Mentors announced for BFINETWORK@FLARE Mentorships in partnership with BAFTA

This year’s Flare mentees tell us about their festival experiences, and what’s next now that they’ve been paired with a mentor.

16 May 2017
This year the FLARE LGBT mentorship strengthened its offer by coming under the BFI NETWORK umbrella of professional development opportunities. In conjunction with BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival and BAFTA, the programme (now on its third iteration) has continued to grow in reach and ambition. 
 
Over the course of one year, and kicking off during FLARE, six emerging LGBT-identified filmmakers are mentored by a senior figure from the film industry while developing industry knowledge, professional connections, and gaining an overview of LGBT features entering the marketplace.
 
The programme kicked off with an intensive schedule during the festival before the participants were assigned their film professionals. All six filmmakers are now embarking on the next year feeling confident and connected, and we’re really excited to announce their mentors – see below, where they also tell us about their festival experiences, highlighting what inspired them, what was most enjoyable, and the films that blew them away.
 
GEORGIA OAKLEY
Mentor: Desiree Akhavan (writer, director, actor, The Slope, Appropriate Behaviour)
 
The Flare mentorship provides invaluable face-to-face meetings with top-level industry gatekeepers, a real gift for any filmmaker attempting to navigate the murky waters between shorts and features. 
 
I found our sessions with emerging filmmakers such as Dominic Buchanan particularly enlightening. As a young filmmaker it’s easy to look around you at people making waves in the industry and see them as these great success stories, but it’s really encouraging to find out all the ups and downs they went through to get where they are. Similarly, chatting to fearless female filmmakers like Jamie Babbit really inspired me to focus on what’s important and not let anything insignificant stand in the way of that. 
 
The BFI Flare mentorship means total cinematic immersion. Watching that many queer films in ten days would have been enough for me, but meeting so many supportive, generous filmmakers along the way, not to mention the awesome festival staff, has made this one of the most enjoyable experiences of my career. I can only compare the feeling to being on set, constantly buzzing, alert, learning, surrounded by incredible teammates. It was a wonderful experience that I'm still reeling from and one that I'm incredibly grateful for. It's been wonderful getting to know the Flare family these past couple of months, I'm really excited to have Desiree as my mentor and can't wait to get started!
 
three people talking
Georgia with Tricia Tuttle and Celine Haddad
 
AMROU AL-KADHI
Mentor: Russell T Davies (writer, Cucumber, Banana, Tofu, Queer As Folk) 
 
The mentorship was an invaluable experience throughout BFI Flare. As a screenwriter, one can often get trapped in an isolated labyrinth of self-doubt; being on the scheme allowed a constant conversation with other queer filmmakers, which is crucial in as collaborative a medium as film. The intimate mentorship workshops with legendary filmmakers like Jamie Babbit were beyond useful – it is so rare to get such frank advice from people with such diverse and direct experience in the industry. 
 
I found that the daily structure really allowed us have a dialogue about film and the issues for LGBTQ+ filmmakers, which is so important at this stage. Having the whole week to develop relationships and to have thinking time was so key as a filmmaker still developing. 
 
The film that really blew me away this year was Marcelo Caetano’s Body Electric, now with Peccadillo Pictures. It is a visual and naturalistic exploration of gay male urbanity in Brazil, and I was so moved by how grounded and authentic the drag queen characters felt. I haven’t seen drag queens portrayed as humanely on screen as with Caetano’s restrained and triumphant work. It is also a masterful demonstration of how the visual texture of a film can relay complex politics without expositive dialogue. 
 
It was so great to have access to so much of the festival, and to all the industry guests there. Flare is always so inclusive and empowering, I'm just sad it's over.
 
I've been having such a blast working with Russell - it's already the most direct, motivating and encouraging advice and support I've ever had, and I cannot wait for our relationship to develop and to grow as a filmmaker with his invaluable support.
 
