Zero Budget Blog  16 July 2014

So Sheffield Doc/Fest is over for another year. The zero budget pitch went brilliantly, I’ve tried to transcribe some of the best advice. Much of the feedback is specific to Halloween Town but there are important points that any doc-maker can borrow from.

Sarah Mosses of Together Films started off the Q&A, pointing out how audience involvement can help make your film with more than just money.
“I think people would really follow you crowdsourcing your content, so if you have an event – even myself I’ve got loads of pictures with my friends every year pretty much – I think do a really fun campaign and do it quite early on using people who wait for that event during the year. Like a crowdfunding campaign, you’ll find you can do that for content too.”

A vital part of my film is the old Halloween photos and videos that I’m trying to get from the local public. Filmmaker and artist, Jeanie Finlay, had a similar task with her most recent doc.

“The film I’m making at the moment (Orion) we did six months of audience outreach and gathering archive. It was interesting because it had an effect in the audience in two ways; so we set up a custom hashtag that was used, and they could post comments publicly and we would drag it in. But people didn’t always do it, but because they poked their head above the parapet we were able to follow up with them by email and a lot of the archive that I’ve been finding from my film Orion was an integral asset. We did a lot of talking people through how to scan things or how to get their children to scan it for them because it was elderly, family archival basically.
“I think it’s always worth reaching out because you’re always going to learn more and if you’re using social media it has to basically be defined. I think it would be useful if you’ve got access to an edit suite to start looking at that archive and start thinking about tone, about how you’re going to carry an atmosphere, carry a story, how you’re going to use that archive so you’re not just doing the Ken Burns thing. How can you create a narrative where those people are going to bring current content media actually to life?”

The biggest problem for me at the moment, and hence why I was at the Zero Budget pitch, is funding. Michael Norton of CIVA Buzzbnk, an alternative ‘social ventures’ crowdfunding website, proposed some ideas on how to earn capital while engaging the community.

“Perhaps there isn’t one story or one truth, there are competing truths, so perhaps you could use that is some way within the film but also to raise funds – I think perhaps the pub that raises the most money is where the whole thing started. Try to get better engaged at the beginning with the competing stories through the pubs and get them to raise money through their communities for you.
"Take a look at ‘Awards for All’ cause I think you could probably get £10 000, it’s Lottery fund, for outreach for starting a film in pubs or whatever, and I think that’s probably the easiest sum of money to get for this type of project."

– many thanks to everyone who attended the pitch and shared such helpful feedback.​