Sea Change 2023 and LandxSea Festival

In the latest instalment of pieces celebrating highlights from our members’ work with young audiences in the latter half of 2023, we look back at two fantastic festivals heavily influenced by the sea.

In September, Screen Argyll delivered the latest edition of its much-loved Sea Change festival on the isle of Tiree, once again celebrating and empowering women behind the camera. Below, Maura McKee tells us more about the festival. That same month saw the launch of an exciting new festival over on the east coast. The Montrose LandxSea Festival is Scotland’s first major environmental film festival and this inaugural edition was hosted at the community-owned Montrose Playhouse. Festival Director Rachel Caplan joined us at our Young Audiences Forum at DCA last November on a panel looking at engaging young people in age of climate crisis. She shared with us learnings from her time as Executive Director of the San Francisco Green Film Festival and how that informed her approach in Montrose. Here she tells us more about the inaugural LandxSea and the festival’s vision for future development.

Like Sea Change, the LandxSea Festival is not expressly targeted at young people. The former is focussed on female filmmaking and the latter on environmental issues. But these are festivals for intergenerational audiences that recognise the great importance of young people within the communities where they take place. Hence, events and activities to serve and inspire young people are woven into broader programmes with cross-generational appeal. Many thanks to Maura and Rachel for sharing with us details of these fantastic programmes.

Sea Change

Each year the spectacular isle of Tiree plays host to Sea Change – Scotland’s only annual film festival powering women behind the camera. This year’s festival celebrated sense of place and the centenary of 16mm film across 3 days of films, guests, events, beach walks and sea swims. Young islanders and visitors had a plethora of ways to get involved – from early years Gaelic ‘book bug’ social sessions through school workshops and family activities to volunteering and paid work.

Audiences enjoyed special preview screenings of Smoke Sauna Sisterhood and Carol Morley’s new feature – starring Kelly MacDonald and Monica Dolan – Typist, Artist Pirate, King. Especially for families and young people, Lauren Orme of Cardiff Animation Festival curated digital and 16mm shorts selections to capture the imagination and showcase a range of animation techniques across the years. Festival Director, Jen Skinner reflected: “It was great to welcome our Celtic  filmmakers and highlight connections with Tiree and the Hebrides, including local landscapes captured on 16mm by artist-filmmakers Mairéad McClean and Julia Parks – and Étáin and Meabh who brought their film Cá a ndeachaigh mé? (Where Am I Going?).

Guest film makers introduced children and young people living on Tiree to the medium of 16mm film, giving them the opportunity to get hands on with the history of cinema – even shooting 16mm-inspired videos on our smart phones with artist-filmmaker Mairéad McClean. Visual artists led creative workshops using film and photography techniques to connect with Tiree’s environment and ecology, and practitioners and programmers across a range of film led creative careers sessions at both Tiree Primary and High Schools. Tiree Primary School staff told the Sea Change team:

“we don’t always get to do as much wellbeing work as we’d like – so to use film and art to show the children how to take notice and do self care in their everyday is brilliant.”

Careers workshops centred on transferrable skills, with a lens-based media artist, audio director, film production manager, animator and film exhibition programmer and creative career coach. Creative Industries teacher Laura Currie shared that “it was a wonderful day in the art department at Tiree High School and the young people were truly inspired by the array of creative expertise and knowledge from all of the creative guest speakers!”

Audio Director of Cá a nDeachaigh Mé? – a 16mm experimental film following a young couple’s emotional journey from the countryside of Donegal to Glasgow – Étáin Sweeney said: “I’m so grateful that my work brings me to amazing places like Tiree and brings such beautiful people into my life! It was very special seeing ‘Cá a nDeachaigh Mé?’ screened alongside the work of so many incredible women and a real pleasure chatting to the Creative Industries students at the school there. I’ll remember this weekend forever.”For families, at An Talla community centre, bespoke artist-designed drawing and collaborative art activities encouraged families to mindfully frame their own sea views. In more hands-on ‘The Sea and Me’ workshops with interference-art at the Hynish centre, families slowed down and used creative techniques to take notice of details, like a film maker, for our wellbeing. Using camera-less photography and making sketchbooks, families connected with and collected inspiration from their seaside surroundings. Said one parent: “My son was really inspired by making art about Tiree – he has started drawing again.”

Over the weekend, space was made for youth voice with young people contributing knowledge, leading conversation about Tiree’s ecology and history, and two young people had impromptu screenings of their work in progress to an audience of festival goers.

Another programme highlight was when local teacher Tara Rankin introduced Geographies of Solitude. Set on Sable Island, Tara shared her experiences of Nova Scotia living and sparked conversations about connections to Scotland – part of the Sea Change “magic” picked up on by Lara Delmage from Snack Mag who came to cover the festival. Lara said: “Its not just the feminist focus, nor that its set on the beautiful island of Tiree that makes the festival so special. Its the intimacy. Filmmakers, festival-goers, curators and islanders all share lifts between venues, eat jacket potatoes in the community centre An Talla, and swim together… The word I keep coming back to describe Sea Change is special. Its rare that you get to spend time in a place that truly welcomes you, no matter your age, experience, gender etc.”

