Scottish Doc Institute's Blog

Visit our new blog at

This blog has moved…

…and can now be found at – see you there for the latest posts!

New SDI Blog

New SDI Blog

Filed under: Scottish Doc Institute

New beginnings for SDI!

We’re trying to get a handle on audiences (let’s not use “the market”). Let me rephrase that:

How can we interest individuals in what we do, the documentaries we make and the questions we – or YOU – raise with them? How do we get people involved online and in person, and perhaps affect change? And how does this translate into a more sustainable business for filmmaking as a whole? That is what we want to be working on for the next 18 months thanks to funding from Creative Scotland.

Our colleagues in North America have been doing it as a matter of necessity. They have nurtured relationships with donors, individual giving and sponsorship for a long time. It’s tempting to focus only on how much money this might “bring” to a film. What is much more interesting is how “getting to know YOU” (one by one) can be an enlightening part of the whole process, deepening our understanding of the film and its need to exist in the world. Or, in other words, how and where do you want to meet your filmmaker?

This process used to be called “marketing and distribution”. We’re still looking to find a better word for it. It’s now built into filmmaking. How could it ever have been otherwise? But how do we start this relationship? Perhaps traditional distribution is like a dating agency, and perhaps it absolves us both from too much responsibility. That’s why we call it the “Virtuous Circle project”: the more WE do together, we contribute to a greater good, an eco-system.

But still, how do we convert getting to know audiences, into cash? I know it sounds far too cynical. Yes, filmmakers still have to eat, but we rarely have been to business school. We may be pulling pints to make a living though.

Truly, where are the models which show us how to calculate percentages, revenues and conversion rates – without selling out? How do we both get satisfied by our respective offerings? How do we start to trust each other?

We are excited about the opportunity to test and model new strategies and share the results with you.  I hope we can continue this conversation…

But first things first: As of today, we’re recruiting our new conversation leader & producer for a new position at SDI!

Producer specialised in Marketing & Distribution

FT – 17 months, £24,000-26,000 pa

This is a unique opportunity for someone to be at forefront of new models of documentary film investment and audience engagement. A successful PMD can make the difference between a film you never heard of and a glowing success which pays back its investors and sets the filmmakers up to make more. You will test and develop tools and strategies to be used at any stage of production and distribution and run crowdfunding campaigns. You will work across a number of feature documentaries at different stages.

Your task will include definition of an authentic voice for SDI’s online communications and to aggregate audiences across projects. You should be a digital native, a natural communicator and motivator, and able to manage multiple priorities.

Please send your CV and covering letter with links to your online identity and previous campaigns to:  A job description is available here

Deadline for applications is 27 June 2011.

Interviews will be on 6 or 7 July in Edinburgh.

If selected for interview you will be asked to do a 5 min presentation based on an idea for an audience engagement campaign.

Freelance or salaried. For more questions, please email or call 0131 221 6125.

Filed under: Scottish Doc Institute, , , ,

The Edges of Things

"I rather go towards things that frighten me ..." Penny Woolcock (Photo: Alan Marcus)













“I didn’t want to be a woman looking over my shoulder. I rather go towards things that frighten me – and draw attention to the situation.” Penny Woolcock

Penny Woolcock, born 1950, grew up in Argentina’s English ex-pat community before settling in England in 1970, working in factories and other jobs. Even as a school girl she was more interested in the edges of things – for example the life in the favela underneath the bridge she passed every week on the way to church. She only took to filmmaking in her thirties and never formally trained as a filmmaker, which has led to some crew members commenting: “you work really differently!” Penny says: “Ignorance can be bliss!”

Here are some of Penny’s approaches to filmmaking across documentary and fiction:

1) Be mindful your “characters” are people, and it’s their lives you’re documenting. I don’t like calling people in my docs “characters.”

2) I always have the fear of failure. It’s never left me. Something really amazing can happen when you’re not in your comfort zone.

3) When you’re casting non-actors for your film, cast them as close to their natural emotional range as possible. All my fiction films are based on heavy documentary research. I realised there is a depository of wasted talent in places like an estate (for example, for the film Shakespeare on the Estate)

4) You never regret what you don’t use in the edit, only what you haven’t got. Better to shoot a bit more than not shooting it at all, or redoing a take.

5) I’m interested in the disenfranchised and their inventive ways of dealing with their situation and the connections between people. I wish I could make a “quiet film” – mine are usually quite “populated”.  I choose not to make socio-political “lament films” along the lines of Ken Loach.

6) For my fictionalised work, my scripts are very specific, but I put no dialogue in it. Often my sound or camera people don’t know what happens before the first take. This gives my films a spontaneous & documentary feel.

7) As my dear friend Peter Symes once said to me: “Take risks – at worst it’s a disaster – at best it’s fantastic.” It’s good to be honest about what you’re doing, and not try to make it sound easy.

(8) If you know it’s not going to work out with an actor you have cast, for example, you have to let them go as swiftly and as quickly as possible. If you have that nagging feeling something is wrong, you have to act on it fast.

9) I fictionalise when I realise that what I know through my extensive research can’t actually be put  in a documentary. (eg. Tina goes Shopping)

10)  Whatever it is that turns you on, and gives you passion – that’s where you have to be. It’s too hard otherwise.

11)  I feel so lucky being a filmmaker – I look forward to going to work. I think success as a filmmaker is largely about how much and how hard you are prepared to work.

Penny Woolcock gave a masterclass at Scottish Documentary Institute on 14 Jan 2011.

Filed under: Masterclasses, Scottish Doc Institute, , , , , ,

SDI opens new bursary fund

Make Docs HappenScottish Documentary Institute is launching for the first time year-round submissions of Scottish documentary projects in development (shorts and features) to our Docscene project pool.

From the submissions a number of suitable proposals will be selected to go into a development/ consultation process whereby the filmmaker will be advised on one or more of the following:

– synopsis, proposal, full treatment, trailer
– story development
– financing strategy
– budgeting
– rough-cut (if available)
– festival strategy (for completed projects or rough-cut stage)
– online marketing/financing strategy (any stage)

The projects will then be steered towards forthcoming training programmes or other funding opportunities, depending on theme and scope: *new* Seed Funding, Interdoc, the Edinburgh Pitch and prepared for other submissions to funders, meet markets or pitching forums. The aim is to improve quality of project development and increase the talent pool.

Selected Scottish projects will qualify for a bursary and receive advice free of charge, thanks to Creative Scotland Lottery funding. They will be listed on as projects in development.

We have a strong team of internal advisers as well as first rate links to UK and international producers & sales & distribution consultants in Europe and North America.

For more information and to apply check

Filed under: Scottish Doc Institute, , ,

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, , ,

The Scottish Doc Institute Blog

The Scottish Documentary Institute has set up this blog to write about various different thoughts and comments related to documentary filmmaking. We will have a blog from our latest Bridging the Gap participants, blogs from ‘behind the scenes’ of SDI and even film reviews!

Filed under: Scottish Doc Institute

Visit our new blog

New SDI Blog

New SDI Blog

This blog is no longer updated

All posts on this blog have been imported into our new blog at – see you there for the latest posts!


SDI Twitter