Between 17-21 February, Quench editors Beau Beakhouse and Sadia Pineda Hameed went along to the 6th BFI Future Film Festival. It was five amazing days packed full of workshops, panels and keynote speeches led by influential figures in the film industry today, film screenings and networking opportunities all aimed at 16-25 year old aspiring filmmakers. Here’s some of the highlights
On the Festival Circuit
With speakers from the BFI London Film Festival, London Short Film Festival and Cork Film Festival, this engaging panel of programmers and curators told us what exactly is involved in created a film festival and details into the film selection process. This was especially insightful for aspiring filmmakers, as it turns out programmers select films from both the submissions (BFI Future Film Festival receiving over 1400 this year) as well as scouting films from other festivals.
A key point stressed was to research the festivals you may choose to submit your films to; most festivals have themes and categories when screening films or short films which may be ideal for yours. Especially with short films, as these aren’t exactly profitable but should be done simply to create an idea or vision, you should be aware of the costs of submitting to festivals too as these can get quite expensive! Another point raised was the importance of networking. Be it speaking to festival programmers to find out what types of films they’re looking for, or scoping out collaborators for future projects, networking is key. During the course of the BFI Future Film Festival, three BAFTA sponsored networking evenings were held as well as the Hiive lounge, both providing the perfect environment for this.
Dealing with rejection was also touched upon, which was imperative to express to the young filmmakers in the audience in a hopeful way. A short email back to the programmer (when they’re not busy with the festival anymore!) can go a long way in getting feedback and displaying your passion to work towards creating great film. Other things you could do to get back on your feet after a rejection would be through DIY screenings or submitting to smaller, local festivals – these are always good ways of getting your short films seen.
The panel was an inspiring start to our time at the BFI Future Film Festival, and we were left with this feeling that there is overwhelming support for young filmmakers today. The speakers made getting a film into a film festival sound relatively attainable, even mentioning that the British Film Council have a fund for trips to festivals screening your films if you can’t afford it. The BFI Future Film Festival’s program included panels and workshops much like these throughout the week, encouraging and inspiring whilst also making the young filmmakers aware of the practicalities of it all.
Film London’s London Calling Plus scheme provides £15k to 5 different BAME (Black, Asian and Minority ethnic) filmmakers living in London (with the regular London Calling scheme awarding £4k to filmmakers from London). Three short films that were supported by this scheme were shown; 7.2 (dir. Nida Manzoor), Three Brothers (dir. Aleem Khan) and Daytimer (dir. Riz Ahmed), following by a discussion with the directors about the process of making their films, the films themselves, and the support received from Film London.
How the scheme works is that the films are pitched to Film London, and once a filmmaker has been chosen they are then given the funding to spend how they like, seminars on different filmmaking aspects preceding the start of shooting as well as notes and feedback on their work. What all three filmmakers felt was great about this scheme, however, was the amount of freedom they were given. Film London were there as support if needed, but never imposed schedules or changes to their creative work at any point.
The importance of schemes like this are clear, with short films being quite expensive to produce the practicalities of making them can initially seem daunting and realising a vision may seem unachievable. Having watched the three short films, it is fair to say that each film had their own message and vision that felt like they needed to be realised to their full potential.
Nida Manzoor’s 7.2 is a female led comedy-cum-action thriller as part of her ‘schoolgirl trilogy’, with witty dialogue and well choreographed fight scenes. Manzoor said she wished to create a film that presented an exaggeration of her real experiences, a film that had ‘bad-ass’ real girls who were the centre of the plot, action and comedy. Whilst not every joke involving physical comedy landed, the writing was undeniably funny – particularly when delivered by Gwyneth Keyworth, who played the protagonist’s best friend. Aleem Khan’s Three Brothers is a tender short about grief, taking on responsibilities and coping as three young brothers are left alone after their mother’s death and father’s departure to Pakistan to remarry. Aspects of the film are taken from Khan’s life, with the plot having happened to three cousin’s of his as well as some of the motifs within the story being pulled from his own experiences. It is a touching piece of filmmaking that explores these themes with nuance and realism.
Daytimer, from actor turned director Riz Ahmed (Four Lions, Nightcrawler) is a short concerned with hybrid identities of British Asians that played out wonderfully on screen. The film follows a young Pakistani boy in 1988 who, within a day, goes from dealing with racism at school to being with the wrong crowd at a daytime rave to having to return home and readjust to the traditions of family life. The visuals for each aspect of his identity were sensitively filmed, taking on distinct tones whilst having the film remain cohesive. It expresses the different fronts a person with a hybrid identity may have to put on through changes such as from handheld to steady cams and different modes of language used. Daytimer, along with Three Brothers and 7.2 were examples of great short filmmaking, and the merits of applying for schemes such as London Calling.
This screening/panel has to be one of the highlights of our time at the BFI Future Film Festival, being able to see three great short films as well as hearing honest reflections on the scheme and process of filmmaking from the directors themselves.
In the talk In Development a group of film industry professionals discussed the process of taking a script through production, broadly covering how a script is chosen and what those in the industry may or may not be looking for. They ranged from those firmly within the industry, to independent filmmakers who also fund themselves with this paid work. They were different points of view, with some trying to maintain value of the artistic work put into the script, and others giving practical advice from a long time working in the industry. But they all encouraged future filmmakers to get out there and produce their scripts without really looking for ‘permission’ to do so, or without conforming to any rule book. It was all advice to help the filmmakers ideas more accessible to those who may be picking up their scripts.
In this talk, casting director Jeremy Zimmerman who has worked on films such as Moon, Hellboy and Robin Hood, and actor Jodhi May (The Last of the Mohicans, Defiance) were interviewed about their experience with casting. It was a great discussion with Zimmerman focusing more on the film production side, how to cast the write actors in film and how to create the right environment for great acting to take place. Jodhi May discussed her experiences with directors and talked about how different directors ike to work and the differences and the benefits of different types of approaches. It was an excellent talk and the advice was relevant for filmmakers, a great discussion of the more human side of filmmaking.
How to Get the Most From a Mentor
This talk was particularly informative for those in a position where they are finding it difficult to further their career in the film industry, and need guidance. The panel began with a definition of what a mentor is, and we learned that this was not limited to an assigned mentor within a scheme but could be anyone with knowledge in a field you are interested in who is willing to guide you. Asking questions, keeping in contact and valuing what you learn from a mentor were key points raised in the discussion. Whilst the mentor schemes spoken about by the panel were actually aimed at people with years of industry experience, previous success on the festival circuit and more or less over the age of 25, the panel was still informative. The speakers were helpful in talking about mentor programmes for young filmmakers that they had heard of, such as through the BFI Academy, as well as quashing misconceptions about what a mentor relationship can be.
A Syrian Love Story
To end our second day, we watched a screening of the documentary A Syrian Love Story. Filmmaker Sean McAllister meets Raghda and Amer, two Syrian revolutionaries who met in a prison cell, and documents their relationship strained by the political and social climate of their country over the years. The wider impact on one couple’s relationship is heartbreaking, and is so captivating to watch as it is such a rare thing to capture on film. These are the stories often gone un-captured: the individuals affected by a broken environment.
A Syrian Love Story was a great choice to screen at the film festival, exemplifying the reasons why we tell stories and film’s capabilities of capturing and conveying such stories and emotions.