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‘Under the Surface’ by David R Cairns

'Under the Surface' is one of our latest Bridging the Gap under the theme of Shift.

The film is about a series of suicides by young men in Dundee, during summer 2010 and how their families coped with such tragedy. David R Cairns, the director, straight out of NFTVS, poured all his energy and sensitivity into listening to those families, absorbing their pain, and finding ways to translate it poetically so the film will walk the fine line of telling the harsh facts of reality, living in economically deprived Dundee while respecting their individual stories with enough feelings to go beyond the social worker case study, all this in 9 minutes!

The next hard step of making such a film is to show it to the families. Do we go round screening it to one family at a time?  I don’t think David could cope multiplying that experience times eight, so SDI decided to hire a lovely screening room at Abertay University and give those families the experience to see their faces and words projected, while seating in the dark. A shared yet a private experience beyond being in the living room with many other things competing for their attention. A chance to nearly touch their loved ones on a screen bigger than themselves. Another memory to cherish along the other memories of their dead sons.

I had seen the film many times in the editing room, but sitting there in the dark, with them, feeling the rawness of their feelings 15 months on, made it difficult to switch lights on and break the silence. We were all moved, silent tears to start with and eventually chocked words came flooding with thankful words to David for having captured their pain without pointing the finger at their failure to keep their sons safe from their own hands. They felt the respect they deserve and therefore happy to have their lives exposed to the world, only  wishing that BBC Scotland would give them longer than 9 ‘.

I wish this short film a long life.


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

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.


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.

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

Scottish Films Galore!

We’re thrilled to see so many Scottish films out and about at international festivals and on your cinema screens!

Jimmy by Martin Smith

This week will see the world premieres of two of our brandnew Bridging the Gap: SHIFT films: Jimmy, by Martin Smith – a moving film about the tireless work of disabled rights campaigner Jimmy McIntosh, MBE, and The Perfect Fit, by Tali Yankelevich: It’s about a part of the ballet world even Black Swan did not reveal to us: Who actually makes those uncomfortable point shoes? Well there’s only one factory in the whole of UK, and one special shoemaker, as you will find out!  Bridging the Gap’s key supporter has again been Creative Scotland, who recently launched their new film and arts funds, in case you haven’t had a look yet.

A shout out also goes to Edinburgh filmmaker Tomas Sheridan who is showing his short Radiostan at Sheffield, as well as Mariana Oliva, an Edinburgh College of Art graduate whose Humanoids will be screening alongside James Marsh’s Project Nim; You’ve been Trumped, by Anthony Baxter whose film made waves in Toronto last month when Donald Trump was considering running for the US presidency. The Guardian calls it: “compelling stuff.” It will make you angry and sad – so come to its UK Premiere during Sheffield Doc/Fest this Friday, or to its Scottish premiere in Aberdeen (Belmont) the week after (17th June), or to its Edinburgh premiere in July, thanks to Take One Action Festival.

Jig by Sue Bourne (Wellpark Scotland) is continuing its breathless UK/Ireland release; it gets a screening during Sheffield Doc/Fest as well, and is now in cinemas in USA.  It’s fantastic to have two Scottish feature docs out and about at the same time. You can follow Jig’s movements on its UK or US website here… We’re also proud that it was associate produced by the multi-talented & Glasgow-based Ruth Reid, who has just finished directing a Bridging the Gap for us, Nightshift.

Then, right after Sheffield we have, on our doorstep, of course the legendary Edinburgh International Film Festival from 15-26 June. After carrying around EIFF festival bags year on year, we look forward to its new edition – and a new bag! EIFF has entirely revamped its programme with new director James Mulligan, and will test a host of new venues, like The Teviot as the Industry Centre (known to many as a major Fringe venue during August) – where, incidentally, we will also host The Edinburgh Pitch on 14th June – please sign up for last minute Observer seats here; and George Square Theatre, where we will have our Bridging the Gap Shift screening followed by drinks on 23rd June, 14:15. In fact, no more walking along the desolate stretch that was Fountainbridge in order to get to Cineworld, as no films will be screening there at all this year.

