Staged throughout the year in London, Tokyo, Liverpool, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Amsterdam, the not-for-profit Lift-Off International Film Festivals are unique in the film festival calendar in that they're free for audiences to attend and focus on supporting emerging film-makers. Ahead of their upcoming Liverpool festival, taking place from 12-14th March, we spoke to Lift-Off's co-founder James Bradley about the initiative.
What's the objective behind Lift Off?
Life Off is trying to be a distribution network for independent cinema – for shorts, features, documentaries, animations, all different types of films from across the spectrum of creative film-making. We strive towards giving film-makers the best possible exposure and opportunity in front of live audiences in really decent and exciting venues around the world.
Is there a regional difference between the sorts of films that are submitted to each festival?
They're each programmed with a loose sense of theme. We've noticed that it happens naturally: year after year and city after city film-makers seem to stick to particular ideas. I think that's partially down to the collective consciousness of a place but also that people are observing the same things in culture at that moment in time.
How do film-makers submit to the festival and how do you choose what to show?
We invite film-makers to submit via our website. We take a nominal fee that increases as the submission deadline get closer. What we do in return for that is we give them partnership marketing, exclusive content, filmmaking tutorials and feedback. The films then go through a three-stage judging procedure that starts with myself and my co-founder, goes on to a group of industry professionals, and from that we programme a mixture of local film-makers and international films. It's a broad range that gives a good idea of what independent grassroots film-makers are actually producing right now.
In what way does Lift-Off's independent focus affect its programming criteria?
Our ethos is very much catered towards the artistic merits of the work, to put talent ahead of technology. Especially at this level, in the independent film world there's a snobbery about what camera equipment you're using, or what editing software. These unnecessary expenditures get in the way of film-making. I feel the priority should be the cast and crew – instead of renting an expensive camera you could pay three actors a decent day rate to do your work, and the respect for their professionalism would add a lot more than what you would get from a Red Epic or an Arri Alexa
What sort of relationship does each festival have with its respective city?
We work closely with each city individually. Liverpool especially has a really great independent atmosphere. For the past few years we've used venues that are associated with the cultural community, and have worked with film clubs and educational institutions like Liverpool Hope University and the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. We invite as many people as possible to come with their groups and chat to us and get involved.
The Liverpool Lift-Off Film Festival runs from 12th to 14th March. Film-makers can still apply at this link, and Oh Comely readers can use the submission code LiverpoolIndie for a 25% discount. The final deadline for submissions is 20th February.