An interview with James Alexander The Co-Founder and Co-Director of Lift-Off International Film Festivals
What sets your festival apart from other festivals?
Our festival is set in 4 transatlantic cities London, Liverpool, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. We are 100% not for profit and our festivals are free to attend events held in the best theaters we can afford. Last years London Lift-Off was held at the prestigious Soho Hotel. Liverpool Lift-Off had the UK premiere of the Oscar winning Short Documentary The Lady at Number 6, we programmed the film before the Oscar was awarded so we are certainly a festival to look out for - we are a programming channel not to be denied. Every winning film is audience choice, they are then programmed at the subsequent Lift-Off Festivals. If filmmakers care about what they have created and want a fair environment that is free of technology preference, or celebrity names, then they should submit to a Lift-Off Film Festival. We also give each and every submitter free online content in exchange for their submission. The content is exclusive to them, we have posts on next steps for submissions, advice on marketing and inside info into the world of distribution. We believe that when people part with their cash they should be given something of value for it.
Do you have a favorite film that has showcased at your Festival? Whether it was a feature, short or micro short?
A bit of an obvious answer but I'm being honest, we programme lots of films that are absolutely exceptional. I guess the best ones are the films where the story was dying to be told. We don't like conveyor belt filmmaking. The filmmaker and screenwriter must be trying to say something, it can't just be a cute idea shot on Red Epic, we really don't care, we want heart and soul.
Is there something in particular that you look for in submissions? Or are there multiple factors?
Look beyond the gloss. Put talent before technology. Thats our motto and it is something we firmly believe in. A filmmakers journey gets warped by bully and snobby edge-entering professionals forcing them to use expensive equipment and this can, in turn, neglect performance direction and storytelling.
What is your goal for your festival?
To grow, we want every filmmaker who makes indie film and who wants a career behind the camera to at least know about us, and to try to understand what we are trying to say about filmmaking. If we can get ourselves into the realm of 150'000 submissions a year then we will be able to show many people just how corrupt the larger festivals are. How they bid for films in the back-end with the biggest celebrity, it isn't helping anyone. This is our 4th year and we are now fully aware of what we want to be, where we want to go, and types of visionary-artists we want to help, it's exciting.
Do you have an interesting story that has taken place during festival events?
Our Co-Director Ben interviewed one of the filmmakers for a Q&A only to later receive a text from his Mum telling him that this filmmaker was his 2nd cousin. It was really quite difficult to explain afterwards that this was a total coincidence and not family favouritism in any way... So random, but totally true.
How is your festival received locally?
Well, in Liverpool practically everyone comes and shows their support its a great city. London is more press, film buffs, bloggers, and the associated filmmakers and crew. LA is the same story. And our first Vegas is next week so I'll let you know.
Where do you see or would like to see your Festival in 5 years?
The Lift-Off Season has already taken shape. It is sooo important for filmmakers to see their work on the big screen, cinema is a great experience and if you're brave enough to start making films you deserve to have your day - we want to always deliver this, deliver that feeling. It really doesn't matter where we are in 5 years providing we are still shouting our message, and selecting work based on what we believe, with passion, what we feel is correct, right and just for the industry. This year we were accredited by the British Academy -- not sure if want the Oscar's too, but I guess if they come to take a look at our programmes we'd be more than happy to knock them out.