Underwire Film Festival


Underwire Film Festival is a cracking event that recognises the best short film work made by women across a range of crafts – including cinematographers, screenwriters, sound designers, producers and editors. Alongside their annual festival in London, they host dinners across the UK, encouraging women to build local connections, and they are also energetic champions of the filmmakers that they have screened, following up careers and promoting subsequent work.

380015_330434086972215_659992561_nPreparing for Wired Words, Kate Taylor, Guy Lodge, Frances Morgan and Hannah Patterson

In 2011, I chaired Wired Words, an interactive workshop focusing on film criticism, where a panel of Catherine Bray (Film4), Guy Lodge (Variety), Frances Morgan (Sight & Sound), Hannah Patterson (Kamera Books) and Virginie Sélavy (Electric Sheep), considered whether there is still space in current criticism landscape for radical ideas.  Discussion ranged from identifying the prevailing notions that currently need shaking up, to measuring how a lively exchange of ideas can stack up against the industrial constraints of contemporary film criticism.

why can't women glasgow panelKate Taylor, Tom Kalin, Noé Mendelle, Hannah McGill. Photo: Stuart Crawford / GSFF

Last year’s session was entitled ‘Why Can’t Women Make Feature Films?, and saw a filmmaker, a critic and a programmer look at the gender gap, roll up their sleeves and get myth-busting on common misconceptions about female filmmakers and the struggles they face in making the transition from short films to features.  Carol Morley (Dreams of a Life), Hannah McGill (Sight & Sound, The List) and Lizzie Francke (Senior Production Executive at British Film Institute Film Fund) took a series of familiar complaints, ripped them to shreds, and then read the shreds like tea leaves, looking forward to a time when the question “How does it feel to be a woman filmmaker?” is never asked again. The event then traveled to Glasgow Short Film Festival, where I was joined by Noé Mendelle (Scottish Documentary Institute), Hannah McGill (Sight & Sound, The List) and Tom Kalin (Columbia University, Swoon). Audience member Raisah Ahmed gives a good summary of some of the discussion points on her blog.  I also wrote a longer blog post on the thinking behind the events.

korean-800pxHye-jung Jeon, Artistic Director of the London Korean Film Festival

For this year’s festival, I wanted to focus on a positive, and relatively unusual ratio, celebrating the number of women in leadership roles at film festivals in the UK and Ireland.  As research I’ve been compiling interviews/features found online on this Tumblr and I’m looking forward to hearing from three kickass women on Saturday as to what makes them tick and how they captain their ships.

She Shark Industries presents: Why Are So Many Film Festival Directors Women?

Saturday 23 November | 2:30pm – 4pm | £5

The Bar at the Yard Theatre, Unit 2a, Queen’s Yard, London, E9 5EN

Heather Croall Official HeadshotHeather Croall, Festival Director, Sheffield Doc/Fest

While many international film festivals are male-led, closer to home, the UK and Ireland has a remarkably high proportion of women in leadership roles, who continue to shape film culture and bring a vision of cinema to their audiences – something for Underwire to celebrate! With a job that involves juggling artistic values with fundraising nouse, developing relationships with filmmakers, building and managing a team while being a public-facing figure under the critical eye of the press, and their audiences, just who are these people?

For this discussion we will be joined by a trio of inspirational Film Festival Directors, Heather Croall (Sheffield Doc/Fest), Grainne Humphreys (Jameson Dublin Film Festival) and Alison Poltock (East End Film Festival), who have each dramatically developed their festivals in the past few years into key international events. Each will present a brief manifesto, communicating both their artistic vision and a sense of how they captain their ship, and audience members will be encouraged to reflect on their own ideas and strategies.

Essential for any ambitious cat looking to build a career in film exhibition, or indeed production, and for those interested in hearing where film culture is heading, from those tasked with pushing it forward. Curated by Kate Taylor.


Heather Croall is Director of the Sheffield International Documentary Festival (Sheffield Doc/Fest), the premier documentary, factual and digital media event in the UK. Doc/Fest is a film festival, industry conference and a major international marketplace, offering pitching opportunities, controversial discussion panels and in-depth filmmaker masterclasses, as well as a wealth of inspirational documentary films across the globe. Heather is also a Director of XO Labs, an international programme designed to explore the creative and commercial challenges of developing content and services for digital media.

Grainne Humphreys is the Festival Director of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival. Ireland’s leading public film festival, this is her fifth year as Artistic Director. She began her working life in film education, teaching and programming for young audiences in Dublin and around Ireland. She has worked in independent cinema for over sixteen years, starting as Administrator of the Junior Dublin Film Festival in 1994. She was Assistant Director in the Irish Film Institute, where she was Director of both Stranger Than Fiction Documentary Festival and the Dublin French Film Festival from 2002- 2007.  She was Co-Editor of Ireland into Film, a series of publication on a number of key Irish films. She also regularly broadcasts on the arts for both radio and television.

