British Blacklist’s Akua Gyamfi speaks at 2019 IFFR Reality Check Conference

***taken from the blog***
The 2019 IFFR Reality Check conference tackled the thorny subject of development, and how filmmakers can better exploit their own content, the plethora of new platforms and the end-user to the benefit of all.

The day was divided into four parts, comprising three-panel debates (New Audiences/New Stories, Alternative Practices in Development and Future Funding Models) and a series of intensive break-out discussions on the questions raised throughout the day. A closing session presented conclusions drawn from these deliberations.

Opening the day, IFFR director Bero Beyer described how the wide spectrum of content that we see across all platforms is developed within generally narrow constraints and that it is therefore imperative that the industry offers/creates/allows for a “wide space” for ideas to develop, mature and ultimately be realised. Great talent can turn to compete for media to tell their stories, he warned, and they could, therefore, be lost to the film world.

Canadian artist and filmmaker Caroline Monnet, who boasts Algonquin, Quebecois and French roots, discussed her diverse work and what inspired its realisation. “The concept is what dictates the medium,” she explained, before screening her short film Mobilize, which was made to provide a positive record of the indigenous Canadian population, culled from existing footage, and Emptying The Tank, about an indigenous female martial arts fighter. “Storytellers are like athletes, we are always trying to surpass ourselves.”

Before the New Audiences/New Stories panel, moderator Wendy Mitchell reminded the audience that development is at the heart of the content production process, a discipline that can be both lonely and isolating. So today, she stressed, was a great opportunity to determine how development could be made more inclusive, collaborative and profitable, as well as determine the best outlets for creative ideas.

(l-r) Moderator Wendy Mitchell. On Skype US producer Tamir Muhammad – founder of production house Populace; British Blacklist founder Akua Gyamfi, Dutch filmmaker Nanouk Leopold Photo Credit – IFFR Melanie

New Audiences / New Stories

Akua Gyamfi, the founder of The British Blacklist online portal celebrating the work of African-Caribbean British creatives, told how there is “a new generation of talent that is taking things in their stride”, with a 360-degree multi-discipline approach and control of their own product, getting it out to audiences through innovative channels. In terms of why she launched her portal, “it was the answer to something that was missing… I had an emotional reaction to what I wanted to see.”

US producer Tamir Muhammad, founder of production house Populace and responsible for the critically acclaimed HBO series Random Acts of Flyness, emphasised: “the safe space” enjoyed by he and director Terence Nance in the creation of the series – “it was the best place to protect Terence’s voice,” he underlined.

Dutch filmmaker Nanouk Leopold explained how the working relationship she enjoys with producer Stienette Bosklopper constitutes her own “safe space”, having successfully written six screenplays which she transformed into six multi award-winning films. “You need a safe place to find your own voice,” she pointed out, adding how she has never felt the need to compromise her arthouse vision. That said, she feels a new desire to say ‘yes’ to everything, which has filled her with a new resolve. “So I went back to my attic. I am this really typical old-fashioned person who is all the time trying to develop stories, and that takes some time. And I went there with this new energy… You have to have this first light, this fire in your stomach, so I wrote this hilarious story about a woman who is hunting because that [hunting] is what I want to do.”

Tamir discussed the idea of genre-bending. “It is the biggest connector. If you like horror and I like horror we might take a chance on a horror. And I like comedy. It’s the one thing that grounds us all… It’s an exciting time. For the first time, the independent world and Hollywood are realising there is some kind of way, it is all fluid and working, and formats are changing, and I see that kind of fluidity as an opportunity.”

Nanouk agreed, stressing how if you bend a story it keeps you more alive as an audience and is evidence of the evolution of cinema and our growing sophistication as an audience.

Wendy asked whether, in the context of development, globalisation of content was good or bad for story-telling. “Speak on what you know but if it is honest and authentic, then it will travel,” answered Akua.
Tamir gave a message to the IFFR audience stressing how the festival is an exemplar of excellence both in terms of its selections and the filmmakers it attracts, and how it was a very effective launchpad for projects into the global market.

In concluding, Wendy asked Nanouk and Akua what excited them currently about the development landscape. Nanouk answered how she loved the idea of “the long tail and the niche,” whereby most interests are or could be catered for by existing and future viewing platforms, while Akua is impressed with “more personalisation. I can pretty much turn on the TV and go to the cinema and see something that I am going to be fully engaged with and which is more representative, and I am excited to see that ‘speaking up and speaking out’ is no longer something to be scared of.”

British Black Producer Dominic Buchanan joined the panel discussing Stealing from the Best: Alternate Practices in Development. He talked about
how the film project (later a hit series) The End of the F*cking World came into being after a number of initial Film 4 commissions (incl. teaser, promo, pilot etc) came to nothing following regime change at the head of the organisation. Later the independent UK company Clerkenwell Films saw its value as a series, at which point Film 4 then recommissioned, albeit for its digital platform E4. Also at this point, Netflix bought a 50% stake which, fortunately for all concerned, generated an enormous worldwide audience.

Read complete article here.


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