Get to know: BIFA's Orestes Kouzof

NETWORK caught up with the British Independent Film Awards' guy on the ground ahead of the 2019 awards ceremony

6 August 2019

The British Independent Film Awards returns in December, and there’s still time for you to submit your short film to be considered for nomination.

An established name in the British film industry, BIFA is not only celebrated for its annual awards ceremony but its work in film development over the span of the year. Even at longlist stage, BIFA-nominated short films not only gain notable recognition but also expose your work to industry heads and publications that are constantly on the hunt for new talent.

We spoke with Orestes Kouzof, Awards and Events Coordinator (and everything in between) for BIFA ahead of this year’s awards to find out the benefits of submitting your work for consideration. 

How did you get into your job?

It came about completely at random – I lived in Greece and then moved to London to study drama with a mind of going into theatre. 

But then I got hired at the Raindance Film Festival, where I met Amy Gustin, who is one of the directors at BIFA. They were looking for a third wheel to help deliver everything, and so they opened up the position to me.

What do you like the most about your job?

I like that it’s very varied. At different times of the year we’re doing completely different things; at the moment we’re approaching filmmakers and soliciting and processing entries, and getting things started on the voting side of things. 

Then in a few months we’re going to be done with the entries and focusing entirely on the voting side, which is completely different and involves a lot of work. The following month, we’ll be looking at the ceremony, announcing the nominations, announcing the winners. And then we do a lot of development work throughout the industry over the year as well. 

I really enjoy the voting stage of the awards. Voters might see something that they really like that doesn’t end up getting longlisted, but then they meet that filmmaker and something sparks from that, which is really nice to see.            

What sort of short films are BIFA looking for? 

We don’t like to dictate to voters the types of short films that we’re looking for. That’s why we have the method of voting that we do – because we like voters to make those kind of decisions and come to a consensus of what they think makes a good film. 

Something that has changed this year is that we no longer look at music videos, or fashion or gallery films, but otherwise any short film will do. 

Who votes for the Best Short Film winner?

At the initial stage we have something called the short subgroup of voters, and it’s about 45 voters and they look at all the entries. We’ll get maybe 300 entries this year, and those will be divided among those 45 voters. They will come up with the nominations, and there will be five nominated shorts in that category. 

That’s when it’s opened up to all BIFA voters. On the books we’ve got about 700 voters, although actively half of those take part in the voting process each year. So they’ll watch all five and then vote for a winner.   

Do you get shorts from all over the UK, or would you say most are from London?

We do tend to get a pretty good spread. When we put the call out for applications we work with all the film hubs and organisations in Scotland, Ireland and Wales to make sure that we’re getting good representation. Last year we had great representation among the winners as well, like The Big Day, which is Manchester based. 

I think that the hubs do a really good job of supporting those filmmakers, but it’s definitely something that we’d like to see more of. We’d like to see more local filmmakers making use of the resources that are available to them, because I think that people don’t necessarily know that there’s pots of funding available to them.  

The Big Day filmmakers Dawn Shadforth, Kellie Smith and Michelle Stein

What support do you provide to longlisted filmmakers? Why is this beneficial?

There’s the obvious marketing stuff, where a film can put BIFA-nominated in its press kit. Without meaning to sound big-headed there’s a bit of clout around being longlisted for a BIFA.

But there’s also a softer effect: when the longlist is announced we get a lot of emails from these filmmakers who have been contacted by Screen International and places that are tracking new talent. Last year we had funders from the States and agents who got in touch because they wanted to be put in touch with people on that list. 

What do you think that the short film landscape looks like right now?

I’m not necessarily someone who watches a lot of short films, but I would say that the short film scene is pretty strong. We get hundreds and hundreds of submissions each year, and I think that regional representation is only getting better with the help of the film hubs. 

Who would you say watches short films?

A lot of people in the industry do, and I think it’s the right thing to say that a good short film is a good calling card. As I say, when we release our longlist, a lot of people who aren’t even BIFA voters get in touch to speak with the filmmakers. 

We did a massive piece of research recently that looked at audiences under 30. One of the topline findings was that groups of young people who are really into their cinema love going out to watch films still in cool and unusual events spaces. 

What’s been your all-time favourite BIFA memory?

I don’t like parties, but there’s a big balcony that runs all along the BIFA hall where all the tech stuff is and the team sit and we control everything there. When the ceremony finishes and everyone goes out to the afterparty just next door, I quite like sitting up there with a glass of champagne and watching everyone downstairs, because that’s when everyone breathes out and has a drink and has a boogie and relaxes. It’s really nice watching them for the first half hour of the afterparty, where you can see some pretty cool people do some pretty cool dance moves. 

Submit your short film for the 2019 BIFAs here.