YFN Stories: Joshua Freemantle
From Young Film Programmer to festival organiser, Lowestoft
Joshua Freemantle is a 19-year-old based in Lowestoft, Suffolk positioned at the most easterly point of the UK and Film Hub South East region. As a young filmmaker he kick-started the social enterprise Sunrise Studios in 2020 and went on to launch the Lowestoft Film Festival in 2022. He works full-time for a regional charity called Access Community Trust.
Having struggled to be taken seriously by other organisations and professionals within the local area I decided to start putting together a business plan for Sunrise Studios in late 2020. I wanted to create a social enterprise within the town that could change the experiences and barriers I had experienced, so I could make positive change to support other like-minded young people that want to grow and make a career out of their chosen path within the industry.
In 2022 we created our YFP group based out of our one of our charity’s social enterprise cafes. The group was set up to give young people aged 16-25 the opportunity to directly shape and decide upon the future of our very own film festival in Lowestoft. We also enabled them to programme a film they chose to screen in the inaugural festival that took place last year. They screened Sweetheart, which was attended by 51 audience members. For 2023 we will grow further, allowing members of our soon to be relaunched LFF – Young Ambassadors Group to programme their own strand into the festival this year, as well as working with our Young Ambassadors to offer many more training opportunities.
Becoming a YFP
BFI Film Academy Labs are always a really good tool to get fresh inspiration, learn new things and in-person labs also allow you to meet new like-minded people to network with! The live networking zooms with other YFPs and the support that Julia Andrews-Clifford (the Young Film Programmers’ Network Manager for Film Hub South East) offers is invaluable. She was the first person I ever spoke to from Film Hub South East and was so supportive in putting us on the right path.
Last year I attended my first ever ICO Screening Days at BFI Southbank, it was also my first ever time visiting BFI Southbank which was an added bonus. Screening Days was a great opportunity to watch new independent films scheduled to be released later in the year. We also attended Screening Days with one of our YFPs and my colleague Patrick Johnson, who is the co-founder of Lowestoft Film Festival. After attending last year’s event, we plan on attending this year’s Screening Days too and hope to include some of the films in our festival programme – see you there?
Lowestoft Film Festival
In October 2022 we held our first ever Lowestoft Film Festival. Having publicly launched the festival back in February last year, we received nearly 400 submissions and held the in-person festival across nine days in the town in three community venues where we had 86 screenings. Our inaugural festival saw over 2,000 attendees, and it was incredible to see such an amazing response and support for our first ever event. We created the festival as we’re passionate about making a platform for filmmakers that are yet to be discovered (or picked up by the bigger film festival circuit), whilst also championing filmmaking across East Anglia with Lowestoft at its core. We have 11 categories in the festival and our fees are low cost to make it accessible to everyone.
Getting a job in the industry
In my experience, getting a job in the industry came from making it happen myself. I got work with Access Trust, but from there I have raised funds to create Sunrise Studios and LFF, which pay me to envision and deliver film screenings and workshops for people that wouldn’t otherwise get access to them. So I guess, instead of getting my foot in the door of the exhibition industry I made the door myself!
My role today
I work full time for a regional charity called Access Community Trust, and I’m most proud of getting Lowestoft Film Festival off the ground with my colleague Patrick Johnson. It was a project we had set aside for a little while during lockdown but decided to finally launch last February and it is great that we were able to deliver it which such a positive response from audiences, entrants and those who engaged online. We awarded 14 prestigious awards at the festival’s award ceremony, 126 were present for it in total and we had young people travel as far as Bristol to attend the event – that’s something that will stay with me for a while.
To anyone that wants to break into the industry, I would say that there are three simple words you must always believe in: ‘Don’t give up!’ Always keep that close and make the most of the opportunities that exist out there to support you, whether that’s applying for BFI Film Academy, joining a Young Film Programmers group or volunteering at a local film festival or in a role that interests you, building upon on experiences you can learn from this will put you on a great path to break into the industry and to truly find out exactly what you love doing. I personally started out by creating a documentary about my home town, and this is what allowed me to be discovered, learn and develop new skills and after it had finished screening at local independent cinemas in Suffolk I took the opportunity to decide exactly what I wanted to do and that was to take Sunrise Studios forward within my home town.