Preview: East End Film Festival, Various venues, London

Eat your heart out, Cannes
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The Independent Culture

Stephen Woolley is known as the producer of many fine films, and has also just directed his first film, Stoned, about the death of the Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones. So he is the ideal person to be producer-in-residence at the East End Film Festival, a week-long celebration of independent film, including six UK premieres, shorts, documentaries and masterclasses, and a showcase of films by local film-makers.

"Actually, nobody has given me a job description yet. I suppose it is for me to be as supportive as I can of both the festival and local film-makers, and to offer any words of wisdom that I may have," Woolley says.

He will also appear in a Q&A session after a screening of his Oscar-winning The Crying Game, directed by Neil Jordan, "to encourage younger people who are teetering on the edge of getting into the film business", and "to tell them how I got here".

Woolley started off as an usher at the Screen on the Green cinema in London in 1976. "I dropped out of school before A-levels and lived in a squat in Highbury." He ended up owning a cinema, the Scala in King's Cross, then launched Palace Video, distributing independent and European films. And then he moved into producing films, many with Neil Jordan as director. "We've worked together a lot because we both like to subvert the genre."

The festival opens with Richard E Grant, director-in-residence, introducing his own directorial debut Wah-Wah - a family drama inspired by his experiences of growing up in the Sixties, starring Gabriel Byrne, Emily Watson and Julie Walters. Other highlights include the Palme d'Or-nominated Election, a Hong Kong Triad thriller starring Tony Leung; It's Nice up North, in which the comedian John Shuttleworth sets off to find out whether it is; and premieres of Charlie's Party, about a 30th-birthday sex party, and Ski Jumping Pairs, a mockumentary from Japan about getting a new extreme sport accepted as an Olympic event.

Any advice for aspiring producers? "Think beyond the box. If you make enough films, a few are going to be hits. It is about making films that stand the test of time."

Thursday to 4 May ( www.eastendfilmfestival.com)

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