Alison Poltock is the Artistic Director of the Pan-Asia Film Festival and the East End Film Festival. Her love of cinema, coupled with her passion for supporting new voices has seen the East End Film Festival grow in recent years from 14 feature films in 2007 to 86 Features across 12 major venues in 2011. Reuters recently listed EEFF among the top 10 film festivals in the World.


Variety @ Scalarama

Bette Gordon’s Variety is screening in the UK in September as part of the Scalarama core programme. Find cinemas and dates on the Events page.



Dir: Bette Gordon | USA | 1983 | 97 mins | 18

Cast: Sandy McLeod, Will Patton, Richard Davidson, Luis Guzman, Peter Rizzo

Remember when New York was filthy? This is the cinematic world of Variety, where the nightly wash of neon round Times Square holds a threatening edge, and desires are rated XXX.  Written by Kathy Acker, this lost gem of downtown post-punk cinema is both a time capsule from an energetic moment in American independent filmmaking and a simmering portrait of a young woman losing her grip on reality.


Christine is adrift, trying to pay the rent, when barmaid best friend Nan suggests a gig working in the box office of the Variety, a porn cinema.  Initially unphased by the job, curiosity soon gets the better of her and Christine is drawn into the world of her patrons, and grows increasing fascinated by a shadowy customer, with a fervour that spills into obsession.


Before there was Girls, or Frances Ha, there has been a long line of art, film and literature dealing with young women, lost in the city and seeking something, a job, a relationship, a sense of what the hell they’re doing with their lives.   Hailed as “a feminist Vertigo” on its release by LA Weekly, Bette Gordon’s feature film debut may pass the Bechdel Test, but is much more ambiguous than polemical, and the strange flip of voyeurism from a male to female perspective gives this character study some fascinatingly blurred edges.


As part of a downtown Manhattan scene/moment that featured Jim Jarmusch, Susan Seidelman, Amos Poe and others, as documented in last year’s Blank City, Variety features an impressive post-punk pedigree.  The film features the soon-to-be-famous photographer Nan Goldin as Christine’s smart cookie barmaid pal, a sleazy voice cameo from Spalding Gray, an early turn by Luis Guzman as the porn cinema’s caretaker, and even a cameo from John Waters’ muse and underground heroine Cookie Mueller.  John Lurie provides a suitably scuzzy jazz score and shooting duties fall to cinematographers John Foster (Wild Style, Keane) and Tom DiCillo (Stranger Than Paradise, Underground U.S.A) with the latter going on to direct Johnny Suede and Living in Oblivion.


Little screened in the UK, this is a welcome opportunity to discover a classic of feminist underground transgressive New York cinema.  Tonight Variety is presented on 35mm by She Shark Industries, a new independent enterprise from film programmer Kate Taylor.



“Perplexed by your multiplex? Feeling half hearted by art house? Do you dream of running your own cinema? The workshop that launched a dozen film clubs on the unsuspecting public is back for a 3rd year!”

Sunday sees a daytrip to Brighton to chair this Scalarama event, encouraging people to start their own regular film screenings. I’ve chaired a few of these sessions now, and they tend to be lively and interactive, with an emphasis on the cultural aspects of running a film club as well as the nitty gritty lowdown on event logistics.

Often the most interesting aspect for me is the way the speakers are really open about their motivation – it’s not something that people are regularly asked about so it’s great to understand the passion and enthusiasm that fuels organisers to keep momentum, doing something that, as is regularly stated, rarely makes any money.

If you’re curious about starting an event and are looking for inspiration, I’d recommend checking out the activities of the previous speakers I’ve seen on the panel; Club Des Femmes, Aorta Burst, Deptford & Sydenham Film Club, Little Joe, Portobello Pop-Up, Optic, The Nomad Cinema, Midnight Movies and The Lost Picture Show.

If you’re London-based, then Cinematic Drifters on Facebook is a good place for finding film club listings and Tony Paley’s Capital Celluloid often highlights interesting film clubs as part of his pick of the day, with Time Out’s Film Events guide also offering some coverage. And best of all, for September and beyond, the Scalarama website will host details of film club happenings across the UK.

For full details and to sign up to Sunday’s event, go to:



Emporium Theatre
88 London Rd
BN1 Brighton
United Kingdom

Sunday, 11 August 2013 from 12:00 to 14:00

A Celebration of Cinema Across the UK in September, Scalarama is pleased to present a special workshop about starting up a film club or cinema.



Kate Taylor (chair) Independent Cinema Office
Sophie Brown: Duke of York’s, Sheffield Doc/Fest
Toby King: Duke of York’s, The Duke’s After Dark
David Saitch: Hurstpierpoint Film Society
Joe Bond: One Way Theatre
Michael Pierce: Scalarama, Midnight Movies, Little Joe


Kicking off with a panel discussion detailing programming, venues, promotion and sustainability, the event will move on to a speedy presentation of various film clubs from around the UK, before ending with an opportunity to meet both fellow film clubs or potential partners in your future endeavours. Perfect for both complete novices and seasoned professionals, this event seeks to help share ideas and resources, building on the Scalarama network of exhibitors.

Check out more details about Scalarama, including how to submit your event to be part of the season at http://www.scalarama.com/