SAVANNAH JAMES-BAYLY
Mentor: Mike Goodridge (CEO, Protagonist Pictures) 
 
I can honestly say that participating in the festival through Flare's 2017 mentorship programme was one of the most enjoyable weeks of my career to date. Ten days of fantastic films (A Date for Mad Mary, Lovesong and The Handmaiden were particular favourites); interesting and in-depth discussions with a diverse range of filmmakers and film
professionals; enjoying the incredible warmth of the community that the festival fosters; and getting to know the best group of fellow mentees I could possibly have hoped for – what's not to love? 
 
It's left me feeling more passionate and resolute than ever to be bold in the stories I bring to screen, and I gained some key insights from our sessions which I look forward to putting into practice. I can't wait to begin the mentorship with Mike, whose track record in bringing some of the UK's most bold, exciting films to market I admire enormously. The general sense of empowerment, motivation and activism that the films, filmmakers and community inspired has spurred me on enormously. Thank you to all at BFI who made the week possible, I'm already looking forward to next year.
 
two people standing talking
Savannah and Mike
 
HARRY LIGHTON
Mentor: Tom Harper (director, Peaky Blinders, War & Peace, Misfits) 
 
Ruddy glorious! That's the phrase that springs to mind as I think back on my 10-day Flare mentorship. It was incredible. From screenings to talks to party upon party, all served with debate, chatter and a ton of laughs. 
 
Of the films I saw, A Date for Mad Mary took the biscuit.  Seana Kerslake was immense as Mary, and the film had me cackling, crying and shaking my fist. Angeli Macfarlane's nitty gritty look at Moonlight got me thinking about how to make the local global in my own writing. Going forward, I got terrific advice from the Film Fund and the folk at BFI on the steps to take towards making the move from shorts to features. 
 
My lasting memory of the mentorship will be being made to feel like such a part of the fabric of Flare. Everyone made an effort to speak to me, and having five other mentees to share the experience with was terrific. After the festival comedown, I'm now ready to crack back into my own filmmaking. And all the more so with the support of the Flare family and Tom Harper as my mentor.
 
people sitting on a sofas during a round-table discussion
Photos by Tim Francis
 
JAKE GRAF
Mentor: Bharat Nalluri (director, Tsunami, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day)
 
I had previously not had any involvement or interaction with any of the BFI or BAFTA team, other than the Flare team, so that aspect was hugely beneficial. It was great to hear first-hand experience from writers, directors and producers who had all walked the same path that we had, and had achieved varying degrees of success. To be able to ask no holds barred questions about their journey was amazing, and a once in a lifetime opportunity. 
 
It was lovely to have the informal yet structured format of the mentorship during the festival, with the great green room sessions, the dinner, and the panels all giving a truly rounded experience. Otherwise, great films as always, a lovely diverse and inclusive feel to the festival, and a real feeling of family and support. One of my very favourite festivals, only made better by the wonderful behind the scenes feel to it all this year. Absolutely great experience all round.
 
The last few months since Flare have been a whirlwind: my mentor Bharat Nalluri has been such a positive driving force that I've already started prep on my feature script. He is incredibly accommodating with his time and advice, and I feel supported and incredibly lucky to have him and the BFI and Bafta teams in my corner.
 
 
GILLIAN CALLAN
Mentor: Sarah Hardy and Blue Ryan (documentary filmmakers, Gold Star Productions)
 
One of the most useful aspects of the mentorship during the festival was connecting with people in the industry, firstly from BFI and BAFTA, forming a relationship that felt open and natural and one that could prove helpful in the future. The chance to network with other filmmakers was also great, getting to share ideas and ambitions for LGBT content. I also enjoyed the chance to build friendships with my fellow mentees – peer-to-peer support at this stage is so crucial and it was great to meet such a talented and like-minded bunch. I really loved my festival experience. Flare has given me a real buzz and excitement for the next few months on the mentorship programme – I can’t wait!
 
Having Sara and Blue as mentors is an invaluable support and perfect match at this stage in my career. With their years of experience producing documentaries which I not only love to watch, but also aspire to make, I’m really looking forward to sharing and discussing my future projects with them, and to getting their guidance.
 
Gillian and Harry
Gillian and Harry