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In Conversation with Nuala O’Sullivan

As our Celebrating Women in Global Cinema programme continues, so do our interviews with inspiring women from the film industry.

This month we caught up with Nuala O’Sullivan, Director of the Women Over 50 Film Festival ahead of Best of the Fest screenings at HOME this August. 

What inspired you to start up the Women Over 50 Film Festival?

As a woman in my 50s I wrote and produced short film Microscope, in 2014. The film was about about a middle-aged woman examining her life and marriage. With my producer’s hat on I started going to short film festivals but I found I wasn’t seeing many older women on the screen and around socially after screenings. Not many people talked to me. I felt lonely and isolated, which was the exact opposite of how I expected to feel in a room full of people who had the same interest and passion in storytelling and film as me.

It got me thinking about questions like: Who’s not running film festivals? Who’s not on the screen? Who’s not behind the camera? Who’s not in the room? Then, over a pint in the Marlborough Pub in Brighton one night, I was talking to my pal, Maggi, about how I was feeling about my film and film festivals, and Maggi said, “Well, bugger that! Let’s start our own film festival.” And that’s how Women Over 50 Film Festival began.

How can people get involved in WOFFF?

You can submit a film, volunteer for us or come to our festival. Our next festival is Fri 20- Sun 22 Sep 2019 in Lewes, East Sussex. It’s a weekend of short films, workshops, panel events, filmmaker Q&As, lectures, networking events and loads more. Come and join us. lewesdepot.org/wofff

Submissions open in January for WOFFF20. Head to filmfreeway.com/WomenOver50FilmFestival and show us what you’ve got. If you’d like to volunteer, send us an email at info@wofff.co.uk.

Who are your top five women over 50?

Actor and producer Frances McDormand. I could quote Frances all day long on fighting sexism and ageism in the film industry. Here’s one of my favorites: “The way people age and the signs that we show of aging is nature’s way of tattooing. It’s natural scarification, and the life you lead gives you the symbols and the emblems of your life, the road map you followed.”

Writer Ashton Applewhite. I’m reading her positive, practical book called This Chair Rocks – A Manifesto Against Ageism just now. She says: “Ageism is just prejudice against your future self”. When you look at it like that, it makes you see just how damaging ageism is – to everyone.

Singer, songwriter, model, producer and actor Grace Jones. The 2017 film Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami blew me away. I love her energy, her ambition, her hats.

Writer, producer and director Jane Campion. From The Piano to Top of the Lake, Jane’s voice is always original, always female-focused, always truthful.

Can I say a gang of women who have recently turned 50 or are in their early 50s as my fifth woman? Women like Julia Roberts, Viola Davis, Jodie Foster, Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Renée Zellweger, women who were initially famous in front of the camera but who are increasingly taking charge behind the camera as producers, writer and directors. I can’t wait to see what they create next!

When you’re not at work, where are you most likely to be found?
In the kitchen or on my bike.

Women Over 50 Film Festival (WOFFF) celebrates and champions older women on both sides of the camera, challenging the ageism and sexism many women face in the film industry and in many other areas of life too.

This August we’ll screen two of WOFFF’s Best of the Fest programmes (from Wed 7 Aug), which each showcase a dazzling display of the work of older women in front of and behind the camera with international, independent, documentary, animation, drama and experimental short films. Check out what’s coming up here.