10 great things to do at the LFF (that won’t cost you a penny)

This year’s BFI London Film Festival is only a few sleeps away, with more than 230 movies, shorts and XR works on the programme.

But there’s also another side to the fest – and it’s tailormade for a cost of living crisis. LFF for Free is a whole schedule of talks, live podcasts, exhibitions, parties and industry pow-wows. Money can’t buy them – and it doesn’t have to. Whether you’re interested in looking to get into the filmmaking business, want to check out the next generation of talent, or just fancy throwing some shapes in a hip hop class, it’s all there – and totally free.

LFF For Free events are mainly taking place over the fest’s two weekends, although there are a few weekday events too. Here are a few picks to look out for. Tickets are up for grabs now, though, so don’t hang about. 

1. Celebrate exciting Black British filmmakers

Hosted by The British Blacklist and We Are Parable, ‘Dynamic Storytelling’ is a brilliant opportunity to hear from brings three fast-rising directors with films at the fest – Adura Onashile (‘Girl’), Jeymes Samuel (‘The Book of Clarence’) and Savannah Leaf (‘Earth Mama’) – and listen to their stories.

LOKI, Season 2
Photograph: Gareth Gatrell/MARVEL

2. Get an early look at the latest Marvel series

The first two episodes of season 2 of Marvel’s Disney series ‘Loki’ is getting a special preview screening at the festival, with director and exec-producer there to introduce them. It’s a homecoming of sorts, as the season was partly filmed in London and Tom Hiddleston hails from just across the Thames. 

Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget
Photograph: Netflix

3. Create your own Aardman character

Family-friendly events are big at the LFF this year, with a robot-building workshop and an Aardman-run model-making session to celebrate the world premiere of ‘Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget’. Find out if your wee’un has the next Wallace and Gromit in their locker.

Pitchback Playback
Photograph: BFI London Film Festival

4. Listen to movie music… in the dark

In this age of Spotify, the idea of listening to a whole album in one go feels like a revolutionary act. What about doing it with the lights off? Sheer folly, right? Not so fast! The Pitchblack Playback crew is decamping to the BFI Southbank to share the unique magic of immersive listening, with a playback of Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’ and a Ryuichi Sakamoto sesh courtesy of ‘The Revenant’ director Alejandro G Iñárritu’s curated album. Both Simon and Sakamoto are celebrated in LFF docs, but the purists will be heading for the dark side at BFI Southbank. 

Kensuke’s Kingdom
Photograph: BFI London Film Festival

5. Hear from the creator of ‘War Horse’ 

‘War Horse’ writer Michael Morpugo will be chatting with Frank Cottrell Boyce, the man who has adapted his 1999 children’s novel ‘Kensuke’s Kingdom’ as a big-screen animation.  

BFI London Film Festival
Photograph: Jim FenwickShort film ‘Wings’ is screening as part of the LFF’s London Calling selection

6. Discover the next Steve McQueen or Joanna Hogg

Like the festival itself, LFF for Free is a hotbed of upcoming talent. You can check out a programme of short films from  disabled and neurodivergent filmmakers, 4Love, watch the entries from this year’s BMW Filmmaking Challenge, and a selection of shorts, ‘London Calling’, by some of London’s most exciting new voices.

Girls on Film
Photograph: Jan de Groen

7. Join in Britain’s best feminist film podcast

The influential Girls on Film podcast has been championing female-led filmmaking for five years now and it’s celebrating with a special birthday edition at the festival, led by host Anna Smith. Expect brilliant guests, honest conversation and potentially cake.

8. Hit the dancefloor

Music is big at the LFF and there’s a host of free party nights at BFI Southbank, all inspired by documentaries on the programme. Get your glad rags on and head along for a night of ’80s anthems on Saturday, October 14 courtesy of DJ Mike Menace’s ‘Scala!!!’-inspired DJ night.

Lights, Camera, Action!
Photograph: BFI London Film FestivalLights, Camera, Action!

9. Grab a coffee (and some handy career advice)

Whether you’re looking for tips on building a career in the film industry or just curious as to what goes into making a film, the LFF’s ‘Lights, Camera, Action!’ is where to head for insightful, informative lunchtime talks. Hear from production designers, casting directors, make-up artists, choreographers, cinematographers and intimacy coordinators, and potentially find out if they’re the right job for you.

Ghosts of Solid Air
Photograph: BFI London Film Festival‘Ghosts of Solid Air’ is part of the LFF’s extended reality programme

10. Take a (virtual) trip

Extended reality (XR) is a growing force at the LFF these days. Alongside the paid-for XR installations on the programme, there’s a few free artworks to sample, including ‘Ghosts of Solid Air’, an eerie exploration of Trafalgar Square’s history of civil unrest, conducted via your mobile phone. 

Booking for LFF For Free is on the official site now