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
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:
Shorts 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.Read more
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.
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.Read more
This week IDFA announced that Maite Alberdi received The Alliance of Women Film Journalists' EDA Award for Best Female-Directed Documentary for Tea Time (Chile). Noe Mendelle, director of Scottish Documentary Institute, has just arrived back from Amsterdam and writes about the film and why it deserves every bit of praise it receives.
Maite and her producer Clara, might be young looking and petite in size, but they're already giants in the world of documentary. Their first film The Lifeguard also premiered at IDFA (2011) and won many awards. As a director Maite has developed a highly particular style that creates an intimate portrayal of the characters she works with, through everyday stories in small-scale worlds with big close ups and a very gentle pace.
I was delighted to be involved in the development stage of their latest film Tea Time, when they took part in my documentary workshops at DocMontevideo forum three years ago.Read more
Noé Mendelle, director of Scottish Documentary Institute recently attended CPH:DOX for the first time. Here she writes about 'The Look of Silence,' the much anticipated follow up to Joshua Oppenheimer's Oscar-nominated feature, 'The Act of Killing.' This time, with an equally compelling and devastating narrative, we hear from the victims instead of the victors of Indonesia's communist massacres in the 1960s.
Last night, in the glamorous Hotel D'Angleterre, the award ceremony for CPH:DOX was held - all glitz and good humour. My colleagues in Copenhagen are such good nature and company.
I was all the more pleased to be there because Edinburgh was amongst the many cities around Europe to take part in the Europe-wide release of 1989 for the opening of the festival. SDI is always eager to join hands with our beloved international documentary community.
Many awards were given out. The least surprising and yet the most deserved went to The Look of Silence by Joshua Oppenheimer. Joshua, despite his Oscar nomination in 2014 and huge international acclaim for The Act of Killing, received his award with great emotion and humbleness, making sure to share the spotlight with his most admired producer Signe Byrge Sorensen.
The Look of Silence, is the story of a young optician, going round his community and openly confronting the men who tortured and killed his brother during the '65-'66 Indonesian genocide. Murderers, who are still in power...Read more
Scott Harris is an Edinburgh based documentary filmmaker who has taken part in SDI’s Bridging The Gap and Interdoc schemes. Last year he wrote two guest posts about the online release of his first film, Being Ginger, and he’s back with a case study about the crowdfunding campaign of his newest project, An American Ginger In Paris.
For the last year I’ve been planning to do a crowdfunding campaign for my second film. The biggest issue I had was trying to figure out a reasonable goal. Every campaign is different but I tried to talk to filmmakers who had raised $30,000 and $50,000 to see how big their mailing list was at the start, how much of their money came from that list, and how much came from people who were new to them. Unfortunately I found it difficult to get accurate information.
The only advice I got came from an Indiegogo presentation at Hot Docs where they suggested I figure out how much I could expect to raise from friends and family and set my goal at three times that number. But I had 2,500 people on my mailing list. I hoped I could get considerably more than that.
Last month I finished a Kickstarter campaign for my second film, An American Ginger In Paris (AAGIP), bringing in $15,788 towards a goal of $15k. I spent last week looking over the numbers to see where the money came from and thought it might interest a few others.Read more
Duncan currently works with us at Scottish Documentary Institute having graduated from the Edinburgh College of Art. His graduate film Radio Silence has travelled round a number of festivals and was nominated for a BAFTA Scotland New Talent award. His earlier film The Lady with the Lamp about his Mother was also shown at festivals before going on to receive over 300,000 views overnight when premiering online. He wrote about this for us in a previous post.
All of this put him in a great position to apply for Bridging the Gap, so how did he go about doing it?
After graduating from the Edinburgh College of Art, I was faced with going through what I’ve taken to calling the ‘post-graduation dip’. About 50% of my friends, if not more, left Edinburgh, and the world suddenly became a dramatically quieter place. I moved back home, became more single than I’d ever been in my life, and got through a lot of Netflix…
There’s a number of opportunities/paths available for a reasonably young aspiring filmmaker in Scotland, I targeted the only documentary specific one - Bridging the Gap. Think up an idea, write a proposal, get it submitted. That became my aim.
“What film proposal justifies 8k funding?” I thought to myself.Read more
It's that time of the year again, we're getting ready for Bridging The Gap 2014; our call for applications will open very soon. In the coming weeks we will publish new blog posts from previously participating filmmakers, who will share their personal experiences in the process, and give you tips on how to apply this year.
First up, Rosie Reed Hillman, who not only managed to make Cailleach, a beautiful short film, but who also had her first baby during the process. Rosie, we salute you.
