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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

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.

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.

Looking back at 2016

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Looking back at this time last year, we were putting in our production funding application for the Girl from the Estuary into the BFI's first feature fund, in anticipation of the Brexit results in June. Never dreaming the good people from the UK would vote to leave the EU, but uncertain all the same. Better not make the result of that, a feature in the BFI's considerations!! Here we are a year later, and very very thankful of that decision, and their decision, and now looking at what lays ahead as Teresa May paves her brutal way forward.

Last week I had to fill out a whole bunch of Media questionaires for all the workshops I did last year - most Media funded. Ah we will miss that indeed!!! Who will fund our training now? There was Creative England's Market Trader which took place over several weeks starting early summer until the end of the year. A development programme that prepares emerging film producers for working in international markets, by taking the participants through intensive residential workshops and mentoring with Mia Bays, Julia Short, Bea Neumann and Peter Ettedgui.

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Our version of Market Trader took us to Galway Film Fair 2016, which I guess for me was a bit of a shame as i was going there anyway with the Guiding Lights! In any case - all a Great experience we wouldn't have without Media funding into Creative Skillset.

There was the EP2C workshop which I participated (also Media funded!!). A week long residential post production workshop split 50 / 50 between emerging producers and post production supervisors. Again run by fantastic mentors Diana Elbaum (Entre Chien et Loup), Roshana Behesht Nedjad Behesht Nedjad, and Niko Remus and their team of experts. Most notably NL post production supervisors Hans van Helden and Neeltje van der Heijdenn. Another great experience and based out in Halle, Germany, making us still feel very much part of Europe, sharing our practises together.

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And of course there are almost my fabulous Skillset trainees Amy and Maria (again something we might loose in the future, and what a terrible shame that would be!!)

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But there you go, there were many fantastic things that happened last year. Of course very sad things too. Ending with an Australian Christmas for me and the family (Christmas day on the beach!! - now that was really special. It made up for the house being a building site, falling down with subsidence and all ...

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Here's two jolly pics to keave you with! Happy New Year one and all...

Christmas Day Santa in Oz

23rd June came and, after lots of speculation, the UK voted to leave the European Union. Well 52% of the UK people who voted did.

What can I say?!

Shit!

Why was there a referendum on this? It's very complicated. People study these things full-time to understand all the intricacies, the ins and outs - the good the bad of the organization. What do we know beyond the fact that we have freedom to move and trade within the EU? I have to confess - I have no idea who my MEP is! ... and yes - faceless Belgian bureaucrats make decisions and directives about things like pillow density and what size a banana has to be. But for heavens sake!

So what next? Should we expect a referendum on bringing back the death penalty? Public lynching? Bring back slavery?

Politicians never usually have any qualms about breaking promises. I understand Cameron thought it was his only way to guarantee being elected, but since when do politicians follow through where it matters? They had no qualms about upping university fees despite promises not to, and plenty other things they didn't feel they could follow through on. So why this?

Back in January 2013, the prime minister committed to an In-Out referendum on Britain's membership in the EU. He chose to make this pledge to try to unite his Conservatives, see off a challenge from the rising populist party UKIP and put Labour, unwilling to countenance a vote on the EU, on the back foot.

When Cameron triumphed in last year's parliamentary election, becoming the first Conservative leader in 23 years to win a majority in the House of Commons, he was boxed in on Europe.

Why are the people voting on such a thing when many don't even know what they are voting for? What was there to gain?

There are a lot of very disappointed racist bigots going around the UK just now, flummoxed that they've woken up in a post LEAVE victory to discover all those bloody foreigners are still here!!! Now they feel justified to shout at people on buses, in shops, in cinema queues: Paki go home!! We voted Leave - so leave!!

Wow.

