BAFTA Winning Producer Stephen Woolley announced as Special Guest forBFS Industry Day
Bournemouth Film School at AUB is hosting its second annual Industry Day at the iconic BFI Southbank later this month, aimed to further prepare its final year BA (Hons) Film Production students for entering the industry. This year’s Special Guest Q&A will welcome the highly influential and prolific British film producer Stephen Woolley, who was honoured at the 2019 BAFTAs for his ‘Outstanding Contribution to Cinema’ along with partner Elizabeth Karlsen. Stephen’s three-and-a-half-decade long career has created some of the most recognisable and beloved Academy Award-nominated films of recent history, including ‘The Crying Game’, ‘Interview with the Vampire’ and ‘Carol’.
Stephen and partner Elizabeth founded Number 9 Films in 2002 and is one of Britain’s leading independent production companies. Their recent film ‘Colette’, from director Wash Westmoreland, told the story of the French novelist of the same name that is heralded as a twentieth century queer icon. Even before Stephen’s producing career, he was known for his cinema’s “groundbreaking anarchic programming”, The Scala, which showcased fringe and cutting-edge filmmakers and the likes of now-iconic classics ‘Pink Flamingos’ and ‘Eraserhead’. The Q&A will be hosted by the delightful Edith Bowman ahead of her curator role at From Page to Screen Film Festival in Bridport, which Bournemouth Film School at AUB is the lead sponsor for. Edith is creator and host of the popular film podcast ‘Soundtracking’, which recently featured Taika Waitititi, Greta Gerwig and Todd Phillips. "Edith Bowman has interviewed them all, from Tarantino to Scorsese and Gerwig. Her fascinating Soundtracking podcast is a must-listen for any cinephile. We can't wait to see Edith's selections for the 2020 programme for From Page to Screen Film Festival and are thrilled to have her be a part of our second annual Industry Day in London.” The Industry Day will also feature a filmmaker and industry body panel where advice on career paths, navigating the industry and current topics will be discussed with the final year students ahead of them beginning their graduation film shoots in spring. Last year’s panel saw Oscar-nominated producer of ‘The King’s Speech’, Gareth Ellis-Unwin, discuss the support that ScreenSkills has for young people getting their first jobs in film. The panel was then followed by an exciting Q&A with the iconic British director Mike Leigh OBE. Both the 2019 panel and Special Guest Q&A with Mike Leigh OBE are available to watch in full on the Bournemouth Film School YouTube channel.
"The Idea of Defiance is Universal' An Interview with And Then We Danced director Levan Akin
And Then We Dancedfollows ambitious dancer Merab in the traditional Georgian-dance Academy, as new arrival Irakli challenges his opportunity to join the National Ensemble. Directed by Levan Akin, the Swedish-French-Georgian co-production explores sexuality in a masculine, high-stakes environment with an incredible sense of craft, emotional reality and nuance. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GmjDLJ7dkHg I had the opportunity to talk to director Levan Akin about the film, hot off the heels of the film’s Best Feature win at the Iris Prize Film Festival in Cardiff. First of all, congratulations on the success of And Then We Danced, I’m sure its just the beginning of the recognition that this film is going to receive. You premiered at Director’s Fortnight in Cannes in May, and now Sweden have submitted the film for Best International Feature for the Oscars. Not to mention your UK premiere at London Film Festival and your Iris Prize win for Best Feature too. How are you navigating the response to the film? I’m barely keeping up to be frank. I’m very curious by nature so I think it is fun to meet people and communicate about the film but this last month has been very draining. Lots of travel. It’s interesting to see this place that we haven’t really seen on screen before, and particularly the world of Georgian dance. What is your connection to Georgia and Tbilisi that made you want to tell this story? My parents are Georgian so I used to spend the summers there as a kid. I love Georgia and it was really special for me to go back there and film. The heightened expectations of masculinity within Georgian dance echo that of the military. Do you think people are connecting with the film because everyone wrestles with defying expectations? Perhaps, we all have expectations on ourselves, from family and jobs etc. I think the idea of defiance is universal. To sort of tell everybody to **** off. I couldn’t help but notice the Georgian dance choreographer unnamed in the end credits of the film. This really emphasises the seriousness of what attaching yourself to a queer film could mean for him. Where did you shoot the film? What was the response from locations and the public over the content of the film? We shot on location in Tbilisi and it was very challenging in many ways. We would lose locations the night before we were supposed to film there. We received death threats and had to have bodyguards on set. But we were a very small team and