Caro Meets Festivals Interview

Liza Fletcher: Walthamstow International Film Festival

By | Published on Tuesday 19 July 2016


I’ve often talked to people for whom diversity was rightly an issue, and Liza Fletcher is certainly one of those. She’s a co-founder of Walthamstow International Film Festival, which seeks to expose the works of younger practitioners with diverse backgrounds, and takes place as part of the E17 Art trail.
To find out more about the festival, and what motivates Liza to keep it running, I asked her some questions ahead of this weekends events.

CM: Who set up the festival, and who is involved in running it?
LF: My husband Paul Fletcher and I founded the festival in 2010. 2016 will be the seventh year. Impressive stuff, as most film festivals fold after just one year.

CM: What was the motivation for the creation of the event? What does the festival set out to achieve?
LF: We were very impressed with the E17 Art Trail, but had seen no representation of film in the open studios mix. We’d made short films and entered them in international festivals, so this was our way of having cinema represented and local talent given a springboard.

We’re now backed by the BFI and the focus is on showing local talent to the world of film and landing young E17 film makers in jobs in the industry.

CM: Who chooses what will feature at the festival? What are your criteria for inclusion? How do you go about finding the films?
LF: We put out a general call for entries at the beginning of each year. We also get a lot of support from Film London and the BFI who circulate details of the festival to their audiences in the capital.

The films must be suitable for family viewing, five minutes or under and be in English or have English subtitles. The films are judged by a professional panel which spans directing, journalism, distribution and education.

CM: There’s a huge lack of diversity in the film industry, isn’t there? Other than by creating events like yours, how do you think that might be changed?
LF: The only way to approach this is to give opportunities to young people from diverse backgrounds. Having worked in a charity for diversity in the media, I know that the broadcasters, arts organisations and film companies want to adjust this but find the groups hard to reach. It’s only through ground level film festivals and education projects like those run by E17 films. This year we are working in collaboration with the Barbican, who featured film makers who are under eighteen at the Walthamstow Garden Party.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about what we can expect from this year’s festival? What do you especially look forward to?
LF: This year we are showing the usual mix of drama, documentary, experimental, silent, under 18s and animation. I love seeing the sheer range of films that we display. We show in alphabetical order so a Spanish film with a £50k budget could be shown next to one made by a ten year old girl about a favourite toy.

CM: As you say, it’s the seventh year. Have there been any major highlights over the years?
LF: The main highlights have been getting to know film-makers in the area, and seeing them develop their craft. The BFI has supported many young people after seeing the short-list, and many E17-ers have gone on to do summer university activities with the BFI.

CM: Can you tell us about the work you do – the workshops, etc – throughout the rest of the year?
LF: The workshops came about as both Paul and I got a reputation for delivering film exhibition and cultural projects. We’ve worked in primary schools, secondary schools and sixth form colleges, and have covered subjects as diverse as Hitchcock, the poetry of John Clare as experimental film, and the silent genre. All films are shown as part of our festival in the subsequent year.

CM: What else do you have planned for the near (or distant!) Future?
LF: The focus is going to be on education leading to work experience or firm job offers. The competition is so high, and there is so much talent. The only way to put yourself above your competition is to have a proven track record in your field and we are working with established educational establishments and cultural centres to deliver this.

Walthamstow International Film Festival takes place on 23 and 24 Jul at The Empire Walthamstow (Saturday) and Vestry House Museum (Sunday). Check the Facebook page for info