Other news is that our most industrious MA/MFA documentary graduates at Edinburgh College of Art/Screen Academy Scotland, who we regularly see coming out of their editing suites late at night, have banded together to form a collective “Wee Red Films.” They’re proudly putting on an industry screening during EIFF as well – “Scottish Stories: Documentary Films from ECA”. Don’t miss this outstanding bunch of short docs if you’re in Edinburgh –  some of them have already hit the international festival circuit, and won awards at Full Frame and San Francisco. More here.

I’m sorry, the list continues, but I’ll be brief:

We have various shorts going to numerous festivals across the pond and beyond:

We are thrilled to  know that Palm Springs ShortFest loves a Surprise, and no less than four of our BTG films will be showing in the heat of California later this month: Get luder, PS: You’re Mystery Sender, Twinset and Surpriseville.

Twinset by Amy Rose in fact is screening from coast to coast:  at Outfest in LA and at Newfest, NY’s premiere LGBT festival (presented by none other than Marc Jacobs), and then at Silverdocs too!

Silverdocs is also showing Lost Every Day,  Surpriseville, Twinset, and  Humanoids. We look forward to some New York Rooftop screenings, and last but not least, some screenings of Bridging the Gap and Dhaka Stories films at the London Open City Festival 16-19 June – next week.

Phew. Exhausted already? Let’s call June officially “documentary month”! Enjoy it where ever you are and don’t forget to come to The Edinburgh Pitch on Tuesday 14th!

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

How to pitch a poem

Pitching workshops can be a bit brutal. They ask you to distill your film into a sentence or paragraph and sometimes simplify your film a bit too much. Focus is good, but you do need some unknowns to keep the mystery of the filmmaking process alive, and the urge to find out more.

Our commissioned Bridging the Gap filmmakers were relieved when they realised that the directing workshop with Mike Palmieri and Donal Mosher (October Country) was not about finding the great one liner, but going deeper into the heart of their films, uncovering what makes a character great, what made the filmmakers interested in them, and how to get most from them.  It was an intense two days in which Mike and Donal gave themselves whole-heartedly to the films and filmmakers. Often it’s not about discussing camera technique, or “knowledge,” but what you bring to the table as a person with life experience beyond your identity as a filmmaker.

The sessions were informed by filmmakers bringing along their trailers, interview excerpts, rough footage, animation samples. Often it can be hard to share materials at this stage, but even “unsuitable” footage generated productive discussion for the films. How do you bring these two characters together, do you need a third? How do we get behind the headlines of an idea and create a cathartic journey for the audience? How do you deal with someone who’s not who he says he is?

Here’s a few summarising thoughts on the “Palmieri/Mosher approach”:

1.       Do keep it simple and spontaneous. Don’t put equipment between you and your character and setting. Strip the equipment to the bare essentials.

2.       Do your research and know your themes but treat “interviews” like a conversation between two people. Don’t over-prepare.

3.       Find the overlapping interest in what you want to say with your film, and what your character/s want to get out of being in the film.

4.       Look at people closely. Is the action in someone’s face, or what do repeated hand gestures say about a character? Try to capture the essence of the person, with as simple means as possible.

5.       Life is complex, so don’t underestimate the intelligence of the audience

6.       Use the mystery you have about your chosen character/s or story as a driver for the film.

7.       Don’t outstay your welcome, know when you and your characters are “done”.

8.       Good films can’t be summed up in one sentence. Or rarely!

Mike and Donal also did a Q&A in Glasgow after screening October Country at The Glasgow Film Theatre, to very enthusiastic audience reactions. Rarely had they seen such a lyrical representation of a documenary about a working class family. We discussed the difficulties of “selling” the film in the UK, although it shares a working class film heritage.  So far it has had no TV or Cinema release here, and our screenings were only its second outing in the UK after premiering at Sheffield docfest in 2009.

All I could think of is: “How do you pitch a poem”? Some films you just have to take a chance on: see it, love it and spread the word.


Filed under: Bridging the Gap, Masterclasses, , , , , ,

How to Get to Cannes!

Friday 12 November 2010

Talk: 10.30am-12.30pm at Filmhouse – Edinburgh, 88 Lothian Road, Edinburgh
Screening: 2.30pm-4.30pm (ECA) O17 Lecture Theatre, eca, 74 Lauriston Place, Edinburgh EH3 9DF
Free event but RSVP to

We’re delighted to welcome Gaëlle Vidalie from Directors’ Fortnight to Edinburgh to connect with the Scottish film scene.

