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ÉCU-The European Independent Film Festival


ÉCU - The European Independent Film Festival is dedicated to the discovery and advancement of the very best independent films from around the world. We are a festival who believes in our independent filmmakers and their artistic talents. ÉCU proudly provides a unique platform that brings together diverse audiences who are hungry for something other than major studio productions and original and innovative filmmakers. 

 
The 16th edition of ÉCU - The European Independent Film Festival will take place on 9th-11th April 2021. Now open for submissions!

 

 

 

For more details regarding the festival, please visit our website at www.ecufilmfestival.com

 

 


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Chicks Making Flicks

ÉCU 2007 debut director Nicola Morris “I actually took my storyboard into the delivery room and worked on it as I was going into labor,” said debut director Nicola Morris whose film Out of Milk screened at ÉCU 2007.

Morris admits that she was “a little nervous” of how she would get a great team to work on Out of Milk when she “hadn’t even made a home movie on a camcorder”. Determined to succeed, she decided to go to the British Film Institute Library where she read every book on directing. “That was my film school,” she said. “It wasn’t until the wrap party that many of the crew discovered that it was the first time I’d directed.”

Samira Goetschel is another indie chick that is taking the industry by storm. Born in Iran, she fled the country after her father was executed during the 1979 Revolution and has grown up mostly in the United States. A New York University Film School graduate, Goetschel was driven to make her first film, Our Own Private Bin Laden, after the events of September 11, 2001.

“Like everyone else, I turned to the media for explanation for the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. But I soon became frustrated with what seemed to be the media’s exploitation of the attacks and the images of terror. So I decided to go out there and find out for myself why the terrorists did what they did,” she said.

Now that’s what I call independent spirit.


With her DV camera tucked under her arm, Goetschel set off on a mission to investigate the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. Her sheer determination secured an array of high-profile interviews with the ex- director of the CIA Stansfield Turner, President Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, Pakistani ex-president Benazir Bhutto, prominent investigative journalists and many more.

Such an impressive list left many journalists stunned. They were “reluctant to accept the facts behind the making of the film and in particular about my access to some of the interviewees,” Goetschel said adding that she was even accused of lying about her identity.

LA indie filmmaker Dawn Westlake also expresses the same defiant attitude. “I don’t think there are any obstacles for women,” said Westlake. She was driven to make the ÉCU 2007 gem God’s Good Pleasure from her disgust with the United States Administration and their lack of concern for the Geneva Conventions. “If you have a story, just tell it”.

The hard work has definitely paid off for these indie chicks. Morris’ film Out of Milk has screened at fifteen film festivals worldwide, was nominated for six awards and won two awards.

Samira Goetschel’s film ‘Our Own Private Bin Laden’ was awarded Best Foreign Film and Best Foreign Doco at ÉCU 2006. Goetschel’s Our Own Private Bin Laden was awarded Best Foreign Film and Best Foreign Documentary at ÉCU 2006 and has since gone onto screen in over 25 countries as well as securing a distribution deal releasing the film for sale around the world.

Westlake’s film God’s Good Pleasure has played in film festivals throughout the US, Europe, Asia and Africa with an “overwhelmingly positive” response from the public and critics alike.


THE BIG SCREEN

Great strides aren’t just being made in the indie scene. Flicks from chicks are also flooding into theatres and onto the big screen.

Helen Hunt made her directorial debut at September’s Toronto International Film Festival with ‘Then She Found Me’ and ‘2 Days in Paris’ is the culmination of actress Julie Delpy's battle to reach the director's chair.

‘Waitress’ from the late director / writer / actor Adrienne Shelly who was tragically murdered last year has been screened around the world with outstanding success.

Next year will mark the return of Kimberly Pierce with ‘Stop Loss’ which tells the story of a soldier returning from the Iraq War and will be her first film since 1999’s ‘Boys Don’t Cry’.

And of course who could forget ‘Little Miss Sunshine’. This indie sensation, which was co-directed by Valerie Faris, stormed onto the big screen. The film was nominated for four Oscars and ended up taking home two – Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Screenplay. Academy Award winning ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ was co-directed by Valerie Faris.

CONTINUING BARRIERS

But despite this bumper crop, the statistics for female directors remain startling. Just seven percent of the top 250 moneymaking films of 2006 were directed by women. And even more eye-opening is the fact that during the 79 years of the Academy Awards, no woman has won Best Director and only three have ever been nominated: Lena Wertmuller in 1975 for ‘Seven Beauties,’ Jane Campion in 1993 for ‘The Piano’ and Sofia Coppola in 2003 for ‘Lost in Translation.’

While Morris, Goetschel and Westlake acknowledge the truth behind these statistics, they refuse to become preoccupied with the view that being a woman makes a difference.

“I think that once you get yourself preoccupied with the statistics, you become part of it,” said Goetschel. “When I make films, I don’t think about my gender. Being a woman is my physical reality and I won’t let it become my handicap.”


