Designed to support and inspire original and new voices, NETWORK @ LFF celebrates difference in approach and perspective, and seeks out filmmakers looking to disrupt conventions. Supported by the BFI and made possible with National Lottery funding, NETWORK @ LFF has built a strong track record with alumni establishing successful careers, producing award-winning shorts, developing features and finding roles within television and beyond.
The 15 talented creatives selected from 596 applications consisted of: Dorothy Allen-Pickard (Writer-Director | South East), Benjamin Bee (Writer-Director | North), Radha Bhandari (Producer | North), Toby Bull (Writer-Director | London), Iona Firouzabadi (Writer | London), Rebekah Fortune (Writer-Director | Midlands), Jack Gill (Writer-Director | North), Tommy Gillard (Writer-Director | South West), Danielle Goff (Producer | London), Paul Holbrook(Writer-Director | South West), Iggy London (Writer-Director | London), Cherish Oteka (Director | London), Charlotte Scott-Wilson (Writer-Director | Scotland), Paul Skillen (Writer | Northern Ireland) and Mared Swain (Writer-Director | Wales). Collectively they hold expansive experience across film, television, theatre and broader screen.
This year, the NETWORK @ LFF cohort found themselves in a variety of venues to participate in a mix of private screenings, filmmaker masterclasses and industry networking.
We kicked things off with some (always dreaded) icebreakers and a roundtable chat on the participants’ work to date. We were then joined by director of BFI Film Fund Mia Bays who met the cohort to discuss the BFI London Film Festival programme, the UK filmmaking landscape as a whole and the BFI Screen Culture 2033 strategy. The group then made their way to BFI Southbank for a filmmaker reception attended by screen industry guests to celebrate the teams behind the many films funded by the National Lottery.
Following a brief break, the first film of the NETWORK @ LFF programme, Saim Sadiq’s Joyland, was screened for the cohort at BFI Stephen Street. Pakistan’s official entry to the Oscars, Joyland is a study of family life in Lahore where tradition clashes with the desires of individuals. Following the screening, writer and director Saim Sadiq joined the group for the first Q&A of the weekend to discuss his film and creative process with host Simran Hans. To allow the cohort to rest ahead of a busy day two we wrapped following an early evening meal together.
We started Saturday at Odeon Luxe West End with an early morning Q&A with BFI backed writer and director Dionne Edwards and producer Georgia Goggin, hosted by founder of Bounce Cinema Mathieu Ajan. As the cohort would be watching Pretty Red Dress following the Q&A, the conversation focused on the development of the short, the struggles and joys of getting a feature made as well as the working relationship between Dionne and Georgia.
After a brief break, the NETWORK @ LFF participants settled in for their first screening of the day. Set against the backdrop of south London with a killer soundtrack of Tina Turner hits, Pretty Red Dress investigates Black masculinity and family structures. Having the Q&A before the film and discussing the film’s journey proved to be an interesting discussion point during lunch.
Next up was French legal drama Saint Omer, an extraordinary narrative debut by documentarian Alice Diop, known for turning her camera on immigrant communities in Paris and highlighting injustices and their intimate stories in a meaningful way. A progressively claustrophobic film, Saint Omer would have to sit with the group over the weekend before they had a chance to chat with filmmaker Alice Diop on Monday.
Day two included some free time to take in other parts of the BFI London Film Festival programme but concluded with a red carpet walk for a Special Presentation gala of Holy Spider at Royal Festival Hall. Based on the true story of a serial killer who targeted sex workers and killed 16 women from 2000 to 2001 in Mashhad, Iran, the dark and violent film raised several conversation points among the group, who discussed the responsibilities of creatives working with difficult themes and their own feelings as storytellers.
Another busy day, starting with an early screening of Alcarràs, the winner of the Golden Bear at the 72nd Berlinale. Set and shot in Alcarràs, Catalonia, Carla Simón’s second feature is a moving family drama about the disappearance of traditional peach-harvesting activities, featuring a non-professional cast of actors.
Following the screening Carla joined the cohort with host Maria Delgado for a Q&A session about her films, the difficulties of a second feature and working with non-actors. Following Alcarràs were two programmes of short films made by this year’s cohort, screened as part of LFF for Free at BFI Southbank. Unfortunately, our schedule meant the group couldn’t attend to take part in a Q&A of their own, but it did allow more tickets to become available to the public and see the work of the selected participants.
The final screening of the weekend was the highly anticipated Enys Men, written and directed by Mark Jenkin. Shot on 16mm and developed by hand, the film follows a wildlife volunteer on an uninhabited island off the British coast as her grip on reality is terrifyingly challenged. Another bold and experimental film from a proud regional creative daring to make the films he wants, Enys Men is an unsettling look at solitude.
A very much discussed addition to the NETWORK @ LFF programme, producer Denzil Monk then met with the cohort for a session hosted by South West BFI NETWORK Talent Executive Nadia Attia. Denzil spoke with the group on his working relationship with Mark, navigating the industry, compromising creativity and financing films. The participants also discussed balancing work and finding a sustainable career as a filmmaker.
On Sunday evening the group were invited to a New Talent Reception to mix with filmmakers with debut films and work in progress screening. Alongside UK-based filmmakers, the cohort were able to mix with international guests and learn more about the wider film industry.
Our final day began with a Q&A with Alice Diop, the filmmaker behind Saint Omer which screened on Saturday. The time between the film and the Q&A meant the cohort were able to sit with the film, which was reflected in the questions they put to Alice. Discussing her attendance at the trial and the use of locations and transcripts within her film Alice was able to give the group a fascinating insight into both fiction and documentary filmmaking.
The final masterclass of the weekend was a Breaking into TV/VOD with Jess Loveland (Head of New Writing at BBC), Barrington Paul Robinson (producer) and William McGregor (writer-director), hosted by Alice Cabañas (Head of BFI NETWORK). This informal panel discussion openly discussed moving into TV from a film background and gave the cohort plenty to consider as they move toward long-form work. Jess was able to share industry insights on the difference between film and TV which fit with William’s experience as he shared his creative journey working in both mediums. Barrington was also able to share his on-set experience filming progressively larger projects for TV and explained his perspective on different platforms.
The NETWORK @ LFF participants were then set up with 1-2-1 sessions with industry professionals, including BFI Film Fund, NETFLIX, Film4, BBC and BBC Films, talent agencies Curtis Brown and Casarotto Ramsay and producers from 5 Acts, Little by Little Films and Lunapark Pictures.
Finally, we closed things with our very own networking reception where we celebrated the cohort and the weekend together! A special thanks to the filmmakers and industry guests that met with the NETWORK @ LFF 2022 creatives and a huge thank you to everyone that took part in such a memorable weekend! We can’t wait to see what comes next for this talented group.