Anna Bogutskaya, producer of Underwire Festival, explores the origins of an important film festival that celebrates the endeavours and achievements of women in all aspects of the film industry.
‘Underwire Festival began in 2010 as an idea over a cup of coffee in east London. Writer Gabriella Apicella and producer Gemma Mitchell were bemoaning the lack of a short-film festival recognising the diverse skills that go into film-making. Knowing that women are underrepresented in all of the technical aspects of film, they set about creating a festival with the potential to change the industry from the inside out. And so, Underwire was born.
What began as a small gathering of friendly filmmakers has now grown into a BAFTA-recognised, five-day festival packed with short films, features and special events celebrating women making movies. The competition side of the festival remains, with awards presented to winning short films across twelve categories.
Where it is standard practice for directors and producers to be recognised for their contributions in short film, Underwire is proud to be one of the only film festivals in the world to present awards for skills from sound design to editing; cinematography to writing. Each award partner shares our aim to help nurture talent, and their generous prizes of mentoring, training and development opportunities ensure that Underwire winners have stellar support to move on to the next level in their filmmaking careers.
Last year, Underwire dipped its toe into showcasing features. We’re continuing to broaden this strand to spotlight the most exciting and promising feature-length debuts by women. This year we’re expanding and pushing into the spotlight the most exciting feature-length debuts by UK-based women. Films by first-time film-makers can often get lost in the madness of bigger festivals, but they deserve an audience. Making your first feature is no small feat, and we want to give these films a platform on which to shine.
We also look back at the early work of some extraordinary and highly acclaimed homegrown film-makers: Andrea Arnold, Destiny Ekaragha, debbie tucker green, Carol Morley and Lynne Ramsay. Tracing the evolution of their film-making styles through their rarely screened short films, we hope to remind a new generation of filmmakers that everybody needs to start somewhere and inspire them to make films with the bravery, originality and dynamism that these (s)heroes of UK film embody.
This is just the beginning for Underwire, too. We’re excited to bring new partners on board, including the Barbican, to screen our short-film programmes in the best possible cinemas. For the first time, we’re also partnering with an international festival: the Athena Film Festival in New York will showcase a programme of short films by US-based women directors that focus on celebrating women and leadership. Strong female characters are not enough. We want weird ones, insecure ones, transgressive and angry ones; rule-breakers, creators, pioneers. Underwire celebrates women in all their wild complexity.
Underwire Festival runs 1–4 December, featuring Jane Linfoot’s The Incident (lead image), a selection of shorts that try to unpack men in Men By Women and Esther May Campbell’s Light Years.
Browse more events at this year’s Underwire Festival: underwirefestival.com
Originally printed in the December Guide.