I started a mag on a credit card, now I’m making a film festival

An image from Elsewhere
An image from Elsewhere
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Risky ventures don’t scare Cherie Federico. Now she tells Sarah Freeman why her new film festival could prove a reel success.

Cherie Federico isn’t afraid of taking risks.

In 2007, the New Yorker who had moved to England to study at York St John University decided to launch a magazine. On a credit card.

Launching any new publication is difficult and expensive and Cherie’s plans for a quality arts journal, while undoubtedly worthy seemed like an ambitious punt.

However, Aesthetica was born and eight years on, the quality glossy magazine doesn’t look out of place on the shelves of WH Smith and with a monthly audience of 100,000 it is sold across Germany, Scandinavia and one outlet in Brazil.

“It looks a lot different to how it did in the beginning, but the content is largely the same,” she says. “There’s a tendency to think of the arts as being the preserve of some elite minority, but I just don’t think that’s true.

“How many people go to Tate Modern each year? How many people have already visited the new Hepworth Wakefield? There’s a lot of people out there who are interested in the arts and I hope the success of the magazine proves that.”

Cherie is now hoping history will repeat itself with the launch of the Aesthetica Short Film Festival. The idea came out of a competition they ran last year to unearth new filmmaking talent.

The winners and runners-up entries were featured on a DVD, but Cherie couldn’t help feeling that they were missing a trick.

“I’d watched so many great short films and it didn’t sit well with me that we were only able to show a handful to the public,” she says. “I walked into the Aesthetica offices and said, ‘You know what, we are going to launch a film festival’. It seemed to make perfect sense. Leeds has one, so does Bradford and Hull, but it wasn’t something that York had ever done.”

That was last year and next week the Aesthetica Short Film Festival will open.

Running over four days, 175 films from 30 countries will be screened across the city from the Mansion House to Barley Hall. “York is blessed with some great buildings and I thought it was such a wonderful idea to take these spaces as a backdrop for contemporary films,” says Cherie, who has also managed to secure the likes of Academy Award nominee Mark Herman (Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Brassed Off) to take part in a series of industry discussions at the festival, which she hopes will be an annual event.

“This is a festival of film,” she says. “But I also wanted it to be a platform for those just starting out to get a real insight into the industry and meet those who have been there and done it.

“It’s a celebration of film and hopefully a showcase of the young talent out there.”

A lowdown of short films

The films which feature in the short film festival are all 25 minutes and under. They cover every genre from documentary to comedy and animation. There will also be family-friendly screenings.

The festival will launch at York’s City Screen on November 3, and for a full programme visit www.asff.co.uk or call 01904 629137.