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Minimalen Rhapsody

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Gaëlle has been in Trondheim at the Minimalen Short film festival and this evening she told us the exciting news - she's coming home with the audience prize for the short film she made as part of the Nespresso vertical shorts which premiered in Cannes in 2017!! Rhapsody in Blueberry, produced by our Girl from the Estuary co-producer, Nathalie Algazi of La Voie Lactée.

I went to a meeting this week debriefing after a survey a few producers conducted with a view to feeding into the BFI's research pre-emptive of launching the next Vision Awards in 2019.

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It is clear that it is super tough for UK emerging producers. And the things they are battling are quite hard to explain without sounding bitter. We work within an industry that by and large expects Producers to be self-funded (well because most of 'em are as highlighted by this survey!). One way or another - their role is to do whatever the job takes unconditionally and be fuelled somehow by osmosis. Unfortunately this also contributes to undermining their status within the eco-chain. As more than anything else producers are seen to be the "business entity" of the filmmaking partnership. Emerging producers who don't yet have great big long track records, serious money at their finger-tips, gatekeepers in their phone contacts or power more generally are therefore perceived as weak and of little value. Equally the fact that most films are totally unrewarding for the producer who waves their fees and overheads 78% of the time, and receives profits from the pot about .3% of the time - this also implies a deluded entrepreneur driven by vanity pursuits.

The same might apply to their untried-untested writer-director counterparts, but no, in their case - at least to some degree - it's all about potential... and the future is bright.

So why is the creative role of the emerging independent producer so underestimated? Their totally invaluable role as researcher, inspirer, creator, corrector, engine, coraller, fanner of fires, trouble shooter, innovator ... so invisible - undervalued and so frequently actively undermined?

It isn't useful. It isn't healthy.

In my experience when these fragile budding teams are broken up, the projects frequently die. The directors who are generally seen as the engine, sputter and fail without their partner. Film is the result of team work. Writing, directing, producing can all be lonely isolating destabilising work. Together teams are stronger and more viable.

Because producers are juggling so much. Because they are so frequently navigating complicated delicate situations saddled very often with unreasonable narcissistic teammates, the ones who are resilient enough to get through a couple of short films and still embark on feature film development full of optimism and enthusiasm, these people are some of the most wonderful amazing people I know!! I love producers!! I am in awe of the grit, resourcefulness and sheer positive determination I have witnessed time and time again.

So, I was super psyched when I caught up with Ben Roberts at an LFF BFI Network do, and he mentioned that the BFI are canvassing opinions, doing some research to see how things can be improved and making plans for 2019...

So what can they do? Is it all about the money? I think the money thing does matter, but it's rarely just that...

Is the financial set up at the source of all the disrespect? Or is it because people come to producing from all walks of life? You don't need a degree, you don't even need any experience - there are countless examples of different types of producers associated to films. And of course this contributes to another source of disrespect - what exactly did you do? Justify yourself! Are you just a parasitic presence who has latched onto the talent, got yourself a credit? Yeah, we've all used credits as currency... When you need something from someone you can't afford to pay, you share your credit with them. Always the producer credit, never the writer or director credit... But generally if people get a credit, it is because they have done something that the film needed. But anyway...

Whatever it is, there are a million assumptions that are propagated through schools and workshops, through agents and the media, through patterns of behaviour within the industry at large that promote a contagious irreverence and a lack of understanding of what an emerging producer needs and what they contribute.

This leads to producers being confronted with these feelings over and over again:

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Like all these things in self-perpetuating cycles of abusive behaviour, there's an element of chicken and egg conundrum. Where does one start to improve things? Educating? Financing? Validating? Well they're all important, and any one of those methods could help - but what I hope they will see is that you've got to hit all of 'em to really be effective.

Teaching more meaningfully that film is a collaborative work at film schools and in training labs. Industry recognising that the full core team is the beating heart behind any film - should be recognised for their accomplishments. Not cherry picking the director out of that (I know - is there any way to discourage Film4 from constantly doing that? Possibly not). I have been told off over and over again for saying that my films have won awards, my directors have won awards - not feeling that transfers over to me, that I too as producer have won the award. Industry recognising that fanning teams is more effective than fanning individuals, strengthening bonds by showing that everyone is valued and respected equally.... Will lead to better working practices, I am sure. But it runs deep so it will take time and 360 thinking.

I have suggested affordable "surgeries" at the BFI. External impartial experts available for consultations at a subsidised hourly rate at the BFI and regional agencies (or Skillset building). Offering mentorship, mediation, training - on a one-on-one basis. I have suggested industry agents and gate-keepers be encouraged to play their important parts too. Not being the enemy... Respect, collaboration, information, transparency...

I know it all sounds a bit naive, but here you go... another blue skies optimistic still-emerging-after-all-these-years producer!!

In any case well done to those producers who put together the survey and I will watch this space with febrile impatience.... See where we land in 2019!

MERCURY PREMIERE AND SCREENING

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We are so thrilled that Mercury has been selected to premier at Encounters Film Festival, UK's Clermont Ferrand! What a great way to start the film's festival trajectory.

With its premiere now announced, and with our DCP finally in hand it was also one of our priorities to organise a cast and crew screening this summer, but I had never imagined we'd manage the wonderful swanky theatre at Soho House.

It was luck would have it, that fellow filmmaker friends Paul Frankl and Maria Tanjala of Film Chain and Big Couch would be organising their cast and crew screening of Goldstar this summer too. The films had so much in common: Two powerful accounts with unconventional and thought-provoking takes on young women with unwanted pregnancies.

