Victoria Thomas • Producer, Polkadot Factory
“The ability to research facts well and present a balanced perspective regardless of your bias will never go out of fashion”
- Interview with Victoria Thomas, producer for British outfit Polkadot Factory and selected for the 2019 Emerging Producers programme
Why do you produce documentaries? Do you understand documentary film as an instrument of social and political change?
Victoria Thomas: I started off as a lawyer because justice as a concept or rather the lack of it is something that has always fascinated me. Through stories I feel that I can do more to illuminate injustice and influence a change in mind-set. Humans, me included, learn about the world and respond to stories whether in the newspaper or as a film. This is why we have the current epidemic of fake news online because the authors know, people will read them, have an emotional response and they can use this to create divisions and conspiracies. But when that news is rooted in a balanced reality, it can entertain and educate more accurately and hopefully and inspire sympathy instead of misdirected angst in the process.
What qualities should a documentary producer have these days?
The ability to research facts well and present a balanced perspective regardless of your bias will never go out of fashion. And of course you need to create the conditions for that story to reach your intended audience. In a world where everyone is a filmmaker, that is getting increasingly harder so resilience will probably be your best asset.
What do you think is the future of distribution of documentary films?
The barriers to contacting the audiences are largely removed thanks to the internet. The barriers to succeeding in reaching them efficiently and in a financially viable way remain. The downside of filmmaking becoming more accessible is the oversupply of content. Discovery is now the biggest challenge with distribution. I founded a mobile app called Cues that received backing from Creative Europe, which is now available on both the Apple Store and Google Play. We use audience reactions to movie trailers to determine who is likely to see the film when it is released. We have a mechanism for ensuring that that data is in the hands of the content owners and not only streaming providers. I think it is more important for you to know who is likely to watch your film than who has watched it. At least for a producer. I don’t know if Cues is the future but I think because audiences are also incredibly vocal online about their likes and dislikes, we should pay attention to how we can use that behavioural pattern to reach the ones who might just like the films that we are making. The future of distribution of documentaries and films in general will need data.
What projects do you have under way (including in the area of fiction film and other projects)?
I am currently in the final stages of production with Born in New York, Raised in Paris about how hip hop gave a voice to marginalised communities in France and in the process created its largest market outside America. I have another feature documentary in development but too early to say anything about the work yet. On my fiction slate, I have three features in various stages of development,
A Film From Africa, That Is Not About Poverty, War or Aids (fiction) a satire that I am developing with the support of the Scottish Film Talent Network.
Street Food (fiction) which explores the human condition of the refugee crisis in Italy, a country notorious for its love for food almost as it is for its current concerns about refugees.
The Catch (fiction) explores survival and unresolved trauma in post-conflict societies against the backdrop of the increasing use of the West Coast of Africa as a transit route for drugs by Cartels from South America.
Emerging Producers is a promotional and educational project, which brings together talented European documentary film producers. The programme is organised and curated by the Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival.
Deadline for applications to the Emerging Producers 2020 edition is 15 March, 2019. Click here.
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