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Adventures in Crowdfunding – Directors Notes


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A number of people have been in touch to ask me how I crowd funded SOUND IT OUT. Here’s an article I wrote for Directors Notes on the last day of our second campaign (November 2010) with what I learned.

I was at Sheffield Doc/Fest last week and crowd funding was everywhere, I mean EVERYWHERE! It felt like the thing that was being talk about and discussed more than ever before. A year ago it was a vague notion that was on the periphery of my experience but now I’m acutely aware of it as I’m currently in the last 24 hours of my second round of crowd funding on Indiegogo.com with my film Sound It Out. I crowd funded the shoot a few months ago and now I’m crowd funding the post production, my goal is to raise enough money to finish the film.

I also took part in the world’s first crowd funding pitch Seize the Future run by Charlie Phillips. The cash prize was raised by public donation on Indiegogo and awarded to a crowd funded project. We came in tantalisingly close second place.

So What is Crowd Funding?

A “sponsored swim” for independent filmmakers, with perks and pre-sales? A way of getting projects off the ground? The saviour of the film industry?

Here’s a short video from the Guardian at Doc/Fest including a brief mention of Sound It Out. And an article from the Guardian about the filmmakers using crowd funding.

Here’s a little bit about Sound It Out and I’ll explain why I chose to crowd fund this project”

Sound It Out is a documentary portrait of the very last surviving vinyl record shop in Teesside, which will run at between 45-60 minutes long.

Director: Jeanie Finlay (Goth Cruise – IFC) Starring: Tom, Kelly, David, Daniel, 70,000 records and the good people of Teesside.

A distinctive, funny and intimate film about men, obsession and the irreplaceable role music plays in our lives.
Think – High Fidelity with a Northern Accent.

Vinyl records are much more than just music – it’s memories and the soundtrack to our lives and the film shows us just that. I can remember the first 45 I bought with my pocket money, the song I fell in love to, and the LP that healed my broken heart, but I just don’t feel the same about an mp3.

Independent record shops are an endangered species and in the last five years alone, 500 shops in the UK have gone to the great high street in the sky. Sound It Out is a cultural haven in an area of the country that’s struggling with recession, government cuts and industrial decline. It’s important to show Sound It Out as a place that is surviving in spite of all of this and its vital place in the community.

Every penny spent in the shop makes a difference and every penny committed to the film makes a difference – it shows on screen and will help us finish the film.

As backer #126 Ange Taggart puts it – Why fund Sound It Out ? “Because small shops give us hope“. Olly Wood backer #108 puts it this way: “Click the link, watch the clip, nod in agreement, fund the film. Easy as wink.

Why Crowd Fund?

I don’t think crowd funding will work or be suitable for every project, but there were a few things that made me believe it would work with this film:

Niche Audience – Vinyl and record collectors are a large potential audience for the film.

Low Budget – Ideal to raise a “get on with it” budget. There are an awful lot of projects on Indiegogo with aims of raising $25k plus. I think this is a big ask and it’s better to split your film into smaller more manageable chunks. Raise for shoot, post, music clearances, dvd release, etc. separately.

Committed to the Project – I really, passionately wanted to make the film. I’d been filming for about 12 months unfunded but wanted to get serious and spend more time in the shop. I didn’t want to go through the long, slow dance of meeting with broadcasters and trying the raise money the “traditional way” – crowd funding seemed like an immediate way of connecting with an audience and raising a “get on with it” shoot budget. Charlie Phillips at Doc/Fest also convinced me that it could be a good fit for this film. I had nothing to lose by trying it as an experiment!

From the outset I’ve been ambitious to not let the low budget get in the way of how I want to make the film. I asked all the people that I would choose to work with on a fully funded feature documentary. They are all my first choice. They have very generously taken token fees and helped arrange support in kind to get the film finished.

I’ve been overwhelmed by just how much support I have received in order to get the film made – from amazing funders, to record companies and artists who have donated music gratis or very cheaply, Broadway cinema who have donated space to edit and Sally Hodgson who has been working as Producer of Marketing and Distribution (PMD) in an amazing capacity, helping the film find its audience.

I owe it to everyone involved that the film is finished and is good – no pressure then!

Why IndieGoGo?

I tweeted to see if anyone had any experience with crowd funding. Danae from Indiegogo got back to me within about 5 minutes and was incredibly supportive and helpful. She completely won me over. Also they were one of the few crowd funding sites that used PayPal so I didn’t need a US bank account (unlike Kickstarter).

I met Slava Rubin at Doc/Fest last week. He is a truly positive man who believes in what he’s doing – I have never had so many high 5s in a conversation ever. Sure it’s a great business model – over 12,000 projects on Indiegogo right now, but I think there’s something deeper behind it. Engaging with communities and Doing it with Others (DIWO) was an element that was present when I was making artwork that I missed in filmmaking.

Lessons I Learnt in Crowd Funding

A trailer is not a pitch video!

The main one and a very hard one for me. I had to put my British reserve to one side. When I launched the first campaign I simply put up the trailer and we raised about 10 pence. I attended the Seize the Future workshop by Peter Broderick and Sandi DuBowski and took advice from Indiegogo old hand John Trigonis. They all told me – “Put yourself in the video”. I made a new trailer with me pitching the film and we got some bigger partners on board to help us bang the drum – in particular Record Store Day. It made a world of difference. I now believe that people invest in the filmmakers as much as the project.

DIWO
Find audience and partners out in the world – filmmakers funding other filmmakers is not a sustainable model. Find other people that can help spread the word about your project. Again, a very un-British idea to grasp but essential. It’s planning the PR, marketing and outreach before the film is even made. We’ve tried to reach out to all the different groups of people who may be interested in our film, so we’ve really tried to cast the net far and wide. Friends and family, The North East, vinyl fans, record collectors, customers of the shop, other independent record shops, record labels, flickr groups, press, radio…the list goes on. International Record Store Day have been great supporters and promoted us on their page which has a really big following.

Design good perks that people actually want. You’re not begging, you’re offering something good in exchange for backing and coming on board.

