This year’s Flare mentees tell us about their festival experience, and what’s next now that they’ve been paired with a mentor.
For a second year under the BFI NETWORK umbrella of professional development opportunities, this year’s programme (now in its 4th edition overall), in conjunction with BFI Flare: London LGBTQ+ Film Festival and BAFTA, will again see the six selected filmmakers mentored by a senior figure from the film industry while developing industry knowledge, professional connections, and gaining an overview of LGBTQ+ features entering the marketplace.
The programme kicked off with an intensive schedule of screenings, roundtables and events during the festival, including an inaugural event exploring the current global market environment for LGBTQ+ cinema, as well as sessions with Robin Campillo (writer-director, 120 BPM), Elizabeth Karlsen (producer, Carol, Colette), Francis Lee (writer-director, God’s Own Country), among many more. All six filmmakers are now embarking on the next year feeling confident and connected, and we’re really excited to be able to announce their mentors.
Find the pairings below, where the filmmakers also tell us about their festival experiences, highlighting what inspired them, and what they enjoyed the most.
Mentor: Lucy Cohen (BAFTA-nominated director, Kingdom of Us)
It was incredibly useful to hear from people who have experienced the ins and outs of the industry, at the festival. I've often felt that, as a queer female director, we're often cast aside in the wider narrative of the film industry. During my mentorship, however, I felt impassioned. The mentorship gave me the opportunity to be able to ask the questions, find the answers, and assert myself further as a filmmaker. There are many of us who need a push in the right direction and BFI NETWORK, BFI Flare and BAFTA have offered me and my fellow mentees that chance.
I am thrilled to be participating in the programme and am honoured to have Lucy as my mentor. I have known since my first day as a runner that I learn best on my feet, and therefore am so grateful to continue my growth as a filmmaker. I admire Lucy’s work and am very much looking forward to learning more about her process and discovering ways to improve my own storytelling.
Mentor: Olivier Kaempfer (Parkville Pictures, Exec Producer, Appropriate Behaviour, The Miseducation of Cameron Post)
BFI Flare is my favourite film festival, and being selected in this year’s mentorship programme has been a real highlight of my filmmaking career. Discussing our ideas about cinema in a safe, non-judgemental group was one of the most rewarding experiences. Over the week, the group of mentees became my filmmaking family. I left the festival feeling more inspired than ever about the kind of work I want to make and the impact I want to have on cinema, especially queer cinema.
One of my absolute production heroes is Elizabeth Karlsen. Hearing from her about her journey into production was a total inspiration and gave me confidence that there is no straightforward way to get to anywhere, as I move from short filmmaking to features. My standout film of the festival this year was Robin Campillo’s 120 BPM. It's the kind of film that sticks with you and inspires you - the kind of film I eventually hope to make.
I’m thrilled to have Olivier as my mentor this year, especially considering his contribution to independent cinema. I really admire the films he produces through Parkville Pictures, and am excited by the prospect of thoroughly being able to pick his brains the coming year!
Matthew Jacobs Morgan
Mentor: John Cameron Mitchell (writer-director, How to Talk to Girls at Parties, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Rabbit Hole)
Not only did I learn heaps at the festival, it was also one of the most fun experiences I've had in my life. The team at BFI and BAFTA were so supportive and accessible, and the industry events were brilliant. Being able to see so many films in such a short space of time was amazing. To be constantly discussing our thoughts and tastes as filmmakers and debating about the politics of certain films that we saw was so cool. The mentorship sessions with the filmmakers were infinitely useful. It was so great to be able to pick their brains in a completely safe and candid environment. Their gems of wisdom will stay with me for a long time and be a part of my practice as a filmmaker.
A personal highlight for me was the session with Robin Campillo (writer-director,120 BPM). We had just watched the film the day before, and I think all of us were reeling from how fantastic it was, and how moved we were by it. Unlike a public Q&A, we were able to delve into the nitty gritty - an opportunity we would not have been afforded if it wasn’t for the programme. The connections I’ve made and the meetings I’ve had since the festival have opened me up to a whole new level of support, and I am eternally grateful to everyone who is a part of the Flare Mentorship for this.
Having John as my mentor is amazing. He has such a wealth of experience and is able to offer fantastic guidance. He’s also just a cool and inspiring person to hang out with and I’m so lucky to have him as my mentor!
