Scottish Films Galore!

We're thrilled to see so many Scottish films out and about at international festivals and on your cinema screens!
This week will see the world premieres of two of our brandnew Bridging the Gap: SHIFT films: Jimmy, by Martin Smith - a moving film about the tireless work of disabled rights campaigner Jimmy McIntosh, MBE, and The Perfect Fit, by Tali Yankelevich: It's about a part of the ballet world even Black Swan did not reveal to us: Who actually makes those uncomfortable point shoes? Well there's only one factory in the whole of UK, and one special shoemaker, as you will find out!  Bridging the Gap's key supporter has again been Creative Scotland, who recently launched their new film and arts funds, in case you haven't had a look yet.
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New beginnings for SDI

We’re trying to get a handle on audiences (let’s not use “the market”). Let me rephrase that:

How can we interest individuals in what we do, the documentaries we make and the questions we – or YOU – raise with them? How do we get people involved online and in person, and perhaps affect change? And how does this translate into a more sustainable business for filmmaking as a whole? That is what we want to be working on for the next 18 months thanks to funding from Creative Scotland.

Our colleagues in North America have been doing it as a matter of necessity. They have nurtured relationships with donors, individual giving and sponsorship for a long time. It’s tempting to focus only on how much money this might “bring” to a film. What is much more interesting is how “getting to know YOU” (one by one) can be an enlightening part of the whole process, deepening our understanding of the film and its need to exist in the world. Or, in other words, how and where do you want to meet your filmmaker?

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Characters, subjects, participants, or just people?

With our Interdoc programme we have been running some clandestine whisky tasting soirees at different festivals wherever we are running sessions.  A special guest list is invited but only get to know the time and the place via a text at the last minute. Such evenings are good fun and great way of networking.

Of course we also get a few gate crashers and this time, one of them was a woman who stepped straight out of a Vogue magazine, and when I enquired who she was, she replied “but I am Melissa, the star of Melissa’s film”.

Funny enough the following day, American filmmaker David Wilson (True/False Film Festival), was questioning at the Soap Box event what should be the best or correct way to refer to our documentary subjects?

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'Best Audience' Award goes to...

If we had an award for "best audience" it would go to the city of Toronto. Every single screening at Hot Docs was packed with a crowd, which gave themselves over to the story on screen and lived through the roller coaster of emotions, laughter and tears. It was palpable.

There was a ritual: Every screening started with a humoristic advert to celebrate and thank all the volunteers who make the festival happen. Everyone applauded.

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The Perfect Sneeze: On the Hot Docs Soap Box

For the last two years Hot Docs has been experimenting with ad lib sessions and one of them is The Soap Box where you can rant, shout or just wonder aloud. This year was again hosted by filmmaker and blogger AJ Schnack, and I was selected with a few other speakers, including Peter Wintonick, to speak from the 'pulpit' of the documentary church.

moratorium on about

Ban the word "about"

Peter did a very eloquent plead to ban the word “about” at festivals and documentary forums. What a challenge! How can we talk about our films without that magical word? Why should we even consider banning it?  Well, he had a good argument: "About" leads us straight into content of the film and makes us forget that we are storytellers selling stories, not social workers outlining sets of problems.
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Rise & Shine with Berlinale Talent Campus 2011

The 9th Berlinale Talent Campus (BTC) took place February 12-17 2011, in Berlin as part of the International Film Festival, now in its 61st year. The lucky group of 350 participants who gathered in Berlin, were selected from over 4000 applications and hailed from 88 different countries. The purpose of BTC is to bring together up-and-coming filmmakers and around 150 experts for a series of masterclasses, workshops and networking events over the course of six days.

I was one of the lucky ones, and together with two filmmaker friends from Edinburgh, I made my way to Berlin on 11 February. Not only did BTC cover the cost of our flight, they also put us up in a city-centre hostel. It was a nice place, but we didn’t have very much time to spend there as BTC is 6 days of intense attending and socializing. I don’t think I made it to bed before 2am every single night.

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Steam of Documentary

DocPoint Helsinki Documentary Film Festival celebrated its 10th anniversary this year and it was high time to visit this fine festival for the first time, after much recommendation by a number of filmmakers and programmers.

"Whatever you do, make sure you are there on Thursday evening," I was told. So on Thursday we were invited to “Uunisaari” – a sauna/dinner adventure....

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The Edges of Things

"I didn't want to be a woman looking over my shoulder. I rather go towards things that frighten me – and draw attention to the situation." (Penny Woolcock)

Penny Woolcock, born 1950, grew up in Argentina's English ex-pat community before settling in England in 1970, working in factories and other jobs. Even as a school girl she was more interested in the edges of things - for example the life in the favela underneath the bridge she passed every week on the way to church. She only took to filmmaking in her thirties and never formally trained as a filmmaker, which has led to some crew members commenting: "You work really differently." Penny says: "Ignorance can be bliss!"

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How to pitch a poem

Pitching workshops can be a bit brutal. They ask you to distill your film into a sentence or paragraph and sometimes simplify your film a bit too much. Focus is good, but you do need some unknowns to keep the mystery of the filmmaking process alive, and the urge to find out more.

Our commissioned Bridging the Gap filmmakers were relieved when they realised that the directing workshop with Mike Palmieri and Donal Mosher (October Country) was not about finding the great one liner, but going deeper into the heart of their films, uncovering what makes a character great, what made the filmmakers interested in them, and how to get most from them.  It was an intense two days in which Mike and Donal gave themselves whole-heartedly to the films and filmmakers. Often it's not about discussing camera technique, or 'knowledge', but what you bring to the table as a person with life experience beyond your identity as a filmmaker.

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CPH:DOX 2010

The perfect (documentary) antidote to Sheffield Doc/Fest is definitely CPH:DOX held in Copenhagen from the 4th to the 14th of November. The festival moves at a far more laid-back pace and whilst having an industry focus with a forum, market and masterclass’ a plenty, feels so much more about celebrating creative storytelling rather than rushing around trying to catch the latest commissioner to pitch your idea to. I have a feeling that I could pitch to someone there at ‘leisure’ during one of the many food and drink parties that take place throughout the city. Being a filmmaker, of course both festival formats have to exist in order to survive and get your work out there but sometimes we get lost in trying to fund our films and forget to watch!
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I AM BREATHING
FUTURE MY LOVE
PABLO'S WINTER
STEM CELL REVOLUTIONS

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