Give Credit
I think it’s really important to say thank you to everyone who supports the project. I built a funders’ page so we can put faces to names and find out why people have funded the film. We have also encouraged everyone who has become a supporter to tell their friends and help spread the word, becoming ambassadors for the project – making our reach much wider than we could on our own.

Don’t be Afraid of Asking for Help
Sally Hodgson came on board as PMD and it has been so much more fun and productive to work with someone else. Filmmaking can be a lonely business and it’s much more fun with someone else.

Any Surprises?
The most surprising moment was connecting with a stranger. In our first campaign Andrew Riggs, a US soldier serving in Iraq, saw the link on Record Store Day and came on board as an Associate Producer with a donation of $2000. It was completely overwhelming and amazing that a stranger would come on board in such an act of faith. His brother works at a vinyl pressing plant in Nashville. He liked the idea that some of the records his brother has made would be for sale in the shop.

What’s Going to Happen to the Film?

The film has been commissioned as an artwork for Sideshow in Nottingham so we’ll be showing a ‘sneak peek’ of the film, along with a discussion event and gig – Das Wanderlust and Russell and the Wolves (Teesside bands who feature in the film) playing live. December 11th 2010.

Sound It Out will be packaged like a 7” gatefold single and released on limited edition DVD for sale in independent record shops in the UK and further afield on International Record Store Day April 2011. We also plan to show the film in a series of hidden-treasure record shops.

Would I Crowd Fund Again?

Maybe…I think so…ask me in 24 hours – see if I made my budget. It is a lot of work, extra different work, in fact all the same work of a fully funded film without the crew or cushion of a film budget. BUT I have really enjoyed talking directly with the audience and just making the film instead of have 50 meetings about making a film, it’s a very liberating feeling that has made me feel like I don’t have to wait in future to make a film. My advice, find the right project, gather your team and give it a go. The surprises are worth it.

Find Sound It Out online at:
Sound It Out
Facebook Page
@sounditoutdoc


Top Ten Films 2011 for Directors Notes


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This article was written for and first appeared on Directors Notes.

2011 has been a funny old year. At the beginning I had just finished my documentary film Sound It Out and was getting ready to release it on DVD in the Stockton record shop I made the film in. In February I got the news we had got into SXSW for our world premiere and then everything changed.

Jeff Malmberg the director of Marwencol (my top film of 2010) introduced Sound It Out at the sold out world premiere in Austin. It’s shown at over 50 festivals to date, in over 20 countries, had a theatrical release in the UK and is about to release in a further two countries. This isn’t a self-congratulation fest, just a reminder, for me at the end of 2011 of what a jam-packed and unexpected, crazy year it’s been. It’s not bad for my micro-budget, ramshackle DIY film made originally as a side project. It’s confirmed my belief that it’s really worth pursuing projects you believe in and putting something out there. Not everyone will like it, but those that do are more than worth it. I’m so thank full for the support I’ve had, not least from DN and the 437 people that crowd funded the making and distribution of the film.

Anyway…

As a consequence of all this I’ve never been to more film festivals or cinemas but ironically never watched fewer films. The films I’ve wanted to see have invariably been on at the same time as my screenings – the ‘films that got away’ which I’m desperate to see included; Bombay Beach, The Interrupters, Beats Rhymes and Life, Hell and Back Again, Page One: Inside the New York Times, Give Up Tomorrow, We Need to Talk About Kevin
and Margaret
.

So here is my top ten of the films that stayed with me in 2011, made an impact and looking back into the depths of a dense year still shine brightly. I have *slightly* broken the DN rules [MarBelle: Tut!] by including two art films that were only available to view in galleries but they are long form and both are brilliant, in fact so good I made one my film of the year.

10. Troll HunterAndré Øvredal
Trrrrrrroooooooollllll!

Read the DN review of Troll Hunter.

 

9. You’ve Been TrumpedAnthony Baxter
In 2010 I took part in The Edinburgh Pitch – pitching my film Orionto a panel of international commissioners. One of my fellow pitchers was Anthony Baxter with his feature documentary You’ve been Trumped.

The film tells the story of how American Millionaire Donald Trump ran rough shod over local resident’s wishes, in order to build a luxury golf course in a remote area of Scotland. The course is sited in a spot of exceptional natural beauty in Baxter’s hometown of Montrose. Trump is shown to bully local residents and quite literally bulldozes his way into their lives. Baxter documents it all including the protests, his own arrest and alleged corruption at Government level. It’s a classic David and Goliath tale that has been taking the festival circuit by storm picking up armfuls of awards and the unflattering portrayal has been credited with dislodging Trump’s presidential campaign. The film has certainly had international impact.

Back to Edinburgh 2010. Every commissioner on the panel turned this project down saying that the story had already been told (there had been a BBC special about the golf course development) therefore it wouldn’t be commissioned. Baxter continued on without funding and then crowd-funded his premiere at Hotdocs 2011. It’s confirmation for me of the film truism ‘nobody knows anything’. It was clear that there was a film there and a ready audience. Baxter has proved that and then some.

 

8. The Posters Came from the WallsNicolas Abrahams & Jeremy Deller
Another film about the relationship between a band and their fans, this time Depeche Mode fans “I am no-one without listening to music”, “We are Depeche-ist. Like Communist, like Fascist”.

Revel in ‘The day of Dave’, marching band versions of DM songs and how behind the Berlin wall it felt like DM emerged – “like the posters had come from the walls”. Ongoing wrangles with the record company mean that this won’t be on general release any time soon but look out for it – I saw it at a special screening in Brighton, part of Music Doc 11.

 

7. Justin Bieber: Never Say NeverJon M. Chu
I’m not a fan of Beiber’s music but this justifiably has a place in my top 10 as the film is just so good. JB’s rag to riches ascent at the speed of lightening is a cracking tale. The combination of ambitious management, undeniable talent and a boy on the brink of adulthood trying to figure out who he is a heady mix. The concert footage is thrilling but what makes the film are the fans. Girl, after girl, after girl not much younger than JB heartbreakingly disclose why he is the one for them.

