The UK’s only short film festival to celebrate female filmmaking talent begins in Hackney tomorrow. EastLondonLines spoke to organizer Gabriella Apicella at Hackney Picturehouse – the setting for the three-day event.
Apicella begin by discussing sexism in the film industry. Since starting the festival six years ago with cofounder and producer Gemma Mitchell she is fairly conclusive that “things haven’t got any better, they’ve got worse”.
Women made up just 20% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers on the top 700 films of 2014. Despite these shocking statistics and Hollywood starlets like Jennifer Lawrence speaking up about the realities of working in the entertainment industry, sexism still persists.
Having worked with the short film form for many years Apicella is aware of how “stifling” working in an all male environment can be – “it’s a harsh industry, if we want it to change we’ve got to support the things that we believe in.”
Enter Underwire, the film festival that encourages women to compete in those craft areas where they are most underrepresented. Categories include editing, producing, composing, writing, cinematography, acting and directing with separate categories for under 25s and onscreen representation.
“Our main aim from the outset has been to help people progress in their careers, we want these to be the filmmaker’s future, we want more women in the industry.” Apicella said.
The festival takes a practical approach to prizes, “we don’t have much money for pretty things” Apicella tells us, but they do provide training and mentoring with industry experts. This year for example, the winner of the editing category will receive training with VET, a postproduction company based in Hoxton, East London.
Over the course of the weekend there will be screenings of 56 short films and new this year are screenings of three feature films by first time filmmakers including a screening of Sense and Sensibility which will be introduced by Samantha Ellis, an expert on Jane Austen.
For Apicella the choice to hold the festival in Hackney was a deliberate one: “There’s an inventiveness and a kind of unruliness and anarchy to the East side of London which – if it doesn’t succumb completely to gentrification – is essentially rule breaking and subversive and dynamic, which is why for us – it’s always been the natural home for Underwire.”
The Docklands in particular provides the backdrop for Steamers, a short film about community and camaraderie, in the Best Editor category which will be screened on Saturday.
After each screening there will be networking opportunities and a chance to meet the filmmakers, Apicella said: “we have an amazing community of filmmakers that are really passionate about their work. Over the course of the weekend you could accumulate a new crew, an entirely female crew- which would just be amazing”.
Postcards designed for the festival read: “Every cinema ticket is a vote for the future shape of the film industry.” Apiecella hopes that the festival will make people more aware of how their spending habits dictate what films are produced: “a ticket for Underwire is a vote for more women in the industry.”
Watch the trailer below to get a flavour of the weekend:
Underwire Festival takes place at Hackney Picturehouse from the 20-22 November. Tickets can be purchased on the website £7.50/£5, Weekend Pass: £45/£35, where you’ll also find the programme. Watch the trailer below to get a flavour of the weekend:
A version of this article first appeared in Londonist