In Praise of Migrants


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I want to write about our freedom to work in other countries. As UKIP and the Front National are voted into the European Parliament, this basic human right is again threatened.  I have just come back from Cannes Film Festival which celebrates international cinema and welcomes filmmakers from around the world.  No one suggested that Jane Campion, Sophia Coppola or Leila Hatami should ‘go back where they came from’.

I have certainly learned the most in my life from working abroad.

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Shooting in Poland

I studied directing in England but was given the chance to make a film at the renowned Polish Film School thanks to a European MEDIA grant.  Suddenly I was able to work with filmmakers from all over Europe. For the first time I saw my own films in a wider context and realised there were other ways to tell a story. Learning your trade in another country is a life-enriching experience I wish all people could try.

My greatest love has been America. I dreamed of studying there but couldn’t afford the school fees, and as a young filmmaker, couldn’t get sponsored for a work permit. After many years of visiting as a tourist, of writing and pitching ideas for US television and sitting in on screenwriting classes, I finally got sponsored by a TV company for an employment visa.  I was there, working in both the UK and US, refining skills learned in both countries, comparing the differences, following in the footsteps of writers and directors who have taken the foreign as inspiration and used their outsider’s eye to see a little differently.

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Directing ‘In Search of Food’ in the US

We desperately need this broader perspective if we are to move forward as a country.  This year, as I crossed the US border into Mexico to see the moving effects of a mass deportation policy on migrant families, I was reminded of how rich and privileged I am to have a British passport and enough money to travel freely. Why do we deny the same right to people who can’t rely on privilege but just want to earn a living and contribute?

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Deported migrants in Mexico

As thousands of migrants die in deserts, overheated trucks, under the wheels of trains or at the hands of people traffickers or border guards, we don’t make the connection between this huge economic migration and our own privileged ability to travel the globe for vacation or employment.  I am tired of politicians blaming migrants for the recession and angry with an electorate that votes for the far right by way of complaining about house prices.

Now we have a government that believes we should study only English writers. I teach at an international film school that welcomes young actors, writers and director from all over the world to England so that they – and we – can learn from working with each other.

Closing our borders to people who want to contribute to our society is like locking ourselves into an air-tight room and then wondering why we can’t breathe.  If we walk away from Europe and close our borders, we create an island fortress that holds us captive as surely as it keeps our neighbours out.

 

 

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FOUR GO TO CANNES


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Last year I wrote  Diary of a Cannes Virgin to share the experience of going to the most famous film festival in the world for the first time. But I didn’t go alone. I went with three new friends from the WFTV mentoring scheme.  ‘Four go to Cannes…’  It was a real Girl’s Own Adventure story, although we were less Enid Blyton and more a writers’ splinter group, a Gang of Four curious to see how the international system of buying and selling features worked on the inside.  Faced with long queues for badge collections and deciphering the arcane booking system to see films, our first day in Cannes felt less like ‘What dress shall I wear to the premiere?’ and more like hacking into a heavily encrypted national bank.

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It took us a good 24 hours – helped by Elizabeth’s insider knowledge of previous Cannes – to simply work out where everything was. We spotted the red carpet easily enough – the big one at least. The pavilions, the film market, the food stands and the loos took a while longer. But like all good Brits abroad, we splashed out on overpriced hot dogs and vino with cheerful humour and threw ourselves into the long Cannes days – from queueing in the rain for our bus in the morning to all jamming into a taxi together at midnight…

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Three days later, after countless industry panels, rained out screenings, a party and a case of food poisoning from a dodgy salad at the panini van where we took most of our meals, we took refuge in a proper French restaurant outside the enclosure and celebrated our first Cannes visit. Despite the crazy conference centre atmosphere we’d all had a really great time.

