Take 127 short films, mix in a bucket load of female film making talent, spread it over five days, and you’ve got Underwire Festival 2017. Celebrating the ‘raw cinematic talents of women’, Underwire is the only film festival in the UK celebrating female film making across the crafts. It’s BAFTA recognised and is supported by industry leader organisations and sponsors and most importantly, it’s growing year on year.
We were approached to sponsor and judge the Production Design category in 2016 when it was added to the line-up. In just the last two years, the number of films shortlisted across all the categories has gone from 78 to 127 and the Production Design category alone increased from ten to sixteen short films this year making judging even more difficult than before.
As ever with the short films shortlisted by Underwire, it was an eclectic bunch with a vast array of subject matter and styles, with female friendships and matriarchy being an overriding theme. Female centric stories might seem like an obvious choice for a short film festival celebrating the work of women in film but that didn’t seem to be the case last year. It seems the current political and social climate have had too much of an impact to ignore. Pink seems to have been welcomed back in to the bosom of feminism, no longer a colour forced upon girls from a young age, it was the colour of choice for many of the designers and has definitely been embraced as the modern women’s hue.
After watching and re-watching all the films we managed to narrow our choice down to four. An animation about bears, the story of a tense relationship in Yugoslavia, the unusual combination of puppets, cellos and chat lines and lastly a relatable tale of the desperate pull of nicotine. In the end, the nicotine won out and we selected Ruth Pickard as our winner of the 2017 Underwire Festival Production Design award for her work on The Last Time. After the heavier tones of some of the films, The Last Time was just the light relief we needed and Ruth’s stylish and subtle design set the comedic tone perfectly. The film had great pace so Ruth needed to present several locations in a fairly small space and time. With carefully chosen design elements she was able to do this perfectly and transported us from the pub to the beach and back, with a stop at the kebab shop for good measure. Ruth certainly appears to have her own ‘handwriting’ when it comes to her design work and we wish her huge success in the future.
We had the added pleasure of meeting Ruth when we presented her with her award at the Underwire Awards Ceremony on Saturday the 25th of November. On arrival at 91 Brick Lane we were overwhelmed by the buzz of the crowd, the venue was packed with film makers and film lovers alike.
The wonderful compare for the evening (and co-founder of Underwire) was Gabriella Apicella. Gabriella kicked off the awards with a suitably big bang and presentations got underway. Thankfully the Production Design award was the third one up so we didn’t have too long to sit worrying about our turn on stage and after a short introduction, I joined Gabriella on stage to announce our winner.
There are a total of twelve categories/awards all supported by leading organisations across all filming crafts, so we were in good company. BFI Future Film sponsors the Under 25’s award, WFTV UK for Producing and Molinaire for Editing to name a few. Take a look at the Underwire Festival website for more information and links.
We’re very honoured to be sponsors of and to support this wonderful festival and to help in our small way to promote the abundance of talent that women have to offer the film industry. The overwhelming feeling from the awards ceremony was that we’re certainly not alone in that. The crowd were eager in their support of their colleagues and friends; the volume of the rapturous applause was testament to that!