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BFI London Film Festival: A Day in the Life of an Industry Delegate

Date posted: 22.10.2014

Ever wondered what industry delegates get to do at BFI London Film Festival? We sent our intrepid reporter Avalon Lyndon, Film London’s Communications Officer, to give you the inside story. Here’s her day in the life.

10am - Visit to the Industry Office

I start the day dodging the crowds around Tottenham Court Road, as I make my way to Festival industry HQ at BFI Stephen Street. I'm heading for the LFF Industry Office, which is supported by Film London and the Mayor of London, and serves as a space for the Festival's various delegates - industry, press or filmmakers - to work, network and find out more about what the Festival has to offer.

Arriving at the Industry Office to collect my delegate badge, I'm greeted by an army of friendly volunteers who are more than happy to show me the ropes.

In addition to the welcome desk, networking spaces and complimentary refreshments, this year the office has introduced a brand new digital viewing library, offering a selection of DVDs and monitors to help delegates catch up on Festival titles they may have missed.

Carina Volkes, LFF Industry Office Coordinator, takes a moment to fill me in on the highlights of this year's programme: "We’re very proud to be able to offer a diverse line-up to our industry delegates that enables them to plan their Festival to best suit their own needs. Delegates can pick and choose from more than 150 press and industry screenings, nightly networking drinks, a full programme of events featuring leading figures in the film industry and a dedicated showcase of screenings for buyers and sellers."

Armed with my accreditation badge and a bag full of film-based treats, it's time to get stuck in! Next stop, Shaftesbury Avenue.

11am - Meet the Commissioners: Ben Roberts in conversation with Ira Sachs

I'm pacing down the street in search of Soho's members-only Century Club, the venue housing this year's industry programme events. I spend an embarrassingly long amount of time locating the entrance, which blends into surrounding street with chameleonic ease, and dash up the stairs to settle down for my first industry event of the day.

On stage is the BFI Film Fund's Ben Roberts, who is there to discuss Love is Strange with director Ira Sachs. The film stars John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as a married gay couple who are forced to move out of their shared New York home when one of them loses his job.

The programme's Meet the Commissioners strand pairs top decision-makers with some of their favourite filmmakers to give delegates an insight into what makes them tick. A caveat preventing the commissioners from choosing any projects they have had any involvement in allows for a free and frank dialogue between the two.

Along with discussions on queer cinema, niche audiences and casting, Sachs also has some enlightening points to make about the difference between financing a film in the US and UK. He notes the opportunities organisations like the BFI offer to UK filmmakers, explaining that US producers are more reliant on financiers: "Its capitalism or nothing. We have no institutions. I had to hustle big time to finance this film."

1pm - Screening: Snow in Paradise

Then it's a hop, skip and a jump over to the Odeon Covent Garden, where I'm due to catch a screening of one of this year's Festival films. Inside the cinema, I'm treated to the dulcet tones of Celine Dion's My Heart Will Go On, which floats slightly incongruously over the tannoy as the chairs fill up with industry and press delegates, all here to see gangster flick Snow in Paradise. Before the song can arrive at its dramatic crescendo, the music stops, the lights dim and we're plunged into the criminal underbelly of London's east end.

A directorial debut from editor Andrew Hulme, Snow in Paradise stars newcomer Frederick Schmidt as a Cockney wide boy who gets himself in too deep with the wrong crowd, and suffers the consequences. Based on the real life story of one of its co-writers and stars, the action is based in Hoxton and the surrounding area, where the film was shot on location. The twin menaces of gentrification and rising racial tensions lend the film an interesting angle, and hallucinatory dream sequences help to distinguish it from the standard fare of the genre.

3pm - Talking Points: The Art of Making a Family Film

After a heavy helping of high-octane filmmaking, it's back to the Century Club for something a little more wholesome. Second time lucky, I spot the entrance with ease and sail across the threshold like a seasoned pro.

The next event is a panel discussion on family film, bringing together a cross-section of filmmakers to look at some of the issues facing the industry today. On the panel are directors Debbie Isitt (the Nativity trilogy), Clio Barnard (The Selfish Giant) and Jon Wright (Robot Overlords), along with Aardman Animations co-founder Peter Lord and - putting in a double-shift - the BFI's Ben Roberts.

The discussion is intriguing and lively, with a wide range of experiences and voices contributing. Barnard's inclusion is a particularly inspired choice, with her brilliant The Selfish Giant serving as a launch pad for a debate around the distinctions between films for, and about, children.

Other areas covered include considering age certificates when developing and shooting a film, learning to work within strict child performance license laws and how to cast the right crew. (Top tip: family films are no place for sergeant major Assistant Directors.)

6.30pm - Networking Drinks

The industry programme might have come to an end, but the party's just begun. After a brief break I'm back on Shaftesbury Avenue, as the Century Club morphs from panel room to reception venue for an evening of networking. Spirits are high and it's a fitting end to a packed industry programme celebrating film, London and the best of the Festival.

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