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Red carpet is pulled as film festival goes for new look

The script for Scotland’s leading film festival is being given a radical rewrite.

The traditional “red carpet”, stars being snapped by banks of photographers, glittering film awards and even the traditional opening and closing movie galas are to be removed or radically changed for this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF), its new producer has revealed.

In his first interview since being appointed to the newly created position at the festival, James Mullighan says the new version of the longest-running film festival in the world will eschew some of the more traditional trappings of film festivals, while remaking its programme and structure almost completely.

“Everything is both off the table and on the table at the moment,” he told The Herald, “but the sight of a movie star with a pull-up poster behind them being ‘paparazzied’ – you won’t see that. We will attempt to be glamorous, but not the in the way it has been done recently.”

At last year’s EIFF, there was a lavish opening gala for The Illusionist, including the red carpet, stars of stage and screen, actors and musicians, for the film at the Festival Theatre, and over the years the festival has been attended by numerous leading Hollywood actors.

“There will not be the ‘VIP’ element that we have had in the past,” Mr Mullighan said.

“Hopefully the talents that we do have at the festival will want to rub shoulders with everyone who attends the festival.

“What we are really trying to do is start with a blank sheet of paper and have a deep and vigorous look at everything we do and have done.”

Former EIFF artistic director Mark Cousins and Oscar-winning actress Tilda Swinton are currently designing a new “blueprint” for the event, which will, despite rumours to the contrary, remain in June and not move back to its previous position on the capital’s cultural calendar in August.

The festival has undergone a radical shake-up in the past 12 months.

Ginnie Atkinson, the chief executive and backbone of the festival for 15 years, has left, as has the last artistic director, Hannah McGill.

Meanwhile, the festival itself has officially merged operations with the Filmhouse Cinema, and is now led by Gavin Miller, as chief executive of the new Centre for the Moving Image.

Mr Mullighan, an Australian who is currently creative director of Shooting People, a network of film-makers, said that one of the ideas for the festival is an “unprogrammed” day of events, which is not filled with film screenings until days before it occurs.

He said that previous awards given at the festival, including the prestigious Michael Powell Award, which was worth £15,000, will not return, while the same fate is shared by the Black Box strand of experimental cinema.

Instead, Mr Cousins, a broadcaster and writer as well as a leading cineaste, will shape the programme of the festival around the theme of All That Heaven Allows, including contributions from a series of guest directors.

Mr Mullighan’s role as producer is to make whatever Mr Cousins and his team desire for the festival to happen.

He said staff from the festival will still be attending the major film festivals of the world, such as Sundance in the USA, Cannes, and Rotterdam searching for new films to premiere in Edinburgh.

Mr Mullighan said that the many venues, some orthodox, many unusual, that are used for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe could be used by the film festival in the future.

“The conception of the festival, that has gone,” Mr Mullighan said, “and what kind of festival it will be, we will know in a couple of weeks.

“One idea that I have, with my producer/director hat on, is that I have seen all these quality venues at the Fringe, and in June they are standing empty, so maybe I can come in and say ‘why not do something here’? We want the festival to be even more ‘Edinburgh’ than it was before.”

He said that the use of the Festival Theatre will continue, and hopes it will be used more in the new formulation of the event, as it holds 1600 people and will be used as a meeting place, as well as a digital theatre.

Mr Mullighan was born in Adelaide and moved to the UK nearly 13 years ago.

He worked for Sony Classical and Columbia records in Australia, and as a freelance journalist for publications including GQ, Vogue and Rolling Stone.

The 65th Edinburgh Inter-national Film Festival will begin on June 15.

Re-furl the rug and let the stars dirty their feet

THE red carpet at the Edinburgh International Film Festival has always been quite a fraught affair. Although it provides great photos for the next day’s newspapers, and glossy live footage for news bulletins, it has always been debated, both within the festival and also by the ranks of onlookers, what the point is of the outdoor rug.

The glitziness of the al fresco photo opportunity has been used as a barometer of the quality of the festival – a seriously faulty gauge if ever there was one.

Certainly, for the journalist desperate for a quote from an A-lister, they’re no fun. Whether penned in by metal railings into a press area outside Cineworld in Fountainbridge yelling questions at Sir Sean Connery, trying to catch the eye of Pierce Brosnan in front of the old ABC on Lothian Road, or attempting to extract a quote from the stars of Amelie beneath the awning of the old Odeon on Clerk Street, all the while being whacked by photographers’ stepladders, they, for this writer, have mixed the intoxicating whiff of Hollywood glamour with the desperation of a pack of dogs.

Last year’s main red carpet event, the opening gala, at the Edinburgh Film Festival – the last curated by Hannah McGill – felt like one of the most glamorous for years. The Festival Theatre venue was new and suitably grand, more than 1600 ticketed audience members were present, and there was a lengthy red carpet.

We were graced by the presence of animator Sylvain Chomet, Ugly Betty star America Ferrera, Sir Patrick Stewart, Sir Sean Connery and Britt Ekland – as well as musicians and costumed artistes.

I used my mobile phone to tweet updates from the venue for the first time, which gave an immediacy to reports of proceedings, and allowed our readers to feel part of the event as it happened – something I’m not sure the public as a whole has ever felt at the opening and closing galas.

These affairs may be missed by some – though not by this writer – but if Mark Cousins is truly trying to bring the stars closer to the public in his blueprint for the future of the festival, that can only be a good thing.

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