"It's all just storytelling": highlights from reFRAMED 2014
02 October 2014
What really influences a film audience’s viewing habits? How practical is self-distributing a film? How can filmmakers tell new stories in new ways? reFRAMED returned to Lighthouse this month with a panel of industry experts offering advice, tips and anecdotes on the opportunities digital tools and platforms present to filmmakers and content producers.
There were eye-opening stats on audience behaviour from writer/producer Stephen Follows while Andy Heathcote and Heike Bachelier talked about bypassing sales agents to crowd-fund the UK distribution of their Sundance hit The Moo Man. Storythings’ Hugh Garry gave an entertaining insight into the campaigns behind Frank, American Interior and Shut Up And Play the Hits before artists Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard took the floor to shed light on the making of new release 20,000 Days on Earth and story-gathering through its partner project The Museum of Important Shit.
“We don’t know how to do this yet," Hugh Garry told us. “Anyone who tells you that there’s a definitive way to do it is lying.” I love people who tell you that they don’t know what they’re doing. Especially when they clearly know loads and are doing very cool things.
Hugh told us what we already know about the doomed old model of film distribution. Then he told us about the new model of circulation, about shifts in audience behaviour, and how to see the distracting ‘noise’ of social media as an opportunity, not as a threat – as something that filmmakers’ creative talents could naturally lend themselves to.
These were things I’d kind of felt, but not known. Hugh knew, and it really helped. Because another thing I love is hope. It’s a scary time, but it’s exciting too. We can be part of pioneering changes and no one, not even Hugh, can tell us how to do it. We can do what writers love: we can make it up.
Elizabeth Stoppard, Director, White Rabbit Films
“It’s all changing,” we’re told. “Go with it”. But it can be quite difficult for filmmakers to know which way to go. For many of us, it’s not just about a financial return, but ensuring our film reaches as wide an audience as possible. Choosing the right partner(s) is essential and many of us are understandably cautious about getting it wrong, and “handing it over” only to watch it die without trace.
To go with a DIY approach like the makers of The Moo Man has its advantages, particularly with partners like Sundance to support them. But while it made sense financially for Andy and Heike, getting the film ‘out there’ took over their lives for a year. Is it better to spend a year making sure your film reaches its audience, or focus on making another film? Does it have to be that extreme a choice?
My conclusion was that as much as possible the filmmaker should look to partner with experts who ‘get’ their film, have the skills, expertise and platforms to make it a success, and recognise the benefits of the filmmaker retaining an active role (running events or selling DVDs from their own site for example). That, it seems, is the way to create a win-win situation all round.”
My standout lesson was how well the directors of 20,000 Days on Earth and Film4 tailored their Museum of Important Shit website to maximise its online audience. They were careful to make sure the design meant that it would consistently target all the important social media platforms and that it is really easy to access and upload to."
David Parker, Managing Producer, Oska Bright.
I was interested in the idea of audience as author and the opportunities that presents for us all as creators, promoters and consumers of film culture. I think Storythings’ Matt Locke best summed up the necessary creative shift: "The perception of filmmakers and the film industry is that it’s an all-or-nothing approach. I think we’re starting to get past that now… It’s all just storytelling.
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