GFF Industry Focus Blog – Liska Pleines

Liska Pleines

BA Broadcast Production: TV & Radio at UWS

 

There is no mystery to this big word. Industry. It’s just that: people with the same passion working on the same thing. I was star-struck. Still am! And so, so happy.

I had a chance to chat to some of the filmmakers… Seeing their success not only lifted me up but also meant I could finally see a future for myself in this.

 

 

The Glasgow Film Fest Industry Focus Events. A mouthful. When I first read about it, I was excited. Then Intimidated. Because social situations scare me. And because I could hardly go to an event that focussed solely on industry. I have a hard time considering myself a filmmaker, let alone part of the filmmaking industry. I talked this through with many people on many occasions, and it almost didn’t matter that all of them said: come on, go, how bad can it be. What I heard was: don’t go. Under no circumstances go. But on the other side of this fear was a pull that told me that even though, even if I wasn’t part of any industry, really, didn’t I want to be? Wasn’t this a chance for me to become something else and something more than I was? When I came to Scotland six months ago wasn’t that because I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone? Wasn’t that where good stories grew.

 

 

The panels on the first day were amazing and the day was jam packed with incredibly knowledgeable panellists and topics.

And so, one fateful night at approximately 4 am after tossing and turning for hours and hours, I had decided that I did want to go to the industry focus events. But how? I was in no position to be able to afford a pass for myself and was almost ready to give up again, but it so happened that only two days later, a friend of mine mentioned the SDTN delegate passes over a coffee (fate, anyone?). I applied that same day and got given the incredible opportunity to attend the industry focus events with a fully funded pass. (SAY WHAT?)

Fast forward eight days and I am suddenly sitting on the Monday morning train to Glasgow at 8 am amidst masses of commuters, typing away at their laptops, checking emails on their phones, thinking: Man. This is what my next week is going to look like. But let me tell you: I had not a single clue.

An hour later I was whisked off the train and with my second coffee of the day I began my ascent of Glasgow City towards the Double Tree hotel where the event was held (I can confirm I now have calves of steel). I soon met with two of the other SDTN Delegates Kate and Innes, both from Edinburgh and we hit it off immediately (yay for new friends)!

I then picked up my industry pass, which sounds exactly as fancy as it was. I’ve never been to an event like this and if you haven’t it’s hard to imagine how instantly gratifying and cool it is to slip the lanyard over your head, so all I will say is that the only time I took it off during the following week was in the shower.

I especially loved the Birds Eye View panel about the female perspective on film distribution.

The panels on the first day were amazing and the day was jam packed with incredibly knowledgeable panellists and topics. I learned so much about a film’s distribution process (I will be honest and admit I had never even heard that term in relation to film before), film festival runs, art house and marketing. A key element for me was de-mystifying this distribution process and really learning what it is all about. Where a big question mark was, going into the first panel of the day (with incredibly funny Debbie Rowland from NFTS), there is now certainty. I am not anywhere near approaching a distributor with a film, but I feel knowing one or two things about it from a distributor standpoint will be invaluable once I actually get there.

For this reason, I especially loved the Birds Eye View panel about the female perspective on film distribution. Hosted by Mia Days an array of amazing women working in distribution gave their insights on how intersectionality and the female lens enrich the industry. And because I’ve been waffling for a long time and do want to give you something to take away from this and you’re probably thinking GET ON WITH IT (rightfully so), here are the Top Ten Things To Do As A Filmmaker Wanting To Sell Your Film To A Distributer:

  1. Know your audience, know your film’s genre, know your objective for the release.
  2. Hire a professional photographer (no, our smartphone cameras won’t do) to take on-set stills for marketing (Think: posters, banners, promotional material). This can make or break the marketing of your film.
  3. Provide the distributor with a detailed delivery schedule from the start.
  4. Know the right time and place for the release of your film. This can be festivals, broadcasters, or theatrical.
  5. Start partnerships and sponsorships with influencers or organisations during the (pre-) production of your film to benefit from valuable knowledge and to build trust.
  6. Seek advice from sales agents before approaching distributors. They know the industry inside out and bridge the gap between you and the distributor.
  7. Film Festivals are a good place to meet sales agents and it can also be where distributors look for promising films.
  8. Speak to a lot of different people and agents and find out who you can trust with your film. Who has the same values and objectives as you? Who has done a good job in the past? Don’t rush into this.
  9. Save yourself from disappointment by researching distributors and contacting only the people who are right for you. Look at which distributors worked on films that resemble yours.
  10. At the beginning of your career, go with sales companies rather than sales agents.

