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Berwyn Rowlands, Director of the Iris Prize, speaks with Luke Owain Boult about the plans and highlights at this year’s LGBT film festival.

What’s your role at the Iris Prize?

My official title is Festival Director but over the past two years I’ve also been called the Managing Director as this title better reflects the true nature of my job. Iris is now much more than a six-day festival in October. We now have a core team of five people and a growing number of freelancers and volunteers who deliver a year-round outreach programme funded by the Big Lottery in Wales. We produce on average five short films with schools, and 12 short films and mini-festivals with community groups across Wales. This is on top of the short film we produce with the winner of the Iris Prize – we’ve made nine to date – and we have Straeon Iris, our bi-annual Welsh language short film scheme.

We also have a new project called Iris On The Move, which will see us co-ordinate mini-Iris film festivals in Manchester, Brighton, Newcastle and Llandudno Junction. We also co-ordinate a programme of international events and screenings.

What does the Iris Prize Festival offer that sets it apart from other film festivals?

We invest in the production of new films through the Iris Prize at £30,000 and the Best British Iris Prize at £20,000. In all other aspects, we are like any other film festival in that we share stories on the big screen, give the public access to the film makers through talks and Q&As and organise lots of fab parties!

You’ve recently introduced Iris On The Move to promote screenings outside of Cardiff. How do you think it will influence other parts of the UK?
We want to increase audiences for LGBT film and realised that not everybody can make it to Cardiff once a year. So, we are taking Iris out on tour and our objective is to find a new audience for LGBT films across the UK. We also want to encourage more people to visit the main event in Cardiff and believe we can do both by taking her on tour!

What are your top picks for this year’s festival?

From the feature film programme, Rift, Beach Rats and The Wound – all three are screening at this year’s London Film Festival before coming to Cardiff. I’m also looking forward to Super Saturday, when we announce and screen the top three films who’ve made it through to the final of the Iris Prize and Best British. This will be a great way to get up to speed if you’ve not managed to see the shortlisted screenings. Last but not least, I’m very excited about the inaugural Iris Carnival at The Depot with the Co-op Food Village and Heather Small headlining our live music stage – the perfect way to bring the six-day festival to a close.

What’s the most rewarding part of your role?

Hearing people say that the Iris Prize Festival is their favourite time of the year. It’s also seeing the dedicated team of people who work on the project look back and think “we did it” and “can we do it again?” – that’s quite special. Finally, I guess the idea of Cardiff being at the centre of a global network of people who produce and watch LGBT film is also quite special and rewarding.

What can be done to bring LGBT+ stories to a wider audience?

We need to continue to up our game and make better films. We see improvement in storytelling each year at Iris. However, changing the way content is shared and made available with the audience is a much bigger issue, and luckily the digital revolution with platforms like Netflix is making a huge difference.

What advice would you give aspiring filmmakers?

Work on the script and think about the audience. The rest is simple!

Iris Prize Festival, various venues, Cardiff, Tue 10-Sun 15 Oct. Info:

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