The 64th BFI London Film Festival unveils an industry programme that probes key learnings and experiences that have emerged during a tumultuous and historical 2020, a year in which creatives seek new ways to collaborate across fractured media, cultural and social landscapes.

Talks and panel events will explore themes arising from the rupture of business models accelerated by the pandemic and also as a response to demands to tackle systemic bias in the cultural industries. The programme will also examine the increasingly blurred boundaries between formats and platforms, and new opportunities that can emerge through partnership and collaboration. 

Sessions are delivered in partnership with the National Theatre, the Young Vic Theatre and Bird’s Eye View, while Film London return with a virtual edition of their longstanding Production Finance Market. Talent development continues at the festival via the recently announced new Works-in-Progress Showcase for UK films, television and immersive work and also through NETWORK@LFF

The industry programme will be presented digitally this year for the first time offering wider opportunities for international and UK industry delegates to participate.

“We always planned to make changes to our 2020 industry programme to reflect the festival’s evolution to include series and also XR and immersive arts,” says Tricia Tuttle, BFI London Film Festival Director, “but we also launch this all digital edition at a time of immense uncertainty. Our screen and cultural industries are grappling with unprecedented change due to the enormous economic uncertainty caused by the global pandemic, but also as we question the long term viability of cultural industries that have excluded so many and privileged and centred so few. 

“As we emerge from this period and look for answers, we’re delighted to be joined by established international leaders and also some bold emerging leaders who are highly regarded as risk-takers, innovators, great collaborators and creative thinkers.”

The industry programme comprises:

Spotlight conversations with major industry leaders – ARRAY and Jane Tranter

Spotlight conversation with Ava DuVernay and ARRAY

Filmmaker and ARRAY Founder Ava DuVernay will be joined by ARRAY President Tilane Jones, ARRAY Director of Programming Mercedes Cooper, ARRAY Alliance Executive Director Regina Miller, ARRAY Filmworks President Sarah Bremner and ARRAY Filmworks Head of Physical Production Paul Garnes, in conversation with Gaylene Gould, writer, broadcaster and artistic director.   

Founded in 2011 by filmmaker Ava DuVernay, ARRAY is a multi-platform media company and arts and social impact collective dedicated to narrative change. The organisation catalyses its work through a quartet of mission-driven entities: the film distribution arm ARRAY Releasing, the content company ARRAY Filmworks, the programming and production hub ARRAY Creative Campus and the non-profit group ARRAY Alliance. 

Over the past 10 years ARRAY has blazed a trail, challenging industry orthodoxy across distribution, production, exhibition and through focused community activism. ARRAY Releasing focuses on grass-roots distribution of narrative and documentary feature work by black artists, people of colour and women of all kinds (including LFF 2019 titles Lingua Franca and Burning Cane). Its film and television production arm ARRAY Filmworks’ slate includes Peabody and Emmy winning limited series When They See Us, Oscar-nominated criminal justice documentary 13th and the groundbreaking TV series Queen Sugar. The non-profit ARRAY Alliance expands on the organisation’s work through impactful, inclusive programming and community initiatives.

As industry rethinks its systems and ways of doing things, the festival asks what can we learn from their model and approach to working across multiple platforms in amplifying underrepresented voices and building a more inclusive industry. www.arraynow.com

Wednesday 14 October, 16:00

Spotlight conversation with Jane Tranter in association with Variety

Tranter is another international groundbreaking leader and one of the most respected television executives in the business. Bad Wolf was set up in 2015 by Tranter and her co-founder partner Julie Gardner, with the purpose of creating ambitious, imaginative and relevant drama for the UK, US and global TV markets. Prior to Bad Wolf, Tranter served as the BBC’s Head of Fiction and Executive Vice-President for Programming and Production at BBC Worldwide.  She has also received a BAFTA Special Award for her contribution to television. This spotlight conversation will be moderated by Variety’s International Editor, Manori Ravindran.  

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Jane Tranter

Bad Wolf is the result of over 15 years of creative collaboration between Tranter, Gardner and the production and creative sector in Wales, which first began with the relaunch and relocation to Cardiff of Doctor Who in 2005.  Their strong regional commitment remains at the heart of their work and has generated a production hub in Wales. Tranter’s recent credits include The Night Of (HBO), Succession (HBO), A Discovery of Witches (Sky Original Drama), the BAFTA award-winning series His Dark Materials (BBC/HBO) and the critically acclaimed series I Hate Suzie (Sky Original) starring Billie Piper and co-written Lucy Prebble with Piper. This year’s LFF also features a sneak preview of the new Bad Wolf drama Industry (BBC/HBO).  

