Above: Filmmakers Alice Lowe, Hope Dickson Leach, Joseph a Adesunloye, Paul Anton Smith
Back in the day I often wrote about film and the business of film for an American newswire and, as their correspondent, attended the Cannes Film Festival for several years. There’s no better place to go to understand the realities behind the gloss of the entertainment industry: for each Hollywood red carpet blockbuster there’s also a filmmaker desperately trying to drum up interest in their passion project, most of which will never see the light of day. That’s because it’s hard, really hard to get funding as a filmmaker; it takes not just talent but tenacity, self-belief, and serendipity.
Equally it’s no secret that finding for the arts is in a tricky place, and grants that can truly make a difference to those working in the creative space are in short supply. So it’s more than encouraging to hear of the inaugural IWC Filmmaker Bursary Award in association with the BFI (British Film Institute).
Underwritten by Swiss luxury watch manufacturer IWC Schaffhausen, it’s a significant £50,000 bursary – the largest of its kind – to be given to a writer/director who identifies as British and has a first or second feature-length fiction film premiering in the Official Selection at the London Film Festival this October.
The collaboration with IWC makes sense not just when one considers the direct correlation between filmmaking and time, and that IWC’s CEO Georges Kern is also a passionate film producer himself, but because the bursary gives the recipient the gift of time by supporting a writer and/or director at the beginning of their career, bringing them the financial stability and time needed to develop their creativity and focus on future projects without the pressure of deadlines or the distraction of taking paid work – a precious and extremely rare opportunity for a filmmaker.
I went down to the press conference at the BFI HQ on the Southbank last week to hear film critic Jason Solomons reveal and then interview introduce the four finalists, who between them represent very distinct personal visions of filmmaking.
The four finalists, all of whose films are screening at this year’s London Film Festival, are Joseph a. Adesunloye, British-Nigerian writer/director of White Colour Black, which looks at a London youth travelling back to his Senegalese homeland,
Hope Dickson Leach, an award-making filmmaker and co-founder of Raising Films, a campaign to make the film industry more parent-friendly, and the writer/director of debut feature The Levelling, which deals with the psychological effect of the devastating flooding of the Somerset Levels on the farming community, Alice Lowe, writer/director of Prevenge, a dark look at a pregnant serial killer – played by Alice herself during the seventh month of her own pregnancy,
and Paul Anton Smith, a London-based filmmaker and visual artist originally from Canada, and first time feature director of Have You Seen My Movie? a narrative crafted from an elaborate and ambitious collage of some of the most iconic movies of the 20th and 21st century
The shortlisting panel for the Bursary included director Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham and upcoming Viceroy’s House), Joe Oppenheimer, acting head of BBC Films, and Rose Garnett, head of development at Film4, alongside Bursary Award architects Clare Stewart, director of the BFI London Film Festival and Ben Roberts, director of theBFI Film Fund. The winner will be announced on the evening of the 4th October the night before the opening of the London Film Festival 2016
To celebrate, IWC has also launched a limited edition timepiece to mark this occasion, the 60th year of the London Film Festival of which IWC has been the Official Time partner since 2014.
This post was written in association with IWC and LibertyLondonGirl.com as part of an ongoing collaboration.