we really guerrilla shot the film in many ways and we were fast at getting away. Stakes are high throughout the film — this is a family living on the poverty line and any misstep could mean losing everything. Was this a conscious decision in reflecting Georgia’s the social-economic situation or more to stress the responsibility on Merab’s shoulders as a provider for his family? I have always had class as a theme in my films. And in this case, it was also the everyday reality of the Georgians. Speaking of Merab — Levan Gelbakhiani delivers an incredible performance in the film, and I was shocked to find out this is his first acting role. Where did you find him? I found him on Instagram when I was doing interviews with young people in Tbilisi. We added each other on instagram and then the algorithm suggested him as a friend so something good came out of social media for once. Then my casting person suggested him too from another end and I was like “this is a sign”. We met and he inspired the film a lot. I think I would’ve made a different story had I not found him. The on-screen chemistry between Levan (Gelbakhiani) and Bachi (Valishvili) is palpable. I couldn’t help but notice that there isn’t really any quiet in the film — there is no private space for Merab and Irakli to hide and be together. Even their first intimate scene is outdoors where we can hear people in the background. Was this an artistic decision or more of a decision to accurately present what it would be like? Yes, very. There is no private space in Georgia which is a problem. Everybody is in everyone’s business. It can be charming like when a stranger helps correct Merab’s shirt collar on the bus but it is mostly very problematic. People live their lives knowing that everybody knows everything and it limits ones life a lot. Their first encounter doesn’t involve any kissing — this really struck me when watching the film for a number of reasons, including the notion in coming to terms with one’s own sexuality that kissing is a romantic entanglement rather than just a physical interaction. Can you speak about this decision? It would’ve been too intimate for them to do that at that point in their development. It is when Irakli acknowledges Merab after this first encounter that Merab feels comfortable to show emotions. I think the film articulates exploring sexuality and embracing your authentic identity in one of the most realistic ways I’ve seen on screen. How much of the character of Merab is you? Good question. I don’t know really, I think we are perhaps similar. But for me, the filming was a rumination of my own youth and how I will never really have those types of emotions ever again. First love. I had never thought about it really before diving into this film. How much changes the older one becomes. It’s like Ally Sheedy’s character says in The Breakfast Club. “When you grow old your heart dies”. How long was the process from your first draft to the first day of shooting? How difficult was it to acquire funding and support for the film? I would say 3 years. It was difficult, we had too little money for this film. Now I’ve tried to be vague so far to try not to spoil the film but I have to bring up the dance that Merab does for Irakli to ‘Honey’ by Robyn. Was it always going to be that song? Everything in that sequence from their chemistry, the movement and cinematography is simply stunning. The scene breaks down the barriers of masculinity in a playful and flirtatious way. Thank you. We were all listening to that song while filming and we tried doing the dance to that song and it worked amazingly. But it was something that happened in the moment and we caught it. You have two very long continuous tracking shots in the film that are perfectly executed. What was the rationale behind these? I wanted to convey the feeling many of us have felt when everybody around you is happy but you are dying of sorrow from the inside and you just want to get out. That’s why it is continuous. I never do shots just because they can be done or because they are intriguing. They need to have a narrative purpose. You mentioned in an interview earlier this year that you and Levan (Gelbakhiani) have both received hate messages on social media after the film. Does this reinforce the importance of films like And Then We Danced? Social media is fun in that sense, that you can get direct feedback from people. Your next project is set in Turkey and follows a character mentioned in And Then We Danced but we never see them. Will we get a chance to see Merab and Irakli again but in the location of Istanbul? And if not, would you be open to exploring these two characters again in the future? It is too early for me to know what will happen with the next film exactly. But perhaps I will revisit them in ten years? See where they are then? I hope so, I think everyone is going to want to see these two again! Thanks for taking the time to speak with me Levan. Thank you! And Then We Danced from director Levan Akin is set to be distributed to UK cinemas by Peccadillo Pictures in March 2020. https://www.peccapics.com/product/and-then-we-danced/ https://www.instagram.com/andthenwedanced/ Interview by Lewis Bayley https://www.instagram.com/lew_bacca/ https://instagram.com/bournemouthfilmschool
