All about Filmmaking

  • Diaries from an intrepid filmmaker (3)

    Getting to know the village and its inhabitants

    Today we went on filming the making of canoe. In no time at all, they transformed this magnificent tree into the shape of the canoe. They worked from early morning till 4pm, only fuelled by Palm wine. Then two women came with a tiny bit of cooked rice. Whatever happened to the 50 kg we bought the previous day? The men grumbled a bit... Not an argument I wanted to get involved in!

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    The women had to yell a warning when approaching the men's workplace, only allowed to come in with the food when the men said so.

    The Bijagós are a matrilineal society, which means that land, animals and children belong to the women. The brothers of a child's mother have authority over the child. As uncles, they effectively become father figures for the children. Women are not heads of villages but they have economical power within the family. They are the providers and the nurturers. Bijagó women choose their husbands and request their hands by cooking a special rice dish. If the man eats it, then they have agreed to matrimony.

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  • Diaries from an intrepid filmmaker (2)

    Day 4: how to request permission to film

    Bubaque is the main island and the capital of the Bijagós, centred around the port. You only get one boat a week linking the Bijagós to the mainland, but slowly the French are developing this lost paradise into a tourist venue. Speed boats are now wheezing around the islands, making the traditional canoe a death trap.

    In order for us to travel around the island we rented a motorbike with a trailer at the back. Just enough to fit our small team of five! Of course it keeps breaking down.

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    Carnival has been going on in full flow for three full days but we resisted the temptation of spending too much time with 'exotic' photography and ventured to the village where we are planning to follow different characters, in order to negotiate (again) permission to film.

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  • Diaries from an intrepid filmmaker (1)

    No matter how experienced you are in documentary filmmaking and all things African – no shoot is like any other. And in particular, this shoot is like no other. Trapped in what has been described a 'closed society' – the Bijagós archipelago – Noé Mendelle struggles to find some sense of balance between traditional and modern influences. When a blog becomes your only place to vent, irony is inevitable. Raw, unfiltered and dispatched on the same day, here is the latest post in her series

    Day 3 of travelling

    It seems that we are reaching Bubaque, one of the main islands in the archipelago of Bijagós, off the West Coast of Africa. Pitch dark over sea and sky.

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    It took flights from Edinburgh to Lisbon to Casablanca to Bissau. And then a boat from Bissau that managed to get lost, break down twice, and now has to move against the current. We have been on it for ten hours and still a long way to go!

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  • Bridging the Gap alums today (2): Maja Borg

    Maja BorgMaja Borg's first feature-length film Future My Love has successfully launched at major festivals in Edinburgh, Copenhagen, and Tallinn. Ahead of further preview screenings in Glasgow and London, SDI's Agata Jagodzinska spoke to her about her journey in filmmaking which included a Bridging the Gap film.

    When did you know that you wanted to make films, and what do you value the most in documentaries?

    I’ve been making films since I was a child; I played with my friend’s video camera even before I had a television. When people asked me who I wanted to be when I grow up, I usually said three things: that I wanted to be a cobbler, a carpenter, and a filmmaker. I still have hopes to become a carpenter one day. Maybe not so much a cobbler any more…
    Coming back to filmmaking, when I tell a story, the genre isn't important – it is finding ways of telling it honestly. Sometimes documentaries are the best way of doing that, sometimes they are not. There are some subjects you can’t quite tackle honestly with documentary. There are loads of reasons for it: you may be putting your subject at risk, or you may not be able to get honest answers out of people who are afraid of making themselves look bad. It can also be argued that by being in a situation with a camera, you are changing it…

    "There are some subjects you can’t quite tackle honestly with documentary"

    For me, the genre is very much secondary to the subject of the story. Therefore I don’t think I've made a single film that is a straight documentary. I find fiction quite limited as well, it is limited by your imagination. What’s great about making documentaries is that you need to respond to reality all the time. You can make a plan and you may even write a proposal about what you think you’ll find – and it’s wonderful how you always get surprised and have to deal with the fact that you can’t control what will happen. I really like that.

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  • Bridging the Gap alums today (1): Eva Weber

    Eva_Weber.jpgEva Weber's new film Black Out is launching at IDFA in Amsterdam today. SDI's Agata Jagodzinska spoke to her ahead of the premiere. This interview is the first in a little series about what has happened to our Bridging the Gap alumni in the years since...

    What attracted you to focus on documentaries in your filmmaking career?

    I think there is real power in documentaries. The beauty of it is that no matter how much you plan and prepare for your shoot, and imagine what you will film, there will always be those unexpected moments that you can't plan for, and it’s those moments that can really transform a film. Moments of beauty or pain, of real life, that surprise you and make you think. It makes the filmmaking experience very special. There is something extraordinary when you think, wow, I would have never thought of this but you see it happening right in front of you and you capture it, real life writing its own story.

    What is the best way for an aspiring filmmaker to find his/her style and get their name out there?

