“Screenwave is all about bringing new film experiences to regional NSW audiences,” says Dave Horsley, who along with wife Kate Howat, is responsible for ‘Screenwave’, the Coffs Harbour-based film company connecting cinephiles and movie lovers from all walks of life. (Image credit ‘And the Trees’ Photography).
The fourth Screenwave International Film Festival (SWIFF) opens here on the Coffs Coast Thursday 10th January. With 60 feature films and 22 shorts in the program, (many of which will be showing in Bellingen over the two week film festival), there really will be something for everyone.
We had a chance to catch up with Dave on the eve of this exciting festival.
You and Kate moved to Coffs Harbour from Queensland in 2014. Was it always your plan to create a film company on the Coffs Coast?
We were actually on our way to Melbourne and were only making a short stop in Coffs. Kate is from Coffs originally. We realised while we were in Coffs that we were only a minute from the beach, a short drive to the mountains, and that we would inevitably end back here anyway – so why not cut out the middle man? Besides, Melbourne doesn’t need any more film festivals – the Coffs Coast community does. So this is home. Not leaving anytime soon.
What were your initial goals with Screenwave and have they been met?
Like many creatives, our goal was always to make a living doing what we love – which is anything to do with film. We now have a couple of film companies (Screenwave, Film Outreach Australia) and last year we employed our first Screenwave recruit.
Has film always been your passion?
I picked up the film bug in my teens – the films of Kubrick and Coppolla and Fincher, and went to film school writing and directing. I worked on feature films and smaller projects in Canada for a few years after graduating. Kate worked in production (acting) and later with the Brisbane International Film Festival and the Gallery of Modern Arts’ Australian Cinematheque. So yes, it has always been film!
I can imagine that being regional brings its own set of challenges and yet you are powering forward. What is your secret?
It takes a whole community to have a successful festival – including a team of sponsors that benefit from the festival’s success. We’ve got big plans for SWIFF in years to come, so it’s great to see so many sponsors have jumped on in these early years.
The fourth SWIFF festival commences January 10th. How would you describe the collection of films for this year’s festival?
In a word – eclectic. You’ve got light-hearted feel-good comedies like Hearts Beat Loud, docos with gravitas like Ghosthunter, and second wave Aussie first features like Under the Cover of Cloud – which every Australian should watch. With 60 features and 22 shorts in the program, it’s hard to sum up – it will be a different experience for everyone.
Soda_Jerk’s ‘Terror Nullius’ is an interesting choice for opening night- can you give a brief summation of this controversial film?
It’s a video mash-up (think The Avalanches, but for film) updating Aussie films from the last 50 years putting it under the ethics microscope of modern day Australia. Totally hilarious (think Mad Max’s The Humongous with a Southern Cross tattoo) and technically seamless with editing and After Effects.
What are some of this year’s SWIFF highlights?
For me: You Were Never Really Here, Three Identical Strangers, Terror Nullius, Under the Cover of Cloud, Shoplifters, Nextwave Youth Film Awards (20 short films), Minding the Gap, Emocean, Backtrack Boys and Gasper Noe’s Climax, for the brave.
So who are the major players/partners that make the festival possible?
Too many to do justice here. Between SWIFF and our youth Nextwave program, there are 60 organisations that provide funding or in-kind support. There’s over 40 volunteers – and then all of the groups and different people in the community that help spread the word around, making group bookings, seeing a bunch of films etc. Safe to say that both Councils, Arts Mid North Coast, Southern Cross Uni, The Observatory Holiday Apartments, Element Bar, 5 Church Street, Axis IQ, Coopers beer, and Seppelt wine make a major contribution to SWIFF happening.
21 of the 60 film features will be shown at the Bellingen Memorial Hall over the 2 weekends- January 11th-13th and January 19th and 20th. How do you select which films to show at this satellite venue?
Well long-term it’s our aim to have Bello’s Mem Hall screening every day of the festival. We’re slowly adding new sessions and screening days as crowds increase. We choose films that we feel will resonate more with our Bellingen fans for Mem Hall. Some films are restricted because of their available screening formats – major studios won’t provide films unless they’re on the latest digital projection technology. The Jetty Theatre has just installed a $110,000 screen and projector upgrade that has opened up many new options for premieres and films in Coffs. Hopefully sometime in the near future Bellingen’s Memorial Hall will have the same technology. The Mem Hall is a really special venue to us – it’s where we started ‘Sunday At the Pictures’ years ago – and we can’t wait to see all the upgrades and love going into such a special venue.
Bellingen’s Scott Collins has composed the SWIFF soundtrack for the second year running. Do you work closely with Scott to determine the final outcome or is Scott’s creative genius allowed to run wild?
Scott is incredible. For the SWIFF festival trailer song this year I sent him a bunch of different tracks, backed up with some emotions I wanted people to feel while watching it – and he basically nailed it on the first edit. He came back with this powerful drum track with a whole bunch of shouting over the top. My jaw dropped. I really think autonomy is key to creative people doing amazing things.
You and Kate have achieved so much in such a relative short period of time. Are there any further projects in the pipeline?
We’re in the process of taking what we do on the Coffs Coast national with our second company Film Outreach Australia. We’re on a mission to provide more access to quality cinema for Regional Australians. We shouldn’t be second-class cinephiles. This year SWIFF’s youth program, Nextwave (formerly REC Ya Shorts Youth Film Festival), is employing filmmakers in Wagga Wagga, opening up a whole new region of young filmmakers learning the ropes on their first film.