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18th BFI Future Film Festival, 2024

"Every aspect of the Future Film Festival is geared towards supporting emerging filmmakers into the future from giving our films visibility, to holding workshops, to creating opportunities where we can meet other filmmakers and build a network."

London's Rocketship Launchers documents the filmmaker's investigation into the true identity of the 200ft circular metal frame infrastructures that sculpt London's Skylines. Having been unable to find any family or friends interested in the answer, or evidence of rockets having being launched, the filmmaker turned to the general public for help. Rather than answers, she uncovered apathy that left her to consider some even more pertinent questions... what else do we accept as being just "the way things are"?

Hi Julia, thank you for talking to TNC. How does it feel to have London's Rocketship Launchers part of this years BFI Future Film Festival?


Thank you for inviting me. Being part of this year’s festival is an incredible honor and really exciting. I feel very very lucky. And being nominated for Best Documentary is just so special – I’m still trying to take it all in!


Are there any nerves ahead of the screening?


A little bit but mainly I’m excited. Watching London’s Rocketship Launchers with a room of people who haven’t seen it before makes me feel like it’s my first time all over again too. And having the screening in NFT1 at the BFI will be such an amazing moment.


How important are festivals like Future Film Festival in creating a platform for short films and emerging filmmakers?


Very! Every aspect of the Future Film Festival is geared towards supporting emerging filmmakers into the future – from giving our films visibility, to holding workshops, to creating opportunities where we can meet other filmmakers and build a network. But beyond the practical support, it is so encouraging to be recognised by such a prestigious institution.


What more can be done on a local/national level to offer short films more visibility to audiences outside of the festivals circuit?


Ooo. I think creating more space for short films (particularly from emerging filmmakers) on streaming platforms would be really really cool.


Can you tell me how London's Rocketship Launchers came about, what inspired the film?


The backstory from the film is really true. Growing up in London, I first noticed these big metal cages when I was about 15 (I also couldn’t see them before then). They looked a lot like I imagined rocketship launchers to be so I settled on that. Over the years I’d ask in passing if anyone knew what they were- but no one cared. My mum, who also grew up in London, could barely recall having seen them before. But as striking as our apathy was towards these jarring structures in particular- how emblematic it felt of broader issues is what made me really want to make this film.


Did you imagine your film, or this search you where on, would uncover this type of apathy that is perhaps so unique to cities like London?


Having grown up around these rocketship launchers, I was already invested in it being a mystery. But I loved uncovering the stories we tell ourselves and gaining an insight into the relationships we have to what surrounds us.


Other than being more curious and willing to be open to asking questions and exploring some of the mysteries around us, what more could be done to break this willingness to “accept” things as they’ve always been? 


That’s a tricky question and one I don’t necessarily have an answer for myself. I think when we look at an issue, we tend to try to deal with what’s right in front of us. But in doing so, we sometimes implicitly are accepting the context from which it has emerged. As I say in the film, by accepting the way things are as being the way things just *are*, and therefore must be, we limit not only our imaginations but the potential for meaningful change. 


Conversations about apathy and acceptance cannot be detached from the total horrors that continue to unfold and that we bare witness to on our screens. It is hard to find the words. I hope that within the community I grew up in, more and more people will unpack what they may have been brought up believing, and recognise and refuse to accept a situation that is fundamentally unjust.


What’s been the most valuable lesson you’ve taken from making London's Rocketship Launchers?


Have fun with it! Remembering to play around and experiment and feel free and be open to learning and discovering. 


Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?


It’s so hard to pinpoint. I’ve always loved entertaining people and telling stories- so the joy I get from it definitely comes from there. But it also comes from my love of films and what a film can do – it exposes us to something new, someone new, somewhere new, a new way of looking at something, a new experience, new information… et cetera. It’s just so cool and creating something that could do that is so cool. 


How much has your approach to your films changed since you started out?


I hadn’t put any constraints on myself when I was just making films for ‘fun’, but when I first embarked on my MA in film, I felt as though I had to emulate a particular style of what I thought documentaries should be like (slow, poignant, observational, objective). But it became clear that other people could do a much better job at making those sorts of films than me. I decided I wanted to make a film that felt true to me and that I wanted to watch. 


But also, I feel like my approach is still very much being formed and informed. I’m looking forward to keeping trying lots of different things so I feel it is a work in progress in a nice way.

"A big part of what I loved in making of Londons Rocketship Launchers was meeting so many people and getting access to a snippet of their lives."

What does London's Rocketship Launchers say about you as a filmmaker and the stories you want to tell in the future?


A big part of what I loved in making of London’s Rocketship Launchers was meeting so many people and getting access to a snippet of their lives. It’s hard for it not to sound really on the nose but I do love people and I’m really interested in our society – our collective quirks, that feeling when you know everyone else knows that the Queen just died or that it’s snowing, how boring everything is or how cute everyone is or how difficult things can be. 


I don’t think I’ll ever want to commit to one side of the fiction/non-fiction divide. I feel like everything is always a blend of both and I feel like it just depends on which might be best way to tell a certain story or meet a certain character. 


Before you started your filmmaking journey was the best piece of advice you was given?


Maybe that if you want something done you have to do it- not that it’s always easy or possible, but it’s always worth trying.


And finally, what do you hope you audiences will take away from London's Rocketship Launchers?


I firstly hope they have fun! And I don’t expect my 7-minute film to be world changing, but if it does start conversations around the more pertinent questions of apathy and what we have come to accept then that would be incredible. 

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