A lot of people are justifying the vote saying, it's all fine. We'll negotiate a settlement in which we get to keep all the benefits, just don't have to shoulder the responsibility or the unreasonable costs. AH! How bloody typical! Our fellow EU partners just love that one. President Martin Schulz's response to that is let's not fuck around! You want out. You can bloody well pull your socks up and get the hell out of here fast. He's warned Cameron that his decision to delay the start of Brexit negotiations until his successor is in place will not be fast enough!

Can't blame them, but really. It's a mess and hopefully the people in charge will be good adults, and good divorcing parents, and make considered choices and decisions - trying not to exacerbate wounds and cement ill feelings, but try to do what is the best for economic stability and peace.

Which leads me on to the next most peculiar thing.

This great big Tory mess seems to be mainly falling on Jeremy Corbyn's table. All we hear in the press, in the pub and on the streets is bloody Jeremy, why won't he resign. He's to blame. It's all his fault, HE's got to go!

Who has led this spin? And why is everyone biting?

Labour was unwilling to countenance a vote on the EU when Cameron made it his mandate back in 2013. So why should Corbyn share a public platform with Cameron to sort out the mess - a mess he had not invited in the first place. What difference would it make beyond making Corbyn look like someone weak who swings any which way the spin doctors ask him to.

At a time when the UK has established the results of mob rule, and the tactics of displaced finger pointing as a means to secure one's personal wellbeing, to the detriment of anyone else's - I would have thought a leader who cares more about doing what's right would have been a welcome change.

Where is Atticus Finch when you need him?

Ironically, the angry disenfranchised working classes - the ones who voted resoundly to leave, are historically always disregarded by politicians, who just want to make use of their labour, but don't want to consider their well being. But there was Corbyn, fighting their cause, expressing his deep concerns over the results of austerity; exposing the conservative ongoing policies of spending billions cutting taxes for the richest families and for the most profitable businesses while squeezing the poorest parts of the population.

The deep anger felt by an ever-growing and very large part of the people of the UK has been deflected once again from those who should shoulder the responsibility (the government of the country they live in!!) for these policies, and instead has been pointed at a faceless "foreign" organization known as the EU.

People love to find someone else to blame.

So the EU are to blame for why we can't get a job, we can't afford to buy a house, we can't afford to live in London where all housing has been inflated for because this suits the market.

Easy to fan the powerlessness and fear everyone feels, faced with the threat of swathes of endless desperate immigrants into the country.

What will be the cost translating all these real world problems into localised protectionist and reactionary behaviour.

Where are the responsible considered adults?

No one wants to be responsible for what happens next. Cameron resigns instantly before he's even asked to. Gove and Boris - well let's not even mention them. How crazy! And now all people can do is blame Corbyn.

Anyway, here we are now, the quiet after the storm and I'm still reeling from it all. Who knows exactly what's going to happen?

On a personal level: Producing films is hard enough without your country trying to kaibosh you.

The BFI have been hugely supportive, and the creative community as a whole is trying to pull together, to find positive solutions: Business as usual for now.

I can only hope that the rest of Europe will do the same.

Fingers crossed we can continue to co-produce regardless!

With the new year ahead of us, I was looking back on 2015 and taking stock of all the events and progress made. I had the great fortune of being accepted onto two wonderful labs, and Cinemart and Producer's Network at Cannes (thanks to Marit Van Den Elshout of Cinemart), which meant great progress and growth for me as a producer and my feature projects - and, well - a lot of lovely travel thrown in.

Gaëlle and I started the year last year presenting La Fille de l'Estuaire aka The Girl from the Estuary at Cinemart in Rotterdam. It has been an ambition of mine to go there with a project since 2009 when I participated in the Rotterdam Producer's Lab. It was a great experience, the team were so supportive, the size and centrality of the festival (and the inclusive canteen lunches) make for a very convivial experience as well. Pitching the project back to back 30 times in a row over the course of three or four days also gave us so much clarity about our story, our drive and working out what was important to us. It was a really positive way to launch into the new development period with the support of Creative England, and consultancy script editor Franz Rodenkirchen.

