Episode 024: Ellen Evans, Filmmaker

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Ellen Evans is a documentary filmmaker whose shorts have screened worldwide at Sundance, SXSW, Hot Docs, Sheffield Doc/Fest and on BBC iPlayer. I had the absolute pleasure of watching her latest project Country Girl which I believe is still in post and its astoundingly good, empathetic filmmaking and it made me really excited to interview Ellen.

Ellen has also been selected as one of the filmmakers to participate in The Uncertain Kingdom project, which you may remember we spoke about all the way back in episode one with Georgia Goggin when applications had opened, so it feels like a nice way to track the journey of the podcast in relation to that!

Episode 023: Rachel Pronger, Film Programme Coordinator at Tyneside Cinema

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Rachel is the Film Programme Coordinator at Newcastle’s Tyneside Cinema. Previously she was the Producer of Alchemy Film and Moving Arts Festival, and has also held roles at Film Hub Scotland, Edinburgh Film Festival, BFI Festivals and Picturehouse, and she is also an archive activist!

Rachel co-founded a project called Invisible Women that examines how curators can address gendered absence in the archive through public exhibition and looks to reinsert women into cinematic history. Read their manifesto here.

This was succhhh a good chat, I learnt so much and Rachel is incredibly eloquent and intelligent. We talk about the Invisible Women project, particularly some of the women filmmakers that it’s helping to resurrect, programming in the age of Me Too and career pivots.

Episode 022: Sima Gonsai, Director, Producer & Curator

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This week is the 3rd episode in 4-part Flatpack Festival special. Flatpack is a really inventive and subversive event that happens in Birmingham every year, screening a whole host of films and art forms that you might not have seen before. And in that vein, I was really chuffed to get to speak to this week’s guest Sima Gonsai, who is an independent film director and producer specialising in screen dance.

Screen dance is a movement-based arts form that combines cinematography with choreography in its storytelling. Sima will do a much better job of explaining what that is and how she came to be involved in it. This year at Flatpack she programmed an event called Merce Cunningham at 100: Innovations in Screen Dance, in which she explored  the ongoing conversation between dance, film and digital technology through a brief history of Merce Cunningham, a pioneering contemporary dancer and an early innovator in splicing performance with projected imagery.

So I’ll admit I was slightly out of my comfort zone for this interview, because visual arts is something I know next to nothing about and I really was asking questions without much understanding of what Screen Dance was, but it turned out to be really fascinating. We talk a lot of about funding, about being an independent filmmaker and what that looks like, as well as how Sima’s career changed after she had her daughter, so I really appreciate Sima’s honesty there. I think Sima is testament to the fact that you can make and screen your work even if it doesn’t fit neatly into a category or operates outside the mainstream.

Episode 021: Amy Smart, Strategic Manager at Flatpack Projects

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This week, in the 2nd edition of my 4-part Flatpack Film Festival special, I speak to Amy Smart, who manages Flatpack’s year round activity under the banner of Film Hub Midlands, a BFI-funded project working with the Film Audience Network to help build a more thriving film community in the region.

It was a really energetic and fun interview, and I can absolutely see why last week’s guest Alex Jackson chose Amy as someone whom she found inspirational. We talk about how she started out in the film industry, why her job makes her feel like James Garner in The Great Escape, what happens when you programme something that only 4 people show up to and what her proudest programming moment is.

Episode 020: Alexzandra Jackson, BFI NETWORK Talent Executive

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This episode, along with the next three are quite special in that I recorded them during and at the Flatpack Film Festival in Birmingham, an annual event that takes place in venues across the city where recurring themes include animation, music, artists’ film, archive discoveries, offbeat shorts for kids and live cinema. The Flatpack folk are firm believers in creating a sense of occasion and exploring the fertile territory where film bumps up against other artforms, and also showing people things they might not otherwise have seen.

So thank you very much to the wonderful festival, who helped facilitate these interviews with just a handful of the really smart and thoughtful women who helped create and curate the wickedly eclectic programme.

Kicking things off is my interview with Alex Jackson. Alex is a BFI NETWORK Talent Executive for the Midlands, which basically means she discovers and nurtures filmmakers in that region. Before taking up this post Alex managed Phoenix Cinema and Art Centre’s learning and talent programme. She has also lead on other national projects, including Access Cinema, which works to establish comfortable and enjoyable cinema environments for people with disabilities. 

