Scotland’s Sands film festival, styled officially as the International Film Festival of St Andrews, wrapped its second edition this past weekend with a curated line-up of screenings, industry panels, and director Q&As.
Proceedings opened with a world premiere screening of Prime Video’s forthcoming mega-budget series Citadel, which features Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Richard Madden as members of a secret global spy. The screening was introduced by Joe Russo, who Executive Produced and is a primary sponsor of Sands with his brother Anthony through their AGBO production label.
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Other highlights included Q&As with Stanley Tucci, who screened his 1996 culinary comedy Big Night; Reinaldo Marcus Green, who brought his 2018 thriller Monsters and Men and veteran casting director Margery Simkin (Avatar, Little Shop of Horrors, and Top Gun).
Sands unravels over a tight three days out of the Byre Theatre in central St Andrews, an ancient city in northern Scotland and the birthplace of golf. The town attracts keen golfers year-round. (Notable visitors include Barack Obama and Donald Trump).
“We’re not going with small — we’re going with boutique. It’s a boutique film festival,” festival director Ania Trzebiatowska joked with Deadline shortly after the closing night.
Trzebiatowska runs the fest and programs the official line-up with a team of student curators from St Andrews University, a gig she juggles alongside her duties as a Programmer for Sundance. An industry veteran, Trzebiatowska previously ran the Off Camera film festival in Krakow, Poland, for 12 years and had stints in sales and acquisitions.
Below, Trzebiatowska speaks with Deadline about how she first became involved with Sands, the experience of launching a new film event in Scotland, and her ambitions for the festival’s future editions.
DEADLINE: How did you get involved with this festival, and why was it an appealing project?
ANIA TRZEBIATOWSKA: My sister sent me a job listing, and it was the University of St. Andrews looking for a curator to design a film festival to be held at the university. I applied with a presentation where I introduced the idea to base the festival around beginnings with first and second-time filmmakers because the university has all of these young students starting their careers and figuring out what they want to do and if they want to be in the film industry. And for the town of St. Andrews to be interested, I knew the festival couldn’t be academic, so I suggested we bring along interesting people from the industry to talk about what they do. But not your typical directors and actors, but professionals like casting directors and DPs that could be inspiring for someone who doesn’t know anything about the industry.
What was interesting during the interview process was they told me there’s a big Hollywood director, who has been a supporter of St. Andrews for years, and he just thinks we should have a film festival. Only when I got the job did they tell me who the director was, and I thought it was a really interesting connection for it to be Joe Russo doing something like this here in St. Andrews because he’s known for experimenting. He really likes to support new talent and people doing their own thing. I think we can use that, and it fits nicely into what we’re trying to do here supporting new voices.
DEADLINE: This is the second year of Sands. What has the experience of running a festival been like? What have you learned?
TRZEBIATOWSKA: Last year, I was still trying to figure out how to best fit into this community. I was learning a lot. And we weren’t able to bring some of the filmmakers because of the pandemic. But this year, it felt so much different. It made more sense to me how we need to market things and get information out to people. We have different audiences: we have young people who use social media, and we have a generation that will read the actual newspaper, like The Courier in Dundee, so having an interview with Joe there is incredibly helpful. So just knowing that kind of stuff was incredibly valuable to me.
Being aware of your limitations and restrictions is so important. So just not forcing anything into existence. There’s only so much we can do in the town. I was aware of not wanting to bring too many films and people over three days. There’s too much of everything as it is. I’m more interested in a curated experience where audiences feel they can trust our judgment. I really don’t care that much about premieres because we’re not that kind of festival. It’s not the point here, it’s more about having a good quality program that feels like it’s representative of what’s out there.
DEADLINE: What are your plans for the future of Sands? What is the end goal?
TRZEBIATOWSKA: For me, growth in terms of this festival doesn’t mean size. It means depth and meaning. It’s about growing into something that people are looking forward to, where people are excited about the films showing, and something that students want to be involved in. I know it will require time for the town to accept and embrace us. And that’s fine. I’m happy to do it.
On the other hand, I think it’s slowly working. It’s important for me to create a community, and that takes time. You have to find a way to bring people back and make them feel welcomed in a meaningful way and like they fit in. The idea of fitting in in this industry is so big for me, because I felt so alienated at the very beginning when I was going to festivals. I didn’t know anybody, and it was just so intimidating. It’s really hard. And this is why I also want the students to have this kind of support.
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