Created by the French Directors Guild in the wake of the events of May ’68, the aim of Directors’ Fortnight is to help newer talents to be discovered by critics and audiences alike. From its initial program in 1969, rooted in the avant-garde, it slowly created a breeding ground where the Cannes Festival would regularly find its prestigious auteurs.

Over the years the Directors’ Fortnight has showcased the first films of Werner Herzog, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Nagisa Oshima, George Lucas, Martin Scorsese, Ken Loach, Jim Jarmusch, Michael Haneke, Spike Lee, Luc et Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Sofia Coppola … among others.

Unpick the mystery of “Cannes” and put your questions to Gaëlle Vidalie, who will talk about the festival’s programming ethos and screen You Are All Captains (Todos vós sodes capitáns), from the 2010 programme, in the afternoon.

Hosted by Scottish Documentary Institute as part of our year long Docscene programme in association with CMI & Filmhouse.

To subscribe to our newsletter go to:

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

7 Sheffield World Premieres

Sheffield World Premieres.pdf

Bridging the Gap: Surprise

Available world wide:

SEVEN SHORT DOCUMENTARIES by talented new directors on the theme of “SURPRISE” commissioned by Scottish Documentary Institute in 2010. These films surprise and sometimes uplift us with subjects ranging from a mystery sender who posts objects to fashion designer Paul Smith, to a towering transvestite struggling for acceptance in middle England, to an exploration of 21st Century suburbia in Surprise, Arizona and the portrait of a brutalist architect who will outlive all of his buildings.

More information on the initiative:


Twinset – Amy Rose – 3 Nov @ 16:00 & 6 Nov @ 10:00

PS Your Mystery Sender – Benjamin Wigley – 4 Nov @ 20:00

Get Luder – Jonathan Carr – 5 Nov @ 21:00

Surpriseville – Tim Travers Hawkins – 6 Nov @ 21:00 & 7 Nov @ 10:00

Made with funding from Creative Scotland, Skillset, BBC Scotland, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, EM Media & Edinburgh College of Art.

Also check out:




Waiting for Godot – Md. Arifur Rahman – 4 Nov @ 12:00

Day labourers in Dhaka gather at dawn in a market to sell their labour. The ones left behind come to terms with the effects of not getting a job.

Bitter Lemon – Nazmun Nakeb – 5 Nov @ 21:00 & 7 Nov @ 15:30

Experience the point of view of a traffic policeman as he complains how the people of Dhaka have made breaking the rules a way of life.

My Dream – Md. Rezwan Ali Khan – 5 Nov @ 16:15 & 6 Nov @15:20

Sumon, a shrewd businessman, makes a decent living as a disabled beggar. He doesn’t just keep it for himself though. He has a dream.

Calling Home – Shadman Alvi – 6 Nov @ 21:30

Abdul Aziz, another migrant from the countryside, rides the rickshaw day in day out to support his family and afford an education for his daughter.

Dhaka Stories was made in association with British Council & Bangladesh Documentary Council

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

Bridging the Gap Selections and other news (Phew!)

Bridging the Gap: Shift Projects are…

…drum roll please!

The 12 shortlisted projects on the theme of Shift are:

– Ruth Reid – Day Shift Into Night
– Rehan Yousuf – The Gorilla Position
– Maurice O’Brien – The Ship of Stars
– Anne Milne – Pause for Thought
– Tali Yankelevich – The Perfect Fit
– Garry Fraser – Transition
– David Carins – The Hutters
– Martin Smith – Jimmy
– Paul Ryan – Battle of the Squirrels
– Andy Taylor Smith – I Can Smell the Cordite
– CP Lucas Kao – Life in the UK
– Amber Comerford – Spinal Shock

These filmmakers convinced us that they would explore the theme of SHIFT in a personal, creative and engaging way. They are now about to embark on an intense and formative series of workshops and masterclasses over the next few weeks.

And a big thank you to all the other applicants who submitted a proposal to BTG this year, it’s a shame we could only pick 12!

