Creative Distribution: Connect and Affect

Last week we launched Make Your Market, a brand new initiative that offers training and development for emerging PMDs who will work alongside Producers to develop Marketing and Distribution strategies for new films. SDI Producer Sonja Henrici reflects on her own experiences of working with a PMD.

Almost five years ago, we embarked on our Virtuous Circle project, investigating new business models and new roles in the film industry, in particular, the “PMD” - Producer of Marketing and Distribution (coined by Jon Reiss). We wanted to find out what impact this role would have on our slate of features and what we could learn about technology, digital tools, and the cutting edge of audience engagement, marketing and distribution.

We learned and tried out a lot of tools and strategies. We distributed I Am Breathing, Future My Love and Stem Cell Revolutions in different ways. But of course you also learn about yourself and the part you can play in this “industry” of ours.

You realise that we all make way too many films.

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The Forecaster: Days away from Economic Collapse?

Every week it would seem at least one new major economical scandal hits the headlines. Last week it was Volkswagen’s rigging its pollution tests. Writing for his Smoke and Mirrors blog, George Monbiot described the scandal as:

“a classic example of externalisation: the dumping of costs that businesses should carry onto other people. The air that should have been filtered by its engines is filtered by our lungs instead. We have become the scrubbing devices it failed to install.”

Here Monbiot points out that pollution became a physical manifestation of corruption. But how many more frauds go unnoticed while still infesting our lives, justified in the name of ‘economy’?

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Resilience: Applying to Bridging the Gap

The call for applications to Bridging the Gap has opened once again. We asked last year's successful participants to share their thoughts on what might help you get your proposal shortlisted this year. Theresa Moerman Ib (The Third Dad), Callum Rice (Mining Poems or Odes), Scott Calonico (The Banana Republic) and Alberto Iordanov (Bubo's Limbo) all completed short documentaries as part of last year's Bridging the Gap: Resilience. Here's their advice:


I submitted a dull two-page Word document in Times New Roman font with no images to Bridging the Gap. It looked more like a job application than a documentary proposal. Looking back, I'm a bit surprised it got shortlisted at all! So there's no magic formula for writing a successful proposal, but what I did have was a solid idea for a story, combined with passion and a strong vision. You have to be able to connect with your audience and communicate your idea using language that they can sense both visually and emotionally.

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The Democrats

Over the last 10 years Denmark has produced many great female documentary Directors including Eva Mulvad, Hanna Polak and Phie Ambo. The newest kid on the block, Camilla Nielsson, is currently making waves with her first feature doc The Democrats. I saw the premiere last November at CPH DOX and was completely drawn into this transfixing story. Admittedly on paper it did not read as such, Zimbabwe’s constitutional-reform through grassroots meetings did not sound like the substance of a riveting documentary!

But thanks to Nielsson’s storytelling talent, her choice of characters and her incredible behind-the-scenes access to her two politicians, it built all the humour and nervous tension you could wish for in a complex and engaging political film.

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Director's Gap - Why should we care if women are making films?

Calls for Scottish Documentary Institute's annual Bridging the Gap initiative are now open with a deadline of October 4th. As this year we are inviting filmmakers to respond to the theme of 'women', Noe Mendelle founder and director of SDI reflects on her own experiences as a female filmmaker.

I moved to Edinburgh in 2000 with such great expectations. After all I was stepping on the land of Grierson, “the father of documentary.”


Image: Noe Mendelle filming in Edinburgh, 2014

Having spent several years as a filmmaker in Sheffield during the heyday of Channel 4’s workshop movement, I expected the same creative buzz in Scotland. Instead I found everyone busy chasing TV commissions and few really engaging with collaborations or better co-productions with the European documentary scene. So many great things were going on around the world; C4 going international, ARTE on the scene, Scandinavian broadcasters, but Scotland, buried under the UK flag, was somehow missing out. Borne out of this frustration, I felt the need to set up the Scottish Documentary Institute to develop a platform to promote creative documentary in and out of Scotland.

