NETWORK@LFF 2018 Roundup

Check out what our cohort got up to at LFF this year...

25 October 2018

This summer, BFI NETWORK launched a callout for filmmakers with big stories to tell and the ambition to make films that break the rules, to join us for the fifth edition of NETWORK@LFF, a dedicated strand of London Film Festival that focuses on career development. We received an astonishing 512 applications, from which we plucked 17 directors, writers and producers to join us for what would prove to be a life-changing five day programme of premieres, panels and sessions with Steve McQueen, Carol Morley, David Lowery and Boots Riley amongst many others.

Day One: Walking the red carpet with Steve McQueen

What better film to kick off London Film Festival 2018 than Steve McQueen’s hotly anticipated female-fronted thriller Widows? With our cohort kitted out for the occasion, we took to the red carpet and rubbed shoulders with the likes of Daniel Kaluuya, Viola Davis and Steve himself before heading in to watch the film in all its glory.

Day Two: Ben Wheatley & Amy Jump bring punk spirit to Stephen Street

A director known for playing by his own rules, Ben Wheatley is a delightfully frank filmmaker whose new feature Happy New Year, Colin Burstead played at LFF this year. Not only did Ben stop in to dish out some lessons in finding your voice and sticking to it, we were immensely lucky to be joined by his partner and collaborator Amy Jump, who made a rare appearance to talk about her fascinating writing process.

As well as catching Ben’s latest, a brilliant and intimate family drama set in a Dorset stately home, we also showed our filmmakers The Breaker Upperers, the hilarious first feature from New Zealand comedy duo Madeleine Sami and Jackie van Beek about two best friends who run a breakup agency.

Day Three: A NETWORK@LFF line-up for the ages

There is nothing quite like the sight of Steve McQueen, undisputedly the man of LFF 2018, walking in to BFI Stephen Street to greet the filmmakers of NETWORK@LFF. Over the course of an hour, the writer, director and auteur spoke graciously with our filmmakers, imploring them to tell to him about their work and aspirations before announcing to the room that they are the future of film. Goosebumps doesn’t begin to cover it.

Next up, The Breaker Upperers writer-director and leading lady Madeleine Sami and her co-star Ana Scotney took to the stage to talk comedy. The pair proved a worthy follow-up to Steve’s passionate session with their take on comedy and minority representation. Our filmmakers basked in the pair’s candid take on improvisation, writing jokes for the screen and working within a tight-knit comedy community.

Fresh off the back of a truly bizarre screening of Boots Riley’s debut film Sorry To Bother You, a surreal comedy starring Lakeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson, we caught up with the musician-turned-director for a firm programme highlight as he shared his wisdom and tenacity in making his first feature.

And to top off an outstanding Friday, David Lowery battled laryngitis to make a softly-spoken but no less enlightening appearance, telling stories from his career in writing, directing and editing with a special focus on The Old Man & The Gun, his charming adaptation of a New Yorker article about an elderly bank robber played by Robert Redford in his final role.

Saturday: International Perspectives

We were very excited to start Saturday off with a screening of Alfonso Cuarón’s monochrome masterpiece Roma. A stunning piece of craftsmanship, this proved to be a cohort favourite. From the sweeping vistas of Mexico City we headed to the deep forests of Sweden for Border, Ali Abassi’s dark fairytale and feature debut about a misfit border control guard with an acute sense of smell.

Some of the most exciting film releases over the coming year will be launched on Netflix, including Roma and The Breaker Upperers, and so we were delighted to welcome Funa Maduka, the platform’s creative and acquisitions executive for original films to NETWORK@LFF. It was fascinating to hear the woman who has championed Lukas Dhont’s festival-winner Girl, Rungano Nyoni’s I Am Not A Witch and Matt Palmer’s Calibre talk about the possibilities that Netflix can hold for emerging filmmakers.

Polishing off the day, a panel of stellar international programmers gathered to give sage advice to our filmmakers on how to get their work into festivals. Sundance’s shorts programmer Katie Metcalfe, Tribeca Film Festival’s Vice President Sharon Badal and Locarno programmer Liz Harkman took questions on submissions, screenings and everything inbetween.

Sunday: A taste of the Nordics

After enjoying the weird and wonderful Border the day before, our NETWORK@LFF gang sat down with writer-director Ali Abbasi to talk about his take on the twisted folklore thriller. The film, which is based on a short story by John Ajvide Lindqvist, was adapted for the big screen by Ali and filmmaker Isabella Eklöf, whose challenging directorial debut Holiday was played to our cohort later that day.  

Inbetween our Nordic double bill, we were schooled on the importance of marketing and distribution by publicist wizards Jake Garriok (Curzon Artificial Eye), James Warren of Altitude and Christelle Randell, and spellbound by a special screen talk from Alfonso Cuarón.

Monday: Women Changing the World

Our final day kicked off with Out Of Blue, Carol Morley’s fourth feature and first venture into American film. We loved welcoming Carol to then come in and share honest, funny insights into her craft before spending some time getting to know our filmmakers.

Charlie Covell, who most recently penned teen drama The End Of The F***ing World, and Their Finest screenwriter Gaby Chiappe spent a fantastic hour with our cohort, divulging the trials and triumphs of writing for film and television, and Isabella Eklöf also stopped by to answer some excellently composed questions from our filmmakers about the divisive nature of her work.

Our final, formal event of the week was our 1-2-1 sessions, a speed-dating type series of talks with key industry figures from the BFI, BBC Films, Film4, Altitude and more, giving our filmmakers an unmissable opportunity to pitch ideas, ask questions and gain crucial advice.

With a blinding week behind us, we headed to the bar for a well-deserved wine. We were truly thrilled with the filmmakers that made up this year’s NETWORK@LFF initiative and their eagerness to learn and collaborate, and we can’t wait to see what they go on to do next.