When it came to finding alumni working in the art department of the film industry today, there was no-one more qualified that we could ask to speak to than Luke Whitelock. Luke Whitelock’s career has gone from strength to strength since his film break in 2005 on Elizabeth: The Golden Age, starring Cate Blanchett. His upcoming projects as Art Director include the long-anticipated follow up to Disney’s Maleficient and the live-action prequel to 101 Dalmatians titled Cruella. Luke is currently working as Assistant Art Directorfor Daniel Craig’s last outing as James Bond: No Time to Die. Luke’s career is far reaching. You can even see some of his work in person at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Floria. Almost a decade after completing work experience on the third instalment of the Harry Potter film franchise as a student, Luke was brought on board as a draftsman for the Universal Orlando theme park extension of the attraction. Luke’s sketches for shop frontages at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando.With an exciting career in the screen-sphere, Luke has been part of the most iconic and memorable visuals in cinema over the last decade. From Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, Christopher Nolan’s Inception and the Russo Brother’s two-part superhero spectacular Avengers: Infinity War & Avengers: Endgame. We were excited that Luke could make time for an interview with us, to give our current students an insight into working in the art department of the industry today and his career so far. Thanks for doing this Luke! Before we get into your role on the highest grossing movie of all time (Avengers: Endgame) I want to go back to 2004 when you had just graduated from AUB (formally the Arts Institute Bournemouth). What was your first move out of leaving University? Was your runner role on Sugar Rush your first job? Ahh yes Sugar Rush, God that feels like an age ago now. I was able to get on that show as an Art Department Runner because we were lucky enough to have a visiting lecturer come in to the Arts Institute who was a Production Designer, her name was Christine Ruscoe. She was a TV designer and had done all sorts of great shows like Worzel Gummidge, Grange Hill,Are You Being Served and Doctor Who. We hit it off and chatted for ages. She very graciously offered me a bit of work experience on a show called Rosemary and Thyme that she was designing and I would be shadowing the Art Director, Paul Cripps. I had a great time for the few days I was on set and stayed in touch with Paul. When I moved to London in 2004 he was the first person I called. He was designing Sugar Rush and asked if I would like to come on board as the runner. It was a baptism of fire that job, I was working in central London, very low wages, long long days but the learning curve was steep. Looking back I really enjoyed that job and I owe Paul a lot, he gave me the start I needed. Soon after you got your first film break by working on Elizabeth: The Golden Age. How did that come about? Well back then the Film industry in the UK was not as busy as it is now, it was very much a cottage industry and you either had to know someone or be related to someone to get your foot in the door. I had done work experience whilst at The Arts Institute on Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban and through this work experience I met the art department co-ordinator and she kept my records on file. A few years later I got the call about Golden Age out of the blue. She had passed my details to someone who was looking for an art department assistant. I got the call and raced down to Shepperton for the interview. The working day was still long, back then it was a 7am start and 7pm finish, but compared to the frenetic pace and low budget restrictions of some of the TV work I had done, the large features were much nicer to work on, contained on a studio lot with everything you need on site — is a lot easier than the mad rush of TV. Luke’s BTS still from Elizabeth: The Golden AgeNow — on the note of comparing jobs, how does working on films such as Elizabeth and Rock ’n’ Rolla differ to the Avengers franchise and the MCU? Well, Elizabeth: The Golden Age and Rock ’n’ Rolla were much lower budgets than anything in the MCU. $55 million and $18 million respectively. We did Rock ’n’ Rolla with 4 weeks prep and 6 weeks shoot — the money was that tight. The lower budget stuff means a smaller crew, less wages and terrible catering haha. “ When we did Guardians of the Galaxy we were all looking at each other going ‘What the hell is this? A talking raccoon and a talking tree?!’ ” What’s the process of working on a film like in your role? Well, as an Art Director I come on board fairly early in prep. A designer might of already been working on the concepts for a few months and I’ll come on board when they are ready to start fleshing out the sets and the costs. I might be given a large set or a series of small sets to draw up based on the concept sketches. I have to work out how the set will be built, heights, widths and length as well as floating walls and scenery that may be required. We used to hand draw everything on the board but most people are CAD based now so I’ll flesh out my design in a 3D modelling program called Sketchup. From this main model I can pull out all the details (windows, doors, staircases etc) and either give them as 3D files to my assistant art director or Draftsman or even Junior Draftsman to turn into construction drawings. I’ll then oversee the build by constantly visiting the workshops and the stage and/or location where I will have meetings with my HOD (Head of Department) Carpenters, painters or plasterers. They will inform me of any snags or problems and its my job to help come up with solutions and report back to the Designer to make sure they are happy. I’ll attend meetings regarding stunts and VFX, budgets and SFX — sometimes I’ll be at the read through to make sure what I am doing fits with the script. I’m constantly in touch with many different departments to make sure the set comes together. What’s something that most people would be surprised to learn about the art department on MCU movies? Most people who work in the Art Department for these big comic book films have no idea about the comics. Obviously we all know Batman and Spiderman etc but when we did Guardians of the Galaxy we were all looking at each other going ‘what the hell is this? A talking raccoon and a talking tree?!’ Were you surprised when Avengers: Endgame overtook Avatar to become the highest grossing movie of all time? How does it feel to be part of that? It’s quite surreal to think I had a small hand in that, I hope my kids are proud of it when they are old enough to understand. I suppose it’s the modern equivalent of if my dad had worked on Indiana Jones or something. You’ve recently finished production on the sequel to Maleficent with Disney, starring Angelina Jolie, which was your first feature as Art Director. How have you navigated your progression in the industry over your career so far? Well, it just takes time and commitment, you have to build your contacts and stay in touch with them even when you are on a different job. General rule of thumb for me was to do 3–4 years in each position, learn the craft, get to know how a film art department runs and just absorb as much information as you can. You’ve worked with some of the biggest directors in the industry — Christopher Nolan, Guy Ritchie and Ridley Scott just to name a few — who has been your favourite to work with? Here’s a little secret for ya, I hate being on set. It’s so boring. I avoid it like the plague, once Ive handed my set over to the shooting crew that’s me done. I have no interest in being on set. That being said, when we have a big actor or director on its nice to pop in and watch for a bit, but honestly, every one thinks its glamorous but there is so much waiting around and the stages get incredibly hot during the summer. I’d rather be in the office designing something. Of all the directors I have worked with Ridley Scott was the most hands on when it came to the Art Department. It was very exciting meeting him. Luke’s BTS still of Ridley Scott on the set of Prometheus.What advice do you wish you were told when you were at film school? That I would need to learn how to draft, They didn’t teach that when I was there, the course had just changed from an HND to a BA and I think they were trying to work out how to make the course work and that unfortunately meant that unless you had specialised in either producing or directing you didn’t get much in the way of specialist tutors. That being said it just made me more resilient and allowed me to do my own thing when designing short films on the course. Okay, let’s end with some quick fire questions! What film has been your favourite to work on? Rock ’n’ Rolla or Guardians I cant choose! What film have you not worked on, but wish you had? Bladerunner What film would you love to work on in the future? I would like to do something original — Comic books and live action remakes are great but a truly original film like Inception would be good to do. Marvel or DC? I joke… is the answer what I think it is? I actually love Batman out of all comic book characters, but Marvel have perfected how to make a superhero movie. And finally, any spoilers for the next James Bond movie? There are no spoilers on any of the action cars, not that I know of anyway. (laughs) Thanks again Luke! Pleasure! You can follow Luke and get inside looks at his projects both past and present on hisInstagram account @lukewhitelockdesign Interview by Lewis Bayley
An Interview with Michael Pearce By Daisy Leigh-Phippard
‘I knew I wanted to go film school,’ Michael tells the sea of audience in front of us. It’s a Tuesday afternoon, I wrapped my graduation film the previous day, and now I’m sat beside my partner in crime A.K. McCallum at the front of the lecture theatre, a massive screen that just played our guest’s debut feature behind us. Now, director Michael Pearce tells us about why he came to the Arts Institute in Bournemouth (now AUB)to study his craft; ‘it was practically based, and you could specialise. I think a lot of schools are either not practically based oryou don’t get to choose your specialisms’.
