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Big Picture Festival: Meet Brian

Tuesday, 28 March

Big Picture Festival

Big Picture Festival returns from the 25th to 28th May 2023 and this time we're in Stratford-upon-Avon!

As excitement builds in the run-up to the festival we talk with Brian Harley, this years' Festival Curator about all things film and why he chose to be involved with Big Picture Festival.

Can you tell us a bit about who you are and your relationship to film?

My name is Brian Harley and I’ve been a bit obsessed with films since I was a kid. Today, I am fortunate to work in the film sector through an exciting variety of roles. You could say I wear many hats! I’m a film exhibitor and filmmaker, primarily. I currently work for the CineCov programme on behalf of Flatpack Festival and I am also the Industry Advisor for the BA/FdA in Digital Film Production at Warwickshire College.

Over the years, I have enjoyed collaborating with others, making short films, music videos and documentaries and somehow managed to win a couple of awards along the way! I’ve been lucky enough to receive some industry development throughout my career, including one-to-one mentoring from BAFTA winning producer, Nira Park, who gave me valuable insight and inspiration.

In 2020, I completed my first feature film, the documentary ‘Neilation’, which perhaps unsurprisingly, is about filmmaking! I also love programming films any chance I get. Over the years, I have programmed films for numerous festivals and arts events. Film is transformative. Filmmaking has given me an outlet to express myself. So my relationship to film is deep, memorable and everlasting.

Square Meet Brian Harley

Why did you want to be involved with Big Picture Festival this year?

I was very excited to be involved with this year’s Big Picture Festival because, for me, film programming offers endless opportunities to celebrate and showcase the films I love. Live & Local are an amazing organisation! In 2021, I won the First Prize in the festival’s short film competition. They made me feel really special and it was evident that the entire organisation genuinely understands the importance of film in an arts and culture diet and the power of the cinema experience for individuals and communities. In my role with this year’s festival, Live & Local have made me feel valued and safe to express my ideas for the programme. I also saw this role as an opportunity to draw some wisdom from Live & Local in terms of understanding rural communities engagement with the arts and what appeals to diverse audiences.

Who do you think will enjoy Big Picture Festival 2023?

Audiences who like a good underdog story will be particularly inspired by some of the films in this year’s programme, whether it's playing out on screen or behind the scenes. But generally, I think anyone with an interest in movies and who is open to surprises will enjoy the festival very much. They’ll be laughter, tears and pause for thought.

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Which part of the festival are you most excited for and why?

Oh, this is a tough question to answer. I’m genuinely excited for many parts of the festival. I think we’ve programmed a selection of films that provide a nice, balanced festival.

I am excited to see ‘Mirrors’ again. Coventry-based filmmaker, Paul Daly, has made an outstanding film. The first time I saw it was at Coventry Cathedral and it was a truly mesmerising, anthemic experience.

I’m also really excited to see ‘A Bunch of Amateurs’ again. This film struck me like Cupid’s arrow. It’s an incessantly charming documentary about the filmmaking capers of Bradford Movie Makers, one of the oldest amateur filmmaking clubs in the world whose membership consists of lovable misfits of all ages. Director Kim Hopkins presents the highs and lows of their lives with such emotional fluency, you'll fall head over heels for it.

Another film I’m excited to share with audiences is ‘Rudy’, which was shot in Coventry and Warwickshire. 'Rudy' is the second feature film by BAFTA nominated director, Shona Auerbach ('Dear Frankie'), another local filmmaker. I happen to have a unique connection to this film as I was the First Assistant Director on it and so a small but everso memorable part of my life will always be knitted in to each frame of this moving coming-of-age drama.

Thanks to my role in this year’s festival, my relationship with the film deepens as I get to champion it by programming this special screening followed by a Q&A with Shona and some of the key cast and crew.

I’m also very eager to showcase some of the winning films in the short film competition because this is where emergent talent can be found and encouraged. 

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When choosing a film to watch, what do you look for?

Well, apart from the obvious things like originality, good craftsmanship, emotional impact, status or buzz, I like to feel inspired, challenged or entertained. I think I am good at being able to step outside of myself in order to consider what other people would appreciate or benefit from too. I guess ultimately, I am looking for some kind of resonance or connection to a film, a sense of discovery. 

What's your favourite film of all time and why?

Jaws. Without hesitation. It’s a master work. A primal cinematic text. The fact that it emerged from an infamously troubled production just makes it all the more legendary. For filmmakers, it’s endlessly educational. I watch it every year and I always learn something new about the craft. 

If you could give budding filmmakers only one piece of advice, what would it be?

Watch Jaws.

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Special thanks to Brian for this interview.

For the full programme of this year's Big Picture Festival and tickets, click here.

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