Aesthetica Short Film Festival 2021

This review is on the Aesthetica Short Film Festival that usually runs every year in York from the perspective of an animation student. It is open to anyone that is interested in short films of many different genres, however, the School of Film and Media offers Film and Media students the opportunity to go to Aesthetica for only £12 this year. The £12 included travel to York and an online pass to watch films or classes we could not see in person, which saved a lot of money as the tickets without help from the university were around £70.

My Experience

Aesthetica ran on multiple days but this year we went to one full day on the 5th of November, getting on the coach at 7:30am and leaving York at 22:00pm. Before attending the festival, we were sent a timetable of the day, so we could make our own schedules of what we wanted to attend. We were also allowed to pick one masterclass to see in person, I picked the “Wonderful World of Animation” but there were many genres that people could choose from like “Virtual Production” or “The Changing Role of Film Criticism”. Waking up early in the morning was a little tough but I was able to nap on the coach, so I was not too tired before being able to enjoy the day.

Once we arrived in York, we were given free rein to attend whatever events we wanted to (besides the one masterclass we applied for beforehand) and travel around by ourselves or with our friends. I went in a group with two other animation students as we were all interested in the same screenings and events. There were multiple screenings happening at the same time and they would take place in different venues around York, so we would travel to the events we were specifically interested in. The first screening we attended was in the City Screen Cinema in York at 10:00am to watch short animation films. It was fun to be able to watch different types of animation films made by students and professionals. They were also made using different methods, some were 2D, some 3D and some stop-motion. One that caught my attention specifically was “Affairs of the Art” directed by Joanna Quinn. I loved the sketchy, illustrative style and the unique perspective it took whilst telling the story of a family with extreme obsessions towards different hobbies.

After the animation screening, we walked to the Yorkshire Museum where the “Wonderful World of Animation” masterclass was held. It consisted of a panel of three animators from different backgrounds; Maryam Mohajer is a 2D animator who made short films independently, Tom Box is a co-founder of an animation studio called BlueZoo, Anthony Farquhar-Smith is a stop-motion director who helped create films like “Fantastic Mr Fox”. It was extremely inspiring and informative to listen to these three professionals talk about their journey through animation and what they loved about their practice. Being able to ask them questions in person and ask for advice for a student trying to make their way in the industry was extremely helpful and made the trip very much worth it.

Waiting for the Masterclass outside the Yorkshire Museum, picture taken by Annabella Lam

For the rest of the day, we did not have any specific screenings that we wished to attend, so we used the time we had available to explore York and hop into any events that caught our attention. York is a beautiful, old city that was amazing to explore. The unique atmosphere of the cobbled streets and shops with different trinkets to look at made the trip a fun experience too. We attended a VR lab with short 3D films and a comedy screening. Although I do not have a current interest in these avenues, they were great to watch and enjoy the creativity that went into these films.

Final thoughts:

By the end of the day, I was exhausted, ready to go home and rest but satisfied beyond my original expectations. Even though it was a little tiring having to walk around the whole day, the experience was unique and insightful into the industry that I potentially want to enter. I am very happy that I decided to go and expand my view on the animation industry. If any fellow film and media students are considering whether they would want to go to the Aesthetica trip in the future, I would definitely recommend it. To be able to hear from long-time professionals that have worked in your industry and watch films made with passion, was a great experience that I hope more students will want to attend. If different schools also offer opportunities similar to this one, I would also recommend going. Meeting new people and getting to do research into your future for a discounted price makes it a worthwhile time. 

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