As with most aspects of life in this turbulent year, the business of the capital's screen industries has been turned upside down by COVID-19. As well as being on hand to support production and infrastructure throughout this difficult and unprecedented time, Film London was forced to redesign and recalibrate our 2020 events programme in short order.
After starting the year with three physical events - Film London Lodestars and the year's first Film London Lab in February, and our London's Screen Archives Conference in March - things changed abruptly, beginning with the 2020 London Games Festival.
The festival, taking place completely online for the first time, brought together virtual iterations of annual flagship events and new initiatives, casting a wider net than ever before to include games professionals globally. Highlights included Ensemble, the yearly programme championing and showcasing BAME talent in UK games; Now Play This at Home, a brand new experimental event from the Now Play This exhibition team; and a virtual version of the festival's ever-popular cosplay parade.
The Games London Business Hub and Games Finance Market brought together 843 attendees from 40 countries, representing 164 games and 402 companies, creating £16m of business for delegates.
The London Games Festival was the first of many events to take place entirely online, as the industry quickly adjusted to a new normal. For Film London, this meant a combination of new initiatives, like our Under the Influence series, and reformatting of flagship events including our Production Finance Market and Distributor Slate Days.
Our regular Film London Labs sessions moved online in a variety of formats, including sessions with BAFTA-nominated Electric Noir Studios, resulting in a paid 3 month placement for one of the attendees, and two multi-part online short courses targeted towards emerging writers, run by producer Angeli Macfarlane- The Writers Sessions and The Genre Sessions.
In total, over 200 early stage filmmakers has participated in our virtual Film London Labs this year.
Our Film Hub London Exhibitors' Breakfasts, too, moved online, including a special edition at the BFI London Film Festivalin October. These events were a key part of Film Hub London's vital support for London's cinemas, a sector for which the impact of the pandemic was particularly acute.
The summer saw the introduction of new online initiatives including Under the Influence, pairing up-and-coming talent with their biggest professional inspirations for a series of free webinars, and London's Screen Archives' (LSA) online training sessions.
Watched by an audience of hundreds of young filmmakers looking to gain insight into the processes of the industry from both newcomers and established producers, Under the Influence has thus far attracted a stellar guest list, including Christine Vachon (Boys Don't Cry, Carol) and Adele Romanski, the Oscar-winning producer of Moonlight, as well as up-and-coming producers Sorcha Bacon and Joy Gharoro-Akpojotor, both Film London Lodestars.
Designed for archivists, librarians, curators, amateur enthusiasts and anyone working in or interested in heritage who wanted to extend their skills into archive film and video, the LSA online training sessions covered subjects from cataloguing and metadata to copyright and licensing, for participants from across the UK.
Also in summer, Breakthrough at London Screenings was this year presented as a scaled-down online event, championing four new UK feature films and filmmakers looking for UK sales company representation and film festival showcasing. One of these features, Sue Carpenter and Belmaya Nepali‘s I Am Belmaya, has already been picked up for UK distribution by Dartmouth Films.
Dartmouth were also in attendance in September, as Distributor Slate Days moved entirely online for the very first time. This annual industry event for distributors and exhibitors is presented in collaboration with Film Hub Scotland and the BFI Film Audience Network, and is designed to build stronger links between distributors and exhibitors, as well as showcasing a range of exciting upcoming theatrical releases. Presenting this year were the likes of Altitude, MUBI, Dogwoof, STUDIOCANAL and more, as 24 distributors introduced over 100 features, a testament to the enduring vibrancy, diversity and rude health of independent cinema in this difficult year.
The market, in its 14th year, connected filmmakers and financiers from across the globe through 1-2-1 meetings as a way to navigate potential business partners and investment. In total, 854 meetings took place over the two days period, broadly in line with previous physical iterations of the Market, with 58 production companies and 50 financiers in attendance as 60 projects were presented.
We were delighted to welcome legendary writer, producer and director James Schamus, former CEO of Focus Features, for a live interview and Q&A to kick off the Market, while the second day saw a special online case study with Bassam Tariq and Bennett McGhee, director and producer of Mogul Mowgli, which premiered at this year's festival.
The final major event of 2020 was the 13th Film London Jarman Awardpresentation, taking place at the end of November, the award ceremony swapped from previous venues such as the Whitechapel Gallery and the Barbican to the virtual world. In another first, the award was shared between all six artists, a collaborative decision between the six shortlisted artists, Film London and the Jury, in reflection of the solidarity of the artistic and creative community in the face of challenging year.
The Jarman Award ceremony neatly summed up both the challenges and the opportunities of an unprecedented year - normally an invite only event for 200 people in central London, the presentation was watched by at least 5 times that number, and across 27 different countries, including Mexico, New Zealand and Thailand. While 2020 has been more challenging than we could have possibly imagined, it has afforded us the chance to think of Film London and its activities in new and interesting ways, and to reach audiences in ways unthinkable a year ago.