BIFA 2018

And the winner is…

Last night I attended the BIFA 2018 awards. How I got there remains a mystery. All I know is that back in the summer, one morning I got a call on the landline at home. Usually I pick up and quickly cut the caller off so I was surprised to find it wasn’t the usual scam cold call but a very polite person from BIFA inviting me to submit Voyageuse to their awards. Which was nice of them but how did they get my number, I wondered, let alone be aware of my film?

Sometimes it’s best not to question these things too deeply. In the village that is film, people talk and sometimes the talk falls in one’s favour. So I submitted V not thinking too hard about it – after all, the film was rejected by every film festival we (me and Owen) submitted to last year, including the LFF, Raindance, Tribeca and others I’ve since erased from my mind because it became all too painful.

I don’t know how film festival selections work these days. Once it was a case of submitting or being invited to screen your work. Not wishing to hark back to some non-existent era when all was wonderful and the playing field was level, I was perplexed when last year to receive an email from Raindance informing me V had been selected, only to learn the email had been sent in error and no, the film hadn’t been selected. Naturally I was crestfallen by this news, so when the invite to submit to BIFA (founded by Raindance) arrived, I was nonplussed.

Then V was longlisted. Then shortlisted – i.e. – nominated, welcome news on the day it screened at the Watershed, Bristol. As the filmmaker, it’s always great to have one’s work validated in this way because it lends confidence to programmers. Next came the invite to attend the actual do. And it’s here I gave way to those small human anxieties – what should I wear? How to bear oneself, how to behave?

I travelled to London for the awards do on Saturday and caught up with my friend, John Suriano who asked how I felt about my prospects. I replied honestly – ‘I don’t know, because nobody knows.’ And I didn’t. The following evening at Billingsgate Fish Market, now converted into a massive and impressive venue, I arrived with that dreadful mix of elation and abject pessimism.

Sadly the gathered red carpet hunters failed to notice me or any of my fellow nominees, including a large number of fellow Scots, so with Douglas King, director of the lovely debut feature, Super November and his star, Josie Long, we resorted to snapping mobile phone shots of each other against the backdrop of sponsors’ logos.

Then came the announcements. I had quite a good vibe when I realised I was seated towards the front of the stage. Some 20-30 minutes into the proceedings came THE announcement – Voyageuse won the Discovery Award. With no speech prepared I was greeted onstage by Elliot Grove, the founder of Raindance and the BIFAs and by the actor, Chris Noth – best known for his role in the TV series and films, Sex in the City.

Having no speech – why would I? – I spoke from the heart, so nervous that I almost broke into tears but managed to thank those that mattered, especially dear Siân Phillips who sadly couldn’t attend. I also used my brief moment on the platform to remind the audience that we were there to celebrate independent film and that they don’t come much more independent than Voyageuse. Only later did I realise that out of the ten or so Scottish nominees, mine was the only win.

Afterwards I had the insane experience of being shepherded to a bank of 20 or more photographers who plainly share an unspoken code: ‘look this way, May’ – as if they even know who they’re photographing – lifting and shifting their fingers to command my attention. They are BRUTALLY efficient at their job.

Afterwards, as the room emptied, I bumped into Olivia Colman who had just won the Best Actress award for The Favourite. I congratulated her and, stumbling, gushed about her diamond earrings. In return she complimented me on my (non) speech. I could go on, dropping names and telling stories about the other nominees who happened to be staying at my hotel, but I’ll let discretion be the better part of ‘I’m really tired now, time for bed’ though I was very pleased to catch up with friends, old and new.

The above image is of me as I mounted the stage at the BIFA 2018 Awards, a shot of me projected on the big screen as I walked to the stage, taken by my ever-patient husband, Owen while I went to collect my award. Sometimes life is good.