Remember feeding the penguins?

Running up to the opening of our new Bridging The Gap call on 2 September we are publishing blog posts from four filmmakers selected in the previous call. They will give you tips for a good application.

Felipe Bustos Sierra is a self-taught filmmaker with Belgium-Chilean roots. He is born to a journalist who was an exile of Pinochet’s military coup. This spurred him into making his Bridging The Gap film Nae Pasaran.

Felipe.jpg Remember that instant on your first day of work – when someone asked you to froth some milk, check the gate or feed the penguins – and you realised: 'I don’t know the first step to any of this!' That thought never seems to go away when making a film.

Collaboration is key, especially with more experienced filmmakers. Bridging The Gap offers a depth of experience, a wide network of collaborators within the Scottish Documentary Institute and beyond at each stage of the story, and allows you and each participant to become mirrors for each other’s projects.

After three short films done on little to no budget, it was comforting (I use 'comforting' lightly, as comforting as filmmaking gets) to be part of an established team backed with a respectable budget. Nae Pasaran required access to many eyewitnesses, the use of specific archival footage and music, hibernating classified documents, and three minutes of 3D animation. The support from the Scottish Documentary Institute unlocked doors to new techniques, earned the trust of contributors almost instantly, and secured the help of dedicated researchers.

It’s far from over as the film is now being submitted to festivals by SDI. More doors, new doors, and a more confident boot to open them.

I am now researching a larger film on the solidarity movements for Chile in the UK and their relevance today and looking forward to seeing how Nae Pasaran is received outside of Scotland. It is going to be seen throughout the UK in September as part of the commemorations for the 40th anniversary of the coup in Chile, and that alone is worth everything.

I would suggest these things...

  • Tell a story that matters to you. There are not many chances to get this sort of spotlight early on for a filmmaker in the UK. Your story needs to remain vital to you under the puzzled gaze of others who hear about it for the first time. If it’s a historical account, it needs to remain relevant beyond the unmerciful outcome of history, and it needs to stand out in Google searches.

  • Be ambitious but know your limits. Coming from a no-budget background, it does feel like a giant leap forward with plenty of opportunities to try what you couldn’t before, and for a moment, it feels like you can do anything. Short stories require focus and boundaries to drive your point home in a very small amount of time.

  • Be honest with yourself and those you work with. Collaboration is key and picking the right people to work with is critical. If it doesn’t work, say it clearly and say it early.

All the best to you.

Felipe Bustos Sierra directed Nae Pasaran, which tells the story of a small Scottish town where, in 1974, factory workers refuse to carry out repairs on war plane engines, acting in solidarity against the violent military coup in Chile. Four years pass, then the engines mysteriously disappear in the middle of the night.

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