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Underwire Festival: Anna Bogutskaya on Celebrating Women Filmmakers

Underwire Festival Programme Director Anna Bogusksaya writes for Run Riot on the UK's only film festival celebrating female talent across the filmmaking crafts.

 

Underwire Festival started when a screenwriter, Gabriella Apicella, and a producer, Gemma Mitchell, got together and set up a film festival like no other, one that would look beyond the glorified image of the film director, and celebrate all the amazing people that contribute to making a film a reality. This particularly applies to women in the film industry, who are still vastly underrepresented across the board, and Underwire is trying to do its bit to help change that by spotlighting the work of amazing women across the crafts.

I took over the festival two years ago, after helping programme the shorts and managing the programme for the 2015 edition. The then festival producers treated me to a curry - and gifted me a festival to run. True story.

One of the things that attracted me to the project is the festival’s great reputation. Underwire has always had a tremendously positive reputation and part of that is based on the importance it places on its relationship with the filmmakers we screen. We are in constant touch with everyone, and take immense pride in the success of the filmmakers we screen and continue supporting them in any way we can. As the festival grows, with our eighth edition kicking off in a few weeks, this remains the most important element for us.

Seventeen

Underwire is different from all other short film festivals in that we spotlight filmmakers across the crafts. The festival recognises female talent in ten skills-based categories: Directing, Producing, Screenwriting, Editing, Cinematography, Sound Design, Composing, Production Design and Animation. There is also an award recognising filmmakers and practitioners Under 25, and the XX Award, which rewards nuanced onscreen representation of women. Each category is sponsored by a leading industry organisation, including DirectorsUK, BFI Future Film, Euroscript, Greenkit, Sound Disposition, Musician’s Union and WFTV. Winners are rewarded with practical awards that provide professional development opportunities and support. The founders of Underwire were really keen to have awards that helped people progress in their careers, as opposed to just cash prizes. We give out these prizes to the winners at our annual Awards party, on the Saturday of the festival.

Alongside its film programme, Underwire hosts Wired Women, an annual industry programme, which hosts discussions, practical workshops and sessions aimed at new entrants into the film industry. This year, we’re thrilled to be partnering with The Hospital Club, who will be our host for the weekender. At Wired Women, we look at demystifying the craft and business aspects of the film industry, and our speakers are wonderfully honest and refreshing.

Last year, we made two key changes: we moved the festival from DIY spaces into cinema screens; and we shifted the programming approach to make the shorts programmes thematic, and hence more audience-friendly. The audience really responded, and this year we’re doing more special events than ever! We’re hosting fifteen short film programmes across some of the best cinemas in London (you can see the full breadth of the programme on our brand new website!) as well as some brilliant debut features by female directors and a range of special events. The shorts programmes tackle a wide variety of themes, including female sexuality, coming of age, body issues, and even a reversal of the gaze, with a programme of shorts about men all directed by women.

The Good Mother

I’d be remiss not to highlight the special selectrospective of one of the most exciting new voices in British filmmaking, Kate Herron (with the tongue-in-cheek title Tentacles Are Included!). Underwire has screened her work right from the beginning, and now that she’s working on her feature film debut (and has two new shorts!), we wanted to really focus on how her cinematic voice has developed throughout her short film work and the development of her debut feature.

This comes back to the thing we most pride ourselves of at Underwire - it’s identifying and supporting great film talent. When Underwire moved into feature film programming a few years ago, this was a continuation of this relationship. We want to be able to showcase the work of the festival alumni as their careers progress and they move into features. Sofia Olins, for instance, screened one of her short films at Underwire and is back now with her documentary feature debut, Lost in Vagueness, a cracking film about the inside story of the story of Lost Vagueness and its creator Roy Gurvitz.

The festival continues to grow in the right direction, and the more people we get coming to our events the more we can continue to support the filmmakers whose work we adore.

 

@underwirefest

@annabdemented

 

Underwire Festival runs 22-26 November across cinemas in London.

Wired Women runs 18-19 November at The Hospital Club.