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Jane in America

Jane McAllister is a Glasgow-based filmmaker whose first film Sporran Makers was produced through Bridging the Gap: Future and nominated for Best Scottish Short Doc award at EIFF in 2009. Her second film, Caretaker for the Lord, made as part of the Screen Academy Scotland Documentary Directing programme at Edinburgh College of Art, got her invited to Full Frame and Tribeca this spring. This is her account.

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Jane McAllister

Jane McAllister

I forgot my glasses, had flammable shoe dye in my hand luggage by accident and didn’t know the address of my hotel in America… but when they finally let me on that plane with an “involuntary upgrade to business class” things just got better and better.

North Carolina stole my heart first. It was warm and green. The hotel had a pool. And as I sauntered up to the festival after a swim, people said Hello Mam, as I passed by. I had sweet waffles and chicken and made friends with documentary film makers. It was the best place to be.

At my screening the next morning, people laughed and clapped. I did a Q&A and was asked many questions. The combination of Scotland and Religion had hit a popular note. I was stopped throughout the rest of the day by people wanting to talk about the film and particular scenes they liked. Full Frame is the festival for documentary lovers so you are made to feel very at home.

At the awards ceremony on the last day, I hadn’t ran the possibility through my mind that I might win something. When Caretaker for the Lord was called out, I kind of went into shock. I can’t really remember what I said, but it was pretty breathless. The prize was $5000, enough for me to buy a camera. I am so grateful.

So I found myself quite at home in North Carolina and was almost dragging my feet to New York… but that city was something else. It’s been said before, but you do feel like you are in a film. Steam does rise from the pavements and when you shout taxi and stick your hand out, they stop.

Tribeca Film Festival is on a very grand scale. I was spoiled. You do feel like you are at the centre on the world. I spent my time going to films and wandering about with my head up, eyes wide. Highlights were… cycling through times square at night, feeding a baby squirrel in central park, chatting with Peter Mullan on a rooftop, and generally being pulled on board into a real film making community.

I’ve been back a few weeks now and have hardly been able to look up with all my work. Though it feels like a dream, it happened, I was there and I stood by my film. I have got this far because SDI put their faith in me two years ago and funded my first film Sporran Makers; because of the expert tuition I received from Emma Davie and Noe Mendelle at Edinburgh College of Art; and because Creative Scotland supported my visit to America.

Film making can be quite a solitary pursuit, in the edit suit and behind the camera; to have such institutions to step in at crucial moments and back you up is so vital. I feel very lucky to be making documentaries today in Scotland.

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Filed under: Bridging the Gap, Festivals, , , ,

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