    I believe the most important thing is to work out what connects with you on an emotional level, and the stories you want to tell as a filmmaker - to find your own voice. I believe you need to think about what you want to say as an individual and how you want to say it. Before you start filming, I also find it important to think about the visuals of a film and how you can visually convey what is important in a story. Once the film is done, it’s really about making sure it is seen, through festivals, broadcast or online. Whatever route you decide to take, you need to keep on working at it, in the end it is all about perseverance and resilience. 

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  • The Difference between a Kangaroo and a Wallaby

    Producers Olivia Gifford and Katie Crook have interviewed each other about making the Bridging the Gap short In Search of the Wallaby, the difference between producing documentary and fiction, and working with the Scottish Documentary Institute (SDI).

    O: Ok so first of all, how did we get involved in this?

    K: Initially we got invited along to an SDI pitching day along with several other producers. We listened to all of the 12 shortlisted pitches from the writer/directors and gave feedback live on each project. It was a really great day for us, although probably harrowing for each of the directors. From there SDI and Creative Scotland chose four final projects, and we were then approached to come in and produce on one of them. We met Alasdair Bayne and Andrew O'Connor, got on well, and there we were helping them to make In Search of the Wallaby

     

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  • "What is the story?" vs. "What is the film about?" – Libya, take 2

    Following the success of our Tripoli Stories, British Council gave us the opportunity to return to Libya for a second time. This time we were due to run our workshop in Benghazi and make another three short films, Benghazi Stories. Unfortunately, the political situation there meant that we had to relocate the workshop back to Tripoli but with participants coming from Benghazi.

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    Benghazi is the second largest city in Libya and the bed of the revolution, with the first uprising against Gaddafi taking place there in February 2011. Ever since last summer’s election, various militia have been exploiting a certain political unrest, reflecting Benghazi’s disappointment with the election results and their representation in parliament.

    Of course, the killing of the US ambassador only days before our arrival was a drastic turning point. Banned from Benghazi for security reasons, we had to re-organize the workshop in order to deliver those “Benghazi Stories”. Prior to our arrival in Libya, we helped organize a camera workshop and briefed the participants to start researching potential stories with their cameras.

    Starting the workshop in Tripoli, we spent the first two days exploring these rushes from Benghazi, and we shared a number of inspiring documentaries, offering solutions to questions raised about characters and structures. We had 48 hours to get the lads of Benghazi to understand the difference between “What is the story?” and “What is the film about?”

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  • Doo or die...

    Paul Fegan's short documentary Pouters is one of the latest Bridging the Gap films, premiering this week. Here are his thoughts on the process.

    Pouters is my first short film and has opened up new worlds for me. From the open wasteland of Cranhill, Glasgow to the pages of Darwin's 'Origin of Species' in search of the world behind the Pouter pigeon.

    Over the past 9 months, I've been submerged in making what will be Scotland's premier film on one of the country's oldest and little known sports: Doo Fleein'. 40 hours of footage later, countless directional changes as characters came and went and pigeons were won and lost...

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  • Just like sex in public places...

    Chico Pereira's short documentary Polaris is one of the latest Bridging the Gap films, premiering this week. Here's his account of how it was conceived...

    Remember, you’re just a fecking bar tender
    –said the drunken plasterer.

    Apparently when someone says in LA that he is an actor, the other person asks him in which restaurant…

    These days, life appears to me full of bridges and gaps, and I find myself jumping over water puddles more often than I would like… One of the main reasons for entering Bridging the Gap was exactly that: to walk the bridge that separates the life of a mature student (point A) from the dream of becoming a professional director (point B). Curiously, point A has vanished from sight, even though I haven’t moved. I extended my school time as much as I could; I became part of the furniture, but in the end, I got termites, and they made a bonfire out of me in the courtyard…

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  • Bridging the Gap – in progress: Polaris

    Reports from the production of this year's Bridging the Gap short documentaries, part 4

    For a long time, skippers in Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire could not find locals to work on their fishing vessels. That was the reality until Filipino fishermen started coming to town. Now they crew most of the boats, but they have to deal with the vast sea and the enormous distance that separate them from their families. 

    First entry: 26th of March

    It's a bit hard to write here, with all this movement and my life jacket on (I do actually have it on) but I'll try...

    First thing: we're alive, and still on board the Polaris… We left the North Sea, and we're spending most of the time in the Atlantic, some 100 miles west of Shetland... The weather was amazing the first day and we managed to film alright... But unfortunately, seasickness has started to hit the film crew...
    [rise of tension; music] It's been a bit tough, not knowing whether we would manage to shoot this film or not, feeling every wave in your stomach; but the ocean brought us good news today...

    [music ends; sound of rice boiling in a pot] When I woke up in what was seemingly morning, Julian was having rice in the galley... He smiled and I noticed straight away that he had a much better face… The sea and the weather have been very nice today and we have been able to film for the whole day... It's been fantastic to be working together aboard the Polaris... We laughed, teased each other and enjoyed the scenery… It was like a director/DoP honeymoon... Really unusual… The swell seems like it may be gentle tomorrow, too, so hopefully we'll manage to film some more stuff...

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    Julian and Chico keeping safe at the galley

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