Cofilmic’s Debute Festival Chuckles its way to a New Stature
This year held the very first Cofilmic Comedy Film Festival and awards ceremony in the Comedy Store in Deansgate on 31st October and 1st November. Before the event had even started, the number of scripts entered had overwhelmed expectations, with script and production consultant Michael Jacob having shortlisted from over 300 of them! Quantity of interest alone planned for a popular event.
The Beauty of Cofilmic
The idea behind Cofilmic is to help talented people find their way up the comedy ladder. With a host of leading industry experts in the midst as well as awards for the best films created, the potential held within this new festival is phenomenal. The beauty of Cofilmic is that it not only focuses on finding new writers, but actors, comedians and directors too. In fact, anyone held as part of the short comedy film process has the opportunity to network and get themselves known. With such a scope on the cards, it’s easy to see why the submission rate was so high and the turnout so large.
Over the course of two days, the comedy film festival featured audience-panel sessions in the Comedy Store’s auditorium, screening new short films, talks on all the areas of comedy and Q&A sessions with the panelists. One of the highlights has to be the Sketch Writing Competition which had new shortlisted sketches acted out live on stage before the audience and judges. Actor and comedian Steve Royle hosted the event perfectly, putting the audience at ease and warming up their laughter muscles for the main event. Judges included Chair Michael Jacob, editor of the UK’s top comedy guide Chortle Steve Bennett, commissioning editor of Comedy Central Pete Thornton, Little Britain writers Kevin Cecil and Andy Riley and executive producer of 24:7 Festival, David Slack. The audience was also given a chance to vote for their favourite sketch, which was a nice opportunity for viewer interaction.
The sketches themselves were an eclectic mix from the more politically witty to the surreal, and much to the audience’s indulgence, all held strong comedic punch lines. Judge Steve Bennett praised the shortlist: ‘all had a solid idea at their core and some strong jokes around it…The winner ['Believe' by Bex Harvey & Christian Azzola] was unanimous, it was everyone’s favourite. It was perfectly judged, with each tag line adding to the original idea.’ Julie Bowers mixed a couple’s bombshell of divorce amid attempting to win a pub quiz with comedy timing, and a particular pub sketch involving a compulsion to quote films was a witty and well researched treat. However, there was some room for improvement, ‘A lot of them would have benefited from editing,’ explains Bennett, ‘or [even] from the writers hearing their words performed’. With any luck, next year’s submissions will raise the bar even higher.
Following afternoon discussions, from how to make and sell comedy to future predictions in the business, it was the evenings that unveiled new talent; Viewers got to watch the shortlisted films, pilot sitcoms and comedy sketches all hoping to win at the awards ceremony that concluded the festival. Audiences flocked with their drinks and score cards to get a good seat and watch the shortlisted material, and they were not disappointed. Talent was high, and with only one winning spot some well deserved people just missed the mark, but still managed to make the audience laugh and providing some memorable moments. One such person was director Carl Whiteley whose films ‘Order 69’ and ‘Autopsy 51’ made the shortlist. Pilot sitcom ‘Order 69’ followed the first few days of a new band that have just been signed - even managing to get Happy Mondays’ Bez on board for a cameo role – and showed some potential for a future sitcom. Elsewhere, comedian Gary Morris produced some entertaining sketches satirising Duncan Bannatyne from Dragons’ Den, as well as once again proving his comedy acting skills.
As a perfect crescendo to the diverse comedy material celebrated, the Cofilmic Award Ceremony handed out the awards to those chosen by the judges and audience. The winners were as follows:
- Best Comedy Sketch: 'Publishing a Piece', directed by Anton Short, performed by So On And So Forth
Runner up: 'Coffe?' by Simon Balch
- Best Sitcom Pilot: ‘Boxed’ by Paul Murphy
Runner up: 'Ball Street' by Nicholas Bowe
- Best New Comedy Performance: Sarah Hoare in ‘We Are What We Drink’
- Best Short Comedy Film: ‘We Are What We Drink’ by Marc Hardman.
Runner up: 'Truth Prism' by Slaughterhouse Live.
- Audience Vote Awards: ‘Buzz Dish’ by Dave Spikey, ‘Dwain Chambers Life Guru’, ‘The Office Orphan’ by Dave Lilley & ‘Bronte Sisters’ directed by The History Girls.
Networking and the Future
Throughout all of this, Cofilmic’s creator Janet Harrison was sure to include some important networking opportunities, where anyone looking to get into the business met other like minded people. Set within the Store’s upstairs bar, the atmosphere allowed people to chat with ease. It is this aspect that makes the Cofilmic short film festival so important; part of Harrison’s reason for creating the festival was in order to encourage a heritage of comedy in the North West, and networking is at the heart of this if new talent is to set the path for the future.
The Awards Ceremony didn’t mark the end until next year. In the meantime, submissions will be gathered once again with the hope of finding even more new talent for next year’s festival. Janet Harrison has also been busy creating a number of learning opportunities through the Cofilmic Talent Development Programmes, which will be launching in January 2012. The first of these programmes will be a six week course aptly named ‘Making and Selling TV Comedy’, producing a step by step route into the industry. Leading the programme will be David Isaac, writer and creator of Lunch Monkeys and contributor to Not Going Out and Life of Riley. Including a multitude of additional guests and commissioners, anyone taking part in the course is guaranteed to benefit from advice straight from the horses’ mouths. To register an interest or find out more information, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow it on Twitter: @cofilmic.