Loss

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This summer we've had two big losses. We lost Billy's mum Bessie, who - at the age of 93 - leaves behind Kathleen, Kim, Billy and Mike, as well as many grand children and great grand children. She's had an extraordinary life spanning war, several complicated marriages, motherhood, various family member's addictions, various family member's successes... She's diligently cared for many; both as nurse and carer, as well as mother, grandmother and great grand mother. She's navigated single motherhood in northern Scottish farmland and built a solid beautiful family up there too. At the age of 45 she went back to college to train as a nurse and at the age of 60 she performed topless on a London stage. She enjoyed celebrity and the intimate company of inspiring artists and dancers, travelling all over the world with Michael. She shared the limelight on stage with him and the urban delights, frenzy and the blur of the backstage and touring life in the 80s and 90s. A couple of days after Bessie passed away, we had news of a more shocking tragedy, her great grand daughter Kirstin was in a coma and a few days later passed away too. Little Kirstin was only 16 and had not yet started living her life to the full. She leaves behind her a shocked and grieving family, who will never get to know all the things she might have got up to with her life. Our hearts go out to Phil, Elma and Kyle who will miss her so terribly, it's hard to process it - and of course all her friends and extended family too.

Bessie's Funeral

Cannes 2017

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Very cool to be in Cannes again this year with Gaëlle and Nathalie with some excellent meetings for La Fille de l'Estuaire. Lovely hanging out with Robbie Ryan and friends and getting a chance to see excellent world premiere films. My favourite was Ruben Östlund's The Square. But I was most moved going to see Kaouther Ben Hania's La Belle et la Meute - which had a standing ovation at the end.

I had a great surprise when Kyla announced she was shortlisted for the ShortsTV Pitch competition in Cannes. I told her I couldn't think of anything I'd enjoy less than standing in front of people in the UK Tent pitching. But bless her she went ahead and applied all the same and she was shortlisted to go. With a week ahead of the pitch she called to ask if she'd be able to get flights, a badge, somewhere to stay... So of course she did and she was great and before you knew it - she only went and WON THE BLOOMIN pitching!! So we have a €5,000 prize towards making Mercury.

Very exciting!

Kyla wins a prize at Cannes

Back from Cannes now. Really great week on the Croisette. Awful news from Manchester while we were away. My heart goes out to them. We were reminded every day of the dangers with the Cannes Film Festival security guards ramping up security. They saved the day by taking Zorana and my tweezers away - lethal weapons that those are. We did find an amazing security guard who helped sneak Kyla's beer into the Palais and thus helped her win the competition. He was so lovely - one of a kind. I had to grab his picture.

Hero security guard

Emergence and Guiding Lights

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Gaëlle is in Paris just now finishing the sound on the two scenes from the Girl from the Estuary we shot as part of the Emergence workshop. It's been such a great experience and allowed us to cast and discover our fabulous MARNIE who blew us all away on the shoot. We also got to work with a really top notch fabulous crew including Michel Amathieu on camera and Anne Seibel on production design.

Marnie - Giovanna

Another fabulous workshop I've had the privilege to be on this year - and which is sadly coming to an end - is the Guiding Lights scheme. All too fast, but it has been good! Past entries will show how it kicked off in Galway, and who the other participants were. But I haven't yet mentioned the key component of it all (and which continues until October) ... my amazing mentor Amanda Posey from Wildgaze! Best known perhaps for producing Fever Pitch, An Education, Brooklyn and most recently Their Finest with Gemma Arterton.

Amanda Posey

It's actually hard to work out who will make a good mentor. The Guiding Lights experts (Emily Kyriakides and Alex Thiele) share lists of industry people to consider, and help enormously to navigate the process. A good mentor needs to have the skills and experience that make them busy people, yet have the generosity to make time to share their knowledge and insights with you. It is so individual - it might not work out if you just don't hit it off in some way. So with all that in mind, I feel incredibly lucky to have found all that and more in Amanda. She is enormously busy, running a successful company and slate of projects and making time for her young family, yet also manages to carve out time to mentor me meaningfully too. This is invaluable. It was actually in conversations with her writer husband Nick Hornby that the desire to work with her was cemented. He was one of the GL experts answering questions for a week, and in so many of his answers he mentioned Amanda in such a way that it was clear what a great producer she is.

And so our final day was a pitch to a panel of: David Segal Hamilton (BFI) / Celine Coulson (Film4) / Jeremy Baxter (Riverstone Pictures) / Hilary Davis (Bankside) / Alex Stolz (Film Disruptors)

Final GL8 pitch day.png

And then a party at the Picturehouse Central where they handed out the little booklets with all the Guiding Lights mentees.

