History & People


Birds Eye View Film Festival was the vision of Rachel Millward and Pinny Grylls as a response to the industry numbers indicating that men directed 92% of films on general release.  They set out to create a festival that celebrated female filmmakers. Starting out as a short film festival BEV has grown to become one of the most respected platforms for showcasing female film talent.

Talking at the time of the first event Rachel said ‘we decided to curate an event, and fill an hour with short films from emerging women filmmakers. The lack of female role models in film seemed to us to mean that we had to do something for ourselves. We wanted to create a new platform for our peers. After a brainstorm in the café at Euston station, we came up with the name Bird’s Eye View (geddit) and got to work spreading the word. We posted on the then very primitive email list, Shooting People (thanks to Jess and Cath!) and put out a call for submissions, £5 per film to help us fund it all. I called up a gazillion companies asking them to advertise in the programme, and got Innocent Smoothies to give us product. Pin did the design. Here’s our very first flyer (featuring an old pic of Pin’s Mum dressing up Victorian style):

It was a sell out success! Queues around the block! And sure, there were plenty of our friends there, but there were also people from the UK Film Council, other filmmakers, producers, and even a couple of press. We were sky high with surprise, and shaking like leaves as we did our intro. Everyone seemed to love it. The films were great – we’d curated a fantastic mix of beautiful work – including Andrea Arnold‘s Dog, no less (little did we realise then how far she’d go!) and The Girl With the Red Dress starring Shirley Henderson, alongside a couple more arty turns including ours, of course! The most exciting thing of all was that there was this immediate sense that there should be more of this. There was a need for it. No one else was specifically showcasing the work of women filmmakers at that time, and so I think at that point it was already clear that we might just have begun an Actual Thing. That might continue. And grow. And work.’

Three years later, Birds Eye View launched its international film festival in 2005, and over the next several years showcased some of the world’s best female filmmaking talent. Premiere highlights have included Kim Longinotto’s Sisters in Law, Drew Barrymore’s Whip It, Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture, Lucy Walker’s Countdown to Zero and Wanuri Kahiu’s From A Whisper. Over 30 female musicians have been commissioned to create new live scores to classic silent films, including Imogen Heap, Bishi, Mira Calix and Natalie Clein.

Over the last 12 years BEV has developed a number of partnerships including events with Oxfam, Whistles, Southbank Centre and WOW Festival and media partnerships including Marie Claire and Moviescope. Guest speakers at the festivals have included Juliet Stevenson, Gillian Anderson, Zoe Wanamaker, Rosamund Pike, Hayley Atwell and in 2013, Jodie Whittaker who declared that ‘women are not a genre.’

BEV consistently champions female filmmakers and the need for equal representation behind and in front of the camera. In 2013 the festival had a specialist programme celebrating Arab female filmmakers including an International Woman’s Day preview of Wadjda by Haaifa Al-Mansour and the UK premiere of When I Saw You by Palestinian filmmaker Annemarie Jacir. The festival drew large audiences proving that international cinema of the highest quality has a place in the heart of film-goers. 2013 was the year that a new Creative Director, Kate Gerova, was appointed. She launched Filmonomics, a new film training programme for emerging filmmaking teams and co-developed Girls on Film Club, a film club in association with Shoreditch Sisters W.I group.