As a side note, I’ve seen some intense snobbery come out when it comes to this film. It was programmed at SheffDocFest this year by Hussain Churrimbhoy. There was much disdain expressed by some of the ‘social change’ programmers and foundations. I don’t understand why the story of this YouTube star who has become the biggest cultural phenomenon of his generation isn’t worthy of exploration – Because a subject is popular doesn’t mean that it isn’t worthy of serious examination while it’s happening, rather than with the respectability of time and nostalgia.

 

6. The ArborClio Barnard
Another film that successfully straddles both documentary and fiction. Actors lip sync to documentary memories to tell the story of Andrea Dunbar, the playwright behind The Arbor and Rita Sue and Bob Too. It’s a disarming watch and plays like a punch to the guts. It jumped out of the cramped airplane screen I watched it on and had me sobbing into my pillow.

Read the DN review of The Arbor.

 

5. WeekendAndrew Haigh
The most romantic film I saw this year shot in my adopted hometown of Nottingham. Nottingham has never looked so real/lovely and there is a great line about the “ugly gallery” for NG dwellers. I met the team behind the film at SXSW and waited with anticipation to see the film, hoping it would live up to the great reviews (“Is this the best gay film ever?”) and my hopes after following the release. It did. Innovatively shot using documentary techniques, long takes and no coverage to cut to. The film is romantic, heartfelt and bittersweet.

 

4. The ClockChristian Marclay
If you haven’t, go and see this if you can. Shown in Nottingham as part of The British Art Show The Clock is a 24-hour artwork that collates what must be every clock ever shown onscreen in a film, ever. They are then inter-cut and interwoven at exactly the time that is showing onscreen. So if it’s 1.04 pm the clock on screen will say the same and the scene will invariably be someone having lunch. More than simply a gimmick, Marclay creates unexpected narratives that are addictive and stay with you long after the “wow” factor. I visited twice for an hour each time, I wished I been able to see it all. Just brilliant.

 

3. The Skin I Live InPedro Almodovar
Bonkers brilliance from Mr Almodovar. I can’t say much about this with out revealing huge spoilers but it had passion, great characters and a story that veered on the right side of hysterical. Huge, great close ups of faces, massive nudes – it looks amazing. A friend came out of the screening stating “it was the worst thing he’d ever seen” but I loved it. Almodovar is a continually bold filmmaker and I’d always take something bold over something tasteful or indifferent.

 

2. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past LivesApichatpong Weerasethakul
Uncle Boonmee is on death’s door and he invites ghosts from his past to join the dinner table and walk with the living. A contemporary, Thai ghost story that beautifully and poetically explores mortality, folklore, memory and the tiger in the undergrowth.

Read the DN review of Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.

 

1. 5,000 Feet is the BestOmer Fast
I visited Dublin for the first time this year showing SIO at The After Dark Festival. Wandering around the city on a rain sodden day I visited Dublin Contemporary staged in a rabbit warren of tiny, spartan rooms in a disused hospital. One room was a former lecture theatre showing a 60-minute film on a loop. I sat down without knowing what I was going to watch but stayed for the full hour absorbed by the film onscreen.

The film fuses fact, fiction, fantasy, close up aerial photography and documentary testimony to tell the impact and PTSD of one man, a remote drone operator based in the US with his target trained on Afghanistan; executing remotely, the near misses and the civilian deaths. An actor, in reconstructed interview scenes recalls repeatedly the symptoms of PTSD he denies having and documentary voiceover from the actual drone operator is juxtaposed with aerial images of the places he fired upon, the families he left and the bright lights of Las Vegas.

When I left I discovered I had been watching 5,000 Feet is the Best by Berlin based Israeli artist Omer Fast. This is a pattern I have repeated in galleries over the years. Watched a great film to discover it’s a work by Fast – The Casting and Nostalgia amongst others. His work is consistently haunting, thought provoking and reaches parts that many films made for cinema fail to. My fudged description doesn’t come close to doing it justice but do seek Omer Fast out.


View a sample from the film in the Online Preview section of Fast’s GB Agency page.


Arsey Versy by Miro Remo Online


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One of my favourite films of 2010 – A Slovakian short which I saw at Hot Docs – is now online.

Lobos wants to see the world differently so he looks at it upside down, like a bat. Made by Lobos’ nephew about his uncle and Great Aunt. Bonkers, wonderful and completely on it’s own.


Top Ten Films 2010 for Directors Notes


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This article was written for and first appeared on Directors Notes.

It’s that time of year again and this year MarBelle has laid down some very strict ground rules. Only ten films (hard), in order of favour and only films made or released this year (positively mean). That means I can’t mention one of the best films I saw this year – Wake in Fright an Australian film from 1971 recently restored and re-released by the Australian film board. A desperate and edgy film about a bonded teacher who loses his way, his looks, his money and his hope over the course of a week or so in the deepest outback of Yabba Yabba. If I could I would be urge you to find it and watch it but I can’t, so I won’t.

So, I’m focusing on the last year’s film watching. I’ve been lucky enough to go to a number of festivals this year and am based at Broadway cinema in Nottingham so have seen most of these on the big screen. I haven’t seen as many films as I’d like – There’s always too much time spent meeting and pitching at festivals rather than film watching, but that’s the way of getting films made. I do think 2010 has provided some amazing films. I haven’t applied any science or stringent rules, just come up with a list of the films that looking back from the darkness of December made an impact and have stayed with me.

10. Let Your Feet Do the TalkingStewart Copeland
Let Your Feet Do the Talking is a documentary from Tennessee filmmaker Stewart Copeland about Thomas Maupin, legendary buck dancer from Tullahoma Tennessee and his grandson Daniel who plays old time banjo music. It’s an intimate portrait of a man who is coming to the end of his life and actively making memories for him and his grandson, the film explores the space in-between them. Tender, moving and like all good documentaries a window into a place a world away from my life.