Tony Resort Maia Lithuania

I also participated in the Maia Workshops, which involved three one week workshops for emerging producers, with three different phases of focus. The first (in April) was called Creative Aspects which focused on why you might choose to produce a particular story or script, how best to develop it, what basic things you need to take into account before you get started and how to manage the key relationships within the process. I believe I already wrote an entry about the first workshop which took place in Sardinia, so I won't go on again about the fabulous 5 star setting, the abundancy of amazing fresh Sardinian meals, the pink flamingoes and the fabulous team. The second workshop was set in Lithuania in July, in an eco resort by a lake in the woods in Trakai, near Vilnius. This workshop was called legal and financial issues and I think the title is self-explanatory. With this being the middle workshop, I think all the participants really bonded during this week, and the atmosphere was really special, maybe also knowing everyone would meet again soon. The week kicked off with Italian producer Carlo Cresto-Dina who showed us his film Le Meraviglie (The Wonders), and then told us a bit about his various producing experiences including the woes of producing arthouse films nowadays. We had sessions on successfully completing Media applications with the tutelage of Lithuanian Media representative Eva Brazdžionytė and our producing mentor Danijel Hocevar who used one of his project applications to walk us through it all (which later turned out to be a successful application so congratulations to him!). We had a session on Business pitching with Juliane Schulze who i had already met through the Peacefulfish Closing The Gap workshop in Berlin which involved colour post it notes and plastering the walls in posters.

Business Pitches

We had a rather raucous and memorable coproduction session under the mentorship of German Lawyer Stefan Rüll. I'm not sure it went very well. Imagine Nikita Kruschev and a banging shoe. But it was fun and I still laugh when I think of my Lithuanian partner (Klementina Remeikaitė) shouting at our "Polish coproducers" that they were weird, and I will have enduring memories of raised voices and waving fists at Liljiana Djuricko ("from Poland") and Daniel Krueger ("from Germany"). Somehow we still managed to remain friends afterwards! And of course we had our fabulous group work on scripts and development with our invaluable leaders Danijel Hocevar and Alejandro de la Fuente, as well as a fun tour of Vilnius.

Vilnius Day Trip

I loved the arty bit of town (Užupis) where they had their own independent republic cordoned off, bordered by a river and full of hippy types hanging out drinking, painting and playing music. The third workshop was set in Bologna in

Bologna

September, and was called marketing and distribution - and again self explanatory! Beautiful old university town, full of students out late night drinking in the streets - although they seemed to have quite a strict 'everyone off the streets at midnight' policy, at which point everyone crammed inside bars.

Bologna Cineteca

There we were mainly based between the impressive Biblioteca and Cineteca di Bologna. This week was definitely my favourite of the three in terms of what we did, what we learnt and how it progressed me and my project. For sure we were looked after like Kings and ate fabulously every day and evening. We became very familiar with Nonno and Nonna (who sat at the same table every evening)'s pasta and risotto.

Bologna Trattoria

We had a great day with Peter Jaeger from Autlook Film Sales. The next day we had Linda Beath back, who had us working on finance plans - which was great for me, and it was great fun working with Liljiana on that. We had the pleasure of meeting Mathias Noschis from Alphapanda who as well as telling us all sorts of stuff on marketing strategy, was lots of fun to hang out with. And the lovely Cynthia de Souza from The Works tutored us on the last day and oversaw everyone's pitches. It was great to get her positive energy as well as the British perspective, as I'm generally the only UK person in these things and we come at the whole coproducing thing from such a different angle. Francesca van der Staay had also joined the Maia core team, and she was a lovely welcome addition too. For me a special bonus of the week was that when I pitched The Girl from the Estuary in our group work, I now had the incredibly helpful addition of the stills we shot, with the photographer Stuart McCarthy and Lowri Jackson as our "Nathalie" and our mega-find Cressida Lorenz as our "Marnie" for the Torino Film Lab (coming up the next month). The group responded really well and fellow participants Michal Kráčmer and Magda Puzmujzniak (who have been hearing me pitching over the past 10 months) finally GOT the film and loved it!! Hoorah - ready at last. It's incredible how important images are to complete the picture!! As a bonus, Graziella Bildesheim - who is in the instigator of the Maia Workshops - also invited us to Rome in October during the Film Festival to experience the MIA market and participate in a workshop there too. So great to be in Rome and a fabulous opportunity to dine with JB Babin (who I hadn't properly reconnected with since Rotterdam 2009) and Claire Launay from Arte. I must say there was a bit of a heavy heart at the end knowing we might none of us ever see each other again - although - as it is in this game - the likelihood is that we should at least all see each other at Berlin or Cannes every now and again, and who knows in each others' home towns or on future coproductions together. Well that's the aim after all! I have already connected my Serbian writer Gorana Jovanovic (met at Nisi Masa last year) with Serbian producer Liljiana Djuricko - and who knows what collaborations might therein lie!!