After graduating, Michael went on to apply for the National Film and Television School and was accepted in 2006. NFTS ‘was great because it was two more years of just making more and more shorts. Getting mistakes out of my system, being inspired by other filmmakers. […] I just knew I needed to continue to make shorts and let them get incrementally better until I got to a point where I could believe I could make a feature now’.
Beast, Michael’s debut feature premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2017 and recently won Michael and his producer Lauren Dark the 2019 BAFTA for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director, or Producer. ‘It was seven years, maybe, from the initial idea to on-set,’ he explains. ‘And through that I was doing short films and some adverts – just trying to survive in London’. With several other shorts and features in development, Beastwas what ultimately came to fruition first. ‘Some of them weren’t ambitious enough, some of them were too ambitious’.
‘I suppose when you’re making your first film there’s a lot of anxiety about what kind of filmmaker you want to be. You know when you go out with your first movie people are going to see you as a certain thing. […] I was kind of transitioning from having really arthouse tastes to falling back in love with certain genre films. I’d written a version of the script which was pure arthouse, and it just wasn’t where my head was at. And I needed to get that out of my system. And then I wrote another draft which was more explicitly genre – it kind of read as a horror – but it didn’t have the complexity that I wanted. So, frustratingly, I needed to get those drafts out. To read them and go, ‘okay, it’s not that thing’’.
Beast is set on the island of Jersey were Moll, a woman seemingly trapped by the idyllic expectations of her family, meets a stranger, Pascal, who might be dangerous or might help her escape her life. But as a series of crimes that may or may not be tied to her prince charming arise, she has to choose if she’s on the right path. ‘I wanted to distinguish it from being a contemporary British crime film. They always seem miserable,’ he laughs. ‘And I wanted it to be more seductive, more like a fairy tale. So, my reference points were closer to Badlands, Terrance Malick films, or Wild at Heart. It felt like the universe was slightly heightened. Still one foot grounded in reality, but something was amped up’.
The film’s story is loosely taken from true events on Michael’s native island of Jersey in the 60s, where the area was terrorised by the nicknamed ‘Beast of Jersey’ who would break into people’s home, kidnap children and assault them in the woods. ‘They eventually caught him, and he had a wife and kids, and was a functional member of the community. Even when I grew up in the 80s on the island, he was still like… it was almost part of the folklore, the Beast of Jersey. Kids would tease each other, ‘don’t go in those woods, it’s where the Beast of Jersey attacked someone.’ He was the bogeyman’. As it did on the whole island, the events had a lasting impact on Michael. ‘It was the first time that I realised that monsters did exist and not just in fairy tale books’.
The film would of course not be what it is without creatives for Michael to work with. ‘I always think, as a director, you want to be meeting your Heads of Department with an abundance of ideas. […] You want to stimulate them to go way and have a think, to then come back at you with hopefully more developed ideas than what you gave them. Then it’s like a creative ping pong in some ways, and you’re just throwing it back and forth’.
Many of the crew including the cinematographer, editor, production designer and sound designer were all friends of Michael’s from NFTS. ‘That was great for them to come on this because we’d spent like a decade talking about movies and arguing about movies, making stuff together. It really felt like a unit. […] You can find that at film school, like a little mafia of people that you trust and have got similar aesthetic sensibilities. I think that ends up going a long way. Relationships can sustain for years after you’ve graduated’.
I ask about how Michael worked with his female producers on Beast, since I’d heard he’d used them to look over Moll, and we get into chatting about other barriers of understanding and how to overcome them. ‘It can only benefit you by being curious and asking people. […] You’d think that people would do it as standard, but it’s surprising how much people don’t do it. They feel like it’s a criticism on their talents to engage with certain questions, whereas I think… I don’t know, the best directors are usually the ones who are the deepest researchers’.
‘In a way, the preparation sets you free as well as well as giving you a good idea. I become very meticulous about the way I prepared a film’. In preproduction a director will develop storyboards, shot lists and script breakdowns, but sometimes you go to a location or the weather does something unexpected. ‘If you realise that maybe there’s a better idea you can capitalise on, it’s fine! You always park the preparation and you can roll with your gut instinct. I think on my feet better when I’d prepared another idea in advance’.
