25th January 2021
2020 was the year we reinvented how things could be done, and the most recent English Riviera International Film Festival stands testament to that. Like every other cultural hoe down during the age of lockdown, the Festival was faced with the alternatives of cancel or get clever. The ERFF team chose the latter, translating their signature mix of new talent showcases and industry discussion panels into a virtual experience. Even the highlight English Riviera Film Awards were beamed out live to a Facebook audience but with the customary line from winners, “I’m sorry I can’t be with you tonight…” taken as a given this year.
But virtual or not, the 2020 Festival was a very real milestone for the winner of two awards at this year’s ceremony. Emmeline Hartley began her film career in Torbay and so it was an especially sweet victory for her to carry off this year’s trophies for Best Actress and for Best Screenplay with co-writers Tommy Draper and Mark Corden.
“I was thrilled to hear that our film Keep Breathing had been selected for the English Riviera Film Festival” says Emmeline. “I’m extremely grateful to the festival organisers and panel for the award nominations and wins. I was particularly excited about this festival because my acting and filmmaking journey began when I was living in Torquay from ages 14 – 18.”
Emmeline says it was her drama teacher at Torquay Community College who reignited her love of acting and storytelling. She appeared in small scale films and took part in the Adobe Youth Voices scheme when she attended Westlands school, as well as Digital Documenters Exeter.
“I actually remember the first time I ever acted for camera was at South Devon College for a student’s media project and I knew then that I definitely wanted to continue in this field. I then moved away to do Media Production at University of Derby, and now I’m undertaking my actor-training at drama school.”
Despite being based away from home now, Emmeline frequently comes back to Torbay to visit family and friends and has, on occasion, continued to shoot films in the area’s stunning locations. “Torbay will always be very dear to me,” she says. “It’s where it all began.”
Emmeline’s Torbay-born career encapsulates what the festival is all about. “Celebrating the South West as a location and as a source of talent and inspiration will always be central to the Festival,” says Festival Director John Tomkins. “Because of that, it’s exciting and entirely appropriate that we have been given the opportunity to partner with South Devon College in developing the Film Festival; it couldn’t be a better match. And it was that partnership, together with the generous support of our Awards Sponsor Crispin Associates, that were key to us being able to forge ahead with the festival this year in its modified format.”
John is already looking ahead to what he hopes will be a more traditionally hosted FilmFestival in 2021. “This year’s event was intended to serve as a focus of hope for the eventual resurgence of film making and cinema-going. It’s been all about working together to get through this incredibly difficult period for people involved in the film industry. But you can’t keep all that talent and inventiveness down and I’m confident that the 2021 festival will see everyone come back fighting with a bumper crop of new films and creative expression. And we’ll be here to provide a south west forum and showcase to celebrate it.”