We’ve just completed the line-up for our new season of public masterclasses and Jean-Marie Teno, Cameroonian director, will be here on Friday 22 October. Please come along to Edinburgh College of Art to see some of his early short films and listen to him talking about documentary filmmaking.

2-5pm – Venue: eca Main Lecture Theatre (E22) in collaboration with Africa in Motion Film Festival

Other masterclasses for 2010 include Gaëlle Vidalie (Programmer for the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight) and Michael Palmieri & Donal Mosher (Filmmakers – October Country). More details on Masterclasses are free for everyone to attend but please RSVP.



Docscene Project Development Programme 2010-2011

We are pleased to announce we have selected two projects from the Highlands and Islands region to go into a bespoke development process as part of our year round development programme “Docscene” (supported by Creative Scotland, HIE and BBC Scotland).

– Dave Hammond – The Man who Built a Submarine in his House
– John Martin – The End of the Road

The filmmakers will be guided towards making their short films through individual consultancies and hands on mentoring through SDI.

We will be announcing further opportunities for project consultancies under the Docscene programme soon.


SDI Strand at Sheffield Docfest 2010

We have so many films at Sheffield Docfest this year that they decided to give us a special Scottish Documentary Institute strand! We have a total of 8 short documentaries including the latest from Bridging the Gap: Surprise, and 4 short docs that we made with The British Council and Bangladesh Documentary Council are going to premiere in Sheffield Doc/Fest this November!

Bridging the Gap: Surprise
Get Luder directed by Jonathan Carr 05/10 at 21:00
PS Your Mystery Sender directed by Benjamin Wigley 04/10 at 20:00
Surpriseville directed by Tim Travers Hawkins 06/10 at 21:00 and 07/10 at 10:00
Twinset directed by Amy Rose 03/10 at 16:00 and 06/10 at 10:00

Dhaka Stories
Bitter Lemon directed by Nazmun Naked 05/11 at 21:00 and 07/11 at 15:30
Calling Home directed by Shadman Alvi – 06/11 at 21:30
My Dream directed by Md Rezwan Ali Khan – 05/11 at 16:15 and 06/11 at 16:20
Waiting for Godot directed by Md Arifur Rahman – 04/11 at 12:00

Sonja, Flore and Finlay will all be attending from 3-7th Nov so we’ll hopefully see you there!

Check out the Scottish Doc Institute Focus: Sheffield Doc/Fest 2010


SDI ‘Retrospective’ at Zinebi Film Festival

We are absolutely delighted to be invited to Bilbao to hold a ‘retrospective’ of our work at the 52nd Zinebi Film Festival of Documentary and Short Films in November.

Now in it’s 52nd year the Zinebi Film Festival of Documentary and Short Film is an institution on the film festival calendar and constantly hosts some of the best known filmmakers and film stars in the world. Zinebi also champions new filmmakers and students and constantly nourishes local filmmakers throughout the year with a host of workshops all over the city.

We will have 2 short documentary screenings, packed with some of the best work from the last 6 years of Bridging the Gap, Edinburgh College of Art student work and other Scottish Documentary Institute affiliated films in Bilbao on the last weekend in November. We will also show two feature films during the Scottish Forum: Amy Hardie’s Edge of Dreaming and The New 10 Commandments by various talent based in Scotland including Tilda Swinton, Douglas Gordon and Irvine Welsh.

Zinebi Film Festival of Documentary & Short Film – 22nd November to the 27th November 2010.


CPH:DOX Market

This year the Scottish Documentary Institute will be curating a number of feature and short documentaries at CPH:DOX 2010, the largest documentary film festival in Scandinavia. We will be attending the forum and other events from the 9th to the 12th November.

We are taking our latest Bridging the Gap films including some of the latest Edinburgh College of Art films to the DOX:Market in Copenhagen. Along with these we have chosen a number of Scottish docs including Oscar long listed 1000 Pictures by Jennifer Stoddart and an Irish feature in the shape of Colony by Carter Gunn and Ross McDonnell. Colony will also have it’s Scandinavian premiere at the festival. We selected films that have not previously been screened to a Scandinavian audience and would not necessarily  get exposure in this part of the world.

SDI will be in Copenhagen from the 9th to the 12th November 2010.