Mentor: Mary Burke (Senior Development & Production Exec, BFI Film Fund)
What an incredible 11 days! Starting out the programme with deep immersion in queer film *and* the queer community was one of the highlights of my career to date. In the hectic day-to-day of directing and producing it’s easy to get isolated from your wider community. Being in constant conversation with fellow LGBTQ+ storytellers was such a refreshing treat, and it energised how I think about my own work. The mentees’ programme was very thoughtfully curated, and we got to spend time with some of the most extraordinary filmmakers, and get deep into their (and our) processes and practices with our roundtables and intimate discussion sessions.
Film highlights for me were 120 BPM (dir: Robin Campillo) for pure cinematic brilliance, and The Feels (dir: Jenée LaMarque) for the kind of light-hearted queer movie you long to find on Netflix on a rainy afternoon. Our mentee group’s conversation with funders and filmmakers about the future of LGBTQ+ film - what the industry urgently needs to do to nurture it, and where we as mentee-filmmakers sit within that future - was essential and provocative. The ultimate highlight, though, was our group of mentees. It was such a privilege to be around my 5 fellow mentees during the festival. To wade around in all our thoughts and questions and incredible projects; to absorb the creative, dynamic, bold ways they all approach their work; and to dance. I felt genuinely refreshed and inspired by the company and brilliance of Nosa, Matthew, Georgi, Emily and Sorcha, and continue to learn from them all. The only downside to mentorship at BFI Flare was the feeling after the festival ended. BFI Flare makes a magical space for queer creativity and community, and being part of its mentorship programme is something I’ll carry with me for a long time.
I couldn’t be happier to have Mary as my mentor; it’s a privilege to have access to her deep experience in storytelling, in crafting and developing narratives with directors, and in expertly helping to navigate the paths of new voices in cinema. I’m really looking forward to diving into storytelling with her over the year ahead.
Mentor: Wayne Yip (director, Doctor Who, Utopia, Humans)
Being at Flare with my fellow mentees was one of the best experiences I’ve had in my career, but also in life. Being around these filmmakers throughout the festival and being able to share the experience with them while building up a friendship and rapport over the greatly intensive and bespoke programme we were on, really brought us together. I’d heard of a “little” thing called post-Flare blues and I can confirm that it’s a real thing. But I’ll cherish the memories of BFI Flare and take everything I learned from my time there and the knowledge shared with us as I crack on with my own filmmaking this year.
Meeting festival filmmakers, as well as the BFI Film Fund through bespoke events curated for the mentorship were beyond useful. It was great being able to ask questions and get candid answers and I feel this has benefited us. We will definitely use the information gathered in the long run, as we build a sustainable career in the industry. The screenings and talks really broadened the scope of how I thought about my feature in development and makes me want to strive even more to be unafraid and passionate about the stories I want to tell on screen. As we know queer people are hungry for variety in content and this was evident during the festival. Festival goers were excited to see everything and anything that was fresh and the programmers did an amazing job at curating films that would be appealing to this vast audience. My fellow mentees and I spent each day watching a few films and we laughed (The Feels), we cried (The Wound), and basically experienced all the emotions over the spectrum of feelings (120 BPM).
I’m very excited about having Wayne Yip as my mentor, as he is one of my favourite directors, and the advice he’s given me has already proved invaluable. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year holds!
Mentor: James Marsh (director, The Theory of Everything, Man On Wire, Shadow Dancer)
What an 11 days that was. I think I’m still having withdrawals (like when you have to go back to school after the best summer ever, when your biggest crush finally hung out with you on the swings every day!) BFI Flare is a unique and inspiring festival, and spending 11 days immersed in cinema and chats was the perfect way to kick off the scheme. The festival opens up a dialogue about all facets of filmmaking from many angles, and is one of the few places where this discussion is open, and progressive. The sessions (formal and informal) with other filmmakers, execs, and everyone in-between I found particularly beneficial. The strongest element of Flare for me is it’s openness to conversation about film, it feels like that’s its heart somehow, alongside the more obvious wide open doors to everyone vibe. If only the world was like Flare!
Filmmaking for all its collaborative nature can be a scary and lonely place at times, and the these sessions, alongside the ongoing new firm friendships created with the other mentees felt like it opened my own world and made me somehow part of a very special network and family.