Unwelcome at the Sitges Film Festival

Unwelcome, the film I wrote with director Jon Wright, premiered at the Sitges Film Festival last weekend and I’m still buzzing from the experience. Here’s the trailer if you haven’t seen it already…

The Sitges Film Festival has been around since 1967 and is one of the best horror/fantasy film festivals in the world, so it was a genuine privilege to show our film there last weekend. This year’s festival was the first full-blooded version of the festival since lockdowns ended and they sold over 70,000 tickets this year for 350 screenings over ten days. It’s one hell of an event, with a reputation for incredible audiences who start cheering once the production logos start at the beginning of the movie (except Netflix, apparently… their logo gets booed!).

Five of us travelled to Sitges: myself, director Jon Wright, editor Zsófia Tálas, director of photography Hamish Done-Ditmas, and VFX Supervisor Paddy Eason. We were excited/tense/nervous (delete as applicable) because this was the first time the film was going to be seen by real people. I was whisked straight from Barcelona airport to the midnight screening on the Friday night. This was in the smaller pop-up cinema with 3-400 people. Jon and I said a few words, sat to one side, and waited as the lights went down…

The Sitges audience did not disappoint. They cheered and whooped and applauded. It was simply mind-blowing and such an incredible relief. The film wrapped almost two years ago and its release has been waiting out Covid, Omicron, the collapse of Western Civilisation’s economy etc… So I had no idea if was actually any good. Would it play for an audience? Thank you, Sitges for showing us that all our hard work was not in vain.

On the Saturday morning, Jon and I did interviews for radio and press (it’s testament to Jon’s generosity that he asked me along to these… not every screenwriter gets this treatment!). All the interviewers had seen the film the night before, and loved it and asked really insightful questions. I did feel sorry for our translators (Elena Martínez for the first presentation and the press, and Aina Girbau for the premiere) who had to make sense of my often rambling answers.

Saturday afternoon meant the big premiere in the main 1400-seater theatre. It was sold out, packed to the rafters. We walked out on stage and said a few words and it was like a dream. As the opening credits rolled and the wonderful Sitges audience cheered and clapped I was finally able to relax and wallow in a little moment of bliss (I’ve struggled to enjoy these big moments in the past). The end of the film got another terrific reception, and as we got up to leave we found people still standing and applauding us. It was a bit of an out of body experience.

On the Sunday, I wandered around Sitges. A beautiful town with beautiful people. We’re all fired up and want to return with another another movie as soon as possible. Gracias, Sitges, hasta pronto!

All photos by Miguel Anxo, courtesy of Sitges Film Festival.

Published by

MarkStayWrites

Author, screenwriter, and co-founder of the Bestseller Experiment podcast.

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