Beach leaping Sardinia

Gaëlle and I also were awarded a place on the Torino Film Lab's Framework which rounded the year off beautifully in Torino at the end of November. We had a workshop for a week in Motovun in Croatia at the end of July - in a torrid heat wave unfortunately: 40 degrees without air conditioning. The picturesque little medieval village at the top of a steep hill in Istria is infamous locally for its film festival (and its olive oil), but our workshop ended as the festival began. I imagine it would be a fabulous experience for young filmmakers as the town is literally invaded by filmmakers and fans and makeshift cinema screens and people who stay up drinking and listening to music all night long. The Motovun week was an opportunity to meet the 8 other selected teams, and to work with Franz, our script consultant in face to face sessions - refreshing alternative to skype meetings. There were 4 script consultants (Franz Rodenkirchen, Antoine Le Bos, Marietta Hausswolff von Baumgarten and Leonardo Stagliano), two producers (Jean des Forêts and Cedomir Kolar), a pitch coach (Stefano Tealdi) a casting director and acting coach from France (Tatiana Vialle), a DOP from Croatia (Branko Linta), and a sound designer from Denmark (Peter Albrechtsen) and of course Matthieu and the TFL organisers. It was great getting to watch each other's previous short films on a giant outdoor screen. Fascinating seeing Laszlo Nemes's short (With a Little Patience) having seen Son of Saul in Cannes. The same camera work, seeing the holocaust from a very different perspective. It was very hard-hitting but beautiful and artistic - really amazing in fact. It was also wonderful seeing I Like Nora, Aramisova's fabulous short film. We were there only because the young Slovakian director Aramisova had a seizure and died not long after Cannes and so they came back to us to fill his place. Michal from Maia was producing that project. Strange and horrible situation.

Motovun

Motovun was a slightly subdued week overall. In the evenings everyone pretty much disbanded to their various rooms, generally only Marietta, Jack, and Charlotte stayed up for a drink and a chat before bed. Was it an element of competition maybe, with directors vying for prizes? The mentors weighing each other up against each other? Maybe the heat had something to do with it too. It was good speaking with Jean des Forêts - hard to glean the information I was after, but he gave me some very insightful feedback on my project which was useful.

Motovun Group and Sessions

So really I'm not sure how useful that week was for me considering it meant having to miss my shoot, not being there for Rachel and sacrificing my fee to be in Croatia. However, Rachel did brilliantly and Blyth Read stood by for me super efficiently in Scotland, and it was great getting to know some of the other filmmakers (Jack Faber, Danilo Caputo, Charlotte Vincent, Trent and Koutaiba Al-Janabi, László, Clara Royer, Matthieu Taponier...). On the day we were flying back the mini bus took us to the airport in Ljubljana early in the morning but our flight wasn't til later in the afternoon. So Jack and I went into the town to do some touristing. After all that heat there was a major thunder storm and downpour - like the skies had burst. Danijel was away unfortunately, but he super kindly organised for his driver to pick us up from the train station (where we left our luggage) and take us to the airport - at which point the sun came out again (More Maia love).

