Features Published 24 May 2019

A Forest Fringe Film

After building a free DIY film school, Forest Fringe are making a movie this summer. Here's Andy Field on why.
Andy Field

Action Hero perform ‘A Western’

Statler : I like the movie fine so far.
Waldorf : It hasn’t started yet.
Statler : That’s what I like about it.

Forest Fringe are making a film. It is about the workers at a fictional dream-re-enactment agency, and a remote British island full of people lost in their own fantasies. We have spent a year running our own free DIY film school, learning about screenwriting, editing, cinematography, art design, immersing ourselves in a craft and grammar that feels both comfortingly familiar and thrillingly strange, hearing from a collection of film professionals about the numerous ways in which it can all go horribly wrong. Now we are nearly ready to go. Our script is being written. We have a producing partner. We have a cinematographer, Iona Firouzabadi, and a director of sound, Eliran Sivan, and with them and a team of artists and volunteers we will spend four weeks in August and September trying to turn what we have and what we’ve learnt into an actual film.

We will sleep two or three to a room as we used to do in our earliest days of running a venue at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. We will argue, inevitably, as we always have done, we will almost certainly cry at more than one point. We will find improvised solutions to problems that with a little more experience and planning we probably could have foreseen. I’m hoping we can create something as weird and beautiful as the collective work of the artists who will be there. Anyone is welcome to join us, should they want to.

There are several reasons why we are doing this. The first is perhaps the simplest. Because we love films and we wanted to make one. Forest Fringe has always been something we do for love, and when we were finally ready to admit to ourselves that we no longer loved running a venue, we started to look for something else we could love, and film was the first thing we thought of.

The influence of film in general and popular film in particular was always much in evidence at Forest Fringe, from the widescreen Americana of Action Hero’s A Western to the mechanical animation of the Paper Cinema. We once even curated an entire festival in an art-deco cinema in the centre of Bangkok, the walls lined with Tim Etchells’ posters advertising the films of Natalie Gorgeous, Tania El Khoury creating a secret espionage drama for one audience member at a time and Brian Lobel dancing in the lobby to scenes from his vast collection of musicals. It is the world of film rather than the world of theatre that has shaped the contours of our imaginations, and we wanted to better understand the machinery, literal and figurative, through which it has done so.

In Edinburgh, Forest Fringe was in part at least a reaction against that Festival’s problematic conflation of art and capitalism. An attempt to offer a perhaps naively utopian alternative based on mutuality, generosity and care. In mainstream cinema, the relationship between art and capitalism is even more monstrously complex and inextricable. The audience is bigger, the dreams more expansive, powerful people more powerful, the wealth more extreme, the labour more precarious. Our hope is that our alternative approach might inform a way of making films that is as unconventional as our venue used to be, and that in doing so we can again create a small and temporary space outside of the pressures imposed by capitalism in which we can all dream together.

When I was younger, I think I had a tendency to make unnecessarily grandiose statements about the radical nature of Forest Fringe. We were always revolutionising the festival, finding new ways of doing this or that, solving the world’s problems in microcosm, one show at a time. And whilst that felt true to us amidst the tumult of a festival that we were so different from in so many ways, it was of course at the same time totally ridiculous. Nothing we did was particularly original, it drew in conscious and unconscious ways from a rich history of mutuality and collaboration, of arts collectives in rooms held together by duct tape and good will, in basements and warehouses in Edinburgh, across the UK and far beyond.

We do not claim that we are going to revolutionise cinema. We are too small, and it is too big, already full of wonders, caught in a state of perpetual revolution that we, defiant amateurs that we are, will never outrun. Nothing we will do is new, but it is new to us. And on blustery headlands and beaches we will endeavour to do something that feels radical and revolutionary in that moment. We will argue and improvise as we have always done, trying make the most of the circumstances we find ourselves in. To create something beautiful, something that simply by existing is, for us at least, a slither of hope in a time of dread and despair. The collision of labour and love, commerce and fantasy; a story about the dreams we choose to share with other people and what that does to them.

Forest Fringe are currently seeking donations to help support the making of their film. If you would like to donate, please visit their crowdfunding page.

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Andy Field

Andy Field is a theatremaker, curator, and co-director of Forest Fringe.