Mining Poems or Odes at Sundance

Commissioned as part of our Bridging the Gap initiative, designed to foster emerging documentary talent, we are delighted to see Mining Poems or Odes go on to great international success. Since its première at the Edinburgh Film Festival last June the film has won a BAFTA Scotland Award for Best Short Film and is now nominated for a BAFTA for Best British Short Film. The award ceremony is this Sunday so we will have everything crossed for that one! Between these two glamorous events the film has screened at Sundance Film Festival and here the Director, Callum Rice, tells us of his experience as a young filmmaker at one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world...


The film isn’t over until received by an audience.

After the premiere of Mining Poems or Odes at the Redstone Theatre, an ex-Miner from Utah, who was at the screening, stayed behind to chat to me. He told me about the older miners who sang opera down the mines when he worked with them in the past. This man from Utah had made an instant connection with Robert Fullerton’s experience through viewing my film.

Read more

Jordan Stories


Last year at Sheffield International Documentary Festival I met Jordan filmmaker Abdelsalam, who happens to run the Jordan Film Commission Centre, and Alaa, officer for British Council in Amman. We talked about the possibility of SDI running our Stories workshop with up and coming Jordanian film talent. So, in the first week of 2016, we did. We arrived in Amman on New Years day with negative temperatures and a snowstorm. Thank goodness for lovely coffee bars with delicious ginger and lemon hot drinks!

Read more

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.

Read more

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’?

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.


Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more



get updates