NETWORK Weekender 2019

For this year's weekend-long initiative, NETWORK took to Manchester for an unforgettable, identity-focused few days

22 July 2019

On a typically overcast July weekend in glorious Manchester, 22 carefully selected non-binary, trans and female-identifying filmmakers came together for NETWORK Weekender 2019. Our aim this year was to create an open, welcoming space within which our gang could absorb crucial advice from the film industry’s finest, meet and learn from their peers and walk away feeling practically invincible. Here’s how the weekend played out:

Day One: The Gendered Gaze with a side of Distribution

Never an initiative to pussyfoot around important, marginalised themes in filmmaking, our NETWORK Weekender kicked off via an in-depth discussion on gendered gaze with sexual liberation advocate and performer Heidi Switch.

A frequent collaborator with adult indie filmmaker Erika Lust, Heidi recently featured in Channel 4 doc series Mums Make Porn, and uses film and media to promote body positivity through content that transcends both the male and female gaze. 

A bold and inspirational figure in adult filmmaking, Heidi really set Weekender off on the right foot, helping our cohort to interrogate views on identity and sexuality on film.

From sexuality to sales (a natural progression), our filmmakers met key folk from leading UK distributors to learn about the process of getting their films out into the world. Weekender is an opportunity to explore all aspects of the film’s lifespan, and so it was great to demystify distribution with powerhouse publicist Claire Gascoyne and BFI’s own Laura Glanville.

For our last event of the day, our Weekender champion and companion Sal Pearman delivered a blinding development session called Beyond the Binary. Using an inclusive and engaging presentation and some outrageous stationary, Sal - who is a top adviser on unconscious bias and gender equality - encouraged filmmakers to consider how they see themselves and their careers moving forward, while raising important points on gender and identity. We loved seeing our filmmakers consider their futures in a playful yet thought-provoking way, which helped to frame the mission for the rest of the weekend.

Day Two: Attack of the labs and Clio Barnard is amazing

It is indisputable that Clio Barnard is a pioneering British filmmaker, and so we were overjoyed when she agreed to speak with our cohort about her assured debut feature The Arbor and journey from emerging director to established household name. Covering everything from handling trauma on film to Clio’s vigorous methods of research, our cohort did us proud with their considered and confident questions.

Prior to Clio’s headline event, we welcomed three dedicated panels of producers, writers and directors to HOME for a series of specially tailored lab sessions. We loved the different dynamics that shone through in the respective panels, beginning with our straight-talking yet funny producers’ panel. Joi Productions founder Joy Gharoro, Loran Dunn (A Deal With The Universe) and My Genderation’s Owl Fisher spoke with BFI DCEO Ben Roberts about the highs and lows of running a shoot and how to navigate through tough networking situations. 

Next, TV screenwriter Jackie Okwera and playwright, author and writer Colette Kane got stuck into the minutiae of storytelling across different mediums, while offering crucial advice to our cohort writers. 

And finally, former NETWORK @ LFF alumnus and award-winning filmmaker Yemi Michael, directorial wonder Lucy Campbell (The Pig Child, Marina and Adrienne) and My Genderation founder Fox Fisher came through strong with stories of surprising career arcs, advice on the best ways to treat your crew on set, and endless sports metaphors. 

Our cohort left the day feeling enriched, enlightened and full of vegetarian Indian food (special shout out to Sanjeev at Arnero for our Saturday night feast!)

Day Three: Film funding and final words

Our final day of Weekender, in which we got awfully soppy with our goodbyes (we might in fact have something in our eyes as we write this), though not before a vigorous, invaluable funding session with key representatives from BBC Film, the BFI and the Young Audiences Content fund.

In our last session, we asked our cohort to write down their goals and affirmations which we will be sending back to them in three months’ time. We hope that their experience on NETWORK Weekender will spark future collaborations, ignite new ideas and maintain the confidence needed to move forward into bright and brilliant filmmaking careers. If the cohort Facebook group is anything to go by, we think they’re off to a fine start.