 

“Climate change” is also – despite the shift in social awareness – still very little talked about on screens compared to things like “Brexit” “cats” and “cake.” All intriguing topics, but hardly more pressing than the demise of our species I would think.

The experts on the Birds Eye View panel also talked about harassment and bullying in industry spaces which wonderfully linked into the panel on Mental Health in the Screen Sector later in the week. This is not only important to me, having struggled with mental health and knowing so many people in the creative industries who have too, but the room was packed for both talks, and a sense of relief could be felt from the audience when engaging in conversation about this.

The panel spoke about how for bullying and harassment, it is most important to have a fire exit strategy in place should something occur, and also a strong sense of allyship across the industry with intersectionality as the key feature.

But mental wellbeing is a slightly different issue: Looking after your mental health is a form of selfcare that can be helped by counselling or putting mentors in place on set, but that is still oftentimes shrugged off when we work incredibly long hours on set and survive on minimal sleep on top of possibly toxic interactions. In the Industry as much as anywhere time is money and if a shoot can be wrapped up in five days with everyone losing their will to live, that is often preferable to shooting (and paying) for two weeks.

And yes, filmmaking is a risk because we have to invest disproportionate amounts of time and energy into it and there can often be a divergence between our practical and monetary success. But initiatives like BECTU are trying to change the game (i.e. working hours of industry professionals) slowly but steadily. And the consensus was, that while this long process is happening, it is most important to keep this conversation going and be open about your own struggle.

So: if you are struggling, please reach out to someone you know or call the 24/7 UK Film and TV Charity hotline under 0800 054 0000. The service is free, confidential, and they can advise on topics like legal queries, mental health and wellbeing, financial troubles, family issues, or your hopes and ambitions. Please know you are not alone. A recent study by the UK Film and TV Charity (9K out of around 200K people participated) found that 78% op people working in the industry have faced a mental health problem and two thirds suffer from anxiety and/or depression. Help can be preventative, so speaking to someone about stress and anxieties before they develop into a bigger problem can help immensely (promise).

Rounding off the day after this insightful panel was a discussion the “boom” of art house cinema. This was truly refreshing and done from the perspectives of Jason wood, creative director of the HOME cinema in Manchester, Ewa Bojanowska who works in sales, Bacurau Producer Emilie Lesclaux, and host Wendy Mitchell.

So, is art house cinema booming? The panel said somehow, it is. There was a positive outlook for art house and foreign language films, but the “boom” seems to still be concentrated on a few films. While Oscar favourite Parasite might have helped to get the average viewer to try subtitled films, streaming services might also facilitate open-mindedness. Generally, the cinema experience does remains special (with or without popcorn, which was heavily discussed) and is impossible to recreate at home, but to really pull people into art house cinemas, they need to find ways to appeal to everyone. It was such a lively and engaging discussion and I felt the love for cinema from everyone in the room.

And of course, after some quick networking drinks (just water for me), the delegates and friends, as I like to call us, went on to participate in the Glasgow Film Fest Film Quiz! One might think a table of film students would bring home the trophy, but alas, we placed competitively in the middle section, knowing a lot less about film than we would like to believe. We did have plenty of laughs and a fabulous night though.

Production designers are in many cases already obligated to fill out sustainability forms at the beginning and end of production, detailing the estimated vs. the actual pollution of their production.

The night, admittedly, was short, but the next day awaited me with much excitement and the promise of learning about sustainability and pitching, so I blinked myself awake and headed off towards Glasgow once more, notepad in hand and pass at the ready.