Monday 12 October, 16:00

Panels, workshops, talks 

Taking Black Writers Seriously in association with Ida Rose and the Young Vic Theatre

This year the festival is hosting a 2-part industry event with black writers to raise awareness of their work and create a live opportunity to explore new stories from new voices with commissioners and production companies.
 
LFF 2020 has joined with black-led film production company Ida Rose founded by Shantelle Rochester and Kwame Kwei-Armah’s Young Vic Theatre to present a showcase and pitching event with black novelists and early career screenwriters to raise awareness of the range of novels with strong potential for adaptation, and the ability of black-led development teams to create compelling original concepts and scripts that should be commissioned for development and production. There will be an invited audience of editors, producers and production companies.  

Writers have long voiced a frustration at the way characters and storylines fall all too easily into lazy stereotypes rather that reflecting the diversity of black people and their lives in Britain and around the world. Addressing this in a fresh and proactive way with this event is former theatre director Alby James who moved into film and broadcasting with the BBC in the mid-90s and has helped the South African film and television industry emerge from decades of apartheid, championing equality over division.

Kwame Kwei-Armah says: “This is an important time in the history of our sector, a time when there can be no more excuses. Let’s all do our bit and make sure that the talent meets the broadcasters and broadcasters meet the talent. This is the time.”

Friday 16 October 10:30am at The Young Vic (for invited industry guests only) and as a live webinar, Sunday 18 October, 13:00

Telling Black Stories on Screen – Kemp Powers and Kwame Kwei-Armah in Conversation

Despite a focus on diversity and inclusion over recent years, endemic issues around access and representation remain within the film and television industries. In an extension of the festival’s association with Ida Rose and the Young Vic Theatre on a pitching showcase for black writing talent, director, playwright and Artistic Director of the Young Vic Kwame Kwei-Armah talks to filmmaker, screenwriter and playwright Kemp Powers (screenwriter and co-director, Soul; screenwriter, One Night In Miami, both screening in the festival) about his work and the importance of representing black stories on screen.

Friday 16 October, 16:00 

From Big Screen to Small Screen: How Film Producers Navigate the World of Television in association with Screen International

With the breakdown of the old hierarchy between film and television more creative talent is moving between the 2 screens and work by directors usually associated with film festivals has become increasingly common. Where talent go, producers are following, with many who have traditionally only worked in film now developing authored, talent-led work for television.

This panel hears from Ed Guiney, producer and co-founder of Element Pictures, creators of the celebrated BBC adaptation of Normal People directed by Lenny Abrahamson and Hettie Macdonald; and Allon Reich, producer with DNA Films and TV which has produced Alex Garland’s visionary sci-fi series Devs about how and why they made the leap to the small screen and what they have learnt in the process. The discussion will be moderated by a Screen International editor.  

Thursday 15 October, 16:00

In Focus: Independent Producers

It’s been a stormy 6 months for the whole industry, but especially so for independent producers, whose livelihoods can feel precarious at the best of times. As we tentatively emerge from the COVID production hiatus and the industry starts to regain its footing, this panel explores some of the challenges and opportunities facing independent producers at this moment in time and the various strategies they’re putting in place to weather these strange storms.

Producers joining the discussion are Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly (Ammonite), Ameenah Ayub Allen (Rocks, Ava & Ali), Matthew Wilkinson (Yesterday, Days of the Bagnold Summer), Elhum Shakerifar (A Syrian Love Story), Helen Simmons (Chubby Funny) and Joy Gharoro-Akpojotor (Blue Story). The discussion will be chaired by Tom Grater, International Film Reporter for Deadline.

Thursday 8 October, 16:00

Where Do We Go from Here? 

The global pandemic has had a profound impact on almost every aspect of the film business, from production, distribution and exhibition through to festivals and markets and change that has been incremental until now has accelerated overnight. The Black Lives Matter movement has also prompted a moment of uncomfortable reckoning for the industry. As the industry emerges from lockdown and cautiously starts to reopen, this is an opportunity for the international film community to reflect on what we’ve learnt from the past 6 months, discuss what could or should change going forward, and imagine the kind of future we might want to emerge into.

Contributors to this discussion include producer Ted Hope, recognised for launching the careers of some of the most acclaimed directors working today including Ang Lee, Hal Hartley and Michel Gondry, as well as taking Amazon into film; Emmy-award winning producer and Sundance Film Festival Director Tabitha Jackson (Rx For Survival, 20,000 Days on Earth, The Imposter, Dreams of a Life); and the BFI’s Chief Executive Ben Roberts. The talk will be moderated by journalist and film festival programmer Kaleem Aftab.

