Underwire Film Festival: celebrating shorts by women. At the Ritzy until Saturday!

UnderWire festival opened last night for the third time. It was launched in 2010 by Gabriella Apicella and Gemma Mitchell who believed that women working in the UK film industry needed more encouragement and a bigger platform for their work. The festival celebrates the work of women film creatives across a range of crafts – from director to cinematographer; screenwriter to editor.

UnderWire looks to showcase all kinds of short (under 20 minutes) film – the organisers accept drama, animation, documentary, music video and artist film. Apart from the XX Award, for films which put interesting female characters at their centre, films are only eligible for the category that they have a female creative for.

UnderWire believes that a more gender balanced industry will benefit everyone by creating a diversity of perspectives, stories and experiences for audiences. More importantly, the festival wants to see its winners grow and develop in their arts after the adrenaline levels go back to normal. All winners get a membership to Women in Film and Television, the leading membership organisation for women working in creative media in the UK. Additionally, each winner gets a career boost from the collaboration opportunities with the hand-picked industry partners.


This year’s Underwire film festival takes place at the Ritzy in Brixton

On the opening night, I managed to chat briefly with UnderWire 2012’s two co-directors, Gemma Mitchell and Helen Jack.

Q: How is this year’s festival different from the previous ones and what remains the same?

New things: we now have a five day festival so we have an extra day and we’ve also moved to a much bigger venue, the Ritzy: easy for people to get to and has this good community spirit around it. We’ve got three new awards categories for this year’s festival: for the best woman working in sound design; acting; and we also have an award for best female film practitioner aged 15-25, to encourage young women to take that up.

The core message running through the festival is still the same. We are still very much all about British talent and I think we will remain defined as “shorts by women” because what’s really important for us at the festival is the community and atmosphere. It’s about creating a space where women can get together, about seeing new talent on screen and having a pint and chatting about it afterwards.

Q: What are the festival highlights this year?

We now have two guest programmes at the festival, allowed by the bigger space. We have the Wellcome Trust programme [filmmakers exploring biomedical science – AO] and also an event Live Wire on Friday night which is about women in comedy. Obviously our core message is about filmmakers and film craft but what we’d like to do is to highlight women working in other industries. This year we’re also partnering with the Sight&Sound to encourage more women to be film reporters, to go out there and report on film festivals and industry.

Q: Was it easy to find the industry partners for the event supporting solely women film creatives?

On the whole we got a very good response and all our awards partners have been really great and supportive. But we have been turned down by some people who would get a little shifty or concerned, including some women working in high profile media who didn’t want to support the festival because they didn’t want to be seen as biased.

We don’t work with any partners who don’t believe in the core of what we’re trying to do. It’s important that everyone is on board with the message we’re trying to deliver.

Thank you for your time!

You can read Helen’s Huffington Post blog post, on Smurfs and girls that hit people, here.

UnderWire is running at the Ritzy until Saturday 24 November. To see full programme please go to the Festival’s website. You can buy tickets for separate screenings or entire days at the Ritzy’s box office, best by calling 0871 902 5739.