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I put this mostly down to our natural support of each other. From sharing beds on the first night in our hotel and giggling into the night, to sharing canapés at drinks dos, to arranging to touch base for lunch and dinner during the festival and compare notes on networking events, we had each other’s backs from day one.  Although Cannes is full of people you either know or think you want to know, it’s important to draw breath – and have a real conversation with someone you really like, who you’re not trying to sell anything to, and who knows your feet are aching and you’ve been on the go since 7, and, most importantly,  have a laugh with.

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Looking out for each other at Cannes created a real bond, and we’ve stayed in touch during the last year, reading each other’s scripts, supporting each other through  the ups and downs of development, and sharing our good and bad writing days.  Our faith in each other has been rewarded times ten.  One year on, it’s fantastic to see how well our Gang of Four has done.

Elizabeth closed a development deal on her feature script this year.  Wanda has enjoyed a stellar series of acting roles and is writing her first UK feature.  Our other friend has a feature length thriller in development.  As for me, I met a great producer during that first trip to Cannes, who is helping me develop the US feature I took there so hopefully a year ago.  As Sinatra would say, ‘It was a very good year.’

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So to Cannes 2014 – Wanda and I will be braving the Croisette once more, with the others there in spirit. This time we have a studio apartment thanks to another friend from last years’ trip. We are determined this year to hit the best parties, the most exciting premieres and sample the delights of proper French food.

That is until we get there – and the panini van beckons.

 

Share your Cannes stories (or plans) below – or you can find me on twitter @emlin32.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diary of a Cannes Virgin

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Wow! I just got back from the Cannes Film festival.  You can read about my adventures and get the inside track on making the most of a first trip to  Cannes on my  guest blogs for Shooting People:

https://shootingpeople.org/blog/2013/05/diary-of-a-cannes-virgin-by-emma-lindley/

Regular service on my own blog will be resumed once I’ve unpacked and recovered….!

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Who is the Perfect Producer?

images-30OK, so I am going to Cannes in less than a month with my script tucked under my arm.  I am looking for a producer, but who exactly am I looking for?  We can all make lists of our favourite films, breakthrough talent and companies we’d love to work with but what are the qualities you need in your perfect producer?

1. They have to get it.
They can be the best producer in the world but if they don’t understand your story or relate to it, move on.  Feature film producing takes years of dedication for relatively no financial reward (unless your movie is one of the few that makes it big at the box office).  So they have to really want to do it.

2. They have to believe in you.

images-27This is not just to satisfy your need to be loved.  They have to believe you can deliver a great shooting script and, if you are a writer-director, that you can make it into a fantastic film.  No matter what happens, they have to believe you can do it.

3.  They’re persuasive.

Ben Affleck and producer Grant Heslov accept the Best Picture award for Argo They have to convince the people with the money to invest, key talent to come on board, great crew to commit, distributors and broadcasters to buy your film, and you that you can write another draft/move the film from Venice to Venezuela.

4. They’re good people.
Arguably an optional trait in such a tough business, but you need to trust them, and you’re going to be spending a lot of time together.  So when the going gets rough you can lean on each other and feel encouraged to keep going.

5. They’re marriage material

images-32If this is all sounding like a relationship that’s because it is. It ain’t no one night stand. The best producers are the ones you go back to again and again, because you love working with them, trust their judgement and respect them because they absolutely know what they’re doing. Or you believe they do…

6.  They’re you.
You are your own first producer.  If you don’t get your project and believe in it, nobody else will.  You have to persuade people to come on board your project and that you can make it happen.  You need to be kind to yourself on the winding road of development and be in it for the long run, for better or worse, for richer for poorer…

So I guess I’ve found my first producer.  Now I’m looking for a companion.  A co-producer who will take my project to the next level.

I’m hearing music… Love lifts us up where we belong

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Rescue fantasies aside – if you find the Perfect Producer, let me know.  I’ll buy a hat because it could be a marriage made in heaven.

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Check out this list of the newest Top Ten US Producers who are tipped to change Hollywood.

Who is the best producer you ever worked with and why? Or if you’re a producer what do you look for in a writer or director? Leave a comment below or find me on Twitter @emlin32 . Good luck in your search!