9. Trash HumpersHarmony Korine
Minxy, nonsense, unwatchable, brilliant, disturbing and hilariousness from Harmony Korine. I have to come clean and tell you that I hated Gummo with a passion but there was something mercurial about this. Leo Scott who edited this told me that he spent weeks degrading the footage making the HD look like VHS and that pages of the treatment just said “half the audience will have left” “doesn’t make any sense”. I’m paraphrasing but in a world of story consultants, trailer doctors and massive committees making films it’s a breath of fresh air.

Listen to the DN interview with director Harmony Korine.

8. The OathLaura Poitras

Shockingly absent from the Oscar shortlist and one of my highlights of Hotdocs. An intense portrait of the man was (or wasn’t) Osama Bin Laden’s bodyguard. The most brilliant unreliable narrator onscreen for years with much of the story taking place in Abu Jandal’s taxi cab where he now drives in the Yemen.

7. Racing DreamsMarshall Curry
I included Sacha Gervasi’s film Anvil in my last year’s selection along with his quote – “Films don’t have to be serious to be moving.“ I completely believe in this sentiment. As a “non-issue” filmmaker making documentaries within a world that at times feels saturated with campaigning films about huge issues it’s hard sometimes to feel that if you can reach an audience by looking at the human condition or “small stories”. Racing Dreams embodies this sentiment. It’s a classic set up for a doc – We follow three teenagers who race competitive go karts over a season. Who will win at the top of the league and who will earn a life changing deal with Nascar. So far, so predictable. It’s a skilfully told classic, tense tale of who wins the race. What makes the film so brilliant are the details of the three racers and their onscreen transformation. We see them fall in love, grow up and deal with their lives changing. heart breaking. I watched this at Big Sky and sobbed into my popcorn.

6. Arsy VersyMiro Remo
A Slovakian short from Hot Docs. Lobos wants to see the world differently so he looks at it upside down, like a bat. Made by Lobos’ nephew about his uncle and Great Aunt. Bonkers, wonderful and completely on it’s own.

5. DogtoothYorgos Lanthimos
This is the only film in my top ten I watched on DVD, on a train. I had to lower the screen when the full nudity started – and I realised it wasn’t exactly family viewing. A claustrophobic and intense fucked up family drama. Makes you look at cats in a whole new light and the plane crashes are wonderful.

Read the DN review of Dogtooth and listen to our interview with director Yorgos Lanthimos.

4. Last Train HomeLixin Fan
I was a juror for the features competition at Big Sky back in February. I took it very seriously and didn’t read any reviews of the films ahead of judging, not a press release, not a press pack, not a sausage. In fact I watched them in a way that I would never see a film at a festival where one is absolutely bombarded with marketing material and killer strap lines. This was the film we unanimously awarded best film. It’s astonishing – I learnt more about China from following one family’s experiences of rural urban migration and the reality of sweatshops than a hundred news reports. It turned my heart inside out and made me think.

3. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New OrleansWerner Herzog
Nicolas Cage bristles as a drug and booze and gambling addled cop in Werner Herzog’s bonkers cop drama, complete with iguana hallucinations. Like Wake in Fright it just keeps on going wrong for him as he sinks deeper and deeper into oblivion. Cage gives the role what an apprentice contestant would call 110% and it made me remember why I loved him so much way back in Wild at Heart.

Read the DN review of Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.

2. LourdesJessica Hausner
Wheelchair bound Christine makes a life changing pilgrimage to Lourdes to visit the shrine of our lady. This is a brutal and tender film about hope, faith, love, and the power of miracles. It’s a mischievous, atmospheric and quiet charmer that had me absolutely hooked, falling in love and devastated by the personal isolation. If you haven’t, you MUST watch this film. Brilliant.

1. MarwencolJeff Malmberg
I finally saw Marwencol at Doc/Fest in November after hearing a lot about the film. It didn’t disappoint. Marwencol is a documentary about the fantasy world of Mark Hogancamp. After being brutally beaten Mark rebuilds his life by building Marwencol, a fantasy world inhabited by action men and Barbies at 1/6th scale. What I like so much about the film is that Mark’s story is so unusual, so organic and the film is made with massive empathy and understanding of his story. I love the homemade ingenuity of the world and the way the film keeps on taking you deeper. It’s not perfect, a bit too long and it’s certainly not for everyone – the man I was sat next to at Sheffield tutted and sighed throughout the film – but I loved it.

Honourable Mentions
GaslandJosh Fox: We awarded Gasland Artistic Achievement at Big Sky in the features competition this year. Josh tells the devastating environmental disaster of natural Gas fracking through the fight to save the creek in his own garden. It’s just so well done.

I am loveLuca Guadagnino: I have a massive crush on Tilda Swinton and she is breathtaking in this film playing a Russian woman trapped in a wealthy Milanese family until a young beau comes along.

Enter the VoidGaspar Noé: Watch this for the title sequence, which is immense then leave. My husband described it as “rolling down a hill made of breasts wearing a helmet of drugs” which I think pretty much sums it up. It looks great but the story is wafer thin, the acting a bit ropey and there were moments when I thought the lead character had come back as a moth flying uncontrolled into lights and neon.

Dishonourable Mention
AvatarJames Cameron: Baby’s first eco story, written in wax crayon on the back of an envelope. Visuals developed in a club chill out room circa Middlesbrough 1992 didn’t help either.


Pick a Perk. Pledge your support. Feel warm inside.


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Nottingham Lace at Nottingham Contemporary


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My new film NOTTINGHAM LACE wll be screening at Nottingham Contemporary on October 13th 2010. Book your free place.

In 1951 Nottingham’s Lace market was a thriving industrial hub and hummed to the sound of 120 family-led lace factories making “Nottingham Lace” for the world. In 2010 there’s only one Lever’s lace factory left in the country – Cluny Lace. This 25 minute film traces the history and the precarious future of Nottingham’s lace industry through rare archive footage and first-hand accounts by those who worked and continue to work at Cluny Lace, Nottingham.

