For all the flashbulb glamour of Hollywood and the team zeal required to bring a movie script or documentary idea to fruition, the truth is that films are born in private. Stories can percolate for years in the minds of the writers and directors who conceive them, and perhaps the most crucial step in making a film is ensuring that their original vision doesn’t get lost as more people are brought in to the creative process. At some point, a film has to go from something that exists in the head of one or two individuals to an idea that can take flight among dozens or even hundreds of crew members, not to mention the watching public. Eventually, any film has to step into the light.
Earlier this month, VICE Film School and LUMIX helped stage the first ever Raindance Emerging Filmmakers Day, a chance for the budding filmmakers of the UK to step out from behind their laptops to share and refine their ideas and get a day-long fix of insider knowledge. The free event included a pitching skills workshop held by Elliot Grove, the founder of Raindance Film Festival, as well as a special screening of On A Knife Edge, a new VICE documentary taking a deep and unflinching look at the recent wave of violence in London and the havoc and misery it has caused.
The hour-long film, years in the making, was followed by a Q+A session with its creators, VICE filmmaker William Fairman and activist, ex-gang member and host Joshua Osbourne. “In recent years, more young black men have lost their lives to knife crime in London that at any other point over the last decade,” begins Osbourne’s voiceover in the doc, for which the phrase “hard-hitting” feels woefully underpowered. The host’s own teenage, phone-shot footage of the nights he spent in heavily armed gangs features prominently in On A Knife Edge, providing important historical context and an insight into youth violence in the capital that feels unprecedented in its access. The film and its makers clearly left an impression on those in attendance.
Also at the event was surprise speaker Amanda Seyfried, who was there to host a Q+A after the world premiere of a new film she produced and starred in called Holy Moses. A dark comedy about miracles, based around the tale of a missing Irish cow that turns up at a petrol station in Texas, the film began in the mind of writer-director Eli Powers, someone Seyfried has been collaborating with for years. “I like trying to figure out what’s going on in his brain,” she said at the event. “I’ve been working with Eli since he was 22, and when you see someone working really hard, writing all the time, wanting to be a director, it just makes me want him to thrive.”
Seyfried’s most recent film was Mamma Mia 2, a jukebox musical rom-com based around the songs of ABBA. It was put to her that an independent film about a cow vanishing from a religious asylum in Ireland and dying in the American desert might not feel like a natural next step. But her response offered encouragement to up-and-coming filmmakers everywhere.
“I was just like, ‘Dude, you wrote a really good story, let’s make it,’ and so I helped however I could. When you wanna make something happen, you make it happen and anyway, I like weird shit; I like cows just disappearing out of nowhere, pregnant nuns and a fire in the middle of Joshua Tree. It’s just bizarre. It’s very thought-provoking – that’s kind of the point of making short films.”
Though very different in their subject matters and approach, the makers of both films were able to provide a hugely illuminating sense of what is necessary when you’re trying to take a story from your head and get it out on to the screen.