Tuesday 13 October, 16:00

Question Time with BFI Chief Executive Ben Roberts 

Industry delegates are invited to an open discussion with BFI CEO Ben Roberts and Briony Hanson, British Council Director of Film, about all aspects of the film industry and his vision for the future of the BFI. Roberts took up his role in February this year just ahead of the pandemic taking hold of our lives and business. He has been with the BFI since 2012, first as Director of the BFI Film Fund and then becoming Deputy CEO in October 2018, where he was responsible for overseeing the BFI’s National Lottery investments in film development, talent development, production and distribution, as well as the BFI’s international activities.  Prior to the event all registered industry delegates will be contacted to send in their questions.

Friday 9 October, 15:00

Captive Audiences – In Lockdown and Beyond 

The BFI’s research team has conducted extensive research over the past 6 months to inform the BFI and aid the recovery of different sectors of the industry as they emerge from lockdown.  In this session, the team will share insights and data around the reopening of cinemas and changes to audience viewing habits during the pandemic.

Thursday 15 October, 14:30

Creating a Pandemic Recovery Plan for UK Distribution and Exhibition with Bird’s Eye View

Bird’s Eye View (BEV), one of the UK’s leading voices in instigating gender equality in film, has brought together 67 women from across the UK involved in film distribution, exhibition and the audience development chain to form a Pandemic Response Programme focused on rebuilding film in new ways, fostering connections, sharing knowledge and new ways of operating post-COVID. It includes representatives from independent cinemas such as the Picturehouse chain, Watershed Bristol, Glasgow Film Theatre, Chapter Cardiff, Broadway Nottingham and Genesis London; organisations such as We Are Parable, Africa In Motion, Caramel Film Club; the BFI supported Film Hubs covering Wales, Northern Ireland and the Midlands; and executives from distributors such as MUBI, Studio Canal, Universal, Picturehouse Entertainment and Curzon. This programme is supported by ScreenSkills using National Lottery funds awarded by the BFI as part of the Future Film Skills programme.

Tuesday 13 October, 15:00

The Immersive Art Revolution (LFF Expanded programme, in partnership with the National Theatre)

This event is part of LFF Expanded, the festival’s new dedicated strand of XR and immersive art.

The last decade has heralded an extraordinary mainstream surge in immersive art. No longer an experience confined to the VR space, theatres, galleries and cinemas have all spent the past decade expanding their definition of performance, seeking to immerse their audiences in new ways. As COVID-19 has seen venues swiftly pivot to digital in order to engage audiences remotely, the festival in partnership with the National Theatre asks how immersive a remote or socially distanced experience can be.

Rufus Norris, Director and Joint Chief Executive of the National Theatre, Nell Whitley, Executive Producer at Marshmallow Laser Feast and Jane Alison, Head of Visual Arts, Barbican, join BBC journalist and presenter Razia Iqbal to discuss the future of the immersive art sector. The dazzling VR experience All Kinds of Limbo, commissioned by the National Theatre, receives its world premiere within the LFF Expanded programme.

Friday 9 October, 16:00

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Jane Alison, Head of Visual Arts, Barbican

LFF Supporting Talent

Works-in-progress at LFF

This year the festival is introducing its first new works-in-progress showcase as part of its industry programme. In what is to become an annual event, the festival will present a showcase of works made for cinema, television and immersive platforms by UK emerging talents. The 7 projects featured in this year’s event are currently in production, post-production or near completion, and will be presented to an invited audience of international buyers and festival programmers. The projects are:

  • 8 Bar (working title), dir Ewen Spencer, prods Aleksandra Bilic, Jamie Clark, David Upshal. Documentary by photographer and filmmaker Ewen Spencer. 
  • The Feast (Gwledd), dir Lee-Haven Jones, scr/prod Roger Williams, starring Anne Elwy, Nia Roberts, Julian Lewis Jones. 
  • Here Before, dir/scr Stacey Gregg, prods Sophie Vickers and Julia Godzinskaya starring Andrea Riseborough, Martin McCann, Jonjo O’Neill.
  • If the Streets Were on Fire, dir Alice Russell, prod Gannesh Rajah, exec prod Julia Nottingham, documentary.
  • The Score, dir/scr Malachi Smyth, prods Matthew James Wilkinson, Ben Pullen, co-prod Isabelle Georgeaux, starring Johnny Flynn, Naomi Ackie, Will Poulter.
  • Sweetheart, dir/scr Marley Morrison, prod Michelle Antoniades, starring Jo Hartley, Nell Barlow, Ella-Rae Smith.
  • Untitled Baff Akoto Project, dir Baff Akoto, prods L-A Appiah, Baff Akoto, experi-mental artist film, featuring Lazara Rosell Albear, Odilon Ngonda, Suhyene Idrissu.

