'Cannes, Venice, Norwich' - city's film festival set to celebrate a record 10th year
PUBLISHED: 10:49 06 August 2019 | UPDATED: 11:53 06 August 2019
From Olivia Colman's Oscar for The Favourite to Stephen Fry in Blackadder, Norfolk has spawned some of the best-known stars of stage and screen.
But as well as their East Anglian upbringings, the actors also share roles as patrons of the city's film festival, alongside supporters Hugh Jackman and Brian Cox.
And from spine-tingling horror, to slapstick comedy and epic romance, 126 films are set to hit screens at Norwich venues for the event's 10th year in November.
Now the team behind the annual celebration of independent cinema have shared their plans for their biggest event yet.
Preparations began in January when submissions opened for the short film competition and the committee began recruiting the judges, sponsors and guests needed to bring the event to life, with previous years seeing the line-up include actors Bernard Hill and Alfred Molina, and Four Weddings and a Funeral producer Emma Freud.
"We usually spend three months coming up with our dream plan for how we want it to go," said consultant Craig Higgins, 36.
"It's then about spending that time trying to make it happen."
Mr Higgins added: "All of us work full time and I generally do the festival in my lunch breaks and evenings. It is a lot of work but we're all passionate about it."
The festival was founded in 2009 by filmmaker Kellen Playford, 34.
The festival relaunched in 2012, and looking back, Mr Playford said: "I never thought we'd be bringing the likes of Michael Palin or Christopher Eccleston to Norwich, but the response from people in the industry and local audiences has been incredible."
The event features a mixture of full-lenth feature films, panels and talks, as well as short film screenings, which organisers hope will encourage audiences to view films they would not typically see, and the team are hoping to see audience numbers increase to more than 4,000 this year.
"We want to provide a forum for filmmakers who don't always get a platform," Mr Higgins added.
And submissions for the festival's short film screenings have now closed, after organisers received a record 812 entries - from 76 countries - up from last year's 761.
A total of 111 short films, which have to be under 25 minutes to qualify, will be screened during the festival, as well as 15 feature-length movies, with the nearly 3,000 minutes of film divided into categories including narrative short films, documentaries, and East Anglian short films.
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The festival is also one of 55 film festivals worldwide with British Independent Film Awards (BIFA) accreditation.
"It's a great opportunity. Places like Cannes, Venice and Tribeca are on there and we've got little old Norwich on the list," Mr Higgins added.
"Independent film does struggle to find an audience but it's so important and vital to support it.
"They don't always get the big budgets of Hollywood but they provide the audience with something they wouldn't necessarily get to see elsewhere."
Founder Mr Playford described 2019's entries as "far and away our most diverse year".
He said: "We have so many more light-hearted films and comedies this year.
"As our reputation has grown, we've got more films from seasoned filmmakers who tend to make more personal, original films about individuals, and the range and scope of genres and content has expanded.
"We get far more documentaries these days, and more foreign language films too, which is lovely because it shows that Norwich is making its mark on the world."
And with films including The Souvenir, starring Tilda Swinton, and Danny's Boyle's Yesterday, bringing locations in and around Norfolk to life on screen, the team said the county's popularity as a location is a boost for the festival.
"It's a beautiful county and apart from skyscrapers and mountains, it's got every thing you could want," said Mr Higgins.
"It's great to see people are interested in coming to Norwich and hopefully people see it as a film-friendly city."
The festival line-up will include screen skills workshops, talks on the Hitchcock Legend, and a focus on diversity and inclusion, from LGBT+ films, to women in film.
Norwich film festival recruits volunteers to judge submissions, including students from the UEA and NUA, and hosts screenings at locations from The Forum, The Garage, and Theatre Royal, to The Assembly House and Cinema City.
The 43 events will run from November 6 to November 17.