With the Tiree-based festival over, the Sea Change tour begins in the new year, bringing festival films to people of all ages in community venues on neighbouring islands. If you missed the festival, you can catch up with some of the films online on Screen Argyll’s streaming platform Stream Argyll: https://stream.screenargyll.co.uk/

Sea Change Film Festival and Development Lab will be back on Tiree next year from the 20th September – so save the date and keep a lookout for early bird passes launching soon at: screenargyll.co.uk

Sea Change is run by Screen Argyll and supported by Screen Scotland, Argyll and Bute Council, BFI, CHARTS Argyll & Isles, Isle of Tiree Distillery and Tiree Community Windfall Fund, with thanks also to Film Hub Scotland.

Maura McKee

When the Screen Lights Up: Youth Engagement at Montrose LandxSea Film Fest

Against the backdrop of land and sea in the heart of Angus, a new narrative began to unfold this past September. The new, state-of-the-art Montrose Playhouse, with screens as expansive as St. Cyrus’ skies, transformed into a hub for storytelling—a beacon of hope at the 1st Montrose LandxSea Film Fest, the region’s first-ever film festival, and Scotland’s inaugural climate-focused film festival.

As the credits rolled for the closing night film, Patrick and the Whale, and the packed Playhouse bar buzzed with conversations, a mother and daughter lingered in the lobby. When I asked about their experience, the mother admitted, “I’m only here because she brought me,” with a nod towards her young daughter. This simple confession perfectly captured what we’d hoped to achieve at Scotland’s first climate-focused film festival: creating a space where dialogues and actions bridge generations.

Creating a Platform for Change

At LandxSea, we’re planting seedsseeds of awareness, curiosity, and action. Though in its nascent stages, the festival is unwavering in its dedication to amplifying young voices.

Our goal is straightforward: to increase access to environmental media for our local youth, and to equip them with the lifelong skills to analyse and discuss films that tackle our planet’s pressing issues.

Our 2023 surveys revealed that 20% of attendees included a person aged 16 or under in their group, underscoring the festival’s appeal to the younger generation.

A Gateway to Engagement

Removing barriers to access, especially for low income families and youth, is a key strategy for us. Drawing inspiration from my tenure as Executive Director of the San Francisco Green Film Festival, we are committed to offering free admission to individuals under 18 and to students of all ages through our Community Ticket Fund. By underwriting tickets, we open the doors wide to schools, youth organisations, and clubs, inviting them to immerse themselves in environmental storytelling, which in turn fosters reflection and critique. And beyond free cinema tickets, the festival also hosts family-oriented events and activities at no cost.

This past September, our offerings included an outdoor Eco Fair on the Mall outside the cinema, where young people engaged with local environmental groups, and free craft workshops in collaboration with local community partners, all designed to deepen connections with our planet.

 

Beyond the Classroom

We aspire to emulate the engaging schools programmes of the SF Green Film Fest, encouraging educators to introduce their students to films centred on environmental themes. These events are intended not just for viewing films but also for active participation in discussions with filmmakers and activists, challenging young, inquisitive minds to untangle even the most complex subjects. Moreover, these encounters can offer empowering experiences, connecting like-minded students from different backgrounds in a new space, and broadening their perspectives beyond the typical classroom setting.

Spotlight on Young Filmmakers

Our inaugural festival featured an array of shorts by young creators, including the standout Change Direction by Greta Macmillan. Building on this success, we plan to introduce a juried competition to spotlight the creativity and environmental stewardship of young filmmakers. Instead of confining these to a dedicated youth film programme, we integrate their stories into the festival’s wider public programme, allowing all audiences to appreciate and celebrate their contributions more broadly.

Empowerment Through Engagement

We envision a festival where young people are more than spectators—they are leaders.

Through mentorship, they’ll curate and moderate sessions, serving as key contributors to the festival’s narrative and champions of environmental discourse. Additionally, we are exploring other avenues to support youth engagement, such as the involvement of young reporters from Into Film who covered our 2023 events, bringing fresh perspective and broadcasting their experiences to a wider audience.

Crafting Stories for Change

In collaboration with local libraries and educational institutions, we’re aiming to set-up filmmaking workshops where young activists can evolve into storytellers Their short films, crafted with newly learned skills and a dash of idealism, will debut at our festival and spread their environmental messages far and wide.

A Ripple Effect

The festival’s impact doesn’t end with the closing credits. We aim to be a catalyst for sustained awareness and connection, fostering an environmental consciousness that endures long after the festival ends, and nurturing a community of informed and motivated young advocates. This include cultivating ongoing awareness of environmental filmmaking; deepening the understanding of local and global environmental issues; and connecting young people with broader audiences and networks.

 Looking ahead to our second annual festival in September 2024, we’re not just planning an event; we’re building a community for hope, action, and collective effort. This festival reflects our belief that when young people are at the forefront of the climate conversation, the ripples are felt well beyond the cinema’s walls and into the heart of our communities.

We invite you to be part of this unfolding story, to experience the transformative power of film through the perspective of the next generation, and to play a role in nurturing the environmental storytellers and stewards of the future.

The 2nd Montrose LandxSea Film Fest is scheduled for 13-15 September 2024 at the Montrose Playhouse. Discover more at landxsea.org and follow @landxseafest for the latest news.

Rachel Caplan

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