The Exclusion Zone...

Like anyone with a stake in the culture game I’ve heard the plea; Who will think of the poor _____? (fill the blanks yourselves). On social media that plea is loudest among the theatre lobby, followed by live music – and rightly so. Seven months into Covid-19 those who believe the arts are a luxury are waking up to the fact that while bread might keep you alive, circuses are an incentive to not kill yourself.

Curiously silent on the matter of its imminent demise is the film/TV sector which arguably has done more than most to keep the population a) at home and b) sane. However the people who make film and TV are mostly freelancers in an already precarious field and unfairly excluded from the UK Government’s furlough scheme.

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As the days grow shorter and colder I’m glad to be back in Glasgow after my travels with Voyageuse. Glad too because I’m able to focus on my latest project, Tilo in Real Life, which after months of thinking, writing, re-writing and testing I’m confident can work as a film, or at least a film I’m able (and want) to make within my meagre resource. How do I know this? I don’t, but I trust my instincts more than I trust my government.

Chances are you’re reading this via a link on social media which these days is essential for any independent filmmaker even though it’s hard to be heard above the noise of all the other filmmakers, writers and artists plying their wares.

Here I marvel at the chutzpah of my peers and the apparent ease with which they promote themselves, their goals and achievements, from winning awards to shaking down followers on crowdfunding campaigns. If only I had the nerve, I tell myself, to make bolder claims for my work.

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A recent email from Jamie Dunn at The Skinny got me thinking. In it he asks three questions about my thoughts on making independent films, finding an audience and whether event screenings are the way to go. That Voyageuse is showing at the GFT next week and at Picturehouse Central next month is a coup, just when I was about to commit the DCP to a drawer, destined to exist only among the morass of online content.

So thanks Jamie, you’ve made me think. Among the thoughts you prompted is a reminder of when I made my first feature almost 20 years ago, a time when everyone from Hollywood A-listers to Danish mavericks to chance-their-arm UK production companies believed that DIY, micro-budget, DV-driven films would fill their boots. Guess what? They didn’t. They toyed with the notion, made their tapes and grabbed the headlines only to realise no one gets a payday out of no-budget films, and so reverted to the same old high-budget ways of making their movies.

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