After so many disappointing results one after the other (and the fear of what's to come in June) - Great news about the French election results!! We can all breathe again.

Rachel Maclean in Venice

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Very exciting to be going to Venice today to see Rachel Maclean's Scotland + Venice show Spite Your Face which looks like it's going to be amazing!!! Of course everything Rachel does just IS amazing - and extraordinary to see how it will work in that beautiful old church.

Screen Shot 2017-05-10 at 08.08.01.png

I haven't been to Venice since I was 11, so I'm also very much looking forward to strolling around the canals and seeing some of the art exhibitions that are on there during this year's Venice Biennale - we'll see Damian Hirst's comeback Treasures from the wreck of the Unbelieavable, and maybe there will be time to drop in and see Cerith Wyn Evans at Lorcan's Gallery and Nancy Foutts exhibition as part of Gavin Turk's COLLECTION - all in Venice Biennale...

Clermont and Berlin

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I'm finally back after a couple of weeks on the road doing Jury Service for the International Section of the Clermont Ferrand Short Film Festival and then rushing off to the Berlinale, and it feels great to be back in London.

International Jury panel CF

The jury were Colombian director Franco Lolli, Romanian actress Madalina Constantin, Kaouther Ben Hania (whose film Le Belle et Le Meute has been selected for Un Certain Regard in Cannes!!!) and Korean director Daniel Byun, and our lovely CF helper was Floriane Decory.

We had a great time, and were really well looked after by astoundingly perfectly bilingual Tim Redford and the fabulous Laurent Crouzeix. We watched 75 shorts over a week, which was very intense but also hugely rewarding. Here's a list of some of our winners in this article. I also found this article about the 20 top directors to track at Clermont, which really aptly lists some of the really exciting new talent to watch. I was particularly impressed by a few of the films and filmmakers - unfortunately rarely possible to get 5 jury's consensus on everything and so few awards to go round! Such a shame those directors will never know how long and hard some of their films were defended and cherished - For instance, beyond the ones we did name - I absolutely loved In Kropsdam Is Ideren Gelukkig by Dutch director Joren Molter (as did a few of my colleague jury members. Same goes for Coin Boy from director Chuan-Yang Li. It took the jury a full day of deliberation to get to a final decision!

Jury at knife point

Marc Reisbig's third short film Working with Animals was really funny. I really liked Swedish director Daniel Sawka's Icebox and also thought Red Apples from George Sikharulidze was interesting.

Nice article with pretty picture of Laurent Crouzeix

Clermont Ferrand international jury panelBackstage FlorianeClosing night celebrations

And what will 2017 bring?

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With half our house under siege with subsidence work, we were happy to see the new year in out in Melbourne Australia this year - which in effect meant we celebrated it a good 11 hours before everyone in the UK. Turns out Australia is a great place for New Year and fireworks and Christmas day on the beach...

New Years Eve in Melbourne

This week Teresa May paves the way for pulling out of the EU, Obama steps down as US president and Trump takes his place in the White House in a couple of days - his official inauguration on 20th of Jan... Again it's Michelle who makes the most moving speech.

So goodness knows what lies ahead this year! I liked the Scottish Sunday Herald's TV guide entry (as posted by Billy Bragg) - something that seems straight out of a bad soap for sure! How all of this will impact on the 2017 zetgeist, policy, and generally people's everyday lives?

Well in good old producing tradition, we plough on regardless and make the most of whatever the situation will be - but with even more URGENCY. And so we prepare for Émergence, a fantastic new opportunity that has come our way for the Girl from the Estuary. We will be prepping two or three scenes from the film (casting, recceing and shooting) under the tutelage of industry experts in Paris - cool.

The lineup for this winter will be to attach French distribution and World sales to raise the rest of the finance for The Girl from the Estuary, whilst progressing the development work on the rest of the slate. I am very much looking forward to meeting my Guiding Lights mentor very soon who, if all goes well, will guide me towards successful outcomes. We spent a fantastic GL8 day with script consultant and industry stalwart Kate Leys, who gave us her insights, helped us encapsulate our projects into one sentences, and encouraged us to pitch our projects to each other - and then receive the feedback silently (absolutely NO speaking and no answering questions), attentively and most importantly with marked gratitude (a slice of cake, a bacon sandwich...). Very wise and useful advice to start the year with.

Guiding Lights Kate Leys Day

I will be part of the international jury at Clermont Ferrand this year, so I am looking forward to discovering a lot of new talent - although quite daunting prospect as there will be 75 short films to watch!!! And then it will be straight on to Berlin from there for the 67th Berlinale.