Following the screening – made for tve’s ‘Life on the Edge’ series for broadcast on the BBC’s global satellite channel, BBC World News – Nottingham Contemporary will host a panel discussion on the film and the ways in which personal histories and public archives are increasingly interrelated. Speakers on the panel will include Ian Palfreyman, and Ian Emm of Cluny Lace, director Jeanie Finlay and representatives from the Media Archive of Central England (MACE).


Home from edinburgh but not for long. Next stop Sunnyside


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I’ve been home for all of two days and am now, yet again waiting for a train to take me somewhere. This time to St Pancras so I can catch the Eurostar to Sunnyside of the Doc in La Rochelle.

Edinburgh was over in a flash and was very much wall to wall training, pitching, meetings and late night whiskey. To my shame I only watched one film.

Orion was one of 11 projects selected for the Edinburgh pitch. As with most of these forums there was a day’s training and this was no different – this time with Danish doc legend Tue at the helm.

They say the simplest way of looking at a pitch is:

WHO ARE YOU?
What is your track record and why should YOU over the thousands of other filmmakers out there make this project. Who is on your team?

WHAT IS IT?
What is the story and how will you realise your film? Is it experimental, non linear, investigative, how does the story unfold and what will we see on screen?

WHY NOW?
Is there a reason why this project should happen now – anniversary, court hearing, footage that is essential to gather now.

CAN WE AFFORD IT?
This is one for the commissioning editors – is the budget appropriate for the project?

Obviously these rules are all there for the breaking and some of the best pitches I’ve seen have ignored everything sensible.

The setting for the pitch was the Story Telling Centre on the Royal Mile and made for an intimate atmosphere. These things are always scary but also worth it – you can meet commissioners that it could take months and many air miles to meet.

We were up first and Orion fared well – even making the Guardian! As with all of these things there is no instant win or lose but the start of a series of meetings/discussions that can last years. After doing a few of these they certainly gain a momentum.

My producer Gavin Humphries from Quark Films on the royal mile, just before the pitch.

Noe from SDI introduces the pitches. Orion was up first.

Doris Hepp from ARTE, Peter Jäger from Autlook films and Simon Kilmurry POV look on.

Pitch trainer Tue Steen Muller has a well deserved cigar after a long days pitch.

Jean Luc makes an entrance at the EIFF opening party.

The massive opening party at Treviat. Complete with…

…Dancing Girls and…

When I finally snuck into the VIP area replica bottles of champagne.

Doc Week – Charlie Phillips reminds of us the value of talking to other people in Documentary and that it’s not all about Sheff Doc Fest (but it is great!)

I finally made it to the cinema to see the new Storyville Out Of The Ashes about the Afghan cricket team. Produced by Interdoc course mentor Rachel Wexler.

My fellow Interdoc girls. Aisling, Ailbhe and Holly outside the Filmhouse. Next Interdoc stop Galway.


Support SOUND IT OUT on Indie Go Go


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I’ve launched a campaign for my new projectSOUND IT OUT in order to raise the finance completely independently using INDIEGOGO. You can help the project by visiting the page, joining the facebook group, leaving a comment, recommending it to others and most importantly choosing a perk and contributing to the film’s production. It’s a really exciting way of supporting independent film.


What volcano? Next stop Hot Docs


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After spending a nervous few weeks wondering whether my trip would actually happen – tentatively searching to make sure the online bookings company I used to book my flight haven’t gone bust in the post volcano fallout – I am happily installed on Air Canada and heading to Toronto for North America’s biggest documentary festival – Hot Docs.

My new film ORION has been selected as one of seven feature doc projects to be developed as part of Interdoc run by the Scottish Documentary Institute and Initialize.

I found out on Tuesday the good news that my application to EMMedia was successful and they have invested in my company Glimmer Films, supporting a development programme I proposed; It includes my participation in Interdoc as well as attending key doc festivals; Sheffield Doc/Fest, Sunny Side of the Doc and the upcoming Seize the Future workshop. I’m aiming to raise finance for ORION and other Glimmer projects as well as meet other doc makers at these festivals.

The regional development agencies have come under a lot of fire in recent months but I strongly believe that EMMedia have had a transformative effect on film-making and creative output throughout the East Midlands. Their continued support and faith in my work has enabled me to set up my own company and to develop films that are made outside of London but with International ambition. I’ve also seen film production and ambition in the region visibly increase in the last 3-5 years – 7 features made in the East Midlands at EIFF in both 2009 and 2008. I dearly hope that whatever government we end up with next Friday recognises the value of this investment as vital to progressing the British Film industry and talent development.

My poor, abused credit card is also incredibly happy as I was using it to bankroll the trip. I can now order food in Canada without worry of financial ruin. Raising finance for films is an expensive business.

General uncertainty brought about by global travel disruptions – “Volcano malaise” combined with the dual distractions of the election – Bigot-gate anyone? and Screenlit, Broadway’s own film festival, mean that I feel incredibly unprepared for Hot Docs. I have no real idea of what to expect and have a feeling I will only really feel ready when my plane touches down in Canada.

The very first film festival I showed a film at was in Toronto – World Wide Short Film Festival, with my short doc Love Takes back in 2003. My husband’s (Steven Sheil) horror short Cry was also selected and we braved the fear of catching SARS to make it out. I loved Toronto. Seeing the cut-price mecca Honest Ed’s depicted in the Scott Pilgrim novel I read last week brought it all flooding back and made me incredibly nostalgic for the trip. The street cars run directly underneath the Bloor theater and they added a certain something in the way of sub bass to the midnight mania programme that Steven’s film was a part of.

I’ve been to a fair few festivals since then. I don’t set myself up as an expert in any way but here are my film festival Do’s and Don’ts that I have picked up along the way. Feel free to comment, disagree or add your own:

Don’t be tempted to drink the festival dry on the first night, no matter how delicious the free wine – You will only regret it in some way on day two and a week of receptions can feel like a marathon. I have borrowed this advice from Whitby Goth Weekend’s advice to newbies but it applies to pretty much any festival.

Don’t drink and get ink – Although I feel a feint glimmer of affection for my life long souvenir from a drunken afternoon in Scarborough at 18, I wouldn’t recommend it as the best way of choosing a tatt. A friend almost did the same at midnight at Big Sky Doc fest earlier this year and I believe at SXSW it is a regular occurrance. Just wait till daylight!

