Get to know: Mathieu Ajan, Film London Talent Exec

Mathieu talks Barry Jenkins, founding a pop-up cinema and the perfect movie snack with BFI NETWORK

1 February 2019

What are you hoping to achieve through Film London in 2019?

I’m hoping to really discover and support as many filmmakers as possible. Whether that be through our funding opportunities or through the events we deliver, I really hope the work we do plays a strong role in developing a new, bold generation of filmmaking talent.

What’s been the proudest moment of your career to date?

The proudest moment of my career has to be a close tie between launching Bounce Cinema and joining the BFI NETWORK team. I feel like I’m learning so much from both experiences, and I have the opportunity to make a real difference in the industry, which I’m super excited about. Plus, I also get to spend my time doing what I love the most: watching films and discovering new talent.

If you could recommend one film to an aspiring filmmaker, what would it be?

It would have to be City of God. It’s such a beautifully raw film; everything from the cinematography to the performances really inspired me on my journey into the world of film!

What advice would you give to a filmmaker whose project has been rejected?

My advice is to never to be discouraged too much by rejection. It’s an important part of the process. The majority of people in any industry had to face some form of rejection. See no’s as an opportunity to go back, learn, grow and hopefully be in a much stronger position for the next time you shoot your shot. Ultimately, my advice to any filmmaker who has been rejected is don’t stop - keep making films regardless! (The world deserves to see them).  

Could you describe your initiative Bounce, and what motivated you to start it up?

Bounce is an independent pop-up cinema where we showcase the very best films and bring different communities together to celebrate new and exciting stories. Access to the arts at times can be seen as somewhat exclusive to the elite; Bounce is driven by a love of watching films together regardless of your background. Great stories are a universal language.

If you could make one change to the film industry what would it be?

I would personally change the belief that you need to have attended film school or need a million bucks to be a filmmaker. Filmmaking has become so much more accessible now with the evolution of technology and I would love to see more people using this to their advantage.

Name your best film watching experience

My best film watching experiences are when I’m watching films offline and watching films with fellow film lovers. There’s just a powerful energy that comes from leaving your house, entering a dark room and ending up in another world for a couple of hours. I’m a big advocate of keeping the cinema alive, so I try my best to explore the many beautiful cinemas we have in the city. I’m still waiting to discover a cinema that serves sweet potatoes and chickpeas, so for now I just sneak in my own supply.

Who is a filmmaker that has really inspired you?

I’m a massive fan of Barry Jenkins as a filmmaker and a human. I only caught on to his work after watching Moonlight, but his power to bring such important stories to life really inspires me. He really shows how beautiful our stories are and approaches them with such style and grace.

What would you say is the biggest challenge that emerging filmmakers are facing today?

The biggest challenge emerging filmmakers are facing today is probably finding your voice. There can be so much noise on the internet at times and it can feel like you’re competing with a new film being released every minute. I really believe it’s important for artists, whatever their profession to take the time to really figure out what they stand for and to not let the awards, metrics and numbers dictate how they value their work.

What is the key to a great collaboration?

The key to a great collaboration in my opinion is the following three ingredients: trust, respect and communication. Trusting in your team to deliver, respecting people’s process and communicating efficiently, because reading minds is a skill humans haven’t managed to master yet! Once you have a firm understanding that no one person is an island, you will remember to always value your collaborators and the impact they can have on taking your project to the next level.

What makes a perfect pitch?

I personally love a pitch that strikes the right balance between being concise and passionate. It’s always great when you hear a pitch and it’s clear the person has a strong understanding of why this story is important and why they are the best person to tell it. My best advice would be to practise your pitch with as many people as possible. Do they understand the message you are trying to get across? Sometimes it’s not about adding more; it’s about focussing on what really matters.

Find out more about Matt's pop-up cinema Bounce here.