Filmstock (2000/15 days)
The first Filmstock was an epic 15 day event from June 1-15th. Justin and Neil were 21 and 22 years respectively when this first event launched. We welcomed animation legend Ray Harryhausen and screened an unseen Abbott & Costello tv episode! We started our soon-to-be-infamous high quality shorts programme and welcomed the first of many visiting filmmakers from overseas. Still friends to this day. One short film was a documentary called Bezdan, which at the time was one the first films exported from Bosnia after the Balkans conflict. It only just got through Bosnian customs in time to be shown.
(and then…. the arts centre venue closed suddenly and we lost all the box office funds they were holding… so if there was going to be a Filmstock 2, we were starting from scratch).
Filmstock 2 (2001/15 days)
Although homeless due to the temporary closure of the local arts centre, and housed in a cool make-shift venue in the bowels of Luton Town Hall, the amount of independent screenings increased hugely, with more filmmakers visiting from all over the world. The exclusive preview tradition started this year with the first UK Screening of Shrek and to close out we held a 10th Anniversary screening of The Commitments, reuniting some of the cast members before heading off to a local Irish pub for an all night party that passed into local legend. We also held our first annual outdoor screening with live music, showing The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Filmstock 3 (2002/15 days)
Back in the local arts centre for the main programme, we also staged one of our greatest Filmstock events, showing Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet in the 15th Century St. Mary’s church (filled with candles and rose petals). People queued around the block and some stood at the back for a 3-screen emotional extravaganza. The opening preview was Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia and we also welcomed some fine New York musicians to head up our New York Night, a celebration of a city very close to our hearts.
Filmstock 4 (2003/15 days)
The independent strand grew and grew, showing more and more films and we welcomed more and more visitors. We invited Jim Sheridan to the festival to discuss his favourite films and he curated a short season of them in the first of our Montage seasons. Also that year, we programmed around the legendary Peter Biskind book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, and were honoured when Peter wrote some exclusive programme notes for us.
Filmstock 5 (2004/15 days)
Montage returned with a fantastic talk and season curated by ‘Get Carter’ director Mike Hodges. A selection of his favourite films screened alongside some of his work, including the Saturday morning classic Flash Gordon. We also screened a programme of some of most extreme cinema of all time, titled Endurance, where you got a season refund if you ‘endured’ all ten films - we gave out one refund. By now, the festival was a solid attraction for international filmmakers, with around 1000 submissions that year.
Filmstock 6 (2005/15 days)
This was the year the festival really cemented its reputation and profile as an important event for independent film. We screened over 150 shorts, docs and features and we feel that this was the year Filmstock really found its niche and meaning beyond the retrospective screenings. David Gordon Green’s Undertow kicked things off and an exclusive screening of Batman Begins, Nolan returning to Filmstock, closed things out. This year also saw the arrival of Filmschlock, a night for the audience to revel in and abuse the worst cinema has to offer, hopefully as an inspiration to make something better.
Filmstock programmed a shorts tent at Glastonbury this year too, as one of many supporting satellite events the festival was getting invited to do.
Plus, Filmstock Hungary (2005/6 days)
With the support of the British Council we headed to the city of Debrecen (spearheaded by friend of the festival, critic Kata Ana Varo) following their invitation to stage Filmstock in their city. We took a best-of programme of films and rounded up a bus (and plane) load of filmmakers and friends and took over the city for a few days of films and fun. We also gave audiences the Hungarian premiere of Shane Meadows’s seminal Dead Man’s Shoes, although we are still not sure they were ready for it.
Filmstock 7 (2006/15 days)
This year, Montage was curated by the inimitable Barry Norman. There was a bike ride, Jaws in a swimming pool and Palme d’Or winner The Wind That Shakes The Barley (dir. Ken Loach) closed the festival. For the opening film, Thank You For Smoking, the festival welcomed director Jason Reitman who was not just lovely, but a Filmstock alumni from back in 2001. This was not the end of our dealings with Mr Reitman.
Filmstock 8 (2007/10 days)
We moved to November and the festival exploded. We welcomed more audience members than ever thanks to that move, and possibly our ‘Beers of the World’ theme that went alongside. We launched a season of Polish cinema, Polskistock, and for one night we brought back our Endurance strand. We invited people to watch this year’s selection of extreme cinema on their backs, on a cold hard floor, with the films projected on the ceiling.
Filmstock 9 (2008/10 days)
Nicolas Roeg came to close the festival with a career talk before a screening of his latest film, Puffball. He also took time to join the crowd in appreciating Filmstock co-director Justin's anniversary (35-year) exhibition of photos surrounding the seminal film Don't Look Now, which ran in the festival bar. Elsewhere there was a tribute to Johnny Weismuller and a series of films exploring mental health in cinema. In all, the event was a glorious rebuke to growing recession cynicism all round.
Filmstock 10 (2009/1 day)
We were all set with an amazing festival when filmmaker Jason Reitman returned an earlier request to screen his upcoming film, Up In The Air. He wanted it to open the festival but we didn't think it fair to bump the film we already had in that slot, Cold Souls. However, given the festival's relationship with Jason over the years one of our loyal team members suggested we give it a Filmstock all of its own. So, seeing as we technically went straight to 11 from 9 (in honour of Spinal Tap and more on that later), we squeezed a very special 1-day 1-film event in just before Filmstock 11. And what a day it was, complete with a video introduction from Jason recorded especially for the Luton crowd.
Filmstock 11 (2009/10 days)
A decade of work and cinematic celebration was marked with a special screening of This Is Spinal Tap (the reason the festival went to 11) introduced by the band's manager Ian Faith (Tony Hendra, who flew himself in from New York to be there). As well as amazing opening and closing films, there was an exclusive screening of Julien Temple's Oil City Confidential and two mystery films faced off against each other in the form of The Informant and 44 Inch Chest. There were ‘Beers of the World’, a hog roast, a cake festival, amazing independent films and filmmakers, old friends returning to celebrate the anniversary and a celebratory atmosphere unlike anything the directors Neil and Justin have ever known. It was fitting, and special.