Don’t mix your festival freebie bag up with everyone else’s – I always decant the contents of my festival giveaway bag as soon as possible. If there are 2000 delegates at a festival, all with the same bag, all hanging out in close proximity – inevitably stuff gets mixed up.

Do go to the Who’s Who / Meet the Commissioner sessions – Recognising financiers / commissioners from the out of date photos that are supplied in the buyers guide is an art in itself.

Don’t talk work after 9pm – Everyone needs time off and the receptions at festivals are for fun, making new friends and building a community, not just pitching, pitching, pitching or work work work.

I witnessed an over enthusiastic producer at a particularly director friendly festival plying one of the few financiers there with all manner of flyers, dvds and press kits. This was at 11.30pm in a very loud and dark night club, with karaoke blaring in the background. The recipient of these “giveaways” wore the resigned look of a tired Crackerjack contestant. I would bet a small fortune that none of that material they then had to carry back to the hotel ever resulted in helping ANY film get made.

Don’t stalk funders – I’ve heard countless horror stories of funders being pitched to in toilet cubicles. A close friend of mine is a commissioner – We ended up having a code phrase that if uttered meant they needed saving from an unwanted or inappropriate late night pitch.

Don’t make meetings at a festival if the person you need lives in your home town – If they’re busy at the festival you’ll get more achieved and longer to talk if you meet during normal work hours.

Do Karaoke. It’s compulsory

Don’t even attempt eating out in a group of more than 12 if you want to eat in less than 3 hours, it won’t happen.

Don’t attempt to walk the length of a city from venue to venue in Taxi-only shoes.

Do take with you: blank DVDs to run off dvds and trailers if you need them. Business cards, postcards, pain killers and moisturiser.

Do buy Skype out calls for your iPhone – Much better value for calling internationally if you have access to wifi.

Do put your trailer on your iPhone rather than drag your poor laptop everywhere and do remember headphones.

Do book time in the video teque early to catch up on any films you miss.

Don’t spend all your time in the cinema – I would always take a session or meeting over seeing a film that will likely come to Broadway, the cinema where I am based. However saying that …

… Do remember to watch films – There is nothing like the excitement of a sold out premiere or the opportunity of hearing a director talk about their film in person. Seeing Prodigal Sons, Capturing The Friedmans, I Love Alaska, Four Lions and South (to name a few) have been overwhelming and memorable festival experiences.

Lastly I leave you with the sage words of Mike Steinberg, director of The Big Sky Documentary Film festival:

Don’t ever get two or more of the following: too tired, too drunk, too hungry or too lonely. It will all end in tears.


ORION – selected for Interdoc


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ORION has been selected as one of seven ambitious feature documentaries to take part in INTERDOC.

A development programme run by the Scottish Documentary Institute and Initialise. The programme incorporates development events at HOTDOCS, Toronto, EDINBURGH Film Festival and GALWAY, Ireland.


Jury time – International Documentary Challenge


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A couple of weeks ago I was a  judge for The International Documentary Challenge. I watched 12 of the 130 total films shot in only 5 days in early March, by teams of film-makers all over the world. Of course they weren’t all brilliant – the time, budget and constraints of making a film under pressure is incredibly difficult – but an impressively high number were great and my favourite film was so good it was impossible to see it was made so quickly. Astounding.

The finalists have been announced with the winner being announced at Hot Docs. I’m fascinated to see who will win.

Here’s a bit more about the challenge:

The International Documentary Challenge is a timed filmmaking competition where filmmakers have 5 days to make a short non-fiction film (4-7 minutes.) All of the registered participants make their films during the same time period (early March) and are required to ship the movie by the deadline. In addition to being restricted on time, the filmmakers must choose between 2 assigned documentary genres (such as Biography, Music, 1st Person, etc.)  and are assigned a specific theme (such as “Freedom”) that will dictate the content and direction of their film. The top 12 films (determined by a panel of judges) premiere at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival in Toronto where the Winners are announced. After the premiere, there are additional theatrical screenings in major cities, possible television exposure and a DVD release of the best films. The films are also streamed on our website for voting for the Audience Award and many films (including non-finalists) can be seen on the SnagFilms Doc Challenge Channel.


Big Sky ’10 – What I can see from here


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A wee timelapse, shot from Hudson hotel room


Big Sky ’10: Goodbye with a big old fire


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Can’t believe Big Sky is over so soon, it’s been so good and the festival grows and gets better every year.

Outside the Wilma theatre (Photo: Big Sky)

The pitching event this year was fantastic, a real highlight and it has transformed my ideas of thinking about working with / applying to ITVS. Richard Saiz was a total inspiration.

Richard Saiz - ITVS pitch event and workshop

There’s been so many highlights – the ITVS pitch, the deliberation and judging of the competition films, a gondola ride after a great party at Boom swagger (Missoula’s hair salon), the mountains, getting to hang out with my good friends from over the pond.

The transport of choice - Transport chief Jeff Medley rides the gondola (Photo: Big Sky)

The packed out 1100 seater Wilma (Photo: Big Sky)

Aside from the competition films that we awarded prizes to I thought that Racing Dreams was phenomenal. On the surface it has the feel of the classic 3 character 5 part story on the way to a final race outcome, but it was so much more than that. The film is about 3 teens on the brink of changing their lives forever, they fall in love and find out who they want to be. Seek this film out!

The festival ended with a fire party at festival founder Doug Hawes Davis’ house. Until next year then, here are a last few views.

The frozen river - It's hard not to see the Twin Peaks visuals everywhere in David Lynch's home town

Doug Pray shows his best "Up with people" smile

Inspired by the party in the salon I ended up going back for a 50's blow dry.