‘Every director should have some non-negotiables that you’re like ‘this just needs to be done, the story will only work if we do this’. […] And there’s certainly always stuff that you’re going to have to let go of. There’s no short answer on that, it’s always a painful process’. Anna, beside me, asks what Beast’s non-negotiables. ‘Well, I abandoned a lot of them, so they were quite negotiable in the end,’ he laughs with us. Shooting on film and filming in Jersey were all things that had to be adapted. ‘There were scenes that were going to be quite difficult to pull off, like swimming in the sea, killing the rabbit’.
‘That became like a massive thing in the end,’ Michael divulges. ‘I felt that you really needed to see the rabbit injured, but still alive, before she kills it. It’d be too much of a cheat seeing a live rabbit and then you just see her hit a dead rabbit. It became so difficult to pull off that we almost abandoned the scene in preproduction. The only idea we could come up with was CGI, which we couldn’t afford to do, or an animatronic rabbit to lay there and breathe. Eventually, after calling around, we found a vet who could hypnotise a rabbit, so it laid in a semi-coma for ten seconds’. There’s a moment of silence before the audience bursts into laughter, us and Michael joining in. ‘Which was totally legit, and it’s fine – the rabbit survived. We had like ten seconds to get that one shot’.
‘To be honest, I’m quite a masochist when it comes to script development. There’s definitely some friends of mine, writers and writer/directors, who see it as they’re going to write theirstory and if anyone gives them any feedback, negative or supportive, they’re just trying to jeopardise their vision. And I don’t see it like that’. In the search to find producers for Beast, Michael turned down people who immediately accepted the script when he felt like it wasn’t ready. ‘If I feel like someone has notes, I want to address them for the most part. It’s a painful process, but I’d rather go through all the pain in the scriptwriting than in the edit room, because then it’s too late’.
And, of course, writing the script is the hardest part. ‘If you’ve written a good script, it’s not like base camp of making a movie, you’re almost halfway up the mountain’. When asked by the audience about how he goes about finding the stories he wants to tell, he explains, ‘when I’ve come up with a script it’s like some kind of chemical reaction between probably three ideas: an image, a character, maybe some kind of theme. And I need those three things to work. […] I’ve had ideas that haven’t worked for ages and then had that eureka moment because I’ve found the character in another place. It’s very visually based, often looking at photography books, or it’s a landscape’.
‘It needs to be a theme that I think is complex enough that it’s going to interest me for many years. And that’s usually something that I’m confused about where I stand on’. If you know where you stand, what’s there to discover? ‘Like [in Beast], it’s what would you do if you needed to escape your life? And you met someone you fell in love with, but maybe you were finding out they were compromised in some way. Would we all make the right decision and push that person away? Or… my gut instinct is that we’re guided more by our emotions, and that we’d fall in love with the person more than our morality. […] We don’t make decisions in a rational way. That was something I wanted to explore’.
Double win for Bournemouth Film School at 2019 regional Royal Television Society Awards
Bournemouth Film School has three graduation films nominated at the 2019 Southern region Royal Television Society Awards. BA (Hons) Film Production short 'Zebra' from director Billie Appleton was nominated for Best Student Drama, while two BA (Hons) Animation Production shorts were nominated for Best Student Animation; 'Anna' and 'Nine Coo Five'.
The Awards ceremony took place at the Guildhall Winchester on Friday March 8th, with a number of universities and regional mainstream networks such as BBC and ITV.
In 2018 the Best Student Animation category also had two Bournemouth Film School graduation films nominated, 'Liv' and 'Vida', with 'Liv' taking home the win. This year 'Anna' won over 'Nine Coo Five' and Bournemouth University's 'Somnia'. Judges described 'Anna' as being a "powerful animation which delves deep into the world of dementia". Fellow nominee 'Nine Coo Five' was described as reminding us "to persevere when times are tough and that the art we create serves to inspire, enrich and connect with others." The Student Animation Award was this year sponsored by Woodcut Media.
