True to the film festival spirit, London Lift-Off is a cosmic celebration of the cinematic medium, a weeklong communion of creative wonderment. While other annual film festivals tend to promote those who have already made a name for themselves within the industry, London Lift-Off, part of the transatlantic Lift-Off initiative, champions emerging and undiscovered talents and offers them a platform from which to display their work.
This year, between the 1st & 6th of December at the Exhibit Balham, North London Tavern Kilburn & The Soho Hotel, a host of independent filmmakers who have been handpicked by the festival’s team, will have the opportunity to display their accomplishments on the big screen to an audience of public moviegoers. The ethos of the festival’s founders is to help encourage and support those with an original and/or artistic flair for filmmaking, with the festival’s top picks given the opportunity to showcase their films at Lift-Off Festivals across the globe. It’s also about inspiring audiences to engage with such ideas, to urge them to show support for those currently at a grassroots level who aspire to establish themselves within the world of film. As such, all of the London Lift-Off events, including an evening workshop that discusses the crowd-funding initiative, are free to attend.
James Bradley is the co-founder & director of the London Lift-Off Festival. Having graduated from the Oxford School of Drama nearly 10 years ago, James began his career working as an actor in the capital before becoming closely involved in the creative process of filmmaking, primarily as a director. It was here that he began to realise just how much of a struggle it could be for aspiring filmmakers to garner the support needed to have their work shown on the festival circuit. With the help of others who were also trying to crack the business, James set-up a film festival that endeavored to screen films where technical style was second to narrative substance. Four years later, and with the final preparations for this year’s London Festival underway, James kindly took time out of his schedule to further discuss the Lift-Off initiative with Culturefly.
Culturefly: What’s the overall goal of the Lift-Off initiative?
James: Our overall goal is to help circulate the films that we believe are the reason people love cinema. We want to help foster and reward filmmakers who are at the early stages of their career.
If you’re a director who has made a film, then your number one priority is to get it watched by as many people as possible. Not just the kids on YouTube or the other filmmakers on Vimeo, but actually by diverse groups of moviegoers from across the globe. At our festivals we have a vagabond of different people attending our events, and through them we are able to create a mini distribution network for the filmmakers who submit their films. For example, if you’re one of the London winners then you automatically get selected to show your work in Los Angeles, Liverpool, Las Vegas, Tokyo, and Amsterdam. So people who are hungry to watch independent short films can see yours in different cultural destinations across the world.
CF: What can we expect from this year’s London Lift-Off Festival?
James: Well, we always have a lot of independent filmmakers who want to push the audiences’ buttons. So expect a lot of darkness, a lot of comedy, and a lot of hard-hitting and insightful documentaries. The guys who create these films display some fantastic bravery behind the camera and the stuff they’re producing is literally jaw dropping. They all aim to be original in their own unique way, so there will definitely be some big shocks, but also some beautiful romances.
CF: Tell us a bit more about the selection process.
James: We have a number of judges who each come from their own specific background within the industry. There are people who work in costume design, others who work as editors, actors etc. And once we’ve initially gone through and green flagged the best of the bunch, we send these films through to the judges who then give us their scores out of 10. From there, we build the Festival program.
CF: When you’re going through the process of picking the films to submit to the judges, what is it that you’re looking for?
James: There are two integral elements. Firstly, we need to be engaged with the content. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean we have to be interested in the genre, because we understand that there are several diverse audiences around the world who like different things. But the film needs to be something that has us lean forward when we watch. One blemish we’re certainly not keen on is the use of extended opening credits sequence. We’re far more interested in the story you want to tell. So if the narrative begins immediately, then we’re instantly engaged.
Secondly, we are also looking to make sure that there are no classic mistakes. For example if the director has everything in focus, if it’s not lit properly, or if their mum’s ironing is in the background. These sorts of mistakes can be averted without added financial cost to the director. We don’t think there’s any excuses for bad film language. If you’re a filmmaker, you should invest in making sure you understand the art of filmmaking.
CF: Do you believe enough is being done to encourage new filmmakers within the UK?
James: I think more could and should be done by the general public. The wider community needs to engage more with cultural events such as film festivals. Not just inside London, but also outside of the Capital. The reason we rely on government handouts to help make our films is because there isn’t an audience for them. So we need to find people who are prepared to pay to watch a collection of short films.
We don’t charge entry fees for London Lift-Off because we want to encourage as many people as possible to come and see the work that’s being created. It’s such incentives that are needed to help energize and encourage the film-going public to connect with the medium. Sadly at the moment, it’s a shame to say, people seem far keener to find the next X-Factor star than helping to support the next generation of local filmmakers.
You can help support the London Lift-Off Festival by following the link here to book your place at one of the events. Admission is free, but places are limited.
Culturefly would like to thank James Bradley for taking the time to speak to us.