For more info:


Document 8 – International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival – Glasgow

SDI is delighted to partner with Document 8 and to once again welcome Emmy award winner Geoffrey Smith (The English Surgeon, Presumed Guilty) who will discuss the tricky process of editing this highly observational “court room drama” and his approach to documentary storytelling.

His latest documentary Presumed Guilty, co-directed with Roberto Hernandes will be screened on Saturday 30 October at 2:15pm (CCA 5) and will be followed by a Q&A with Geoffrey.

Tickets are available from CCA Box Office (0141 352 4900)


Amy Hardie’s Dangerous Dreams on More 4

Don’t forget to tune in to see Amy Hardie’s Dangerous Dreams (the shorter version of Edge of Dreaming) on More 4 at 10pm tomorrow night.

Dangerous Dreams (Edge of Dreaming): This is the story of a rational, sceptical woman, a mother and wife, who does not remember her dreams. Except once, when she dreamt her horse was dying. She woke so scared she went outside in the night. She found him dead. The next dream told her she would die herself, when she was 48.

Filed under: Bridging the Gap, Festivals, Scottish Doc Institute, , ,

Bridging The Gap SHIFT open for submissions!

Bridging the Gap SHIFT

We are very pleased to announce that Bridging the Gap 8 is now open for applications! This year we are looking for Scottish-based filmmakers only to make 10 minute documentaries on the theme of SHIFT. We want films to be told in the first person – either by the filmmaker or the main character.

12 ideas will be short-listed on the basis of the proposal and supporting materials. In the following weeks they will be developed through weekend workshops so that they can be pitched to a panel of experts who will commission the final 5 projects in December 2010. The films, delivered by April 2011, are intended for distribution in cinemas and festivals.

Who can apply?
This scheme is open to all filmmakers based in Scotland, and particularly aims to bridge the gap between training/graduation and a first commission, and those filmmakers who have not made films for the big screen. We are especially interested in filmmakers from diverse and under-represented backgrounds. We cannot accept applications from students in full time education.

DEADLINE: 6 October 2010

For further details please visit or contact Flore on | 0131 2216204

Supported by The National Lottery through Creative Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise & ERDF via Screen HI, Edinburgh College of Art, home of Scottish Documentary Institute
Workshop your ideas with us before submitting!

BTG SHIFT WORKSHOP: Improve your chances to be short-listed
Glasgow Friday 17 Sept 2010 (14:00-17:00)   Free
Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA) 350 Sauchiehall Street Glasgow G2 3JD

Scottish Documentary Institute is pleased to announce outreach workshop in Glasgow to encourage submissions to our annual Bridging the Gap short documentary film competition. We will be showing examples of past Bridging the Gap work, explain the aims of the scheme and how to improve your chances to be short-listed. Please bring along an idea for a short documentary and learn how to develop and focus your treatment.

There are limited spaces available so make sure to book your place early. We look forward to meeting you.

Inverness 25 & 26 September 2010 (9:00-17:00 both days)  Free
Ironworks, 122b Academy Street Inverness IV1 1LX

This two-day workshop is a fantastic opportunity to work with Noe Mendelle, Director of Scottish Documentary Institute and develop your project for Film G or Bridging the Gap. During the two days you will look at different documentaries and learn the grammar of documentary storytelling. On the second day you will be given the opportunity to pitch your own ideas and get feedback on how to take your project further.

There are limited spaces available for filmmakers outside The Highlands & Islands region.
Hosted by SDI in collaboration with Screen Hi and FilmG/MG Alba
To register to one of these workshops please email with your name and postal address.

The Nurture Room by Matt Pinder

The Nurture Room

We’re delighted to give a shout to Matt Pinder’s latest film The Nurture Room screening at Filmhouse and Glasgow in September and October. Please make a note in your diary and support your local filmmakers!

Filmhouse Edinburgh: 16 September, 17:45
GFT, Glasgow Film Theatre: 4 October, 18:00

UK 2010 90 minutes Certificate Rated 12A Documentary.

Shot over a year, with unprecedented access, Matt Pinder’s film follows three troubled Glasgow schoolchildren as their lives are completely transformed under the careful and patient nurturing of their dedicated teachers.

