Cheap Thrills Zero Budget Film Festival Falls Silent

Cheap Thrills Zero Budget Film Festival
Friday 12 May, Christchurch, Pitsmoor Road, S3 9AQ

Now this is brilliant. I was getting bored with the project, but suddenly I’m interested again.

We have been running the Cheap Thrills Zero Budget Film Festival since 2011. Like many of my projects, it was a joke to begin with. Sheffield is full of slightly poe-faced film festivals. I thought one aimed at non-filmmakers was a funny idea, and it turns out it was also very engaging.

We use the old derelict chapel in Burngreave Cemetery, put a big screen up as high as we can, light the place, get a popcorn machine, turn it into a cinema and put on a three-hour show with intervals and refreshments, all for free. There are four rules:

  1. Films must be short – 20 minutes if it’s brilliant, but preferably three minutes.
  2. Films must be cheap – You can put your own money in if you want, but no form of external funding is allowed.
  3. Films must be child friendly – Everyone is welcome to watch, so keep it clean.
  4. Films must be entertaining – This is the best one, the reason for our success, and the one so many festivals seem to forget about.

I have Parkinson’s, so my ability to edit films for people is going. Once I lost that very local connection, it started to feel like any old film festival. For various reasons, we skipped last year. The only thing we did down in the Cemetery was a projection of a Zeppelin raid onto the outside of the building to mark the centenary of the first raids on Sheffield.

I got talking to Carlos, who had experience of playing musical accompaniment to silent movies. I found out he was a moderately famous international concert pianist and that he was coming back in May to finish a qualification. I inquired later and yes, he remembered our conversation, and yes, he would love to accompany a silent movie.

Now, a man with any sense would have been satisfied with that, but I couldn’t help but think, ‘I wonder if anyone else would like to play along to a silent movie.’ It turns out plenty of people do, so I advertised for movies, and have to date received 480 international entries – most of which are totally unsuitable, but that still leaves dozens of contenders.

The old chapel in the Cemetery has been refrigerating all winter and it offers insufficient space and lacks reliable electrics. So what do we have?

We have a venue, Christchurch on Pitsmoor Road, big and warm with comfy seats, a kitchen, a pipe organ, a stage and a welcoming attitude. To you non-Christians who may be put off entering a church, I can only say that I am a vocal atheist and feel perfectly at ease there. They like to engage with the whole community. This event is open to all and you are all very welcome.

We have films. My sons have each made one, as have I. We have other local films, some old, some new. We have a showing of a 20s British comedy on the long defunct 9.5mm film format – by my postman…

And we have musicians: Sheffield folk legends Haze, soloist sensation India McKellar, local hero bongo Bert, the gentle comedy of the Pitsmoor Ladies Ukulele Chorale, and the unique Sarah Sharp. Others may step up, but haven’t confirmed yet.

Apart from all that, I have a couple of hundred more films to wade through, before final decisions are made, we need volunteers to form a foley sound effects team. I need to organise catering, publicity and signage. Busy, busy…

What can you do? Volunteers on the night will be put to good use. A cook would be good, as well as ushers (bring a torch), and cake and tea helpers. As for the rest of you… well, put 12 May in your diary, come dressed as if you were attending The Oscars – oh, and of course, bring a cake. See you there.

Martin Currie


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