The mix of festival goers and curious cinema casuals added to the party atmosphere, as did the box office buskers, on hand to play you into the cinema, promoting Staff Pick award winner Buskin’ Blues.

As for next year the movie maestros have learnt a lot.

Neil said: “We’re glad we [ran so many films] as the programme offered such a vast range of films for people to choose from. Next year we will extend the festival over a week.

“We won’t necessarily increase the number of films in the official selection but what it will mean is that we will have the capacity to have repeat screenings of the same film enabling people to see all the films from the festival.

“We are going to move the festival to a new permanent date earlier in the year. Sun, although sometimes infrequent in Manchester, doesn’t mix well with cinema goers or hard working festival staff running around in the stifling heat!”

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