The foyer of The Red Bird - my favourite place to hang out in Missoula. made me feel like an extra in The Shining

All of the lovely big Sky festival team - punch drunk and happy on the last day

Fire Party

Festival programmer and the man with an extraordinary English accent - Mike Steinberg

DHD - the man who started it all attempts some firewalking

Southern Charm - Stewart Copeland

My lovely hostess - Lulu Steinberg

The one and only Jeff Medley


Big Sky ‘10: Meeting the man from Disney


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Apologies for the radio silence but signals have been hard to come by and it’s been such an action packed festival.

The weather is crisp and bright and the mountains have never looked more breath taking. The landscape really is ‘the big sky’ and shapes the feel of the town and the films that are made here.

I’m going to go and see Sweet Grass tonight which won a big sky award about films made in the area. It’s a portrait of Norwegian farming community in Montana and is intriguingly made by a Brit expat Lucien Castaing Taylor. I can’t wait to see it.

I took part in the enjoyable but always nerve wracking ITVS Pitch presenting my new film ORION to Richard Saiz. It went really great despite my nerves and left me feeling fired up to make it. Richard gave great feedback about using the outsiders view, the British view of Americana and was incredibly generous and inspiring about how to work with them to get the film made.

My fellow feature jurors (Doug Pray and Cliff Froehlich deliberated long and hard and gave 2 awards. One to Last Train Home by Lixin Fan and artistic vision award to Josh Fox’s Gasland. Both films are devastating and I can’t recommend them highly enough.

Missoula is an easy town to get talking to people and we met a guy drawing in the local Waldrens deli. Turns out he used to draw for Disney and he and fellow film-maker Cody Stokes exchanged sketch book views.


Big Sky ’10 – Mountain views and heated debates


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After the epic 26 hour journey from the UK I’ve been in Montana for three days now and feel right at home in the mountains. Since I got here I have been mainlining films in order to make the judging deadline of last night and have seen six features and five shorts. It’s an exhausting and of course, fantastic job. The award winner will be announced this evening so check back later.

Here are a few pictures from the last couple of film filled days.

Soaring over the icy west and frozen lakes.

I made it to the mountains – woodland painting.

I’m staying with Mike and Lulu Steinberg. Mike is the director of the festival and I’m staying in their Glow house at the end of their garden.

My all important pass.

Sun behind the Wilma Theatre.

My annual visit to Quality supply to buy cowboy boots for my daughter.

Vivi Steinberg models a mini Stetson.

Back to the Wilma for salty popcorn…

…and the shorts programme with the Steinberg girls.

The view from the balcony.

An almost capacity crowd files in for Sweet Grass.

My fellow judge Doug Pray and the beautiful (still working) deco telephone booths at the Red Bird after a long evening’s deliberations.

The supermarket clerk who sold us beer at 1.58am and gave us his take on Sweet Grass. The whole town comes to the screenings.


Big Sky Day One – getting there slowly


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Looking forward to seeing the Wilma - Montana's largest screen

I’ve made it to the throbbing city of Heathrow, terminal 4 (location and setting for my husband’s film MUM & DAD being here never fails to remind me of the film) – my cautious Father in Law made sure that I was here in plenty of time and I now have nearly 3 hours to kill before boarding the first of 3 flights that will get me to Missoula, via New York and Detroit. It is a killer journey – 16 hours but so worth it when you see the mountains at the end.

This will be my third visit to the festival and my first without showing a film. This year I’m a juror in the features competition and will be presenting my new project ORION as one of 10 projects being pitched in the ITVS pitch.

Being a juror has meant watching most of the films ahead of flying out. They arrived in uniform DVDs – with simply the name of the film and director printed on them. Each film has been a surprise and a trip into the unexpected – no drum roll, no flyer campaign, no press preview, no earnest film-maker intro, no EPK and no flashy graphics and no clever log line to raise or dash expectations.

It’s been a curious experience. I’ve tried to ignore the (inevitable) twitter and online buzz attached to some of the titles as they play at other festivals) and aimed to watch them as they came – simply, unannounced.

It occurred to me that this is the opposite of a usual film festival viewing experience. My living room is a world away from a packed screening room, full of ready to laugh and cry or “impress me” or “film-fatugued” festival goers.

Thinking about my recent cinema going experiences the expectations I’ve had before the screening have inevitably influenced my opinion of the film – AVATAR, I hated, I felt it was flimsy, wafer thin story to hang such expensive graphics on. The packed cinema, the only free seat at the front of the Cineworld in the sore neck position, the expensive 3D glasses, my knowledge of the budget and the James Cameron campaign all conspired to color my appraisal of the final film. It was nearly impossible to like even though i wanted to.

Similarly watching PRODIGAL SONS (as I reported in my Top Ten of 2009) in a packed cinema, 30 minutes drive from where the film was set in Montana, with the director and many of the cast in the room couldn’t help but heighten the emotive pull of the story. Would I have felt the same if I had watched the film “cold” at home, on my own, on my TV?

i also watched STILL WALKING recently, directed by Kore Eda (please check spelling) director of one of my favourite films of all time AFTERLIFE. I was so excited to see this film and went in to the screening with the expectation that I would meet an old friend. The film wasn’t what I expected (after AFTERLIFE) but was a wonderfully warm and sometimes bitter examination of family life and grief. my previous relationship made me open to the film and welcome it fondly.

I’ve been told I can use whatever criteria I choose to judge the films. So I decided to set some ground rules – to watch all films in equal environments – and the winning film for me must:
Move me in some way, offer a window into another world – any kind of world.  Make the film-making invisible – by that I mean – If I’m watching the edit or the fancy camera moves then the narrative is failing, it’s got to all feel like one film.

I’ve watched 8 films now, 4 more to go and know what my favourite 3 are so far, turns out I needn’t have worried, the good films always show make themselves known.


I see a Big Sky


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After showing films at the last three Big Sky Documentary Film Festivals,  I will be heading out west again later this month, but this time as a juror on the features competition. The festival is held in Missoula, Montana, (David Lynch’s Twin Peaks-esque home town) and has become the largest cinema event in Montana and the premiere venue for non-fiction film in the American West. Documentary maker Doug Pray is a fellow juror  director of Sundance hit Arts and Copy and seminal hip hop film “Scratch”

You can follow my progress here: www.twitter.com/jeaniefinlay and I will be writing about my experience along the way here: www.directorsnotes.com


Sound it Out in the Engine Room


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Sound it Out has been selected as one of 8 new documentary projects that will be work-shopped February 8th and 9th at Broadway Cinema, Nottingham.

