Eva Weber's new film Black Out is launching at IDFA in Amsterdam today. SDI's Agata Jagodzinska spoke to her ahead of the premiere. This interview is the first in a little series about what has happened to our Bridging the Gap alumni in the years since...
What attracted you to focus on documentaries in your filmmaking career?
I think there is real power in documentaries. The beauty of it is that no matter how much you plan and prepare for your shoot, and imagine what you will film, there will always be those unexpected moments that you can't plan for, and it’s those moments that can really transform a film. Moments of beauty or pain, of real life, that surprise you and make you think. It makes the filmmaking experience very special. There is something extraordinary when you think, wow, I would have never thought of this but you see it happening right in front of you and you capture it, real life writing its own story.
What is the best way for an aspiring filmmaker to find his/her style and get their name out there?
I believe the most important thing is to work out what connects with you on an emotional level, and the stories you want to tell as a filmmaker - to find your own voice. I believe you need to think about what you want to say as an individual and how you want to say it. Before you start filming, I also find it important to think about the visuals of a film and how you can visually convey what is important in a story. Once the film is done, it’s really about making sure it is seen, through festivals, broadcast or online. Whatever route you decide to take, you need to keep on working at it, in the end it is all about perseverance and resilience.
Based on your experience, do you think there is enough support out there for up-and-coming filmmakers, who may not be ready for their first feature but want to continue making films?
It's not an easy time for filmmakers right now, there is not a lot of funding in general, and definitely there is not a lot of money for short documentaries or short film schemes. I think Bridging The Gap is one of the few schemes in the UK that funds short documentaries for the big screen. I feel it is important to build your own support network, to find like-minded filmmakers to work with and exchange experiences. Guiding Lights or the Women in Film and Television mentoring scheme are great schemes, and have helped me a lot.
Was making films through schemes such as Bridging The Gap any different from the experiences you had making films in the past?
What I loved about Bridging the Gap was that it offered me both the support and the freedom to make the film I really wanted to make. I knew that there were always people at SDI I could turn to for advice but at the same I never felt anyone was pressuring me to make a certain type of film. It was a great way to develop my own voice and explore different ways of making documentaries.
Watching your films there seem to be a theme across them all, portraying people in relation to places, is that something you wanted you emphasise? Do you feel inspired by industrial environment? If often appears as a character in your films.
Most of my films so far have been set in cities, and in particularly London. I’m fascinated by how urban environments shape our relationships with other people and the way we live.
Obviously filmmaking isn’t always a fairy-tale and can get pretty stressful, what were the biggest challenges you had to overcome in your filmmaking career?
One of the biggest challenges is to find a way to make independent filmmaking financially viable, so you can live from what you do and keep on making films. It takes a lot of time and money to develop and make films, and a lot of the time this work is unpaid. The question is how do you get to a point where you can make the films you want to make and actually get paid for them.
We are catching you at a very exciting time as your most recent film, the mid-length doc Black Out, is about to premiere at IDFA. What is your next project?
At the moment, I am in development with a feature-length fiction/documentary hybrid film set in China. I am planning to go out to China early next year to shoot the trailer for this. I have also been awarded funding to make a short fiction film through the BFI shorts scheme, which I am very excited about.
Your newest film, Black Out sounds like a great story, illustrating "how children reconcile their daily lives in one of the world’s poorest countries (Guinea) with their desire to learn." It’s well known that there are no good films without a good story, so what advice would you give to someone who is thinking about applying for Bridging The Gap, in terms of choosing a subject for a documentary?
In many ways, for me, this goes back to the first question, in that I believe that it has to be something that you respond to on an emotional level; and it's really about trying to work out and understand how you want to tell your story and finding the right style and the right approach to it. In the end, it always comes down to an emotional connection between you and the film you want to make. You need to find your own way of making documentaries in your own voice.
With its 10th year coming up, Bridging the Gap has just launched a new call for applications. Deadline is on 3 December.
Here are the IDFA screeening times for Black Out. Tonight's world premiere is already sold out.