And the panel did not disappoint! I went into it not expecting too much, honestly. Being involved with a lot of sustainability movements over the past years, a lot of it is just trying, proposing, and saying what we have right now doesn’t cut it. But for one and a half hours we learned all about what sustainability measures are already in place and in which way Scotland could be pioneering the green screen (hint hint) industry! The Screen industry is often considered green due to the digital nature of it, but is actually a big polluter, with pollution taking place at almost every stage of production and the formats that have the biggest carbon footprint are scripted drama and international factual, flying their crew and talent all over the world. “Climate change” is also – despite the shift in social awareness – still very little talked about on screens compared to things like “Brexit” “cats” and “cake.” All intriguing topics, but hardly more pressing than the demise of our species I would think.

Anyhow, there are people educating on and trying to change the way the industry currently pollutes. One of them is Katie Murdoch who offers sustainability consultancy for production companies and studios and who is also the Scottish rep for Albert (who offer sustainable production certification, handbooks, and training on https://wearealbert.org/). She talked on the storytelling opportunities of film and implored filmmakers to bring narratives to life that deal with climate change even in a passive way. That tell the human side of climate change removed from science.

Apparently, production designers are in many cases already obligated to fill out sustainability forms at the beginning and end of production, detailing the estimated vs. the actual pollution of their production. This is something I had no idea even existed and which gives me hope that change might be coming. Especially because of Scotland’s net zero by 2045 law, there is a real possibility of Scotland becoming the most sustainable screen industry. How awesome would that be?

But what to do until then? 2045 is an awfully long way off.

Sustainability needs to reach people higher up the production chain and must be considered on commission papers with specs to implement a quick change. If sustainability isn’t thought of before scheduling and budgeting begin it becomes unfundable and unrealistic. So, we need an early engagement with the topic to make it accessible, maybe even a sustainability agent within a production to keep things in check. There has to be a visible and supportive scaffolding to provide support for attempts at sustainable filmmaking even on a lower scale and that includes talk about a “sustainability hub” that makes looking for sustainable means easier. For example, an environment where electric vehicles and low emission equipment can be easily accessed is key. Because there is this willingness to go green and it is up and coming in the industry. So, there was this generally positive outlook and call to action for filmmakers to write stories that matter which was so inspiring. And to hear so many bright people in film passionate about system change and a healthy climate was super amazing.

After this I stayed for a live pitching session, in which six Scottish filmmakers pitched their films to a panel of distribution experts. This was super fun and interesting, because I had never in my life heard a film pitch before. There were so many different approaches and projects and the feedback of the panel was very informative and transparent. As time went on, I could really feel myself getting comfortable with the whole distribution process and the vocabulary that was being used. (Sorry if I keep throwing words around that no one knows. I really feel like it’s a part of me now).

Networking can be horrifying (believe me, I know) but if you just remember everyone is there for that precise reason, it becomes infinitely less scary.

At the networking drinks after I had a chance to chat to some of the filmmakers about their pitches as well and they were all so passionate and lovely. Seeing their success not only lifted me up but also meant I could finally see a future for myself in this. It was almost like a visualisation of what I find so hard to put into words (I bet you can tell …). I stayed for a while chatting to all kinds of people to really try and make the most out of the networking event and met composers, actors, and camera operators. Everyone was so friendly and ready to strike up a conversation if I so much as stumbled in their direction, which I enjoyed so much.

Networking can be horrifying (believe me, I know) but if you just remember everyone is there for that precise reason, it becomes infinitely less scary. And in situations where I feel like I have nothing to contribute to the round table (because, let’s face it, I don’t have the most insights into industry happenings yet), it helps to think that I have nothing to prove going into these events, only to share. I think a musical actress said that in an interview once and I remind myself of it ever since reading it.

