FUSION FILM FEST DIRECTOR SCREENS INDIE FILMS IN FOUR EUROPEAN CITIES
DAN HICKFORD TAKES PRIDE IN GIVING INDEPENDENT FILMMAKERS A CHANCE TO BE DISCOVERED
With a degree in film production and experience as a Journalist, Dan Hickford loves to be creative. “I feel that I can live vicariously through filmmakers and enjoy the best of both worlds” he proclaims. Dan is the mind behind the attention to detail at the festivals and coordinates multiple aspects in the build up to each event and during the festival week.
You can not miss him with a huge smile on his face as he welcomes you in. His incredible memory for names will leave you both impressed and appreciated. With a passion for independent film and seeing new talent, Dan is excited to meet many new creatives and see where their journey takes them. We are excited to hear more of his journey as we sit down with him to get more personal and know the man behind the production.
- Mary Swanson
NIE: Thank you for taking your time and having this interview with us. What can you tell us about Fusion International Film Festival?
Dan Hickford: Thank you for reaching out and giving us this opportunity on your platform! Fusion International Film Festival is the collective name for a group of four independent film festivals held in European cities. We host our events in some of Europe’s most exciting and vibrant cities covering the North, East, South, and West points of the compass. We pride ourselves on our colourful brand and image and putting the filmmakers and creatives we meet at the forefront of everything we do.
NIE: What made you join the team and become one of the co-directors for the festival?
Dan Hickford: I have been involved with independent film festivals for a number of years; yet, along with my now co-director Steve Grossmith, we wanted to do things differently and do things our way. When you're your own boss, there are no limitations to what you can do. Launching our own group of festivals felt like the natural transition and path to progress along. It has taken a lot of time, effort, blood, sweat, and almost tears, but we love what we do.
“Whenever I need to take a step back, I always remember the first time I heard my brother say, “Work to live, don't live to work”.”
- Dan Hickford
NIE: What is your biggest reward about this festival, and why?
Dan Hickford: Simply bringing together creative minds from all around the world and seeing them connect, laugh, share magical stories, and make memories to last a lifetime. I love seeing that and knowing I was part of the team responsible for making it happen.
NIE: What does your festival offer to independent films and their filmmakers that set you apart from all the others?
Dan Hickford: The independent film festival circuit is such a busy place! There are so many niche festivals and multiple festivals that take place in the same cities across the calender year! We knew we wanted to focus on the filmmakers and put them at the forefront of everything. We are a boutique set of festivals that are held in one location at the event, so there's no travelling necessary if filmmakers don't want to. We bring in professionals that can offer advice on marketing and distribution, we host networking events and parties, and we round off the week with what we like to think is a pretty awesome awards ceremony. We are very hands-on and always available from early morning to late night to just chat and offer advice. Having a main location to do this is fundamental to us.
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NIE: Where did the desire to be in the entertainment industry stem from?
Dan Hickford: My love of film comes from my childhood, Friday nights, and my dad bringing home VHS rentals for us to watch. I loved it! [Especially] the thrill of watching a 15-rated film when I was 12 or 13 and just seeing all different types of cinema. I then studied film at school before eventually getting a degree in film production. I have always had a creative mind, yet this has always blended with business and entrepreneurial tendencies. After university, I began working as a journalist but found myself oddly fascinated by magazines and advertising—[it is] a different way to be creative. In 2012, I met my now co-director Steve Grossmith for the first time whilst working in publishing. We briefly lost touch before we then reconnected, and in 2017, the seed for Fusion International Film Festival was planted.
NIE: What has been the most challenging for you in regard to the live events, and why?
Dan Hickford: The festival week tends to run very smoothly because all of the prep work is done weeks prior, and we have the skillset and experience to get the job done. The main challenge is always the logistics of the awards night—seating 150-200 people, technical issues, sound checks! All guests are filmmakers and creatives and are well-aware of issues that can arise…yet I am a perfectionist, and the night doesn't begin until I am fully happy that everything is in place to make it a huge success.
NIE: What obstacles do you face as a festival director, and what do you do to overcome and achieve your goals?
