Calling the shots: Tricia Tuttle, Artistic Director of the 2018 BFI London Film Festival
“What partly stopped me was a sense, which I think some women do have, of being their own worst internal critics. It’s that sense of ‘this is not good enough, I can’t do this.’ Now I recognise that for what it was, I do see a lot of women blocking themselves from going for things..”
Tricia Tuttle, Artistic Director of the BFI London Film Festival, has taken a little while walking the route to leadership in the British film industry. With a love of both film and music, while studying for an undergraduate degree in North Carolina, she says she briefly considered becoming a producer.
“Now when I reflect on it,” she says, “what partly stopped me was a sense, which I think some women do have, of being their own worst internal critics. It’s that sense of ‘this is not good enough, I can’t do this.’ Now I recognise that for what it was, I do see a lot of women blocking themselves from going for things where they have to say to themselves a lot, ‘I can do this, I can be the boss, I can run the show.’”
“But also I had a sense that what I loved was watching films and writing about them, finding filmmakers an audience, and this job is everything I would want. So I did get to a leadership role in the end, but it did take a time.”
Tricia also played music in a band at the time, and she explains that her music “conveniently allowed me not to pursue that dream as a producer.” However, her focus switched back to cinema when she took up a Masters degree in Film Studies in the late 1990s, partly under the tutelage of Laura Mulvey, who coined the phrase “the female gaze.”
From then on Tricia worked upwards through the BFI and BFI Flare (London’s LGBTQ+ film festival) before leaving in 2002, to return a decade later as the BFI’s Deputy Director of Festivals. Now she’s the Artistic Director of the London Film Festival while Claire Stewart is on a year’s sabbatical, and says she’s “thrilled” about the upcoming experience.
“We need to raise women who are really confident who think they can do anything they want to do, but it’s more than just parenting, there’s an entire fabric of society to shift. There has to be equality in job opportunities and pay, we need to think about childcare differently and absolutely we need more role models from women in the field.”
When asked if she’s glad that she took her time about taking up a leadership position, or if she regrets it, Tricia points out that, “I have twins, who are now eleven years old, so that’s partly a reason too. But part of it may be of going back to a sense of ‘I am a great number two, I am really happy in that role, I am creatively satisfied with that and see myself in our success.’ If I reflect on that decade from my late 20s to 40, that was part of my internalised thinking.
“But I did have the twins and being the number two allows you to balance your home life with work a bit more. I have been really lucky being able to ramp up my careers as my kids want more independence. I won’t pretend it’s not harder with them starting secondary school as I take on my biggest challenge of my career, but I have great support from work and my partner.”
How do we make women feel more confident about leadership? “I think it’s a root and branch approach if we want to shift cultural thinking,” she replies.
“We need to raise women who are really confident who think they can do anything they want to do, but it’s more than just parenting, there’s an entire fabric of society to shift. There has to be equality in job opportunities and pay, we need to think about childcare differently and absolutely we need more role models from women in the field. I have been so lucky in my role models at the BFI – Sandra Hebron, Amanda Neville, Amanda Berry at BAFTA – perhaps people don’t realise how many women work there.
“I have nieces who are interested in the arts and when I was younger I just wish I had known the full range of careers available to me in arts and culture, perhaps I wanted to be a producer because I knew that job existed. It’s really important that girls know there’s a variety of work in the film industry."
As she presides over one of the world’s great film festivals, with just under 230 films showing over twelve days, Tricia Tuttle has never regretted her choice not to try for a career behind the camera.
“I’m glad I made that choice. I enjoy hearing my friends talk about making films, but what I really get excited about is our audiences and them seeing the films. I love seeing work for the festival that’s not finished yet. Those films make me think about myself and the world in a different way and this really does suit me.”
The BFI London Film Festival runs from October 10 – October 21. Go to https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff
Here are Tricia’s top film choices at the 2018 festival:
The Hate You Give
A best-selling young adult novel is brilliantly adapted for the screen with rising superstar Amandla Stenberg playing a teen torn between her middle class white private school and the mostly black neighbourhood she grew up in. Her worlds crash together when she witnesses police shoot and kill an unarmed childhood friend. A sharp, riveting take on race in America.
Keira Knightley is sensational as iconoclastic French writer and feminist Colette who sued her husband (Dominic West) to win back the rights to publish her writing under her own name. Director Wash Westmoreland has made such a thrillingly modern drama based on the life of a truly groundbreaking woman - intellectual, free-thinker, defiant bi-sexual - it's hard to believe that Colette lived over 100 years ago.
Girls of the Sun
A war film with a real difference, this is based on the true-stories of the fierce Kurdish female troops who fought ISIS. With her impressive second feature, director Eva Husson's has made a rousing film about fearless women. Golshifteh Farahani (Paterson) gives a searing performance as battalion leader Bahar.
A Private War
Sunday Times War Correspondent Marie Colvin is the subject of a first dramatic feature from Oscar-nominated documentarian Matthew Heineman. Rosamund Pike delivers a career-best performance as the eye-patch-sporting inspirational journalist who consistently put her own safety at risk to find the human stories in the war zones ignored by the West.
The Breaker Upperers
The hilarious directing and acting duo of Madeleine Sami and Jackie van Beek (best known for Eagle vs Shark and Taika Waititi's What We Do in the Shadows) deliver an effortlessly diverse and uproarious tale about a couple of women who run an agency that help the cowardly dump unwanted lovers. Possibly the sweetest film about toxically dysfunctional, co-dependent female friendship you'll ever see.