THE ENGINE ROOM PITCH is a high-level project development opportunity and includes an introduction to MeetMarket and all Marketplace and pitching activities at Doc/Fest and to wider opportunities in international documentary pitching and funding. Delivered by international marketplace specialist Christina Burnett, of Wide Eye Pictures, this is also a chance to pitch your project to two UK commissioners as well as Charlie Philips, Doc/Fest Marketplace Producer. Commissioners from BBC, Channel 4, Britdoc and CBA-DFID Broadcast Media Scheme have taken part in previous workshops.


Jeanie Finlay Top Twelve 2009 for Directors Notes


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Originally posted on Directors Notes


I’ve decided to break the rules slightly and am not exclusively listing films that were released in 2009 but films that I saw this year which made an impact on me. I saw some of them at film festivals, some at the cinema and some on DVD. I’m also being especially greedy and choosing my top twelve films [MarBelle: Tut tut]. Here they are, in no particular order:

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Merry Christmas


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Fly on the wall? I don’t want to fade into the background


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After another late night of dancing to guilty pleasures in the Showroom bar I was grateful this morning for some kind of lie in. My plan was to book time in the videoteque and catch up on all the films I missed. High on my list were The Living Room of the Nation, the new Pennebaker film Kings of Pastry and Best Worst Movie. Sadly the lie in meant it was completely booked up and I couldn’t even get a cancellation.

I have no regrets as I went to The September Issue Masterclass with R J Cutler. He was fabulously entertaining and endlessly quotable on his films, and film-making:

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Stitch, pitch and the A to Z of Britdoc


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Showroom Cinema.

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1000 shots of vodka at the bar right now


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Yet another late night post. This time because my iPhone died again after only 12 hours of use.

As well as having 4 pitch meetings and taking part in 10×10. I still am yet to watch a single film. Today I saw:

Art docs at the chapel

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Meet, meet not quite meetmarket


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6 sales agents, 1 lawyer, 1 journalist, 1 film-maker drinks down. 1 pizza and 1 roller disco to go.

MeetMarket this way

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A late start after a late night


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I finally have my delegates pass and goodies. Gave back my delegates bag as I inevitably lose them or pick up one of the other 1800 identical bags at the festival. Am trying to organise my day of meetings with (mainly) sales agents.

Excited that at some point today I will meet Phil Parker, the researcher on Orion. Up to now everything has been done by phone, email and googledoc.

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Who’s who and who are you?


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I made it, here’s the obligiatory Sheffield steel welcome.

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So near, yet so far


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In my haste to finish my various edits for Friday’s dfg group 10 x 10 event – I will be showing a teaser and two scenes from my new film Orion: the man who would be king. I missed the 2.15 train to Sheffield. I had to console myself with a volcano-hot hot chocolate and the salubrious surroundings of Nottingham station platform cafe.

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SheffDocFest minus one and counting


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The edit!

The night before Sheffield Doc/Fest I am doing what most directors I know are also doing. Staying up, way past my bedtime to finish cutting a trailer on my new project, to take and show to willing ears and eyes. The aim is, as always to get projects off the ground, financed, commissioned, seen, distributed, you know the small stuff of film-making!

I’ll be keeping an ad-hoc photo diary of my festival experience here through the week, armed only with an iPhone and unsuitable shoes.

www.jeaniefinlay.com
Photo diary kept for www.directorsnotes.com


Goth Cruise broadcast on IFC 27 October 2009 7.05pm ET


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gothcruise-4www.ifc.com/gothcruise

www.facebook.com/gothcruise

GOTH CRUISE will be getting a primetime airing today at 7.05pm ET (USA) so grab your black eyeliner, make yourself a Pina Colada, sit back and enjoy.

Don’t forget to tell your friends and join the Facebook page!


Sheffdocfest photo diary for Director’s Notes


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stripes01www.directorsnotes.com

www.sheffdocfest.com

I will be reporting from the fantastic, must attend UK documentary event Sheffield Documentary Festival (November 4-8) for eclectic film podcast Directors Notes.

Armed only with high heels and an IPhone, updates will be posted here and on Directors Notes.


Goth Cuise screening at Glynn Vivian Gallery, Swansea


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GVAG Events flyer 9-09 A5

Friday 16 October 1pm

Q&A / Film Screening

Artist Eva Bartussek will discuss her exhibition with documentary film maker Jeanie Finlay, followed by a special screening of Finlay’s Goth Cruise.

Glynn Vivian Gallery, Swansea


EM Media adds Hip Hop feature doc to its slate


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Article on Screen website

EM Media, the UK’s regional screen agency based in the East Midlands, announced a new addition to its slate today at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

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Things I Learnt on IFC’s Goth Cruise – Huffington Post


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Huffington Post – Jeanie Finlay

When I was 17 years old I threw out my pink, bought a black fringed skirt, crimped my dyed hair, bought Bauhaus’ back catalogue and gave my heart to Robert Smith. The pop charts didn’t offer solace for my troubled adolescent heart in the same way that Morrissey could. When he sang — “I wear black on the outside because black is how I feel on the inside” — it was like he had written it just for me.

I was a goth.

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The Great Hip Hop Hoax Selected for the Edinburgh Pitch 2009


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Jeanie and Al will be taking part in the Edinburgh pitch. If you’re there, do come and say hello.

Doc Scene website

Newsflash from Doc Scene

Just Announced: The Edinburgh Pitch Projects!

Just Announced: The Edinburgh Pitch Projects!

We have selected 12 proposals from the extremely high quality of projects that were submitted, we have 5 from Scotland, 4 from England and 3 from abroad.

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Goth Day on 6 Music


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Today is Goth Day on 6 Music and Goth Cruise director Jeanie Finlay went in to chat to Nemone about the film and the upcoming DVD launch.

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