Dan Hickford: My role is so wide as I love what I do. I source and communicate with all of the festival hotels—this can be challenging as many haven't held such events before, and I need to explain our ambitions and also manage expectations. I correspond with all filmmakers from around the world, which is a huge challenge due to the different time zones. Yet, the rule that Steve and I have set is: if you are awake, you take the call or respond to the email. That keeps things running efficiently as we aren't then delayed with our communication with everyone. I love a spreadsheet, so I tend to manage so many aspects of the festival from here, [including] recording all information and making sure I know where I am.
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NIE: Which do you prefer as a greater creative outlet as a writer compared to an actor, film, or theatre, and vice versa?
Dan Hickford: I have seen so many performances in film and in theatre and I applaud the talents for what they can do! Theatre is a huge challenge as there are no second takes or cuts. Being on film and bringing a character to life and telling their story is something which, in theory, is easy...yet it simply isn't, and that's why the entertainment industry is one of the hardest in the world. For me, the writer is the one who makes it all happen—and this is what I truly love. If I could be anything in the industry other than a film festival director, it would be a writer. The story lies in their hands, and for me, this is the most wonderful of creative outlets.
NIE: What would you say is the biggest asset for anyone in the industry to achieve?
Dan Hickford: It would be so easy to say a Hollywood star, an Oscar, a TV show, or film seen by millions. Of course, this is the dream of many, but the biggest achiement is made when you finish your first film or script. Everything that follows is a bonus, and each and every person that has taken the time to complete a project should be so proud.
NIE: What are some of your secret tips that help you in this industry to keep grounded and focused?
Dan Hickford: Be happy with where you are. As a festival director, I would love to have our festivals up there and known alongside Cannes, Sundance, etc. However, if you don't enjoy the now, you can lose sight of everything. I do at times put pressure on myself, but some time away from the world—being outdoors and shutting off from technology—can do wonders and it keeps you focused on the now. Setting goals and being realistic with yourself is how to cope with many situations! Sadly, in this industry, there are lots of people that can give great advice, yet don't take it and put so much pressure on themselves.
“We spent time to really work on how we would bring something different”.
- Dan Hickford
NIE: Who inspires you to be a better at your profession?
Dan Hickford: My family! I love them dearly and I want to make them proud. I grew up by the seaside in England and have had so many wonderful holidays and memories. I enjoy living in my bubble at home; however, now I get to travel and meet so many amazing people. I love being nostalgic and making new memories as much as remembering old ones. These festivals and everything I do is for my parents, my wonderful fiancée, my brother, his wife, my niece, and [my] nephew. Knowing I have their support and kind words following every successful event is the biggest boost you could want.
NIE: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to pursue a career in the field?
Dan Hickford: With film festivals as mentioned, it is a huge market; the FilmFreeway submission platform hosts over 7,000 independent film festivals. I would say to anyone: know your approach. If you want to do horror, comedy, short films, [or] experimental, then go all out! It is so easy as a festival to get lost amongst the masses—that is why our brand and image is so important. We spent time to really work on how we would bring something different to the circuit.
NIE: What are the most impactful words of wisdom someone told you, and who was it?
Dan Hickford: Launching these festivals has taken a huge amount of pressure, and at times, switching off has been so difficult. Whenever I need to take a step back, I always remember the first time I heard my brother say, “Work to live, don't live to work.” It is simple, yet reminds me what is also important.
NIE: What are three things you would say to your younger self that you know now?
Dan Hickford: Only three? Wow! The younger Dan was quite a paranoid worrier mixed with being a playful clown; always setting the bar high, caring what others might think, and trying to please those that didn't matter. I would say to myself:
Don't be afraid of change.
Pick different friends.
Take the comedy to the next level.
NIE: What’s next for you?
Dan Hickford: So, next month we head to Brussels for our West Europe International Film Festival before we finish the year in Warsaw with our East Europe event. In between, I will be enjoying some holidays and lots of time outdoors. I am also planning my wedding, which is next year! My fiancée loves that she is marrying an events organizer...[it] makes it a lot less stressful.
NIE: Thank you for having this interview with us. Before we let you go, is there anyone you would like to thank?
Dan Hickford: I have already thanked my family, but I truly need to thank my great business partner, Steve Grossmith. We are a great team and our passion is taking us to the next level. Our entire festival brand and image has been developed by our graphics and tech guru, Stephen Mina. He works so hard behind the scenes to keep everything running smoothly. Finally, to two people who, without them, none of this would be possible: Colin and Laura Graham. They believed in us, supported us, and I am eternally grateful for the path I am now leading because of them.