On our first birthday, BYFN founder Cassie Smyth shares why she felt the need to start the network
A year ago today I was waiting at the Mockingbird Cinema, hoping for just 5 or 6 of the 27 that had registered to turn up; "That would be a great start" I told myself. An hour later we had 17 young people in the cinema, sharing films they'd worked on, talking about projects they wanted to get off the ground and giving each other feedback and encouragement. After the session was over, many of them went and sat in the bar, continuing to chat, form bonds and set up a message group. There was no turning back, we had created a community.
When I'd decided to arrange the meet up, I had no idea what the network would look like but I knew it was needed. Through my work with young creatives on various programmes I realised there were very few places for filmmakers that I could signpost them to and none that were constant. I also know from experience that in this age bracket there are a lot of challenges for young filmmakers; not every young person has access to equipment, connections, willing collaborators or even the confidence to stand up and say this is what they want to do. There is pressure of exams, first jobs and keeping parents happy all at a time when course setting life decisions are made; deciding on college, university, apprenticeships or straight into work, deciding if everyone's right and you should get a 'proper job', trying to balance a social life when your friends are pushing the boundaries of new freedoms with projects you have burning inside you. I also know that it's a time in your life when you feel like anything is possible and an important time to encourage that enthusiasm because optimism and drive can make amazing things happen - and we should know, that's what we've ran on for the last year.
In my opinion, it's challenges like these that lead to disparities in talent employed in the industry. A 2018 study, Panic! Social Class, Taste and Inequalities in the Creative Industries found that only 12.4% of people working in film, TV or radio had working class origins. In a recent report by Dr Clive Nwonka, the Fellow in Film Studies at London School of Economics investigated how the industry had responded to the BFI Diversity Standards introduced in 2014 and the results were not positive, suggesting that BAME people were still considerably lower represented in behind camera roles than any other under-represented groups. It's my hope that by creating an environment for young people from all backgrounds in which they can collaborate, produce and network (both with each other and professionals) they can build foundations so that they may flourish in the industry. I know from personal experience, it's so hard to really truly believe that you belong when you don't see it in the people in your community. I want them to be confident in the work they produce and never suffer the dreaded 'imposter syndrome.' I want our young people to break through into the industry in the coming years and help shape what British cinema can be, bending ideas around what narratives are for what audiences and refusing to be boxed in.
And after just one year of our network being in existence I know that I was dreaming too small. These filmmakers are amazing and have made me work harder just to keep up with them. In the last year we've seen non stop scriptwriting, pre-production, filming, editing and premieres all alongside exams and graduations. I mourn for all we could have achieved if this once in a lifetime pandemic hadn't reared its head, because all the productivity despite the restrictive circumstances is awe inspiring. I am so excited for the next year and I hope that you will join us; we want to meet more young filmmakers and we want them to meet more industry professionals.
Everyone reach out - I guarantee we're stronger together!