She was involved in Flatpack’s talent camp a one-day training event for new and emerging talent looking to make narrative fiction short films. It was a real pleasure to meet Alex and hear how committed she is to make cinema and filmmaking as accessible as possible, and also to chat about the ins and outs of filmmaking outside of London.

Episode 019: Rachel Clark, Cinematographer

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Rachel started out in the industry over ten years ago, working as a runner on the likes of This Is England (2006), and progressed into the camera department where she worked as a trainee on Control (2007). In the years after that Rachel worked as clapper loader (don’t worry we get into what that is) on lots of British indie films such as Bronson, Fish Tank and Wuthering Heights as well huge blockbusters such World War Z and Captain America: Civil War. As a first assistant camera assistant she travelled across the US with Cinematographer Robbie Ryan and director Andrea Arnold for the road movie American Honey (2016) and has worked around the world on many 2nd Unit action sequences: Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them (2016), & Black Panther (2018) among them.

Rachel was the 2nd Unit Director of Photography on director Sarah Gavron’s latest film Rocks and has just completed photography  on the feature film Concrete Plans. I felt very honored to lure Rachel away from the camera to the microphone and basically ask lots of basic questions about what cinematography actually is. 

We cover lots of interesting topics such as the physicality and energy the role requires, what Rachel does in her downtime between jobs and how she stays motivated, and what she learnt from working with Robbie Ryan.

I hope you enjoy the interview.

Episode 018: Jen Moss

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This week I go down rabbit hole of music supervision with Jen Moss. Jen is the director of music supervision at Warner Music, where she acts as the go-to person in helping directors establish musical soundscapes for their films within the budgetary constraints \ set out by the producers. This includes searching for and sourcing commercial and production music, commissioning bespoke tracks and negotiating clearance fees, among other things. Her credits include American Animals, I, Tonya, Calibre, Beast and Prevenge and Luca Guadagnino’s I Am Love and I had a whale of time learning about this whole other aspect of creating and designing memorable scenes in movies.

Show notes:

Episode 017: Ruka Johnson

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I’m really excited for the episode this week as its completely new territory for me! I interviewed costume designer Ruka Johnson, who has a really varied CV across features, shorts, television and music videos. One of her most recent projects is Obey, a film that dramatises the 2011 London Riots, and she also worked on Sarah Gavron’s film Girl Untitled, which shrewd listeners will know has popped up on the pod quite a bit!

Hands down my favourite part of this chat is when Ruka says she wants to be really successful and completely owns it. I think its always really refreshing, perhaps sadly so, to hear a young woman claim that as their ambition. Even if you’re thinking it, we’re often told you have to keep your intentions on the down-low, and to be gracious and surprised and grateful when that success does find you. But its always super important to say what you want, to go after it and not feel shame about doing that, or shame about having success and wealth and creative fulfilment as a priority, so yeah that was cool to hear Ruka say and the rest of the chat is just as inspiring tbh. So enjoy! And thank you to Ruka for coming on.

Show notes:

Episode 016: Catherine Slater

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This week I spoke to Catherine Slater, an associate producer at The Imaginarium, the production outfit founded by Andy Serkis and Jonathan Cavendish, and a BAFTA-nominated producer, whose first short film Wale was shortlisted for the Oscars.

It was brilliant to hear about Catherine’s journey from assistant to associate producer, as well as how she balanced a full-time job with the full-time job of producing a short film.

Show notes:

Episode 015: Chloe Trayner

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For this episode I spoke to Chloe Trayner, who was one of the first names I jotted down on my podcast guest wishlist, so it was a real treat for me for to record this interview.

Chloe is festival director at the Open City Docs, an organisation which celebrates the art of non-fiction and nurtures the next generation of filmmakers, audio producers and VR filmmakers through training programmes, an annual film festival, a feature documentary development lab, and other screening projects throughout the year.

Chloe is responsible for the direction of the festival as well as industry programming, partnerships and development and she has worked as a film & events programmer and producer with organisations such as BFI Future Film Festival, Overnight Film Festival, UnderWire Festival and Bertha DocHouse.

We talk about also these various positions she has held, as well as how she managed being freelance, the state of documentary funding in the UK and what she loves most about her job.

Show notes: