"What is your understanding of what happens at death? What have you really understood about life? Where do you stand politically?"
The woman firing these questions at me in the marble lobby of a very stylish Barcelona hotel has an impossibly small waist. I think it’s the first time I have seen anyone whose waist you could, really, span with two hands. I should have admired her questions as well as her tiny middle, and said that of course I have no answers: I had nine years of exploring, 100 hours of film, distilled into 73 minutes to create a journey for an audience that brings them close to death, to grief, to fear, to letting go, and back to hope, to sensuality, to pleasure and to life. A shared experience of the sort that can hold contradictions, and is as rooted in the emotions, images, sounds, as in words.
Funding schemes and project workshops often seem a little like X Factor for filmmakers. One fellow participant in this year’s Bridging the Gap talked of a friend who had won through to an initiative in which 10 projects were to be funded from 11 workshoppers. Even Simon Cowell might think that brutal. I was told BTG was different, and so it proved.
This was the first of three development weekends before final pitching in March. Chaired by the immensely warm and inspiring documentary guru Peter Symes, each of the 12 in our group introduced their films in a sentence, and then developed them by opening the ideas up to the room.
Benjamin Wigley is an independent filmmaker based in Nottingham. He works primarily in the public sector producing content for organisations such as Save the Children, Oxfam, Wateraid, The Arts Council and the National Trust. Ben’s first production was a film charting his journey to Siberia to visit a religious community of 5,000 people for a celebration of their leader, a man they believe to be the second coming, called ‘In Search of the Vissarion’. Creatively, Ben tries to produce work that is both visually and intellectually stimulating, dealing with themes such as hope, obsession and fate.
The first BTG workshop led by Peter Symes was very insightful, the projects this year are of a very high standard, and you can be certain it will be tough to get selected for the final 7. The projects range from Arizonian old people living under constant threat of a biohazard attack, to a blind photographer.
I'm sure all the members of the workshop will be entrenched with the dreaded question.... " but what is the film?".... Which is thoroughly engrained into my psyche, and is my new boomerang question when developing a pitch.
Amy is a freelance filmmaker, mainly making documentaries. She did a Masters in Directing at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA), where she made Kirran and the Hatchmaker. This short documentary about a small boy and his chickens has played at festivals in the UK and abroad, and got selected for the Skillset Trailblazers strand at Edinburgh Film Festival ‘09. Amy also works as a documentary and music camera person, and worked in TV for a few years before going to ECA. Amy’s project for BTG is called Twinset.
So, having been shortlisted in December for Bridging the Gap, the first workshop was this weekend. It was headed up by Peter Symes – old school documentary man from Bristol... very nice. Being greeted by his beaming smile over coffee before we began was an excellent thing.
My film is called "Twinset" and is about a 61 year old transvestite called Jennifer, who lives in Holland-on-Sea in Essex. My best mate Jess met Jennifer a few years ago, when she was working for Marc Isaacs on his film about Frinton. Luckily for us, Jennifer didn't end up in the film... so we went back to see her in October this year and our new film grew feet.
The Scottish Documentary Institute has set up this blog to write about various different thoughts and comments related to documentary filmmaking. We will have a blog from our latest Bridging the Gap participants, blogs from 'behind the scenes' of SDI, and even film reviews!