The British New Wave: Independent cinema is back!

British cinema

Three Miles North of Molkom

LONDON – British independent cinema is back in full force, and social networks are changing the face of our industry as we know it. The Hollywood studio system has long been a dominant presence in both America and the UK, but there is a new movement emerging.

As more and more films get produced independently and production costs fall with the innovation of HD and home editing suites, filmmakers have the tools to compete with high budget films. But how do they get the attention they deserve? Film Industry network caught up with a talented producing and directing team who are releasing their first self financed documentary feature Three Miles North of Molkom.

The film has rave reviews from The Times to Variety magazine, and has had a limited cinema release in the UK. Find out how producer/director team Robert Cannan and Corinna Villari-McFarlane made their dreams come true.

Corinna Villari-McFarlane and Robert Cannan met on the set of THE GREAT ECSTASY OF ROBERT CARMICHAEL, which premiered at Cannes in 2005. Their production company, Third Eye Film Productions was set up in  2006.

THREE MILES NORTH OF MOLKOM is their  directorial feature  debut which  premiered at The Edinburgh International Film Festival 2008. To date THREE MILES has won an Audience  Award at the 2008 Gothenburg Film Festival  and picked up several nominations at international festivals as well as being nominated for Best Documentary at the 2008 British Independent Film Awards.

Interview with Rob and Corinna

Iain: How did this journey begin for you?

Rob: Our interest and experience (in various roles) has mainly been in fiction, but we became increasingly aware both of the difficulties of effectively executing a debut feature on a micro-budget and of raising any finance whatsoever without a proven track record. At the same time, we realized more and more of the possibilities that the feature documentary form allowed; that character, narrative, cinematic style could all be explored on a fraction of the budget of a fiction piece and with a tiny crew – with the right real-life subject, of course.

Iain: During the shoot, what where the challenges you had to overcome?

Corinna: Many! Building the trust of subjects, keeping track of and being adaptive to multiple characters and unfolding story strands, exhaustion from almost continuous shooting to name but a few.

Iain: What is the message of this film, and what can we expect?

Rob: We usually think that it’s more interesting to ask questions and make people think, rather than convey a message as such in a film. In this case, if there is a message, it’s perhaps that a group of seven very different strangers, all from different walks of life, can somehow find some common universal human experience in the face of adversity and bizarre goings on.

Iain: What are your next projects?

Corinna: Watch this space. We have a number of projects in development and the next film will likely be a fiction feature.

Iain: Can you give any advice to first time feature film directors looking to get their film made?

Rob: If you’re struggling to raise finance, pick an idea or subject that you know is manageable on a tight budget and with minimal resources. Be adventurous and confident when you know you have the right idea(s), but don’t be too ambitious or over-stretch yourself. You’ll lose time and money and demoralize yourself.

Corinna: Play to your strengths and experiences.

Iain: How did you come up with the idea?

Corinna: Ideas can come from anywhere, in this instance I heard about this very unusual place from a Swedish friend at a dinner party and it was immediately interesting. Always be on the look-out for ideas, in newspapers, stories at parties etc.

Iain: How did you find the financing?

Rob: We managed to borrow a small sum to cover the shoot, knowing that we’d need much more later, but hoping that if we could get the material, we’d be able to use that to get more investment. After that, it was a combination of convincing many private investors to come onboard with small sums each, working on any other projects that could make us money for the film (including making propaganda for an Indian cult!), and finally our 20% UK film tax credit (of UK spend – for the film qualifying as British) and advances from a sales agent and UK distributor that covered completion costs.

Iain: What steps did you take to gather a capable crew?

Corinna: We used networks like this and Shooting People to get the word out and find crew who had appropriate experience and a personal interest in working on the film collaborators, essentially.

Iain: For an aspiring producer wishing to get his/her first feature off the ground, what would be your advice?

Rob: We didn’t have enough time to apply for conventional soft money from regional or national film funding bodies, but this should really be your first port of call. Also, as you enter the financing world, it really pays to have thoroughly thought through how you think the film will be marketed once it gets distribution. However arty you want your film to be, financiers and sales people only think on commercial terms, so you must give your pitch the sense that it has some sort of marketing hook and that you have really thought about how it will reach its eventual audience.

Corinna: We all want to make original projects, but we have to convince the money people that cinema-goers will turn up to see it and they will make a profit.

Iain: Can you tell us a little about the editing style of this film?

Rob: It was a huge edit, having shot over 160 hours of material. But this shooting style meant we had a lot of cinematic gold that we otherwise wouldn’t have captured. We shot the film on two cameras, so this often allowed us to edit action and dialogue in a shot/reverse shot style. More than this though, we were generally after something more stylized and cinematic than a conventional observational documentary. We wanted the story to play out more like an experiential fiction piece and this effect was created in the cutting.

Iain: How have social websites like Facebook and MySpace helped your film?

Corinna: These are a great way of spreading the word about the film. It’s obviously more difficult to persuade people to be Facebook fans before they’ve actually seen the film, so we’ve been relying on the trailer as well as getting people behind our story the fact is that we’ve made this completely independently and now need help to stand a chance against the big mainstream releases.

Iain: How did you manage to get so many reviews from top magazines and publications?

Rob: Once we started playing festivals, we knew that we’d have to attract a serious critic to a screening if we were to get a trade review that could help us get sales agents and distributors to come to a screening (if they don t know who you are or don’t have a solid review to read, it’s nearly impossible to even get them to watch your film). After hounding a Variety critic at IDFA, he eventually turned up to a screening at Hot Docs Toronto and an amazing review followed. As soon as this came out, Hollywood studios and international distributors were calling us! It’s well worth trying to meet journalists and charming them into seeing your film. Don’t be too pushy or you’ll put them off. But the nice ones might appreciate your independent struggle! After that, you’ll have to hope that the quality of your film wins them over.

Corinna: The more festival exposure you get, the more the press will be interested in your film. But once you have a distributor, they will work on getting the commercial press along to press screenings and you’ll once again just have to hope they like what they see. Press has a snowballing effect, so good reviews and attention will equal more good reviews and attention.

Iain: Any reflections from the team?

Andy: (an integral part of the Molkom team) As independent filmmakers, when it comes to distributing the film we really have to think outside the box to make up for the lack of marketing budget (billboard posters, TV trailers, adds in newspapers and magazines) that mainstream films enjoy. This is where building online communities of indie cinema lovers comes into it’s own. Please help us (and each other in the future) by joining indie film fan pages and spreading the word to friends and colleagues!

To find out more about Three Miles North of Molkom, check out the links and schedules below. For filmmakers looking to understand the intricacies of getting their work seen, and achieving the success that Rob, Corrina and Andy have achieved, make sure to join their fan pages and see how they continue on their path. All the best to the team!

You can find links to book tickets and catch up with the latest release information here:

 

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