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.
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.
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.
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.
Saturday 23 November | 2:30pm – 4pm | £5
The Bar at the Yard Theatre, Unit 2a, Queen’s Yard, London, E9 5EN
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.