Student Drama at this year's RTS Southern Awards had three films from three separate univerisities in contention for the prize. The University for the Creative Arts and Wiltshire College were nominated against BFS's 'Zebra' from director Billie Appleton and producer Rachel Carvill. 'Zebra' won the category with the judges commenting the film as being a "taught drama" that is "well shot" with "excellent screenwriting".
Winning films 'Anna' and 'Zebra' will now compete at the National level at the main Royal Television Society Student Awards later this year.
From Banned Kenyan lesbian drama Rafiki to BAFTA nominated short Wren Boys. Looking back on Iris on the Move 2019
Iris on the Move's stop in Bournemouth at the Bournemouth Film School was an ambitious project from the jump. After organiser Lewis Bayley only met Iris Prize creator and festival director Berwyn Rowlands in November 2018, the festival events were set in motion immediately and were turned around in less than three months time.
Iris on the Move was picked to take place in February as part of National Student Pride and LGBT History Month 2019. The 4 day festival showcased countless short films from 2018's main Iris Prize festival, along with 2 feature films and a Bournemouth Film School showcase screening of it's best LGBT+ graduation films.
Behind the Scenes of 2016 BFS Graduation short 'Silver Studded Blue'.
The first day of the festival's events began with an open lecture with Dr Andrew Vallance and Clare Cahill, dubbed 'Queer Spaces', where the two academic staff discussed the concept of queerness and its history; including its most recent resurgence. The open talk was open for audience discussion and the participation of students and attendees really responded to the importance of reclaiming the term 'queer' to move away from binary box ticking of gender and sexuality.
The 'Queer Spaces' talk was followed by a Best of British showcase from the top 4 films of the 2018 iris Prize category. Half of the showcase were documentary shorts and the other two fictions. The winning film in Best of British at Iris Prize 2018 was BEYOND 'There's Always a Black Issue, Dear, a documentary from filmmaker and photographer Claire Lawrie, which explores the role of black British people in the LGBT+ movement, who have often been airbrushed from Queer history. The showcase also included the BAFTA nominated fiction Wren Boys, which follows an Irish priest and his nephew and they travel to a prison in Cork the day after Christmas.
The creators of Wren Boys, director Harry Lighton and producer Sorcha Bacon, gave a lengthy Q&A in two halves to attendees. Delving into their careers and future projects, advising students on breaking the industry and their creative process. Current final year students Daisy Leigh-Phippard and Anna K. McCallum conducted the Q&A segments, one to a larger audience in the main theatre and a follow up interview with a smaller select number of students.
The early evening of day one saw a curated programme of shorts exploring varied forms of Intimacy, including the TIFF award- winning short film Pre-Drink which sees the complication of a longtime friendship when the two friends, one gay man and one transwoman, decide to get intimate.
The opening night feature film screening of 1985 from director Yen Tan starred a stellar cast including Cory Michael Smith, Virginia Madsen and Michael Chikilis. The 1980's based drama was shot on stark black and white film and follows a closeted gay man's return to his home town of Texas in the midst of AIDs epidemic.
Day 2 of Iris on the Move Bournemouth kicked off with a morning talk on submitting short films to film festivals with Iris Prize creator and festival director Berwyn Rowlands. The talk gave an insight into the submission, selection and programming process and advised final year students on their festival strategy for their upcoming graduation films.
Following Berwyn's talk a showcase of films curated under the theme of Gender & Family screened. This was the proceeded by the 'Youth' showcase which was curated by a group of young programmers. The screening included Mrs McCutcheon, an Australian drama following a young boy wanting to wear a dress to school. The colourful, heartwarming short film become an instant audience favourite at the festival.
Still from Mrs McCutcheon (dir. John Sheedy)
The festival discussion panel was made up of a diverse group of filmmakers. Dr Nick Bamford, a TV and Theatre producer and director, and author of Directing Television (2012). IndieWire Award-winning music composer Victoria Wijeratne, who has made a name for herself composing scores to a plethora of LGBT+ short films both fiction and documentary, and composer of feature film The Liability starring Jack O'Connell and Tim Roth. The third panel member is Bournemouth Film School graduate Ruby Parker-Harbord, whose graduation short film Missed Conceptions has gone on to be screened at a number of festivals in the UK and abroad - including Europe's largest LGBTQ+ Film Festival and BAFTA accredited festival BFI Flare in London. The chair for the panel was Iris Prize director Berwyn Rowlands who lead the discussion from asking the question 'what story do I tell?' through to the controversial issue of casting LGBT+ roles.