The Torino leg of Framework was fantastic! A week of tutorials, mentorship, inspirational talks, guidance and in general gearing us up for the pitch and beyond. One of our first sessions was with Chilean director Alejandro Fernandez Almendras. We sat in a café and discussed his thoughts and answered his questions about the script. A very very useful session full of invaluable helpful insights. Next up we watch some of the teams pitch and listen to Marten Rabarts give feedback. Again greatly useful. Then we had a session with Katriel Schory (from the Israel Film Fund who Gaëlle had met on the Jerusalem Film Lab) which was also great. Katriel gave us insight into the script, our partnership and various aspects moving foward, particularly interested in us as a female team and our very strong female protagonists in the film. Then we met with Niko Remus, who is a post production supervisor and this too was great. He is a part of EP2C which is is a project based workshop dedicated to post-production management, mainly designed for producers. Gaëlle and I had to complete a questionnaire addressing all the technical, financial and artistic post-production challenges that lie ahead - and the great thing was that this was the first time we really sat down an focused on this in earnest. We usually spend so much energy on the writing and the packaging, and the positioning, the audience, the money, the marketing - none of which feels very real or tangibly about your actual film. Preparing for and then talking to Niko was so rewarding and refreshing, and it took us both into a place where we were really making our film, and thinking about all the problematics around that.

All of these lectures, discussions and meetings went towards preparing us for our jury interview. The panel was: Paula Astorga - festival artistic director from Mexico, Benjamin Domench - producer from Argentina, Atiq Rahimi - Paris based filmmaker from Afghanistan and Fien Troch - filmmaker from Belgium. I thought the interview went really well, and I felt we were very well prepared by the time we got there. I'd say it was probably very close with 9 very strong teams and projects and probably very hard for the jury to make their final decisions. I don't know what we could have said that we didn't say - or what we might have held back on, as at the end of the day we didn't win the jury prize, however it was a really good experience and makes me feel very confident moving forwards. Winner was Jack Faber, and his producers Amir Harel and Ewa Puszczynska who delivered a really impressive pitch with a genius teaser. Well done to them and I look forward to seeing the film once it's made!

I was also super happy that our French coproducer Nathalie Algazi could come to Torino in time to help us with our pitching performance and take part in the one to one meetings with us. And Marie Sonne Jensen also from La Voie Lactée was there too. They had an airbnb flat near the Scuola Holden and so we were able to go back to theirs for practice.

Nathalie and Marie

In the end, I think perhaps the most helpful pitching practice came from the two private sessions we had with the lovely and insighful Ido Abram, the second of which Nathalie and Marie joined in. In any case the experience of standing up in front of 200 people and pitching them the project probably means anything after this will be a piece of cake!!

Torino pitch

In any case we did still win a couple of prizes! The EP2C award for me (which I am very excited about) and the Production Minds Award for Gaëlle.

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And most importantly the one to one meetings went really well, and I believe in 2016 we will probably be tying knots with people we have met thanks to these labs and workshops for sure. So many more enduring memories and experiences emerged out of all this but I've already written so much in the entry that it probably cause my little website to implode!!

Kingston degree show | June 2015

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And there it was - the end of 4 years illustration and animation degree at Kingston University. An absolutely frenetic few months getting everything finished on time - and ultimately not everything as some of the items planned for the exhibition never quite made it on time! The end of an era and the beginning of a new life.

Apoa's Art Show

There was a great turn out both in terms of the students and all their work - but also in terms of friends, family & industry coming to see what they had all done. Some really interesting animated films to watch as well, lovely to see Chris Shepherd there, animation director & Kingston tutor.

I loved watching Anna read Playa Playa and relive those moments in Portugal. So great Apoa's put it all into a most beautiful graphic novel. She's so talented it makes me super proud of her!!

Playa Playa

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