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 tiny village of 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 it to last year, including the LFF, Raindance, Tribeca and several 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. It used to be 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 for films of any merit, I confess I was perplexed when last year I received an email from Raindance informing me V had been selected, only to be told on further inquiry that 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 V was screening at the Watershed in Bristol. As the filmmaker, it’s always great to have one’s work validated in this way because it lends confidence to those who programme films. Next came the invite to attend the actual do. And it’s here I gave way to those small anxieties of an ordinary human – what should I wear? How to bear oneself, how to behave?

As much as I try to be ‘a filmmaker’ I often feel a terrible discomfort in the role, possibly because I cringe at the idea of putting on airs and graces in order to function in this world when in fact most people I meet in the film game are entirely normal, or what passes as normal.

I travelled to London for the awards do on Saturday and caught up with John, a friend who asked how I felt about my prospects of winning and I hope I replied honestly – ‘I don’t know, because nobody knows.’ And I didn’t. So the following evening at the refurbed Billingsgate Fish Market, now converted into a massive and impressive venue, I arrived with that dreadful mix of elation and expectation. Of course, the gathered red carpet hunters failed to notice me or any of my fellow nominees so with Douglas King, director of the lovely feature, Super November, we resorted to snapping mobile phone shots of each other against the backdrop of sponsors’ logos.

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

Afterwards I also had the insane post-award experience of being shepherded from one bank of photographers to the next who plainly share an unspoken code: ‘look this way, May’ – as if they even know who they’re photographing – lifting and shifting their their fingers to indicate their demands. They are brutally EFFICIENT at their job.

So, having no speech – why would I? – I spoke from the heart, so nervous that I almost broke into tears. I could go on, telling stories about the other nominees who happened to be staying at my hotel, to my encounters with starry names 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 taken by my ever-patient husband, Owen, while I went to collect my award. Sometimes life is good.

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