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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

The Jane and Louise Wilson exhibition at mima (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art) started at the beginning of the month. It's a fabulous exhibition including the premiere of Jane and Louise's new film which we shot at the RCA Moving Image Studio over the summer as well as the wind tunnel film we shot at Farnborough as part of the WWI centennary for the iwm, and exploring related themes. Martin Testar lit both films with many of the same key team, and commissioned through FVU. It was fascinating collaborating with Professor Caroline Wilkinson from Liverpool John Moores University, who is the amazing expert behind the 3D facial reconstruction of Richard III.

We Put The World Before You Mima

We Put The World Before You Mima2

It's well worth a visit and on until mid January 2017 before moving on to Wolverhampton art gallery.

Gaëlle has been busy in Berlin this week helping Nespresso as they announce their inaugural Nespresso Talents 2016 contest, a vertical film contest. Nespresso is an Official Partner to the Cannes Film Festival and in particular La Semaine de la Critique since 2011. We had the distinct pleasure of benefiting from this sponsorship with Crocodile in competition there in 2014. They had the best beach venue there. Nespresso Talents 2016 was announced at the 66th Berlinale, Berlin International Film Festival. The contest is open for entries from 7th March until the 10th April 2016 on Nespresso.com/talents and has been formed to find extraordinary talent and provide them with a platform to share and celebrate their work.

And low and behold she has been spotted hob-nobbing with Daniel Brühl!!

Nespresso Vertical Film Challenge Press Launch

How great Eva Weber was also selected as a jury member for their competition - they can hang out together!!

The contest is looking for entries that challenge the conventions of storytelling and creatively bring to life the creative theme of "Explore Your Extraordinary". The three winners selected will have the chance to win (but not only!) an exclusive trip to the world renowned 2016 Cannes Film Festival, where the selected will be formally announced and celebrated.

Nespresso has a long tradition of supporting talents in different fields, such as film, design and gastronomy. As co-partner of Berlinale Talents, Nespresso expands its support for talent development and soundly complements its engagement in film. At Berlinale Talents 2016, Nespresso launches its vertical video competition Nespresso Talents 2016 with an international jury Gaëlle Denis (President), Alfonso Gonzalez, Erik Schmitt and Eva Weber. In addition, Nespresso hosts an Early Bird Breakfast followed by a Talents Circle.

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!!

Rachel Maclean | Feed Me

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Rachel Maclean has been a revelation. When FVU asked me if I'd produce another art film for a Glaswegian based artist, I was concerned I already had too much on with the Maia workshops, getting La Fille De L'Estuaire development progressed enough to present at the Torino Film Lab and knowing I'd be shooting Clara's Voices of Finance too. I watched her work though and fell in love with it instantly. I read her script and that was it decided. So in June we started budgeting, casting and finding crew and helpers generally who were happy to come on board to help make the film. It was super ambitious at 60 minutes with all the backgrounds and animation to be generated in post, a very small budget and a firm deadline.

Rachel was really keen for there to be a musical element to the film, and we found Glasgow-based Finn Anderson to write the songs for us. That was a great exprience, and after Rachel and he spent a bit of time working together, we had 5 songs worthy of any Disney film tailored to our film and ready to record with our artists.

Rachel Maclean Sound recordings

By the beginning of July Rachel had firmed up the script, we had cast all our actors who had practiced their songs and memorised their scripts and so we went to Edinburgh, Glasgow and London to record them. We had the most amazing cast and such a surreal experience as the voices all came together with the creepy dark undertones of the script and songs. We had Kevin Parr from Dundee, Dolina McLennan and Steven McNicoll in Edinburgh as Granny and The Beast. We had Sara Cartwright in Glasgow as our little Britney. In London we recorded Jaime Adler and DeNica Fairman as Charlotte and Claire - both incredible. Rachel had worked with Steven before and he was so great. But it was amazing sitting at Sonido recording studios in Glasgow and watching that little girl sing her heart out, each time to absolute perfection. In fact by the end we had to ask her to do it less well and she even managed to do that convingly! She came through PACE youth theatre in Glasgow and was really impressive.

After this Rachel had to go back and work on editing the sound track together while I got evrything ready for the shoot. Rachel would play all the roles, lipsynching to playback throughout. Rachel made all the costumes with the help of Mari Campistron and Lucy Payne who were amazing third year students at Glasgow School of Art - who gave Rachel a fair chunk of their summers to pull this together. Rachel had to get covered in prosthetics - a different role each day with the help of Kat Morgan.

montage of pics from Rachel's feed me

We also knew we'd need to get extra help for all the VFX work, so we enlisted Colin Maclean (Rachel's brother) to help set up the computers, help with the shot and then be Rachel's right hand man right til we delivered the film in October.

Roxanne | Absolut launch

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End of June also saw the big launch event for Paul Frankl's Roxanne. Absolut shared the launch of their new Pride bottle with us, throwing a big cocktail party screening and interviews run by Little White lies' at the Edition Hotel Berners street, then on to Grouchos for celebrations.

Absolut Pride Bottle launch

There was a great turn out and interviews with Paul, Miss Cairo and Akua, who all gave great interviews. There were many questions, and great to see how many burning issues the film raises - not just issues of transgender and prostitution, but about Soho, community, rights, freedom of speech and the state of the film industry. Hard to photograph because of all the pink lighting!

Roxanne launch
Roxanne has gone from strength to strength and it is now getting hard to keep up with both its festival circuit and the prizes it has been winning. I went to my Maia workshop in Bologna or Roma and a Serbian-Welsh producer told me she had seen my seen my name come up in an award recently - and she was refering to Roxanne winning the Iris Prize for Best British Short.

Roxanne poster

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