First feature case studies presented by BFI NETWORK@LFF

Supported by the BFI with National Lottery funding, NETWORK@LFF is now in its seventh year and has seen alumni successfully establishing careers, producing award-winning shorts, developing features, working in film and television and beyond. 

This year’s NETWORK@LFF, open to all delegates, offers a series of online webinars exploring some of the exciting debut feature films in this year’s programme, delving deep into the triumphs and challenges of getting the films made, as well as sharing valuable insight and advice for new filmmakers looking to make their first feature.

Natalie Erika James: Relic

Writer-director Natalie Erika James will be talking about her experiences making Relic, at once a heart-breaking allegory for the debilitating effects of dementia and a no-holds-barred exercise in pure horror. 

Wednesday 14 October, 11:00 

Yemi Bamiro: One Man and His Shoes

Filmmaker Yemi Bamiro will be talking about One Man and His Shoes (supported with BFI National Lottery funding), the compelling documentary, examining the cultural and commercial phenomena of Michael Jordan against the increasing commodification of black culture. 

Thursday 15 October, 11:00

Aleem Khan: After Love

Writer-director Aleem Khan will be talking about making After Love, a BFI National Lottery funded drama whose tenderness is a testament to the quality of its writing and performances.

Friday 16 October, 16:00 

IWC Schaffhausen Filmmaker Bursary Award

The IWC Schaffhausen Filmmaker Bursary Award in association with the BFI is the most significant award of its kind in the UK offering £50,000 to support the career of an exceptional new filmmaking talent. The 2020 shortlisted filmmakers are Cathy Brady, writer-director of Wildfire, Aleem Khan, writer-director of After Love and Francis Lee, writer-director of Ammonite.

Buyers and Sellers

LFF’s Buyers & Sellers event provides a unique opportunity for attending international sales agents to meet the maximum number of UK buyers in the minimum amount of time via a speed-dating style set of one-to-one meetings arranged by the festival. For the 2020 edition the curated meetings will take place virtually, on Wednesday 14 October, with 11 sales companies pitching to participating UK theatrical distributors and platforms.

Film London Production Finance Market

Now in its 14th year, the Production Finance Market (PFM) is a 2-day financing event for film, facilitating hundreds of one-to-one meetings between producers and financiers from the international marketplace. This year, the PFM will take place as a fully online edition. 

From encouraging new business relationships to attaching international sales companies and securing various forms of investments in companies and film projects, the PFM is invaluable for producers and financiers. The main strand is for projects with budgets above €1m and the New Talent strand offers emerging filmmakers the chance to connect with potential financiers for projects budgeted at €1m and under. The event also includes a VIP speaker event, this year with US producer James Schamus, and a panel discussion.  Limited places are open to LFF industry delegates. 

The PFM is supported by the Mayor of London, the Department for International Trade and the BFI, awarding funds from the National Lottery. Market attendance is by invitation only.   

Monday 12 October, 14:00 – discussion with James Schamus 
Tuesday 13 October, 14:00 – panel discussion

Film Audience Network: Exhibitors’ Breakfast: BFI London Film Festival Special

Film Hub London and the BFI Film Audience Network (BFI FAN) invites FAN members and delegates working in the exhibition sector to a morning of presentations and networking to discuss innovative initiatives welcoming audiences back to screenings across the UK.
 
The event encourages networking between cinemas, festivals, art centres, film clubs and anyone who shows films in across the UK and is an opportunity to share sector news, opportunities, best practice and lessons learnt while developing ways of working together in new and exciting ways.
 
Event supported by Film Hub London, managed by Film London. Attendance by invitation only.

Tuesday 13 October, 10:00-11:30

Press & industry screenings, networking events and delegate services

The festival presents more than 50 virtual press and industry screenings for delegates on the festival’s virtual press and industry platform powered by Shift72.

Other services and facilities for industry delegates available on virtual delegate platform include, all industry events, a digital viewing library of the festival’s short films and the delegate directory.

Delegates will receive regular updates on films available for sales deals in the UK market and additional resource for any of those titles presented in the festival programme.

Originally published: 30 September 2020