Ncuti Gatwa, Terri White, and Asif Kapadia will judge and champion the untold stories of emerging UK filmmakers in the BMW Filmmaking Challenge in partnership with the British Film Institute.
Respected as trailblazers within their fields, each judge brings their unique perspective and experience to select a winning film from five shorts to premiere as part of the Closing Night of the BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express, on 15 October 2023. After the premiere, all five films will be available to watch on BFI Player.
The partnership between BMW and the BFI aims to support aspiring filmmakers, helping them to develop their careers and uncover fresh perspectives in the film industry. The Challenge is designed to stretch filmmakers artistically and bring their unique stories to life in just 90 seconds under the ‘Evolving Perspectives’ theme.
Announced by Michaela Coel in January 2023, the challenge received almost 400 applications. The BFI has shortlisted five teams, awarding each a £10,000 production budget, access to 8K camera equipment and mentoring from Michaela Coel, to bring their vision to life. With the films now in production, judging will take place in September, with the winning short premiering at the 67th BFI London Film Festival as part of the Closing Night Gala.
Actor Ncuti Gatwa, known for his role in the popular Netflix series Sex Education and cast as the Doctor in Doctor Who (now in production), has garnered critical acclaim for his performances. He comments “As an actor, I have always tried to seek roles that challenge perspectives. I like playing complex characters and understanding the power of storytelling and its impact on people and society at large.”
With his deep understanding of the transformative potential of television and film, Gatwa brings his passion for subversion and his belief in the importance of untold stories to this project, adding “I was drawn to this project because short film is the trajectory for emerging voices to flourish, it’s an exciting time for the genre.”
Terri White believes the Filmmaking Challenge is a unique platform for filmmakers to transform screen culture as it stands. The acclaimed film journalist turned screenwriter, says, “There is an undeniable sense of excitement surrounding short films as a medium in our country. The short film not only encourages greater representation – as a more accessible medium that doesn’t need deep pockets – it’s also traditionally been a place where filmmakers can play, experiment and innovate with new technologies and visual approaches. I have confidence that this competition will showcase exceptional entries and potentially unearth a future star in the world of film”.
This view is supported by new research published today by BMW, which reveals interesting insights about the consumption of short-form film and video content: 51% of the public surveyed believe it influences perceptions of societal issues, 57% of people think it can shape public debate, and 52% believe it can drive social change. Nearly half (49%) feel that user-generated content has led to a broader representation of voices and perspectives in everyday life.
According to 38% of respondents, the rise of short-form content consumption is being driven by rapid advancements in technology. While cinema remains the location of choice for two in five (41%) to watch big blockbuster movies, advancements in mobile screen technology is driving more consumers to watch short-form content on the move.
Commenting on this, White adds “Film shifts culture and culture shifts film. It’s a symbiotic relationship that has always been at the heart of our cinematic experiences. With platforms like YouTube and Vimeo and tech now in everyone’s pockets, making and distributing the moving image has never been easier.”
Award-winning director and producer, Asif Kapadia emphasises that shorts allow filmmakers to experiment with different styles and techniques, telling powerful stories in a condensed format that leans into the fast-paced, always-connected world we live in today. “Short films are an incredible way to experiment and push boundaries. When you have a short length, you have the freedom to try out new styles and techniques. The wide theatre screen format takes it to the next level, allowing filmmakers to create something visually stunning. But it’s not just about what you see – it’s about what you hear too. Sound plays a crucial role in making a film look great. With 90 seconds, anything is possible.”
He sees short films as a vital tool for filmmakers looking to make a break in the industry and that was how he started his career. Asif believes that “continuing to build a body of work that demonstrates your capabilities as a filmmaker and building industry connections is key to success, that’s why I wanted to be involved in this project.”
BFI London Film Festival (LFF) is the UK’s largest film festival and a major international film event. The five winning 90-second shorts will premiere during the closing night on 15 October 2023.