Tom Wilton, the maverick filmmaker and founder of the Bootleg Film Festival, announced at the beginning of September that Bootleg NYC would be the final Bootleg ever. In a heartfelt and beautifully honest blog post he laid out his reasons for this decision and while a little shell-shocked the independent film world rallied around to thank Tom for everything he had done and achieved with the fest. Tom had discussed this with me merely hours before and I knew he was doing the right thing. As a festival Bootleg has done so much for so many and as an individual Tom has poured his heart and soul into it. It was his baby, as he puts it, it was a “bad idea that worked” and now it was going to New York where he had always dreamed it would go.
Tom Wilton is not a normal person; he’s not even a normal filmmaker. Normal filmmakers don’t make three feature films (two in New York and one in the UK) and run two film festivals on either side of the Atlantic, all in the same year. Normal filmmakers don’t start film festivals in the basement of a Glasgow coffee shop and see them grow into internationally recognised platforms for undiscovered talent. Normal people don’t care as much as Tom does, or have a single a vision as Tom does, or bounce back from the amount of knock backs as Tom has had or encourage a movement of other filmmakers as Tom has. And when you cross paths with someone like Tom you realise just what it takes to make something of your life, just how much belief, determination and drive you need to succeed and just how attainable it is if you just focus your life on it.
I am extremely thankful to have met Tom, as I know any filmmaker who has engaged with him and Bootleg would agree, and I am excited for what the future holds for him and every filmmaker he ever inspired.
Tom’s final farewell speech at Bootleg NYC was a rallying call to all filmmakers to lay their ego at the side and help their fellow creatives. He told a tale of losing everything on one of his feature film productions, disappearing into Europe with his tail between his legs ready to pack it all in, only to arrive in Toronto for the Bootleg Film Festival and to be inspired, supported and loved by filmmakers and friends. He asked that as a filmmaker you look out for the ‘other guy’, that if someone needs your help, you offer it. That you remember that as you climb the ladder, you were once at the bottom and you pull others up with you. He asked that we keep the spirit of Bootleg alive and in writing this post I hope that I am in some way doing just that.
Bootleg was never just a film festival, it was a movement, an entity, a family. It was a place where lifelong friendships were made and collaborations formed. Bootleg was about leaving your ego at the door and embracing this little world we call filmmaking and celebrating each and every person in it.
In this multi-media project; I will attempt to share the history of Bootleg from my vantage point. I will share my views and the views of other people associated with Bootleg as well as discussing the Bootlegacy and where we go from here.
Bootleg mattered a lot to many people and was missed by many more. It’s my hope that through this discussion you will be able to feel the love that I myself have for the festival and the people around it as well as experience a little bit of what it was all about and why it mattered. Read more of this post