A festival submissions milestone reached

As Iris celebrates a milestone with record-breaking submissions in 2021, Daisy Gould, Head of Marketing and part of the festival pre-selection team, reflects on what it's like to be part of that process.
Opening our film festival submissions marks the start of a brand-new year at Iris (so really, it’s a good thing that we open them in January). It’s always one of the most exciting parts of the year. We spend a lot of time developing Iris, working out exactly what we want it to be, and to offer to the world. But really, the festival is all down to other people. We sit in Iris HQ and wait for our festival to roll in, from filmmakers around the world. Which is sort of strange, and sort of lovely. In years as unpredictable as this past one has been, there were fleeting thoughts that this year could be a quiet one. It's especially reassuring to see that throughout the pandemic, filmmakers have found ways to stay creative and keep telling stories, because our submissions are busier than ever.
I loved Three Centimetres from the first time I saw it, in the very first phase of pre-selection. It went on to win the Iris Prize in 2018.
Our film submissions are always a diverse list – first time filmmakers, students and veterans of short film; 2 minute micro shorts and films that are 39 mins 50 seconds (our max is 40 mins!); zero budgets shorts and a few with a healthy amount funding. None of these things matter in the end – it’s all about the story. If your story is great, it will speak for itself and we see that over and over again. Each year, the list of countries we see films from grows. It’s wonderful to see some of our lesser represented countries pop up so far this year - Peru, Myanmar, Iran, New Zealand, Colombia, Argentina, Cyprus, Bulgaria and hopefully many more to come.   This is what makes Iris special, we start off the year never knowing what we are going to get. And as a pre-selector for the festival in previous years, I get a little preview of the incredible films that we’ll be bringing to audiences in October. When I press play on that FilmFreeway preview, it’s a complete mystery. I don’t know if I’m about to see my new favourite film, about to laugh or cry or learn something new, fall in love with a character, or see the next Iris Prize winner. Whilst watching film festival submissions is very fun, it is also really, really hard. We have an amazing group of people, changing every year, who watch all of the short films submitted to Iris. Then we get together as a group to talk about them, and chose our final selection together. This is where it starts to get really difficult. There’s so much responsibility and each of us feels it acutely.
Part of the Iris Prize film festival submissions reviewing team
A few of the pre-selectors in action
Each year we wish we could select five or ten more films, which is so tricky but also incredibly reassuring. Our film festival shows a window into the world of LGBT+ filmmaking, but our submissions show that really Iris is a drop in the ocean. Because filmmakers are out there making LGBT+ films in their hundreds and thousands. They are out there and thriving, telling stories we’ve never seen before. There are so many more stories out there yet to be told, by filmmakers new and old. So for now, we’ll wait patiently to see what 2021 brings us.