We asked top folk from across the film industry to recommend work that will inspire, challenge and empower you as a filmmaker
Lizzie Francke: Senior Production & Development Executive, BFI Film Fund
Recommends: Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Dir. George A. Romero
Pittsburgh filmmaker Romero made his first ground-breaking first feature with two friends, the minuscule budget raised through a late 1960s version of crowd-funding. Forged in a moment of heightened political turmoil in the US, it remains a defining film of the ‘68 movement, the energy and immediacy animated its central phantasmagoric creation ensuring an eternal relevance. It can be currently seen on iPlayer for free!
David Kimbangi: Production Executive, Film4
Recommends: Raw (2016)
Dir. Julia Ducournau
This is a high bar for genre filmmaking in general – but also an unbelievably high bar for a first feature which everyone should aspire to.It’s pretty gruesome, I won’t lie, but its take on uni-life and sibling-loyalty elevates it above all other French Cannibal Teen Horrors (of which I can of course name hundreds).
Dionne Farrell: Assistant Commissioner, BBC Film
Recommends: Wren Boys (2017)
Dir. Harry Lighton
It’s bold and authored storytelling which continually subverts audience expectation in unexpected but authentic ways. A great inspiration for any filmmaker looking to tell honest and contemporary stories through fresh eyes, it is surprising and moving in equal measure, and a film I haven’t been able to stop thinking about since first seeing it.
Ben Roberts: Deputy CEO, BFI
Recommends: Twin Peaks S3E8 (2017), then Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992), then Twin Peaks S1E1 (1990)
Dir. David Lynch
Because audacious is good, and failure is subjective
Arnie Voysey: Operations Coordinator, BFI Film Fund
Recommends: Wild Tales (2014)
Dir. Damián Szifron
The 2014 Academy Award nominated comedy anthology film Wild Tales has six standalone short stories that are some of the very best examples of emotional, shocking and hilarious storytelling which are completely different but all share the same theme of violence!
Corrina Antrobus: Founder, the Bechdel Test Fest
Recommends: Catch Me Daddy (2014)
Dir. Daniel Wolfe
For it’s inspiring use of colour and cinematography tackling a difficult subject in a majestic and imaginative way. From a craft perspective, it’s imaginative and inspirational.
Jake Cunningham: Commissioning Assistant, Random Acts
Recommends: Frances Ha (2012)
Dir. Noah Baumbach
Noah Baumbach’s film, co-written with Greta Gerwig, is a great example of using a micro budget for maximum impact. It’s a black and white, freewheeling window in to the stumbling late 20s of a dancer in New York, that comforts anyone caught in the crossfire of working in the arts and facing serious ‘life decisions’.
It’s also a great lesson in small budget filmmaking. Whilst shooting on location, with an off the shelf camera keeps costs down, the most essential element is the script. Looking to present characters with authentic, at times flawed, voices, the film seems like it must be improvised, but it’s completely the opposite. It was rigorously scripted and planned in advance - even the uhmms and ahhhhs - because whilst improvisation is nice, it can make things run long, and then expensive. Also, it’s only 86 minutes long, so there’s no excuse not to watch it!
Lauren Minto-Simpson: Development & Production Assistant, BFI Film Fund
Recommends: Bicycle Thieves (1948)
Dir. Vittorio De Sica
Because it’s visual poetry, and you can watch it without subtitles which I think is cool. There’s no waste in it, even the title is a part of the film.
Nia Childs: Freelance Creative Producer
Recommends: Wonderland (1999)
Dir. Michael Winterbottom
His use of the urban space, the understated performances that somehow trigger the most magical catharsis; it's a great example of how to make something powerful without being overly experimental with form. It's a love letter to London and I love it so much.
Jess Loveland: Head of BFI NETWORK
Recommends: Wake In Fright (1971)
Dir. Ted Kotcheff
This seminal film of the 1970s Australian New Wave is a sublime fever dream: a meditation on angst, isolation and masculinity in the hostile outback. You might never look at a glass of lager in quite the same way again.
Beth Webb: Film journalist & programmer
Recommends: I Am Not A Witch (2017)
Dir. Rungano Nyoni
The perfect example of being resourceful as a filmmaker - the concept is simple but fascinating, it leans into genre in an unexpected way, and it’s clever in its visual choices.
Read Beth’s interview with Rungano Nyoni about making I Am Not A Witch here.
Caragh Davison: BFI NETWORK Co-ordinator
Recommends: A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014)
Dir. Ana Lily Armipour
This striking debut plays by nobody’s rules and proves how important marching to your own beat as a filmmaker is. Plus, a skateboarding vampire smashing the patriarchy can only be a banger in my eyes!
Matimba Kabalika: Talent Development Executive, Troika
Recommends: Get Out (2017)
Dir. Jordan Peele
It’s everything that I absolutely love about cinema. When the personal, political, and popular culture intersect in the most audacious way possible.
Ben Luxford: Head of UK Wide Audiences, BFI Film Fund
Recommends: Boyz N The Hood (1991)
Dir. John Singleton
It shows you how as a debut filmmaker, if you have a clear and confident vision of a story that only you can tell, and you trust and collaborate with your crew and those around you with more experience, and you wear proudly wear your influences on your sleeve (or just outright steal them) you’ll end up with something that only you could have made and audiences will be all the richer for it.
Grace Barber-Plentie: Founder, Reel Good Film Club
Recommends: The Watermelon Woman (1996)
Dir. Cheryl Dunye
Once extremely difficult to watch/purchase, it’s now extremely easy to get a copy of Cheryl Dunye’s genre-defying Watermelon Woman, which also happens to be the first feature film directed by an African-American lesbian. Directed, written and starring Dunye, it’s both an acerbic, witty rom-com in which queer black women’s sexuality is validated and treated as the norm, and a more explorative piece about the way in which the film industry seeks to exploit and erase black women. Comprised of archive, VHS (blast from the past) footage and talking head interviews, The Watermelon Woman is a masterclass in mixed-media formatting, as well as how to create a compelling and natural portrayal of a queer black woman.
James Weddup: Project Partnerships Manager, BFI Film Fund
Recommends:The Ornithologist (2016)
Dir. João Pedro Rodrigues
A dreamy, mythical odyssey through the beautiful Portuguese landscape, The Ornithologist is like a medieval morality play rebooted for the 21st century. Elusive, erotic and unforgettable, it has a magnetic lead performance, gorgeous cinematography and above all a bold directorial vision, fully realised.