The Nurture Room is a bridge between home and school, a safe place where children can be children. In these small, special classrooms children can revisit early ‘nurturing’ experiences that they missed or didn’t get at home. This beautifully observed and extremely moving documentary will be of interest to parents, teachers and anyone with an interest in how our children are cared for and educated.

Director Matt Pinder will take part in a Q&A after the screening.

The Edge of Dreaming screens in Hawick: 12 Sept

‘Inception may have made a million at the box office but it is The Edge of Dreaming from Scottish filmmaker Amy Hardie that has grabbed our imagination’ CBS NEWS

We are thrilled with the success Amy’s film is having in the press and on the international arena; rave reviews following her TV outing on PBS/POV in the USA last week and the film was the most watched programme that day!

Here is another opportunity to see the film is at ALCHEMY – Film and Moving Image Festival on 12 September 14:30 in Hawick.
More info about the festival here

More info about the Edge of Dreaming here:

And lastly, don’t forget about the EDINDOCS festival this weekend !

EDINDOCS – Documentary Film in Edinburgh
16-18 September 2010

EDINDOCS is a brand new Documentary Film Festival which aims to bring quality, independent documentary film to Scotland’s capital.

Check it out here:

Filed under: Bridging the Gap, Scottish Doc Institute, , ,

Jonathan Carr – Peter Symes Workshop

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.

My project focuses on the Brutalist architect Owen Luder, who faces the prospect of seeing his three key buildings demolished in his own lifetime. One is already gone, one has been left to rot, and the third, the Dunston Rocket in Gateshead, is scheduled to come down in the next few months. Each building has, over the years, attracted huge amounts of criticism, one in particular having been voted the ugliest building in the UK.

I found the story irresistible, particularly as Luder is in his eighties, surely a time in one’s life when you look back over your achievements and failures. My writing partner and I researched every news item available, and tracked down the key players. We tore down to London on the overnight train, and met Luder in his plush apartment in the shadow of Big Ben. Rather than the bitter, broken man I had expected, however, Owen was open, charming and pragmatic. What was our story now? I was hoping the workshop would help me focus.

Remarkably, there were no pumped egos or shrinking violets in the group, and any comments that strayed close to criticism were always taken in the right spirit – with a bright smile masking a seething undercurrent of anger and resentment. Actually, the group was enthusiastic, open and encouraging, and every project was received and dissected with equal enthusiasm. Even though each was wildly different, there were some common themes: alternative living, intriguing mysteries, unusual spaces, eccentric characters and a lack of working electricity. We travelled from Arizona through Japan to Beirut, and ended up in a bowling green in Balham. Food was eaten, drinks were taken, relationships were cemented and our projects were turned upside down.

My idea seemed well received, but it became clear that I had three or four films in my head, and that I should concentrate on one. We were all in agreement that Luder himself was the film. By stripping away all the peripheral aspects of the story, I can now see a clear way to progress, and the group’s interventions were invaluable.

Once it was all over, we all agreed we couldn’t wait for the second round – particularly since we hadn’t lost anyone along the way.

Filed under: Bridging the Gap

Ben Wigley – Peter Symes Workshop

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.

I had huge input from all filmmakers and workshop leaders on my project, my one line & my title and I really feel like I’ve made progress. Although, I’ve a lot of research…. and I’ve got a particularly tricky puzzle to workout.

My project is about Paul Smith’s ‘Stamped Objects’ and their mystery sender. Paul has been receiving random and bizarre objects in the post, each unwrapped with the postage stamped directly on the objects themselves, for over 15 years.

I managed to film at Paul Smith’s London offices, and interview the man himself. As you might imagine, he was very comfortable on camera and I was able to shoot around 30 mins of interview with him talking about the ‘Stamped Objects’ and their story. I also interviewed the receptionist and shot the objects that were there.

Now I need to go through the footage and do some research considering the ideas and concepts that the workshop has helped me to develop.

The group itself is extremely supportive, everyone wants to offer suggestions and thoughts that might improve each project, which Peter even said, “is rare and something to cherish”. So I’m very much looking forward to the next workshop weekend in February.  Check out my site to see regular updates, my first trailer and images of the project in progress:

Filed under: Bridging the Gap

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