Alice Cabanas

Our new film programme manager Alice, who joins British Council from Encounters, talks about her love for Wim Wenders and American Honey.

Alice has joined the British Council film team  after three years with the Encounters Festival, based in Bristol. Alice headed communications, strategy and development for the festival, beginning as marketing manager in 2014 and then leading the festival as co-director between 2015-17.

  1. What’s your connection to the British Council?
    I’ve just started working as Film Programme Manager here looking after shorts – so I’m a relative newbie to the team. Previously I have worked with the British Council Film team on various projects and partnerships through other organisations I have been involved with, so I’ve been aware of the brilliant work that they (or now I can say we!) do to support and promote UK film talent.
  1. What are you working on right now?
    I’m taking over the Travel Grant scheme, Shorts Support Scheme, the British Council Shorts Portal and helping run the EU Film Festival offer.  So at the moment I’m getting to know the team and our offering in more detail, and beginning to take on the management of these schemes. The work I will be doing with filmmakers is focused on supporting them to showcase their work abroad, and also working with international partners to promote UK work to our extensive network of programmers and industry contacts.
  1. What originally turned you onto film?
    It’s hard to pinpoint really – I think if I needed to pick a single moment it would be an optional film studies module in my combined drama degree.  The module introduced me to the work of Wim Wenders, which was an entirely new experience for me. I enjoyed the module so much I considered changing course at that point to study film but didn’t make the jump – so continued with a drama degree whilst nurturing a growing passion for film on the side. Paris, Texas remains one of my top films to this day.

What has been your career high so far?
Just generally seeing great film talent come through and being able to help them on that journey.  Working with Don Letts and also Huey Morgan from the Fun Lovin’ Criminals on some unique events exploring their own cultural journeys and the relationship between music and film were two pretty cool projects.

What was your first job in the film industry?
My first job was with Encounters festival as marketing manager – I’d worked in the creative sector for a long time mainly in marketing, communications and PR roles within the performing arts.  I had previously begun working on large scale cultural events in the UK.

What key piece of advice would you give to someone starting off in film making?
Make good networks.  Surround yourself with the right people, both through your peers and potential mentors/people that have more experience and can guide you. And don’t be afraid to approach people and ask their advice/guidance. Generally people are happy to talk to you about your stumbling blocks and challenges – and the worst that can happen is they won’t reply to your email.

What is your favourite British film? 
I think because films have and continue to mean different things to me at different points in my life – so I’m going to cop out and select a few!  One of the earliest films that had a big impact on me was The Crying Game – I just remember it presenting characters that I had never encountered before and it kind of made me realise how much film can show you a different side to the world you think you know and open your eyes to different stories.

Gritty UK films of my late teens/20s would have been Trainspotting and This is England for their stories and harsh realism but also the characters vulnerability and relationships that shine through.

Other more recent favourites include Under the Skin for its pure beauty, pacing and really unique feel.  As a South West girl I’d like to put an Aardman animation in there too – maybe Wallace And Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit – as a mum of two I’ve always relished and felt hugely grateful for films that I can genuinely enjoy with the kids!

Even more recently I think American Honey is a great film – I’m a big fan of Robbie Ryan’s cinematography and find the whole process of Andrea Arnold’s casting and filming process for the title refreshing and enthralling.

If you could have been involved with any film ever made, which one would it be?
I’m going to go with the first one that popped into my head here rather than overthink - Labyrinth – a classic coming of age film I have watched countless times during my youth and the opportunity to have worked with Bowie all in one.

What’s the first film you remember seeing?
Dumbo on VHS.  It was so sad.

What’s your favourite line from a film? 
Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in...

It pops into my head quite a lot when I think I’ve finished something that’s been hard work, but there’s always that one more thing to do / email to send / one last job to finish / i to dot or t to cross.

Favourite screen kiss?
The end scene in Moonlight is one of the best romantic scenes for me – although this might be a cheat answer as there’s no actual kiss at the end but I found the diner scene between them and the embrace at the very end seriously powerful stuff.

Who is your favourite screen villain?
Villains would be Begby in Trainspotting or Don Logan in Sexy Beast– I would be genuinely petrified to meet either of them.

Who would play you in the film about your life?
Jessica Chastain. I think she’s saying some interesting and important things about the portrayal of women in film at the moment and the lack of ‘real’ recognisable characters out there – so she can have a go at playing me!