Tom Abell, Founder and Managing Director of Peccadillo Pictures in the UK, received the inaugural Iris Fellowship last night (April 11), honoring those who have made significant contributions to the LGBT + film industry.
The prize is an extension of the Iris Prize, which rewards Â£ 30,000 per year for the best short film presented at the LGBT + Iris Prize Film Festival in Cardiff, with entries selected by several international partner festivals, and Â£ 20,000 for the best British short film . The awards are supported annually by a donation of Â£ 50,000 from the Michael Bishop Foundation.
Abell started the UK’s first LGBT film distribution company, Dangerous To Know in 1992 – serving a then untapped market with videotapes of titles such as gay teen romance Two of us (originally made for the BBC Educational Unit) and 1971 Erotic Fantasy Pink narcissus. He also packed shorts under the brand Boys at the cinema – a compilation series that continues to this day.
Abell launched Peccadillo Pictures in 2000, distributing world cinema alongside LGBT titles. The company made a breakthrough in 2011 with Andrew Haigh’s gay drama in Nottingham Weekend, overcoming initial skepticism in UK cinemas and grossing Â£ 222,000. The success paved the way for films like Francis Lee’s God’s country, distributed in the UK by Picturehouse Entertainment.
Colleagues, filmmakers and industry peers gathered at the London Private Club Ministry to see Michael Bishop, Lord Glendonbrook present the scholarship to Abell. These included a former member of the Peccadillo team and Cadenced director Hong Khaou; and Neil Hunter and Kanchi Wichmann – directors respectively of the Peccadillo titles Little friends and Break my fall.
Oral tributes came from Weekend actor Chris New and The life of the stud director Campbell X. The clips filmed included tributes from Francis Lee and Wash Westmoreland (Always Alice, Colette), whose husband Richard Glatzer (deceased in 2015) directed the 1993 comedy Mourning, distributed by Abell in the UK.
Also included in the assembly Savage director Camille Vidal-Naquet, ThÃ©o & Hugo directors Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau and Two of us director Roger Tonge – who collectively praised Abell for his “kindness”, “passion for cinema” and “generosity”.
In accepting the award, Abell also spoke of the challenges an LGBT distributor faces, even in the UK today, lamenting the hostile social media comments directed at Peccadillo’s current exit. An agreement with the universe, Jason Barker’s documentary about his own experiences as a trans man putting his gender change on hold in order to carry and give birth to a baby.