Twelve for the Future (and learning Finnish Tango in Helsinki)

Faroes.jpgThe EDN’s Twelve for the Future is a project-driven co-production workshop for Nordic documentary producers and directors, so it was a great honour to be included as the first-ever Scottish project, supported by Creative Scotland's 'Creative Futures' programme

Putting aside any Scottish claims of Nordic DNA from visiting longboats in the distant past, the film I was taking to the workshops is set in the Faroe Islands and so is very Nordic. The programme was spread across two workshop sessions, the first in Denmark in September 2011, and the final part in Finland in late January 2012. 

Part One: Copenhagen

The first session was held outside Copenhagen in the seaside resort of Marlielyst. I only know how to say ‘carrot’ in Danish, and ‘tea towel’ and ‘biscuit’ in Finnish, which is very limiting. Thankfully, the workshops were held in English. 

Introductions were made and the twelve directors and producers presented their projects to the group. The films were fantastic, all at different stages of production, and all very inspiring. They ranged in topic from a journey through the Libyan civil war to life on a very unique farm in the north of Denmark. 


I had arrived in Copenhagen directly from filming and straight off a 37-hour ferry journey from the Faroes. Still swaying with sea legs and a little culture shocked after so long away from the mainland, I suddenly found myself presenting the film to the group. It was a good point in the production to reflect on things. Only a week earlier we had been lowered down to a ledge on a 400ft cliff on a rope, held only by twenty men. We had been filming a hunt and spent the night on a tiny ridge covered in muck and drenched by rain in thick mist, trying very hard not to fall asleep and drop off the cliff. There was also the eating of quite a lot of different seabirds (see pot). An acquired taste! So being back was taking some adjusting.

We divided into two groups to workshop the films in detail. Our tutors, Jannik, Lisa, Ulla, and Mikael were fantastic and held back no punches and it was great to have the different perspectives from the tutors. We staggered off home with lots of notes and musings (and sandwiches smuggled out from the hotel breakfast buffet). 

Part Two: Helsinki

We next met in January, in Helsinki. I think it was the coldest place I have ever been, -35°C one night apparently. Breathing in sharply through my nose was my first mistake, drinking too much frozen vodka possibly the second. This time the workshops were held during DocPoint, a fantastic documentary festival in snowy Helsinki. 

After catching up on the progress of our projects during the four month hiatus since Copenhagen, we readied the films for pitching. The next day we would meet with the Nordic broadcasters and funders. 


The pitch was not public, and only to the workshop participants and the financiers. A rapid fire session of twelve five minute pitches ensued, all now slickly honed in the workshops. Then we had one to one meetings with the funders and broadcasters which were all very constructive. Then suddenly it was all over and we headed for well earned drinks.

That night we dined on minced reindeer and berries (no presents from santa ever again for us). The perhaps unlikely swansong of Twelve for the Future was Finnish Tango. The real star of the show being the incredible tango master pictured, who seemed to be the don of Finnish Tango from what we could see. Initially we were twelve awestruck wallflowers watching the magic, but after some close studying of the moves (and more frozen vodka) we made it onto the dance floor. 

My tango skills are rubbish to say the least, so I ended up doing a kind of mashup of Finnish Tango and The Dashing White Sergeant, skillfully insulting two cultures simultaneously though the medium of dance. That done we had a snowball fight (badly photographed below), the perfect final evening to the programme.

street.jpgThe film festival was still running for a few more days so we then got to enjoy some great documentaries and explore Helsinki.  

I can’t recommend the programme highly enough, in the four days of the intense workshops I learnt a lot from the mentoring and about the Nordic documentary world but also I met a great group of fellow directors and producers who where at a similar stage in their film making. I look forward to seeing how all the films evolve and seeing everyone who was on the programme again soon.