The Scottish Documentary Institute was lucky to have Bart Simpson in town for a masterclass. Of course I’m talking about the Canadian producer (and now also director) of documentary films. I first came across his work with The Corporation. The film won many awards at festivals including Sundance, Toronto, and IDFA.
(Continued from part 1.)
Woke up with the anticipation of visiting Algiers. It is such a beautiful city, built on hills and looking at the sea. People compare it to Marseilles, but actually it is more beautiful. White buildings with beautiful blue iron balcomies. Large pleasant avenues with trees and gardens, and the constant view of the sea. Having a rest from walking through the casbah, we saw that the cinematheque was playing one of my favourite films, Touki Bouki, so we went in. There were four of us! The sound kept breaking down, but it was still pleasurable to see the film on a big screen in Africa.
Time to get to airport, only to discover that we had two seats but bad luck: the pilots were on strike, so we may or may not have a plane... So we waited and waited, and two hours later we were rushed through customs (yes, it seems they can do it) and onto a plane to Tindouf. Our poor fixer Hamdi had been waiting for us there for the last 30 hours.
(Part of Lou's diary from Berlin.)
10th Feb 2012
I wake up in a small hostel room, having left Tali's flat in East Berlin. I am nearer the centre now, near Hauptbahnhof. Happily the hostel changed my booking from a 6-bed dorm to a 2-bed room, and my room-mate, the morning light reveals, is none other than Tamara Scherbak, an experimental film-maker from Canada who I already know from the talent campus at Reykjavik. More importantly, as anyone who has shared a room in a hostel will attest to, she does not snore violently.
I have one more day of freedom before the Talent Campus starts and have been warned that, once it starts, there is barely any time to watch films let alone explore. So I bolt out of the hostel early to make the most of things. It is slightly warmer: all omens are good.
The Scottish Documentary Institute has been commissioned by Aljazeera to make a six-part series on Poets in Protest. One of them is on the Sahrawi poetess Khadra who happens to be an old lady living in exile in one of the Polisario Camps in the middle of Sahara.
For those of you who do not know about the Sahrawi cause, these citizens of Western Sahara not only got colonised by the Spanish many moons ago. Once they managed to become independent, the Morrocans moved on their territory, pushed them out, and build a 3,000km wall around it. They also planted over 8 million land mines to make sure that the Sahrawi will not cross back into their land. Algeria gave the Sahrawi liberation movement, the Polisario Front, refuge on its territory and set up several camps for people to live – and so they have for the last 35 years. The war has moved into diplomacy rather than military and therefore they now live peacefully in those camps but In a state of complete dependence on international aid.
With Roxana Vilk, the producer of the series, we decided that Al Khadra will be the perfect example of grassroot poetry. She uses words instead of bullets in order to express her anger at Morocco's invasion.
Over the last few years the Scottish Documentary Institute has been cultivating close ties with Denmark, and the more we work with them the more we are envious of their system. While we go on and on talking about the politics of financing film and TV, Denmark has become one of the major European players in film – and it has a population similar to Scotland. How come?
For the first half of this year, Denmark is taking over the presidency of the EU, and to celebrate it, once again it is film that is being pushed. Danish embassies are organising screenings of some of their films all around Europe.
In UK we keep on asking: Why does a country need to spend people's tax in order to subsidise films? Why can't cinema take care of itself?
Although this headline may sound like it, this is not really a post about the independence debate in Scotland. It's more about what independent filmmakers can learn from politicians when it comes to nation-building.
I explained in my previous post about the Virtuous Circle why it's particularly important for documentary producers to take their audience with them across projects, rather than starting from scratch with every film.
In tech speak, we want a toolkit that combines Customer Relationship Management (i.e. your audience) with a Content Management System (i.e. your films, each on a dedicated website) – and fully integrates with event management and social media.
It was during last year's election campaign of the pro-independence Scottish National Party that I first came across powerful software called NationBuilder, geared towards political use but flexible enough to be used for all sorts of campaigns, including outreach to those niche audiences of documentary films...
Just a quick note to say that Amy Hardie, acclaimed director of The Edge of Dreaming and Head of Research at the Scottish Documentary Institute, has started blogging at Amy on the Edge.
Her latest post is on why impartiality is not the right aim for her.
We recommend that you sign up for updates from amyhardie.com, as Amy has some very exciting projects coming up!
(Part of Lou's diary from Berlin.)
One day from the Berlinale now and the sadism in the air has condensed into snow.
People walk around pretending its ok – but I know better.
Here's three of them as seen from the window of ex-ECA classmate and Bridging the Gap film-maker, Tali. Notice how these three lunatics have left their houses to promenade through the polar-powder, jauntilly and purposefully and, in some cases, pouting to whistle bravely like nothings wrong at all. Unfortunately the man with the hat on the corner had been in mid-stride for 3 hours. That's where bravado gets you.
(Part of Lou's diary from Berlin.)
Having finished my copy of Stasiland I now feel ready for a stay with my ex-ECA film making buddies Tali and Johanna in East Berlin. I am hugely excited about the Berlinale Talent Campus. Guest speakers include Kossakovsky, Juliette Binoche, Herzog and Mike Leigh. And the company of 300 other 'New Talents', from all walks of the film making. For what it's worth, I'll also be spilling the beans on new films at the Berlinale.
7th Feb 2012
On arrival in Berlin the moisture in my nose freezes on the short one minute walk to the airport station. An odd sensation, like having badly mixed concrete in the nostrils.
It is -18 degrees. Some say -22. The numbing cold rises rapidly up from feet to stomach. It is too cold to remove my hands from their pockets to hold the map I should be following. Better lost and moving than still and searching. My mind jumps to the lesson of Oates, the bloke who travelled with legendary 'Scott of the Antarctic'. Childhood stories say he insisted on letting the cold kill him whilst walking into the Wilderess, rather than dying standing still. Now I understand. I understand Oates. While there is movement there is hope.
It was 1997 in a Wired magazine when Nic Wistreich first read about "virtuous circles". In an article about the "New Rules for the New Economy", Kevin Kelly had come up with this law:
"In networks, we find self-reinforcing virtuous circles. Each additional member increases the network's value, which in turn attracts more members, which in turn increases value, and so on, in a spiral of benefits."
This is what Kelly's circles looked like at the time:
Yet it would take another 14 years for this concept to appear in documentary production.
Fast forward to 2011, and Nic Wistreich has become the tech consultant on an audience engagement project of the Scottish Documentary Institute, aptly named the Virtuous Circle. What is it all about?