Mike Leigh, Asif Kapadia & Michael Winterbottom on Gatekeepers of Independent Cinema BFI London Film Festival

Leading British independent filmmakers expressed some frank views on gatekeepers acting as a barrier to independent cinema at a BFI London Film Festival panel discussion on Tuesday.

The panel consisted of Palme d’Or winner Mike Leigh (“Secrets & Lies”), Oscar winner Asif Kapadia (“Amy”) and Golden Bear winner Michael Winterbottom (“In This World”). The discussion used Winterbottom’s recently published book “Dark Matter: Independent Filmmaking in the 21st Century” as a starting point. The discussion was moderated by former London Film Festival artistic director Sandra Hebron.

Leigh, who debuted in 1971 with “Bleak Moments,” has a unique approach to getting funded in that, except for his films with historical subject matter like “Topsy Turvy,” “Mr. Turner” and “Peterloo,” he does not reveal what his films are about. The reason for this process, he says, is that he discovers what a film is about during the process of making it.

In response, the funding gatekeepers of the film industry either say “‘Here’s the money, go off and make the film,’ or they tell us to f— off,” Leigh said.

Leigh, who is also a BAFTA, Locarno and Venice winner, said he was “very lucky” to have been able to make films his way over the years. The filmmaker also caustically remarked that funding gatekeepers in the U.K. had retained their jobs for years and that if they made “radical, quick” decisions they would be out of jobs.

Similarly, Kapadia, who is also a BAFTA and Locarno winner, recounted the story of how a gatekeeper told him to his face that they were funding only world class talent. “They’re still in that job,” Kapadia said.

Winterbottom said the establishment needed to sustain independent filmmaking by supporting creatives for a longer period of time, not just across their first few projects, a view echoed by Kapadia.

The conversation turned briefly to streaming and Leigh revealed that while his 2018 historical drama “Peterloo” received coin from Amazon Studios, Netflix had flatly turned down his new project, just 10 days ago, on the grounds that they didn’t know what it was about and there was no cast attached.

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