In line with the pitching sessions of the previous night, the following afternoon held a pitching workshop with Noe Mendelle that attempted to break down a pitch into bite sized segments. She focussed mostly on the formal pitch, that you would deliver to secure funding for a film you are in the process of making. It is on average seven minutes long including the trailer (3-4 minutes talking, 2-3 minutes trailer) and includes the following:

  1. Your name! Who are you? What have you achieved?
  2. What is your film about? The topic, background information, and context of the production.
  3. What is the story? Appeal to the imagination, tell them what happens and what you came up with.
  4. Who are the Characters and what are their connection to the story? Why those characters?
  5. What is your access to subjects and locations (only documentary)?
  6. What is your motivation? Why make this film? Why you? Why now? The Motivation is what will get you through the filmmaking process so it can be emotional.

A pitch would also include a reading proposal in 2-3 pages, outlining things like audience, genre, length and so on. The purpose of a pitch is to declutter your idea to communicate its essence. Helpful isn’t it? Now, go and pitch that film you’re always talking about making,

Great insights into the work of intimacy coordinators… it’s a job that will become more and more important in the industry especially in times of #metoo where not only the visual representation of sexuality, but also boundaries and safety on set are more talked about.

The last day of the Industry focus events was centred around the BECTU careers fair, that gave us the opportunity to talk to industry professionals such as set designers, assistant directors, or the costume department. The event was open to the public, so it was rather crowded, and we didn’t manage to find it at a time where there was less traffic, so we just marvelled at the camera equipment, grabbed a bag of popcorn and went to the next panel.

Some Like It Hot: Sex on Screen was a panel hosted by journalist Christina Newland and included super interesting insights from journalist Sophie Monks Kaufman, Intimacy Coordinator Yarit Dor, and Founder of ‘The Clit Test’ Frances Rayner (Look it up, seriously. Twitter @clittest). It was so refreshing to hear four women talking about sex, masturbation, and porn without inhibition and the audience was super lovely as well. So many great insights into the work of intimacy coordinators as well! I think it’s a job that will become more and more important in the industry especially in times of #metoo where not only the visual representation of sexuality, but also boundaries and safety on set are more talked about. And I shared so many laughs with the amazing filmmakers and panellists as well. Such a charismatic and knowledgeable bunch!

I left.. feeling inspired and ready to go do … something. Anything, really. It’s like magic. Being surrounded by so many likeminded people.

Afterwards, Mateusz – another one of the delegates – and I went to the special BECTU sponsored networking drinks where we were all given name-breast-patches (genius! why didn’t we have those all along??). This one brought about the most fruitful conversations, maybe because I had gotten into the swing of it all: Make eye-contact, smile, wander over, smile more, introduce yourself, ask what the other person is doing, what they are working on, chat for 15 minutes, rinse, repeat. Or, alternatively if everyone is already chatting, stand next to a pair or a group inconspicuously, and smile along when appropriate. Eventually someone will say hi. It is as terrifying as it sounds, especially stone cold sober, but it really is all about practice. I spoke to so many people who gave me invaluable advice on what to do with that long, long summer approaching for me as a student now and I left the event (the drinks and the entirety of it) feeling inspired and ready to go do … something. Anything, really. It’s like magic. Being surrounded by so many likeminded people does something to me. This whole event has been the most invaluable experience for me.

People strike up conversations with you in the audience of a panel, next to the tea station, or when you’re both washing your hands, silently counting to 25. And everyone is kind. We all want the same thing: tell stories, bring them to people, and do it in a way that will guarantee a roof over our heads and a warm dinner. I realised that. There is no mystery to this big word. Industry. It’s just that: people with the same passion working on the same thing. I was star-struck. Still am! And so, so happy.

Sure, this isn’t Hollywood. This isn’t London (and dare I say: thank god it isn’t!). But Glasgow gives me so much. It’s so imperfect and gritty (and steep). And I got the feeling that everyone just wanted to lift me up. Lift each other up. I was asked a lot what had inspired me the most being there, and I had to say: This. All of it. Just being here and basking in the joy of knowing that if all these people can make things, so can I.

 

 

You can read Mateusz Pandzierski’s Blog here

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