filmmaker in residence

Filmmaker In Residence Project: Script Update 1

Since the announcement in May this year of the project I have devised and am overseeing from this month through to summer 2016 it has been a fascinating and stressful time. Discussions between myself as project coordinator and scriptwriter and Justin Doherty who is the filmmaker in residence for this pilot project have ranged from the excited to the worried to the confused to the excited again, thankfully. 

Having not made a film together in a few years and embarking on our first feature within a specific context with financial and logistical challenges, limitations and opportunities, our process has been to come to grips with the best way of proceeding and coming up with a project that would excite us and also fit the criteria for the pilot.

We have a number of films we'd love to make that have been and are in various stages of development. However, all of them are logistically beyond us at this moment. We've spent the summer looking for a story, for a project, that excites us.

We think we are there now. Some frank conversations on the phone last week cleared the air and focused the mind and today we met in person and talked through an idea that has been brewing and how we could make it our own. On paper it fits the bill for a project like this. Minimal cast and locations and scope for a lot of experimentation and interesting approaches to writing and developing. We can attach a number of personal creative ambitions to a familiar and stable skeleton of an idea. It's a flexible starting point but one that has a strong core. The core is important because the difficulties that will arise will need to be offset by a confidence in a strong core in terms of story and potential project completion. We think we have that now.

Over the past week or so I've become much more excited about this idea by drilling down into what I want to achieve creatively from this project. I've called on my emotional reaction to seeing Cassavetes's Opening Night in the cinema recently, an experience that hasn't left me and fused it with some thoughts that emerged from revisiting Godard's Vivre Sa Vie last week.

I am aware this seems vague. The story is based on an existing property at this stage, loosely, that we are in the process of discussing the rights to. We are aiming to announce the project in detail in early October, following some more thoughtful work on developing the nucleus of it. But for now, it felt like the right time to write an update because the tide has turned and there is a strong light shining on the project. We have some collaborators in mind, we have our ideas of how we will create something that works within the demands of the project but that also fulfils us creatively. 

As Joey 'The Lips' Fagan says in The Commitments:

"It's not much, but it's a start. And I believe in starts".

Filmmaker In Residence Project: Launch

I've long believed that universities are, at least potentially, the perfect environment to learn filmmaking. To be clearer, I am referring to filmmaking that seeks to have a conversation with history, culture and society, and not merely film history and culture. I've also believed for some time that British universities are missing a trick by not becoming involved in the production of feature-length content. I believe that partnerships with professional filmmakers can provide a means of expanding pedagogy of film practice beyond the classroom and also see universities provide a socially conscious model for commercial micro-budget feature filmmaking.

My recently completed doctoral thesis, which is the in process of being disseminated via a series of journal articles and conference papers, discusses these ideas at length. In my day job, as the BA Film course co-ordinator responsible for practice at the School of Film & Television (SoFT) at Falmouth University, I have been tasked with investigating the potential of my claims. I've been tasked with putting (not) my money where my mouth is regarding the commercial and pedagogical possibilities of such an undertaking. Thanks to SoFT, over the course of the academic year 2015-16, I will be overseeing a pilot Filmmaker In Residence project that will result in a professional filmmaker creating a feature film in partnership with the School and the University. 

One of the reasons for the creation of this personal website now is to provide a platform for me to discuss my research and the experiences of this innovative, exciting and daunting project. I am grateful for the support of SoFT to expand my research beyond the theoretical and am excited to work with my constant collaborator Justin Doherty who will direct and produce the film, from a script I am writing.

If, nay when, it works, it will provide a much needed route for filmmakers seeking to make the step up to features from shorts or across to features from television, commercials etc. I also hope the project, beyond providing incredible opportunities for students in all departments and at all levels, will be able to address representation issues currently facing film and cinema, both in front of and behind the camera.

I will be updating the creative, logistical, pedagogical and industrial elements of the process as the pilot goes on. 

This has been something I have been discussing with friends, colleagues and superiors since I made the step across from production and exhibition into academia. It is exciting that together with them I get to explore this idea and work with students on the creation of a feature film. It will be good to return to the filmmaking fray following my doctoral study and it will be great to do so with such a strong educational focus, which is how myself and Justin have always approached projects.

For now though this is just an initial piece of context for the project, which launched on Tuesday April 28th. Articles on the process will appear here and in the Screenwriting section of the website.