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Finding Normality in Chaos: Libyan Stories

In 2012, just three months after the death of Gaddafi, the British Council invited Scottish Documentary Institute to Libya to run workshops with young local filmmakers. 

At the time Tripoli was ravaged by the revolution but the mood was high and positive. 

In 2013 we planned to return to the region and run the same workshop in Benghazi. Two days before our arrival, however, the American Ambassador was shot and Benghazi was declared closed to non-Libyans. Rather than cancelling it, the British Council relocated the workshop in Tripoli. The filmmakers, eager to attend, ended up travelling back and forth from Benghazi to Tripoli despite great potential danger to themselves.


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Creating a Maieutic Machine - Or the Birthing of Decisions


adjective; "of or relating to the method used by Socrates of eliciting knowledge in the mind of a person by interrogation and insistence on close and logical reasoning";
from Greek maieutikós, "skilled in midwifery"

"The less we know, the more we believe in science," says Paolo Quattrone, Professor of Accounting, Governance and Social Innovation in Edinburgh.

As an accountant, you'd think he'd be into numbers and science. But as I wrote in part 1 of this Blog series - Numbers Don't Speak for Themselves, he believes numbers need to be injected and interrogated with doubt: through words, pictures, moving image, music. Paolo is searching for a new way to represent the Annual Accounts, the grand narrative of the corporate world.

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Numbers don't speak for themselves

Journeying into ideas about accounting and governance

"The unknown and the unknowable" — sounds like documentary making. But I'm talking about accounting.

Last year, almost by fluke, but not by coincidence, I joined the Human Business Group at University of Edinburgh, established by Professor Paolo Quattrone (@PaoloQuattrone) - the University's new Chair in Accounting, Governance and Social Innovation. After spending five years on the production of Future My Love, I'd become very interested in the junction of humanity and business: how we govern our affairs, how we count things, and how we represent them outside monetary terms. Paolo is a prolific scholar, originally from Palermo, who has studied and taught worldwide, including at Oxford and Madrid, before joining Edinburgh.

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NAE PASARAN - Kickstarter Campaign

We’re just over half way through our very first Kickstarter campaign for feature-length documentary Nae Pasaran. The film began life as a Bridging the Gap in 2013, directed by Felipe Bustos Sierra and screened to great acclaim in festivals worldwide. Ultimately, it opened the doors to a much bigger story, one that takes us from Scotland to Chile and back again. 

It comes with some surprise that we haven't run our own crowd-funding campaign in the past. We've written extensively about it on our blog, we've supported several and we recognise that for some projects, it's become an essential way for filmmakers to not only raise funding, but perhaps more importantly, to engage with their audiences early on. Here's how it came about for us: 

Nae_Pasaran_-_The_Palace.jpgShorts being turned into features is less frequent than you might think but this story has an endless capacity to keep giving. The tale of the Scottish workers defying Pinochet is courageous and playfully told, and the relevance of their action couldn't be more poignant today. It quickly became clear that this story is a piece of the bigger picture that makes up Chile's recent history, a history that sent out ripples internationally and is still fresh in people's mind.

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Libyan Stories: What’s up at the border today?

Throughout 2014 we’ve been working with sixteen graduates from the Tripoli Art Academy to produce 4 x 3’ and 4 x 10’ films for our latest set of short stories, this time from Tripoli, Libya. The core idea of the workshop was to introduce young filmmakers to a new form of storytelling that is less news based, encouraging them to develop a love for creative documentary. The majority of them already had knowledge of the industry and brought with them their technical skills and experience of working for local Libyan broadcasters. The training would enable them to explore the chaos of their country through creative documentary and to connect their artistic voices to the rest of the world.

Libyan Stories

The delivery of the workshop was due to take place over a period of seventeen weeks, from February to June. However, we faced many delays due to the unsettled political situation in Tripoli and only just reached the finish line in December. It has been a real challenge for the participants to keep going through moments of complete isolation, without any contact to us, and often to each other. With so much violence and chaos around them, it is sometimes hard to find the motivation to keep going, especially when creating short films.

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