Fighting for creative freedom
by Annika Pham
- Recipient of the London Film Festival Alfred Dunhill UK Talent Award last November, a prize given to new and emerging UK filmmaking talent, Gayle Griffiths from Wilde Horses Film Company meet us
Gayle Griffiths’s first production credit was on her graduation short film from London’s National Film & Television School, Emily Young’s Second Hand winner of the Cinefondation Prize in Cannes 1999. Gayle and Emily continued their collaboration on their first feature film Kiss of Life, a UK/French co-production selected at Cannes’ Un Certain Regard in 2003. Song of Songs [+see also:
interview: Gayle Griffiths
interview: Josh Appignanesi
film profile] was just released in the UK and is now continuing its conquest of international audiences.
Cineuropa: How did you get involved in the project?
Gayle Griffiths: Josh had been co-writing the script with Jay Basu and we met at a time when the project was at its second draft stage. We decided we would make the film within a very small budget with private and individual partners to keep a complete creative control over the project. Because the film is very bold aesthetically and because of the subject matter, bigger financial organisations would not have allowed us to be as free. So we revised the usual practices on feature film production and decided to shoot the film with a mini DV camera, using a small crew. The film was shot in 21 days over 24 days during the summer 2004.
The Edinburgh Film Festival 2005 where the film won the Michael Powell Award Commendation for Best British Film was a very positive first exposure of the film...
We wanted to launch the film domestically first and Edinburgh was the first festival we could get into. The film was a surprise addition to the main line-up of the festival programme. We had worked ‘under the radar’ in the UK and ended up with the UK radar over our heads as the film was very well received and attracted many UK distributors. At the end Soda Pictures acquired it.
What are the distribution plans for Song of Songs?
The film had a small release in the UK on February 10th with a platform at the ICA in London. Now I’m trying to find a strategy for the international distribution of the film, using a sales agent or another route like the internet. Meanwhile the film is attracting a lot of festival interest following Edinburgh and its selection in official competition in Rotterdam and Sofia.
What were the positive aspects of working on such a low budget project?
For a lot of people that worked on the film, it was their first feature film experience so everyone got a lot out of it and it was a great achievement for all of us. For me, it was also a vital experience as a producer to work under such constraints. But now I want to work with more resources and more time. I have a couple of bigger projects in development.
Are you now going to use the ‘official’ production process, using the UK Film Council support?
Like any other funding organisation, the UK Film Council is the obvious route if you have the ‘right’ project. The question is to know what right means... In the UK, it’s very difficult to survive as an independent producer if you’re not connected to a broadcaster or a sales arm like Jeremy Thomas. We just can’t retain rights to our films. The model to succeed is a TV company like Celador Production with a film department.