What was once known as the mecca for filmmakers is making a revival – by holding a film festival to showcase new talent from an international crowd of filmmakers. The Greenwich Village area in New York has been the source of inspiration to aspiring and professional filmmakers since the sixties and which has progressed the cinematic education of film historians, critics and academics, is now celebrating the second edition of its film festival this month.

The Greenwich Village Film Festival is taking place in a location, which hosts the highest number of film productions in New York City. The arrival of buses full of tourist film-fans can be witnessed daily and some of the most reputable film schools are still based in the area. The festival is not only a celebration of the scenic landscape of the area but also a place where new ideas are shared to make an impact among a community of creative individuals.

After a successful first edition of the festival held in 2015, this year’s festival will be extended to three days from 24 - 26 October 2016, featuring both American and international films, and films which have been shot within the village.

The founder of Greenwich Village Film Festival, Alessia Gatti, 27, has been working as a film director, producer and actress in New York for three years. She tells us what makes this festival special and reveals more about the art of filmmaking.

Tell us more about the film festival. What’s the story behind it?

It started out as just an idea I had with a friend, Antonio Padovan, and then luck had it our way when on the night of our first edition we met two producers, Richard Eric Weigle and Michael Anastasio, both of which have been residents of the village for forty-three years. They were enthused with our idea and decided to join us for this year’s event. Thanks to their support we’re now able to hold the event for three nights at our 2016 edition. We wanted this festival to be something unique and special to celebrate the village and its heritage, even our logo and the drawings on our website are made by a well known resident artist, Kazuya Morimoto, and all our sponsors for this edition are locals restaurants and hangouts in the neighbourhood.

Where do your submissions come from?

We receive submissions from all over the world, including the UK, and accept short films which are twenty minutes or under. We have three categories: Best Greenwich Village Portrait, Best Short Film and Best Short Documentary. There’s a special award for our winner, a golden arch symbolising the Washington Square Arch, an original sculpture by Japanese artist and NY resident Hana Sakamoto. An interesting fact is that the winner for last year’s Best Short Film category was an Oscar 2015 nominee, so it was a sign that we are definitely on the right path and very proud of our selection.

What work are you the most proud of as a filmmaker yourself?

I commit myself a hundred percent to all the work I do and am still very proud of my earliest projects, even though I know I could do better now. I'm attached to the idea, memories of the shoot and the collaboration with the crew.

From a personal point of view, I'm very proud of Muneera, a short film
directed by Oscar Boyson in relation to the Venice Biennale in collaboration with the Kuwait pavilion. It was my first short film as a producer where I had to organise the entire shoot with a USA and Kuwait crew in Venice, Italy. It was a very challenging project because it threw me into the deep end and it helped me to develop my professional skills.

The three videos I also made for the EXPO Milan 2015 have been a great experience, and I was very honoured and proud to represent my region of Italy in front of an international audience.

What inspires you? What motivates you to create?

Life. Everything inspires me, it's inside of me and outside of me, it's something I can't control, and something I always have to keep going on, whether it’s a project, or a script. Even in my free time I paint, draw and love to make things.

How did you start creating films? Which platforms did you use?

In the early days, content creator platforms such as Userfarm, helped me create new content and build up the confidence I needed to keep going by filming adverts. Thanks to them, I was acknowledged as a filmmaker and have had quite a bit of success through them since entering and winning the contests. Now I still look at companies such as these as a platform where I can express my creativity in a very short time. I guess that's another thing I like about it, I love challenges and prefer working under pressure to achieve and then move on to the next.
What challenges have you come across as a filmmaker?

The first challenge as a self-taught filmmaker was to learn the technical
aspects of the profession. I still remember the first time I held a camera in my hand and I was trying to figure out how it worked. It was difficult at the
beginning because you have in mind exactly what you're trying to achieve
and it's difficult to articulate it and get it right away. Then the second
challenge for me was to trust myself and be confident enough to work as a
filmmaker and accept the different projects that were coming my way. But I
kept going and it's been three years now that I've been working as a full-time actress/filmmaker/producer.

Have you had any unusual experiences in your career as a filmmaker?

One very unusual experience was a shoot about graffiti for an episode for my mini documentaries, "Hands of New York" in particular the one about graffiti. I’d just started experimenting in film-making when I met some random artists in NYC and immediately thought it could have been a very cool episode for my documentary series, so I set up a time for the shoot, and they told me the location and of course it had to be done at night. At the time, I wasn’t aware of the legal issues surrounding graffiti. So I went with my equipment, alone, at 11pm under the George Washington Bridge in upper Manhattan. It was a very challenging and risky shoot but was I captured was definitely worth it.

What have you learned from making films and how could this help aspiring filmmakers?

What I learned is the story is what really matters the most - and the acting of course. How it is filmed is also important, but without the story there is no film.

Do you have any plans to make films in London?

I love London. I recently did a voice-over in Italian for a tourist bus company there, so some Italian tourists may be able to hear my voice whilst exploring the city. I’m also currently working on a film in Italy so London could be on the cards in the future.

To find out more about the festival, please visit: www.greenwichvillagefilmfestival.com