ScreenSpace student Benjamin Ah-Time on networking at film festivals
By Danny Kelly
19 August 2021
With the international film industry easing its way back to relative normality, now’s the time to update your portfolio, dust off the business cards and get ready to finally make new creative connections at some upcoming film festivals!
We’re already counting down the days to October when the BFI London Film Festival makes its grand return, with the 2021 programme due to be unveiled on Tue 7 Sep. That’s not to mention all the smaller festivals around the world continuing their great work in raising the profile of up-and-coming filmmakers.
Whether you’ve managed to land yourself accreditation, had your own film selected, or simply have a couple of tickets booked, festivals are a great opportunity to network with like-minded creative people. You never know who you might find yourself standing next to while standing in a queue. This week, we spoke with British writer, director and current BA Content, Media and Film Production ScreenSpace student, Benjamin Ah-Time, who has attended a bunch of events over the last couple of years.
In this blog, he shares his experiences and tips from his time on the film festival circuit. Over to you, Ben!
How it started
A great thing about MetFilm School is that it offers a variety of extra-curricular activities. Whether it’s a masterclass, workshop or an extra lesson, I’m always up for it and interested to learn more about the industry. I’ve also worked hard to involve myself in the film industry throughout my degree. This has given me a unique opportunity to apply learnings while they’re fresh in my brain.
A few years ago, I was lucky enough to screen a short film at the BFI and was later accepted to the BFI London Film Festival as an industry delegate. That was the moment that things really changed for me as an artist as it allowed me to start making important connections and I have been blazing my own trail in international festivals ever since. From Raindance Film Festival in 2020, to both South By Southwest and Sundance London in 2021.
Networking and Mentoring
One of the biggest aspects of my time at these international festivals has definitely been all the one-on-one mentoring I have received. Meeting feature filmmakers is a great way to get advice on how to pitch your work, get people interested in your stories and make your work a commercial success. Attending festivals has been a very enlightening experience, one that has definitely got me through the challenge of lockdown.
I’ve learned a lot about negotiating with studios and how to make sure my creative vision is maintained. I’ve gained knowledge on first features and how important they are in making your mark and kickstarting a career as a professional film director. And finally, one of the biggest things I have learned as a new director is not to worry if you’re feeling uncertain about your work – it might mean you’re breaking new ground and that entrepreneurial spirit is what the industry is looking for.
Here are my top tips for making industry connections…
- Be Friendly – Nobody likes a diva or rudeness. Be approachable, kind and appreciate everybody’s time. Explain yourself and what you want to achieve clearly. Most of the time creative people will take the time to offer you advice.
- Do your research – If you are going to have a meeting with someone it’s always good to do research ahead of time on the person you are speaking to. They will appreciate that you have done your homework.
- Find Mentors – People have been in the industry a long time and have plenty of wisdom to share with you. Be respectful and listen to anything they have to offer. This can even lead to getting jobs on their projects.
- Ask Questions – As we say at MetFilm School, there is no such thing as a dumb question. Be curious and ask about anything you want knowledge on.
- Sell yourself – If you have a showreel or portfolio this will help people understand what you are about as a filmmaker. Also, always have a copy of your CV ready!