Images courtesy of Watersprite
Lights, camera, action...
Watersprite: The Cambridge International Student Film Festival bringing student-made films into the spotlight.
In a world where famous festivals show films shot on smartphones and anyone can have a YouTube channel, how is the budding student filmmaker to get their work noticed? And the discerning audience member to find new films of note?
Watersprite is the Cambridge international student film festival, showcasing student filmmaking talent from around the world. It’s completely free to attend and to submit entries. Submissions just have to be made by students and less than 20 minutes long.
Over the years, the festival has received entries from over 85 different countries across five continents, and awarded more than 150 bursaries to filmmakers to come to the event in Cambridge. All shortlisted films are screened during the festival, alongside a series of events with established industry figures.
This year’s festival will take place from 23 to 25 February and the awards’ shortlists are already online.
Student committee members Benedict Welch (Jesus College 2015 - English), Festival Director, and Isobel Leigh (Fitzwilliam College 2016 - MML), Head of Events, talked to us about organising such an ambitious festival and what it means to them.
Q&A with Benedict and Isobel
How did you become involved with Watersprite?
Benedict: I got involved with Watersprite because I’d heard brilliant things about it; a friend of mine was involved with it the year before me and she said it was fantastic experience, especially if you were interested in going into the TV/film industry after graduation. I was also drawn to it because of its international reach; this year we received over 400 short film submissions in our competition, and increased our reach to about 90 countries, which is staggeringly good for something run by students.
Isobel: I’d always been interested in events and organisation, particularly for young people and non-profits, and I’d looked into the different Cambridge societies before freshers' week. I knew that Watersprite was something I wanted to be a part of and it was a great team and experience, so I knew I wanted to continue in second year.
What’s the best thing about organising Watersprite?
Benedict: Like Isobel said, it’s a huge pay-off when the festival itself comes around. Organising Watersprite opens so many doors; you get to meet some of the most celebrated professional filmmakers, while helping to cultivate the next generation’s stars.
Isobel: It’s a long-term and challenging project but the team work so hard towards this one goal and it’s incredible working with people who care so much about the festival. The festival weekend itself is amazing as you see the culmination of the entire committee’s work come to life.
What has been your favourite moment of the Watersprite festivals you’ve been involved with?
Benedict: Last year I was on the committee as the head of awards, so I led a team which coordinated the submissions and judging process. We welcomed more than 30 nominated filmmakers from around the world, and it was such a pleasure to meet them after months of emailing and organising their trips. Our awards ceremony, held at the Fitzwilliam Museum, was a particular highlight for me. We’re still in contact with quite a few of last year’s nominees, so Watersprite really does bring people together.
Isobel: Last year, I was events officer for three events, and meeting the speakers with whom I’d been liaising for weeks, watching the events in action and receiving positive feedback from the speakers about the festival was a great feeling.
What are you most looking forward to at this year’s event? (No spoilers, obviously!)
Benedict: This year, we’re welcoming student filmmakers from the Philippines, USA, Russia, and Israel to name a few, and it’s going to be wonderful to introduce them to Cambridge for the weekend. We also have some exceptional speakers lined up and, as Isobel’s mentioned, an array of more interactive events/opportunities which everyone can get involved with.
Isobel: We have some exciting, more interactive events planned for this year’s festival and I can’t wait to see what the nominees and students think about them.
The Cambridge and Anglia Ruskin student organisers each year are supported by a steering committee made up of professionals from the creative industries, alumni and former volunteers. Hillary Bevan Jones, Emmy award-winning producer and former chairman of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), serves as Festival Chair.
I have now been involved with Watersprite for nine years. The festival continues to celebrate diversity, showcasing and inspiring student filmmakers from around the world, and offers young people from Cambridge a chance to gain some experience, both in creating films and running film festivals
The 2018 festival takes place in Cambridge between 23 and 25 February and is completely free to attend. The full programme will be available from approximately 9 February at www.watersprite.org.uk.
If you’re not able to attend in person, keep an eye on the festival website for details of this year’s winners in late February. Also make sure you take a look at their Facebook page which regularly announces speakers, nominees, sponsorship and other news.
More about Watersprite
The festival’s range of award categories covers different styles and genres, as well as technical aspects. Nominees are judged by juries comprised of industry professionals and students. Submissions open in July and close in October each year, with shortlists announced soon after. The winners are announced at a ceremony during the festival in the spring. There is no cost for submitting entries.
Bursaries for nominees to attend the festival and meet other attendees have been available since 2012 and the prizes are geared towards helping winners build their career. The festival also provides film packages to other festivals, such as last year’s Dhaka International Film Festival.
Notable speakers in previous years have included alumni Olivia Colman (Homerton 1993), Tom Hollander (Selwyn 1985), Stephen Poliakoff (King's 1971) and Eddie Redmayne (Trinity 2000), as well as Lennie Henry, Neil Gaiman and the late Victoria Wood.
The name ‘Watersprite’ commemorates the first festival’s Film of the Year winner 'Who’s afraid of the water sprite?' by William McGregor, in 2010 when the festival was first known as Cam*Era.