The BUFF Blog (December 2010)


Over the past 12 months, BUFF has invited filmmakers and journalists to offer their thoughts and experiences of the industry. Now its’ my turn. In what has been a year of exciting developments, BUFF was the first media outlet to announce the winners of the Film London Best of Boroughs awards – one of whom submitted their entry into the British Urban Film Festival only weeks before. The awards just happened to take place in the same week it was announced that the UK Film Council was to be abolished – arguably the biggest story of the year as far as the UK film industry was concerned.And so as the arts brace themselves for funding cuts – and regardless of the number of A-list actors and directors brought forward to argue the case against, regardless of the success of British cinema in the last 12 months, the way we see arts is about to change bigtime.

And as with anything connected with change, technology seems to be the undisputed driving force behind it all. Big screens have enabled events like BBC Proms in the Park to work for huge audiences; Internet streaming is beginning to make great events accessible to far wider audiences. We use Facebook to communicate with many more people and Twitter to react instantly to shared experiences. Everyone worth their salt has never had it so good in terms of being armed with these technological tools to get the word out. That said, it does need navigation.
Having been a festival director and programmer for nearly a decade, I’d like to think that I can identify quality material when it reaches my desk – week in, week out. And with so much that is out there, presented as ‘quality’, my role as a gatekeeper will have to adapt whilst maintaining my ability to organise, select and mediate the very best quality to audiences. For most people, the BBC is seen as a trusted guide as to what’s available in terms of the best quality and putting it out there on all their networks. It goes without saying that a world where only the BBC is seen as a trusted guide cannot be a healthy one. We are no longer constrained by broadcast networks (we are no longer constrained, period – thanks to Julian Assange).

Arts organisations should be collaborating, not only with the BBC but with other technology providers to create the richest possible offer for all. The demand for participation rather than passive observation, and for using technology in the process, is especially critical for a younger audience hence the increasing focus of cutting-edge arts venues like the Roundhouse in North London where the short film ‘Stick With Me’ (co-produced by BUFF) was screened earlier this year. The Barbican Theatre’s partnership with Theatre Royal Stratford East enabled “The Harder They Come” (starring Lateef Lovejoy) to bring in a whole new crowd earlier this summer. At the time of writing, “Fela” is wowing audiences at the National, thanks in no part to messyrs Jay-Z, Wil Smith & Jada Pinkett-Smith – the executive producers of the musical biopic.BUFF continues to screen some of the most iconic independent cinema produced by the UK’s finest including “Sus” (adapted from the original stageplay), “Adulthood”, “Hip-hop Opera”, “Rappin at the Royal”, “Disoriented Generation”, “N-Dubz: the way we were” plus the very best in short film talent from across the country. But you knew all that already didn’t you? Course you did…

You probably also knew that Dappy will be delivering this year’s alternative Christmas message on Channel 4. The N-Dubz rapper declared recently that his speech will be “real and relevant” to young people in the UK today. Since 1993, Channel 4 has broadcast a speech from a celebrity or political figure at the same time as the Queen’s traditional Christmas message. Previous speakers have included Ali G, Jamie Oliver, Sharon Osbourne and Marge Simpson. Dappy is reported to have said: “We thought it would be cool to do a special Christmas message to rival the Queen’s speech but I’ll be giving a very different take on things to Her Majesty. I’m going to be talking about things that matter to young people today, keeping it real and relevant.”

Keeping it real and relevant was behind BUFF’s decision to be a media partner in Manorlogz – the online poetry slam which was launched this summer as the UK’s answer to Def Poetry Jam, the HBO series produced by US entrepreneur Russell Simmons. Billed as “extreme spoken word”, the competition has secured broadcast rights on Sky and this year’s inaugural final will be shown on December 21st, 4 days before Dappy disrupts everyone’s Christmas dinner – needless to say, most people at BUFF tend to have their dinner after 3pm…

Dappy (or to give him his full name Costadinos Contostavlos) also just happens to feature in the BUFF 2011 promo which is currently doing the rounds on You tube and also on the new and improved BUFF website which recently announced its’ all important submission deadlines and festival dates for next year (Deadline: July 25th, Festival: September 3rd – 5th).

And so that has been the year that was. We’re all off to slap ourselves on the back (some more quietly than others), for one individual in particular, an open invitation to gorge on tap and knock back a few stiff ones before tackling the new year head on. We hope that as an organisation, BUFF continues to entertain and provide insight and understanding of the film business. And who knows, after the year we’ve had, we may even start our own PR agency… happy new year!

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