The final event of day two was a programme of LGBT+ Bournemouth Film School graduation films. The four film showcase included a poetic exploration of gender in Silver Studded Blue from director Niamh Farrelly, animated short The Queen's Tale by Sarah Horns and Nathalie Sandstad, real life inspired Missed Conceptions from one of our panelists Ruby Parker-Harbord and Bleach from director Jesse Lewis-Reece - which was nominated for Best British Short at the 2018 Iris Prize festival.
The final day of guest events began with an overall Best of Iris showcase, which included the best shorts from the previous two days with the addition of the Iris Prize winning film from 2018 - Three Centimetres. The other three films were Mrs McCutcheon, Wren Boys and Pre-Drink. The screening was followed immediately with a Q&A with Lara Zeidan, the writer and director Three Centimetres, who explained the making of the film and the two year journey from initial script to shooting. Our student interviewers Anna K. McCallum and Daisy Leigh-Phippard conducted the Q&A once again. (Their full interviews from Iris on the Move 2018 will be published in BUMF magazine later this year.)
The day ended with a busy evening screening of the controversially banned Kenyan lesbian drama Rafiki from Wanuri Kahiu. The screening coincided with the date of Kenya's high court decision announcement on repealing the 89 year old law criminalising same-sex relationships, however the decision was pushed back to May. Rafiki follows Kena and Ziki, two daughters of opposing political candidates, as they fall in love.
Still from Rafiki (2018) dir. Wanuri Kahiu
A drinks reception followed the screening of Rafiki where G&T's were served, courtesy of the festival sponsor Pink Pepper Gin at Audemus Spirits. The event topped off three days of exciting screenings, talks, guest visits and discussion.
The final day of the festival was 'Second Chance Saturday' which gave everyone chance to see their favourite showcases again or to catch up with any films they may have missed.
Film Production course graduate Michael Pearce won the BAFTA for Outstanding Debut for a British Writer, Director or Producer at the #EEBAFTAs on Sunday 10th February 2019 at the Royal Albert Hall. He took home the award with his producer Lauren Dark for his debut feature 'Beast'.
Their film was also nominated for Outstanding British Film alongside 'MCQueen', 'Bohemian Rhapsody' and Yogos Lanthimos' 'The Favourite'.
The 2019 BAFTAs was not the first nomination Pearce had received in his career. In 2014 he was nominated for Best British Short for his film 'Keeping Up with the Joneses'.
You can watch Michael's win and acceptance speech below.
Final year BA (Hons) Film Production students were treated to an exclusive Q&A with the British film directing legend Mike Leigh OBE during their Industry Day at the BFI Southbank.
60 final year BA (Hons) Film Productions attended the Industry Day at the BFI which began with a 6 person Industry panel chaired by course leader Jonathan Carr. The panel was followed by a networking session for students to meet the panellists, which included representatives from ScreenSkills and BBC Films.
A Q&A with BAFTA Fellowship winner Mike Leigh OBE followed and ran for 90 minutes, with the British directing legend going into detail ofhis lengthy development process and commitment to realism through performance and the lens. Mike Leigh has directed many iconic films since his feature debut almost five decades ago, including the 1993 Naked, 2004’s Vera Drake, 2014’s Timothy Spall lead Mr Turner and his most recent Peterloo (2018).
“Mike Leigh’s work speaks for itself and always has, but to have Mike go into detail of his extensive development process was undeniably useful and intriguing for everyone in the room I think. His appreciation for film craft and all specialisms that collaborate in creating Film was important for everyone to hear. Mike is a unique, unapologetic filmmaker with a strong belief in never compromising the story or its purpose. A great guest speaker to follow up last year’s brilliant Edgar Wright”. -Lewis Bayley, BFS Industry Liaison
The Industry Day ended with an Alumni networking event where final year students got the opportunity to meet and build connections with past graduates of the film course. The well attended event, with over 150 present, was created to further build our alumni network, which has been a springboard for many new graduates in landing their first roles.