Interdoc Alums (4): Sabine Hellmann & Adam Barnett

Sabine Hellmann is a German-born filmmaker who lives in Edinburgh. Sabine pitched her first feature documentary The Brink of Extinction at Interdoc 2012 together with Adam Barnett who also is an Edinburgh-based filmmaker and editor.


After graduating in Germany with a 40-minute documentary on the use of GMO crops, Sabine moved to Scotland for an internship with renowned producer Leslie Hills. She quickly realised that her passion lies in making films, rather than producing, and completed an MFA in directing at Edinburgh College of Art with two short documentaries. One of Sabine’s graduation films, Joseph’s Road, tells a story of a young boy from Malawi and can be watched on Sabine’s website. She is intrigued by human stories, people at a crossroads, and environmental issues.  

Adam Barnett specializes in documentary filmmaking as a director, producer, and editor. His recent feature documentary Argentina in Therapy received a great response and was distributed to six broadcasters including TVE in Spain. Apart from the film Adam is making with Sabine, he also works on another feature documentary, Carbuncle Town.

The tiger or the tribe? 


The team’s Interdoc project The Brink of Extinction tells the story of the Soliga Tribe in Biligiriranga Hills of South India, which now faces eviction from their homeland due to the government’s new tiger conservation laws. The government is under international pressure to save the tiger. But it ignores both the Soliga’s basic human rights and the crucial role they have played in protecting, nurturing and sustaining the forest over centuries. Who is really at the brink of extinction: the tiger or the tribe?

This is how Sabine describes the team's experience at Interdoc Scotland:

The pitch practice was a great experience to find out how our film idea which we had been polishing for such a long time was actually being conceived by people who didn’t know anything about it. It showed us what worked well and where our pitch was weak and lacking clarity – exactly what we needed before pitching in harsher (film industry) environment.

Prior to the sessions our problem was to describe visually what our film is about, to deliver an attention-grabbing pitch. Hearing everybody’s feedback after the pitches was vital, it allowed us to rethink the storyline in a better way and make it work for the audience. 

Because we're passionate about it

Just after the last Interdoc session we travelled to India again and shot for a month, getting most of the footage we needed for THE BRINK OF EXTINCTION. We are now ready to edit a trailer and a rough cut of the film but still struggling to secure the funding. This is by far the biggest challenge we have to face. We are making the film without getting paid just because we are passionate about it. There is a lot of competition and many great projects out there; your project really has to stand out. 

Despite the financial issues at the moment we hope to finish the film by the end of this year. First of all we would like to show it to the communities in the BR Hills, and from there take it to festivals around the world before finding a broadcaster who will take it further. At the moment we are still looking for a producer to help us on the funding quest and smoothly getting into post-production stage. Please get in touch if our project excites you!


Interdoc Scotland currently has an open call for applications. Deadline is Monday 25 February.