WOFFF launched in 2015. It’s a new film festival, finding its feet and wanting to grow and learn with each annual iteration.
Why the project matters
Many women, not only in the film industry but in almost all areas of their lives, face the double whammy of #everydaysexism and #everydayageism. Campaigns like #TimesUp and #MeToo highlight how much festivals like WOFFF are needed.
Research – WOFFF’s own and others’ – shows that women often feel isolated, excluded, invisible and lacking in confidence as they get older. WOFFF wants to do something positive about this and seeks to address:
- Social isolation in older (and younger) women
- D/deaf and hard of hearing older people’s exclusion from the arts
- Older women’s invisibility and lack of confidence
through film and interactive, inclusive, enjoyable activities that expand intergenerational dialogues and increase older women’s confidence in making, consuming and discussing films and other art forms.
WOFFF’s aims are to:
- Showcase the work of older women on screen and behind the camera.
- Create a film community centred around older women.
- Help combat isolation and loneliness in older women.
- Over 150 film submissions with 15 countries represented
- Over 370 attendees, including 40 filmmakers, watching 55 short films, including drama, documentary, animation, experimental, across 8 screenings
- Workshops, filmmaker Q&As, and free events featured
One feature film and 55 short dramas including prizes for:
BEST ANIMATION – Espressivo: A Love Song to Coffee by Deb Ethier
BEST EXPERIMENTAL – Cherry Colour Buttonholes by Brenda Miller
FILMDOO BEST DRAMA – The Hide by Gaynor Macfarlane
BEST DOCUMENTARY – Rebel Menopause by Adele Tulli
EMERALD LIFE AUDIENCE CHOICE – Days of Awe by Rehanna Rose
Duke of York’s Picturehouse, Brighton
From feedback we learned that these elements worked well:
- Increasing the number of days of the festival from 2 to 3. The feedback we received was that the appetite we thought was there from the filmmakers and the audience for a longer, bigger, busier festival was real.
- Being able to offer comp tickets to filmmakers (mainly because of the large venue we were in) meant that we had a lot of filmmaker participation, which the audience enjoyed very much.
- We made a film about the festival at the festival and incorporated some audience research into it about how older women are portrayed in the media and at WOFFF. You can see the finished film on Vimeo. Women Over 50 Film Festival video by Kate Fisher
What didn’t work
- The launch film wasn’t right for our audience. We experimented with screening Mamma Mia! with an academic leading a talk on women’s representation in pop culture – and how radical this film actually was – with its representation of older women’s desires, sexuality and friendships on screen and its three older women at the helm behind the camera in the writer, producer and director. Some regular festival goers said they didn’t come to the screening because they thought “What are WOFFF doing putting on a film like Mamma Mia!? That’s not the kind of indie film I associate with them.” Our aim to broaden our audience and present a new take on this popular title, just didn’t materialise.
- The venue was too big. Although our audience increased, the number of people at the event seemed smaller than our previous festivals as we moved to the University of Brighton Sallis Benney Theatre at 200 seats, from a community centre, resulting in a less buzzy atmosphere. Quite a few audience members mentioned the small audience size when they spoke to me in person.
- Breaks were too short between programmes. In an attempt to keep costs down (as we were hiring the University venue by the hour) we scheduled breaks of 15 minutes between screenings and this resulted in the audience being and feeling rushed. One filmmaker said to me “You said to us that we filmmakers should and could network at WOFFF but actually you didn’t give us any time to do it.”
What you’d do differently if you did it again
- Secure a launch film that reflects the kind of shorts we screen at the festival – international, indie, age-positive representations of older women in front of and behind the camera. Or if we screen a feature film that’s more mainstream than our usual films, make sure the marketing messages are strong and well delivered saying why we’re choosing to show a mainstream, non-indie film – because we have some kind of WOFFF interest, such as a new way of viewing this kind of film, a WOFFF gaze or WOFFF interpretation.
- Find a venue that’s the right size for the age and stage WOFFF is at in its development.
- Schedule longer breaks to enable the audience enough time between screenings to chat, get a coffee or just relax! And offer more real networking time and opportunities.
Awareness & attitudes
We extended film choice for audiences in Brighton and increased representation on screen by screening:
- films for the first time from developing countries (Afghanistan, Egypt and Iran)
- 5 LGBT films (3+ from the previous year)
- 19 films by or about BAME people (11+ from the previous year)
Our audience figures also reflected increased diversity, with an increase in 2017 from our 2016 figures. 28% of our audience identify as BAME or other non-white ethnicities in 2016, compared to our 20% in 2016.
Denise Welch (Coronation Street, Waterloo Road and Loose Women) said: “To say it’s an honour to have my film Black Eyed Susan screen at the Women Over 50 Film Festival is an understatement. I am a woman well over 50 now and I, like a lot of women, not just in the media but in life generally, am made to feel invisible. I had drug problems, I had alcohol problems, I was self-medicating my mental illness – Black Eyed Susan is in a way about that mental illness. But do you know something? My life began at 50; I’ve had a renewed interest in life since I turned 50. I’ve got a lot to offer; we women offer 50 have a lot to offer, and along with WOFFF, I just want to celebrate women – in all of our glory in every way that we can.”