Gender is also the furthest thing from Westlake’s mind. “I think it ghetto-izes filmmakers if we think of ourselves as from a specific gender, race or religion,” she said. “It also ties your hands as a storyteller if you pigeonhole yourself.”

At no point during Morris’ first experience working as a director did she feel that life was harder because she was a woman. In fact, she found that things worked in her favor. “It seems that if people like your work and they like you, you get respect, regardless of gender,” she said.

The lack of prominent female role models is however an issue. “Some of my favorite films have been made by women,” said Morris who lists Lost in Translation by Sophia Coppola, Dear Frankie by Shona Auerbach, Ratchatcher by Lynne Ramsey and Red Road by Andrea Arnold.

But Morris argues that there needs to be more women directors to encourage more women directing. “As a young woman thinking about a career, I would never have chosen film directing,” said Morris who spent her childhood dreaming of being a photographer but ended up working for ten years as a journalist. “It seemed as if it were on a pedestal, like being a king and not something that just anyone could become.”

LOOKING FORWARD

Going to film school helps but Goetschel believes that it isn’t necessary. “If you want to become a filmmaker I would do it the old way,” she said. “Get a job as an intern, or production assistant if you’re lucky, with a film company or a studio and work, or rather slave your way up. And this is true whether you’re a man of a woman.”

On the other hand Morris believes its best to buck the trend and go straight into directing shorts in the indie world where you can get your hands on every element of the filmmaking process. “It allows you to learn and polish your craft before embarking on feature film directing,” she said. “That way you’re still learning, but learning in the best way.”

Keeping up to date with technology also helps. “There are a lot of inexpensive tricks with the new cameras and editing software where anyone can tell a story and with hard work and creativity, they can tell it well,” said Westlake.

But it’s the sheer determination and intense commitment to tell the story that is launching these indie chicks into the spotlight. “If you want to make films, the most important thing in my opinion, is that there has to be an internal need for you to do it because there is simply nothing else you can see yourself doing,” said Goetschel.

Goetschel isn’t one to shy away from the big issues. Her next project will tackle nuclear proliferation and the threat of nuclear terrorism. In her search for answers, she plans to travel to some of the most remote and dangerous places on the planet and talk to those at the heart of this world from the would-be terrorists to the smugglers and the key political players. Most would balk at her ambitious list which includes the current Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the embattled Pakistani leader General Prevez Musharraf, former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright, former French President Jacques Chirac and the head of the UN’s nuclear agency Mohamed Elbaradei.

But after watching Goetschel’s debut film, Our Own Private Bin Laden, I have no doubt that she will make it happen. And it’s that fiercely determined spirit that keeps these indie chicks making great flicks



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About ÉCU-The European Independent Film Festival

Hillier Scott
(ECU)

 

 

Scott Hillier, Founder and President of ÉCU - The European Independent Film Festival
 
Scott Hillier is a director, cinematographer, and screenwriter, based in Paris, France. In the last 20 years, Hillier has gained international recognition from his strong and incredible cinematography, editing, writing, producing and directing portfolio in both the television and film industries.  
 
Scott began his career in the television industry in Australia. In 1988, he moved to London getting a job with the BBC who then set him to Baghdad. This opportunity led him to 10 years of traveling around world for the BBC, mainly in war zones like Somalia, Bosnia, Tchetcheynia, Kashmir, and Lebanon. After a near fatal encounter with a Russian bomber in Tchechnyia, Hillier gave up his war coverage and began in a new direction. 
 

He moved to New York City in 1998.  He directed and photographed eight one-hour documentaries for National Geographic and The Discovery Channel. Based on his war knowledge and experience, Hillier wrote and directed a short film titled, “Behind the Eyes of War!" The film was awarded “Best Short Dramatic Film” at the New York Independent Film and TV Festival in 1999. From that he served as Supervising Producer and Director for the critically acclaimed CBS 42 part reality series, "The Bravest” in 2002 and wrote and directed a stage play called, "Deadman’s Mai l," which ran at Le Théâtre du Moulin de la Galette in Paris during the summer of 2004. He then became the Director of Photography on a documentary titled, “Twin Towers." This was yet another life changing experience for Hillier. The riveting documentary won an Academy Award for "Best Documentary Short Subject" in 2003. In 2004, Hillier changed continents again, spending three months in Ethiopia. He produced “Worlds Apart,” a pilot for ABC America / True Entertainment / Endemol. As you can see, Hillier was and is always in constant movement and enjoys working in a number of diverse creative areas including documentaries, music videos, commercials, feature and short films.

 
Scott studied film at New York University and The London Film and Television School. He also studied literary non-fiction writing at Columbia University. Hillier's regular clients include the BBC, Microsoft, ABC, PBS and National Geographic. Between filming assignments, he used to teach film, a Masters Degree course in Screenwriting at the Eicar International Film School in Paris, France and journalism at the Formation des Journalistes Français in Paris, France. 
 

 


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