It was a great turnout - although two big absences due to availability! Isabella and Lily!!

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SUSPENDED ISLAND PREMIERE

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Newcastle Drones.jpg

We had a great time up in Newcastle. Bustling with people and activities all around the area surrounding BALTIC, Live Theatre and the river.

The opening party on Thursday night and the GEON premiere extravaganza on Friday night kept us all in a whirl.

I think it was Jane and Louise's first such outdoor LED screen exhibition and so in particular all the issues around the sound (the headphones, the aps) were of utmost concern, and kept them very busy up until the last minute.

We had a visit on opening night from Newcastle Central's labour MP Chi Onwurah!! Who loved the installation, and took the time to share her thoughts with Jane and Louise afterwards.

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I didn't get to see as many of the various GEON installations as I would have liked - but the show goes on until September 9th. The highlights for me were the city itself - the architecture by the river, the winking bridge, the Earl Grey Maypole installation which was pretty much completed by the time we left, and much as I wasn't so impressed with the water sculpture jets, the opening night's music & lights were great, the drone fireworks show was amazing - I have never seen that done before! But there's a piece here in the Guardian that describes loosely what was on - although it doesn't much of anything that was going on in the BALTIC itself - and there was loads!!

Beyond all the film and art, Newcastle and surrounding countryside was beautiful. We enjoyed a cycle ride out along the river Prudhoe Castle and what seemed very important to all was that The Hoppings was on and that we must absolutely go. Where Billiy lives in any case we had to cycle past it and herds of cows through the town moor - which again I just never got enough of (how great to have that in the middle of a city!). And the Tyneside cinema was also a great discovery - as was Dabbawal Indian street food restaurant, and La Petite Crêperie with an authentic Bretonne making us a couple of delicious completes & an excellent flat white for lunch in a beautiful but totally underused indoor market place (Grainger Market - what a shame regeneration needed there).

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Fun to bump into Tina Gharavi at the exhibition too - whose film I am Nasrine was showing at the Tyneside cinema this week and was completely sold out!

So lots of reasons to keep going back to Newcastle!

DAY 3 logo

On the final day we crossed the river into South London. Our first location was the St Thomas Hospital. It had been a long process to find the right location for the hospital scene, but we finally found a hospital that had great architecture and friendly filming unit, run by Gavin Tiffin. Kyla was drawn to the austere yet beautiful brutalist feel of the architecture.

St Thomas Hospital dawn

St Thomas is a functioning hospital, so our priority of the day was to make sure we didn't interrupt the normal flow of life there. Watching all the nurses and doctors go about their work at 6am after insanely long shifts made us feel intensely respectful and slightly better about our 4am starts!

BTS Hospital pics

The road outside the hospital was chokka with road works, which made it very difficult getting in and out of the hospital. It being a Sunday, there was also a rally of sorts going on somewhere nearby as Westminster Bridge Road / Lambeth Palace Road was alive with old fashioned motor cars and bicycles.

We finished the final shots in the streets of Lambeth. More driving around for Harriet who had become a dab hand at Gregory's wheel. Working right up until the light allowed us. Here is a little bit of video I shot in the car driving home after wrap with Ohna and Esme (Esme unusually tongue-tied)!

Thank you to everyone for making this all possible. It has been such an amazing experience!

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Thank you note

We are enormously grateful to all our backers, some who might also extend their support to the development of the feature. It has been a big adventure so far, and really we are still only at the beginning of the journey. With this money in place, we can now pay our debt towards our contributors such as our fantastic and generous casting director Shakyra Dowling - who I really cannot recommend and thank enough, and we can get cracking with the editing with Reza Jouze and start putting deals into place for our post more generally.

So far the rushes look beautiful and the performances of our actresses Isabella Laughland and Harriet Cains are so strong, Kyla Simone Bruce and our team has done us proud!!

I also want to thank my talented and invaluable assistant Lily Ashton who also drew the above illustration for you all!

DAY 2

After a glorious day yesterday, today the rain has begun, and it's our car rigs day!! But rather than let it dampen our spirits, we kept going. We were now filming around the streets of Tottenham, which meant setting up a unit base at the bottom of a small road. We used this as a point to rig and derig the car. It was a bit of a last minute thing, when the base Françoise (our line producer) had found for us was no longer available. Essentially a parking area within an estate, and we had to go there to rig the car at 6am on a Saturday. No matter how quiet we tried to be, I am sure the splitter van's rolling engine (our only source of power!!) and the necessary chatter just get our work done must have disturbed the residents. But not only did no one complain, I discovered warm and welcoming residents, who helped us with hot water and welcomed us into their homes to use their toilets and they wouldn't accept any money in return as thanks. One of the ladies said "It's fine. People should help each other when it is needed".

DAY 2 Filming in the rain

When the camera was rigged safely and rolling, Harriet was off driving around the a little ring road and we got some really great shots! Ohna and Maya put together a little video of footage - see LINK.

By the afternoon it was sunny again which meant that Cele (our costume and props lady) spent the rest of the day spritzing the car window with water to make sure we kept continuity.

The last location of the day was the car park of a small church near White Hart Lane.

DAY 2 - Grace Day Care

The police turned up at one point (6 or 7 of them!) - when it was getting dark at 4:30pm. Ohna - The producer on set - immediately jumped, and went looking for the print outs of the location agreements but they just wanted to watch! They were very friendly, and not a lot of film shooting happens around there, and they wanted us to look out for our equipment, make sure we didn't get into trouble.

Logo police

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