My passion for filmmaking is born out of my interest in people, their lives and the stories they have to tell. I had completed an MA in Visual Anthropology just as I was applying for Bridging the Gap. Prior to doing my MA, my background was in social care, predominantly in homelessness and supporting survivors of domestic abuse, which gave me the opportunity to work with and support people with compelling and humbling life stories.
For me documentary film is all about the relationship you make with people, respecting their stories and engaging them in the film making process. Applying for Bridging the Gap seemed like a great way to move on with my filmmaking practice, bringing all my experiences together and getting the opportunity to make a cinematic piece, after receiving lots of amazing training and mentoring.
Also, with a real budget - how could I not apply!?Read more
“Staged financing must become the film business’s immediate goal.”
– Ted Hope, September 2013
Over a series of blog posts I’ve been looking at some challenges that film and documentary are dealing with online. In a conclusion to the series looking at what can be done, I explore the limits and opportunities around crowdfunding.
Crowdfunding’s lack of sophistication around risk
Much of investment is about dealing with risk. A backer of a project – be that an equity or debt investor who is hoping to see some kind of profit, or a crowdfunding supporter who wants to get their perks and see the finished film – has to predict risk. Normally, the closer a project goes from idea to release – from pitch to screen – the lower that risk gets; in other words, it's reducing all the time. To reflect this, in the majority of business investments, the first ‘angel' investors will normally put in the least and get the most equity, and as subsequent funding rounds continue, new investors put in greater amounts and get less relative share, but more value as the business is now worth more. As risk decreases, the cost of participation increases, just as there are far more ideas that get turned into scripts than scripts that get made into movies, or movies that get a theatrical release.
But crowdfunding, not technically an investment, is flat and treats all types of backer the same. At the start backers have to decide if a project looks viable and convincing, pay their money and hope for the best. It’s an investment of faith and confidence when 75% of all crowdfunded projects arrive late and a quarter over six months late (according to a July 2013 study). Some end up cancelled (examples here or here), which damages the whole space as they will doubtless put some people off backing a crowdfunding project again.
The problem is arguably even more of a challenge with flexible crowdfunding where projects can miss their target and end up raising far less than they need but still cash in. On Indiegogo, 80% of projects raise less than a quarter of their target, meaning often there isn't the money to deliver the project or to do it to the standard promised. This is a problem both for the creative, on whose shoulder the stress and reputation rests, and the backer, whose money is at stake. Meanwhile, the crowdfunding space depends on people having a good experience, backing a project and doing it again.
Yet the money is almost never all needed at the very start. For a lot of creative projects, some money is needed to pay some wages and overheads over the many months or years it will take on an ongoing basis – so it could trickle in. Indeed, the biggest cost might be towards the end during post-production or when 1,000 DVDs need to be pressed or a dozen DCPs created. By that time the risk is considerably lower – if a book is ready to print or a film fit to screen, there's less risk about delivery, while it’s easier to assess the quality at that stage.
Rolling with it
Is there space for a rolling or staged crowdfunding that drips money into the project throughout its creation? It seems to resonate with how Ted Hope (pictured) has been arguing the indie film world urgently needs to adopt staged investor financing to get more people investing in film.
It would support the kind of structure where, say, of 1,000 scripts or ideas that got funding, 200 would be supported to produce a budget, assemble a team and make a trailer/promo, 100 get shot, 50 get full post-production and packaging for delivery and 10 get extra marketing and distribution support. Investors at each stage would be taking a smaller risk and would be putting in larger sums of money – while the backer who’d taken a risk and made a good choice during at the initial idea stage could make a much bigger share of any profits.Read more
A safe canoe
The intrepid filmmakers are coming home
When we first got to Bubaque from Bissau, our ferry got lost and took over 12 hours to get us to its destination. Yesterday we heard that this boat had broken down half-way through and people had been stranded without food or water for over 24 hours, only to be towed back to Bissau. So no boat for us... We had planed to rent a small plane in order to film above the canopy of the islands and pretend our cameras are birds.
That did not happen either. It seems that we would have had to confirm the confirmation that had already been confirmed. Confused? Yes, so am I. My guess is that, because of the trouble with the ferry, the plane operators received a better offer and conveniently forgot about our confirmed confirmation.
Getting out of Bubaque has proven as difficult as coming there. Anyway, we finally managed to rent a private boat and get ourselves to the mainland ready, for a long wait at the airport and another sleepless night in Bissau.
We now have many hours of footage to translate. Need to find several native speakers in Bijagó and Creole with fluency in Portuguese. Even in Lisbon these will be hard to find... Impossible to start editing the material without subtitling. We are going to opt for an editor who speaks Portuguese so we can save English subtitling till later.Read more