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A Conversation With… Andrew Young, Head Programmer of the Fight Back Awards

2021 brings an innovative new partnership to the Ramsgate International Film & TV Festival: the Fight Back Awards. 

We spoke to Andrew Young, Head Programmer of the Fight Back Awards to learn more about this brand new project.

What is the aim of the Fight Back Awards?

The Fight Back Awards were created by Sylvie Bolioli, the director of the Ramsgate International Film & TV Festival. It was her mission to create a special satellite event as part of our festival that showcased and honoured the work of veterans in film. Fight Back was inspired by the use of acting in veteran recovery, and art therapy in general. The aim, therefore, is to give more space for veteran-made films and scripts to be seen and heard. We want to offer the opportunity; not just for public screening of veteran-made films, but hopefully to offer advice and training to veterans who see the film industry as a part of their future. 

How do these awards work?

The actual awards at Fight Back are split into multiple categories: commending scripts, films and performances. These are supported by a Special Contribution award. Films are eligible to be screened as part of Fight Back, and to win an award, if a veteran has been involved somewhere in the production of the film. It does not have to be the lead actor or director, it could be anybody working on the film. The films don’t have to be about the military or veteran experience, either. The awards are not for ‘war films’ but any films made by veterans. We encourage any veteran involved in film to get in touch and submit their work.

What made you want to get involved with the Fight Back Awards?

The Fight Back Awards have given me the chance to become more involved in film programming and do something worthwhile and beneficial to the film industry and wider society. The purely selfish answer is that it was a great opportunity! This is my first-time head programming a festival selection and it’s a great privilege for me. It is also more important than me, however, and the chance to screen a film and give an award that might help launch the career of a veteran is something I can hopefully look back on and be proud of later in my life.

Do you think veterans are underrepresented in film?

Without having any numbers to hand, I would say that veterans probably are underrepresented in film, yes. It is well-known that breaking into a great number of careers is difficult for veterans because the right networks are not always in place to support them. The film industry is sadly dominated by personal connections and this could be to the detriment of some really talented, unheard people, including veterans.

I believe that stories authentically told by and about people struggling with their mental and physical health are underrepresented in the industry. Big Hollywood productions can often take a very simplistic or demonising approach to mental health, and disabled actors are given very few opportunities in film. Hopefully giving more opportunities to veterans to exercise their creativity and tell their own stories will give people a more empathetic and clearer understanding of what they experience.

Meet Andrew Young

Have you enjoyed your role as head of programming?

The role has been great so far, mostly in getting to speak to fascinating people about these pressing concerns. The Fight Back team have had some really interesting and productive meetings with other individuals and organisations involved in arts rehabilitation and veteran networks, and that has been both very enjoyable and engaging for me.

A lot of fun is hopefully still to come. Watching the bulk of the submissions lies ahead of me and I’m excited to find and champion the most impressive work from veterans in film!

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s festival?

I am most looking forward to the wonderful speakers and panellists we will be welcoming to the festival, even if that is held virtually! I can’t confirm anything yet, but I hope that we will have some guests at the Fight Back Awards who will have fascinating and invigorating things to say.

A huge thank you to Andrew for taking his time to talk to us. We look forward to bringing you more content on the Fight Back Award and Ramsgate International Film & TV Festival. 

Ciara Grimes & Adam Grewer


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