I’ve always loved cinema and I’ve loved the obsessive nature that comes with it - from people who set up shrines to long lost icons, to those that build replica cinemas in their sheds as well as the villages up and down the country that put on screenings where otherwise there’d be bingo and a long bus ride to a town many miles away.
So, I really wanted to capture these stories in short form docs. From travelling cinemas, to pop up screens, two seater cinemas and beyond - I thought ‘I’ve got to do this’. Plus it’s a great opportunity to use Droney McDroneface to capture some lovely footage like this pic of Corfe Castle
As luck would have it, the Guardian were looking for readers to suggest their top independent and local cinemas. Which I found out about as I follow The Screen Machine on twitter (@screen_machine) who were in turn recommended for inclusion on this list by various people in Argyll. And from there I spotted the Dunoon Film Festival ….
Now, it would be fantastic if good stories just dropped at your feet. You get up, throw on the dressing gown and pop the milk in the cocoa pops and a story pops through the letterbox. Thanks Story Postman (look, I’ve taken that as far as it can go really. You and I both know that the Story Postman is perhaps the nadir of this particular bit and frankly shouldn’t have got to that point. I can only apologise and should I see you in the street, I’ll do my best to look shame faced). But, as every filmmaker knows, you’ve got to go out there and find the story - or just tit about on twitter for a bit. Either’s good.
So, long story short, I decided that this would be a fantastic opportunity to capture some local stories on how cinema has changed their community as well as feature a host of interviews with interesting and captivating people. This’ll do. This’ll definitely do.
Road to not nowhere
The next challenges to face are thus - funding and transport.
Living in the south is lovely. But for travelling to Scotland? Not so easy. Yes, I could take a flight up to Glasgow and travel across to Argyll from there. I could get a train even. But both come with the issue of having to hire a car at the other end. Also, I don’t mind a drive. But almost 9hrs? Oof. Still, it allows me the freedom to travel up and down Argyll at my own pace and I’ve got a really good air freshener that I’m comfortable with so, you know, bonus.
Also, the drive up through the Lake District (after having driven to Glasgow before) is utterly breathtaking and has to be seen to be believed. I’m not a believer in folk tales, but if someone told me there were giants sleeping instead of the mountains, I’d believe ‘em. A bit.
So, with that sorted, we look at funding. As a last minute decision to travel up to shoot the festival etc, there simply isn’t the time to apply for schemes and bursaries (though I do recommend talking to the various Film charities and organisations out there like Film hub Scotland who were really lovely and had some great suggestions. You see, despite popular belief, filmmakers aren’t loaded. I know! Crazy right!?! So funding a trip like this is pretty important. Pro tip 1 - B&B it. Cheap. It’s a bed. It’s fine. You get a breakfast. You don’t need luxury and sharing a bathroom is fine. Not at the same time. But fine nonetheless. You’ll be out all day filming or in editing anyway so you won’t have time to admire/detest the wallpaper. As for actual cash? Well get those emails sent out and the likelihood is that you can part fund a trip after the event once people have seen the work you’ve created. Remember, organisations need a work plan several months (even a year) in advance to divide the pot of money. And the majority of that will go to local schemes and those who are 21 and under - as it should. Businesses are very unlikely to part with money for your hair brained idea - however lovingly it’s presented. Does it make them any money? No? Ok bye. That isn’t the case in ALL situations, but it is par for the course. So be prepared to make a loss - it’s a risk, but it’ll be worth it…
Right, and now you’re looking at where your films can be shown once the trip is over and you’ve edited everything. So off to the broadcasters I go. Interested? Yes, absolutely. But that final push into commissioning? Nope. And don’t be disheartened - because unless you’re a production company, getting anything passed for broadcast (even digitally) as an idea from a solo filmmaker or business…well….it’s not seen as authentic enough. Now, once you’ve done your pieces, DO send those guys links to your work. Because even if they can’t commission you now, they can see that you have a talent and are serious about getting out there and just DOING SOMETHING. Seriously. We’re all guilty of coming up with projects that we pitch but never make because we can’t find the interest - doesn’t mean it’s not worth pursuing. There are also a growing number of independent channels looking for content for online and streaming - so keep plugging away.
My plan is to create a 20 minute mini doc of the trip with a host of individual pieces featuring full interviews, independent stories etc. Along this, I’ll be writing this blog and uploading video clips every day from my phone as a way of getting immediate content out there - and to give everyone a flavour of the trip. It’s important for me to have a voice and be spontaneous here as well as planning some lovingly shot films - so good to have the option to do both.
Right, well, things to pack, kit to charge, sleep to get, guinea pigs to feed (Mel and Sue and Fluffball and Pinky (thanks to my two sons there) ).
Almost time to start the adventure….I’ll leave you with a word from Fluffball and Pinky….oh…hang on….