Louis Lagayette is a writer / director whose 2015 script ‘Trendy’, was one of three winners in the BUFF Live Script Reading competition, performed at Channel 4. He also received a Live Script Award for Trendy which then became a feature film, released in September 2017. Here is his blog (unpublished until now).
The Virtues of Buffness (or how I gained confidence and felt I had to keep making films).
Three years ago I embarked on a fascinating journey that many have taken before me:
directing a first feature film. Impossible for a French man who had come to the UK four years ago to study film? Time would tell.
Back then, I didn’t know many people in the film industry. I knew my producer and partner in crime Marilena Parouti. My close collaborators on set, like cinematographer Richard William Preisner and gaffer Ben Skyrme. And I had a few mentors and writing sparring partners who I would occasionally get inspiration and support from.
In November 2014 I was promoting my graduation short film: For His Sake. So far I had made about 10 shorts films but this one felt different. It felt like for once, I had achieved something. The film was selected at the BAFTA-qualifying Aesthetica Short Film Festival.
I was lucky enough that the film was screened in front of a massive audience and I could talk about it with a panel of other filmmakers. On that night I met Emmanuel and Clare Anyiam-Osigwe: the amazing people at the heart of the British Urban Film Festival (BUFF), which would later prove to be a decisive step in my career.
On that night Emmanuel and Clare came to me at the end of the screening to tell me how much they had loved my short film. To my surprise, they thought it
was worth something. After telling me all the things they loved about the film, they made me promise to submit it to the next BUFF, which I did.
Time passed and For His Sake went to a few more festivals around the UK. I started to direct music videos and I continued my journey throughout the attempt to get a first feature film off the ground. My producer and I were taking the standard route. Rejections, doubts, frustrations, mistakes and doors closing on you. Yet we kept pushing and pushing – to the dismay of all our friends who thought we were absolutely mad – and made small progress.
And one day we received an email from BUFF. Our short film For His Sake was selected in competition! I asked Emmanuel to go for coffee and we met. He had a large smile on his face – a smile anyone who’s ever met him knows because it’s the sort of smile that you can’t help but catch. He seemed happier than me. He was excited to show the film to the BUFF audience and told me how great it would be to present it. I got excited too. I started to be infected by what would later be known to me as “Buffness”.
Then Emmanuel asked me what I was up to. I replied that I had started to make music videos and that I was writing my first feature film – called Trendy.
Another smile appeared on his face. The same sort of smile. And Emmanuel told me that there was a new competition at this year’s BUFF. A script competition. Hundreds of script submitted and judged by professional BAFTA-winning writers and a script reading at Channel 4 for the winners. The same contagious smile appeared on my face. I promised him that I would submit my script and we parted.
The feature film journey continued. Between music videos and writing sessions, my producer and I were applying to every single funding scheme there was. We were contacting other producers, financiers. We were trying to imagine new ways of financing the film and luckily we got a co-producer on board. Unfortunately adding more matches to a pile of wet leaves doesn’t start a fire. We kept grafting. Until one day – we had another email. Our script was selected at BUFF! We had won the screenwriting award and the first twenty pages of the script would be read by professional actors at Channel 4! We couldn’t believe it. We had our short film selected and our feature film script awarded.
Then the festival happened. We couldn’t dream of a better set-up. Great actors directed by talented director Julius Amedume performed the script in front of an enthusiastic audience, then the screening of For His Sake was rammed and people loved the film. To seal the deal we were awarded the Live Script-reading Award by BAFTA-winning screenwriters Daniel Fajemisin-Duncan and Marlon Smith. And when we looked around at the winners and the other competing filmmakers, we realised we were exactly like them. Young, passionate, eager to prove ourselves and to work hard. The Buffness at its best. Our work was valued. We were considered. Of course our short film and our feature film script weren’t perfect. Of course we needed to work way harder to achieve our dreams. Of course we were still inexperienced filmmakers learning their craft.
But we were considered. We were supported. We experienced Buffness. Because that’s what BUFF is about. It’s about supporting aspiring filmmakers to turn them into talents. It’s about giving a spot to people who don’t usually get one, or to people who never got one before. There are always new faces at BUFF. Always new people and new inspirations. New ideas and new concepts. The family has core members but it’s the sort of family that welcomes all its neighbours to the party. The doors are never closed.
After BUFF we went back to work. It was still as hard and it took us a long time to get anywhere, although now we had the Buffness behind us. So we kept trying and failing, but not much could stop us anymore. And eventually actors became interested in our film. Alan Ford joined our cast. Then Haluk Bilginer. Then Lachlan Nieboer. Then Alice Sanders. Then Fraser Ayres. Then we found the funding for our film. The crew. The locations.
And we made our first feature film: Trendy.
I believe a large part of our journey was encouraged by Buffness. The film is to be released soon and we still have obstacles on the way, but since we were infected by the BUFF virus, it seems even our hardest defeats are bearable. Even our biggest doubts transform into strength and turn into skills.
BUFF is an incredible event that truly gives a voice to anyone willing to work hard for it. Not only does it champion diversity, it also praises filmmakers and nurtures talents. Honestly and ambitiously.
(c) Louis Lagayette
Follow Louis on Twitter at: @louislagaa