British film has arrived at something of a crossroads. While 2011 saw some of the best independent British releases for years (Tyrannosaur, Attack the Block, We Need to Talk About Kevin), the industry now finds itself under threat. Back in January, David Cameron rolled up to Pinewood Studios in London to announce a radical new set of guidelines aimed at ‘saving’ the British film industry. He called for streamlined film funding, directing resources towards “mainstream” films with a better chance at turning out a profit, rather than taking a punt on unknown independent projects. So a little bit more Harry Potter and a little bit less Submarine. It paints a grim picture for the future of independent cinema in Britain.
So it’s a breath of fresh air to see the return of the BFI Future Film Festival, back at the lovely BFI Southbank for a fifth year. Snuggled in between the BAFTAs and the Oscars, with all their calculated cynicism and over-egged glitz and glamour, the Future Film Festival is dedicated solely to the fresh, innovative ideas of young aspiring filmmakers. The festival boasts a mix of feature films (with Q&As) and awards ceremonies, as well as masterclasses and workshops from some of the industry’s movers and shakers. So if you’re 15-25 and mad on film, you’d be a fool to pass this up.
For the three feature film screenings on offer, the emphasis is squarely on first features. Black Pond, screening on Sunday, is the debut feature from recent Nottingham Uni graduates Tom Kingsley and Will Sharpe. This unashamedly dark comedy charting the lives of a suburban family accused of murder stars Simon Amstell and Chris Langham. Lock Stock’s Dexter Fletcher jumps behind the camera for the first time to bring us the gritty Wild Bill on Sunday, which follows a newly-released prisoner as he’s plunged back into reality. The fantastic Eraserhead on Saturday ties the festival in nicely with the BFI’s David Lynch season and is a must-see for any aspiring director. Two of the three feature films are followed by a Q&A with the directors. Since David Lynch is most likely trapped in a red room drinking coffee with a dwarf, he can probably be excused.
For an insight into how to make your very first feature film, a Sunday panel discussion on the topic includes Tom Kingsley and Will Sharpe (Black Pond), Debs Patterson (Africa United) and Dave Hawkins (Bound by Blue).
Short films, meanwhile, are the playground where aspiring directors cut their teeth. With a wealth of workshops on offer, aspiring short filmmakers will get a chance to learn the ins-and-outs of funding and production from some of the very best. The Future Film Awards ceremonies, meanwhile, will celebrate the shorts which have really stood out this year. Sam Haire’s hilarious black-and-white Portrait d’un Francais and Bexie Bush’s inspired stop-motion animation Ever Hear a Postman Whistle? are some of the real highlights, while the entrants really are strong across the board.
There’s a host of workshops and masterclasses to get involved in, from Visual FX Masterclass with Ed Hall (currently working on the upcoming James Bond film) to Making Print Work in the Digital Age from the brilliant Little White Lies magazine.
Events like the BFI’s Future Film Festival are what keeps the blood pumping through the British film industry’s veins. While Cameron might see the BFI’s role as encouraging UK producers to make “commercially successful” pictures, he couldn’t be more wrong. Siding with bankable filmmakers who have already proven their Hollywood salt can only stagnate the industry, and it’s clear from what’s on offer here that British independent film has a lot up its sleeve. It’s always heartening to see festivals like this encouraging innovation and inspiration among a brand new generation of filmmakers – filmmakers who are, after all, the future of British cinema. Long may it continue.
BFI 5th Future Film Festival
18th – 19th February 2012
Contributing Writer: Avalon Lyndon