In the first of his series from The Berlin film festival, Devon filmmaker Max Sobol explains just what he’s doing there – other than looking for £400,000 for his feature, that is.
So, it’s 2009, Obama is president, Britain has spent the last few days under a carpet of snow and we’re in the grips of a global recession. To celebrate I’ve decided to scrape together what little money I have and come to the Berlin film festival to try and convince someone to give me £400,000.
I’m staying in a studio apartment with four other guys and subsisting on budget meals until the inevitable point where my money runs out and I have to start busking/whoring/bank robbing/phoning my long-suffering family for help. Not exactly most people’s ‘plan A’, granted, but I always feel that you’ve got be prepared to get your balls out and put them on the table. I mean, sure, they’re gonna get smashed at some point -but that’s life and in the meantime I also happen to be at one of the most exciting, important and inclusive film festivals in the whole world.
But wait, perhaps I’ve gotten a little ahead of myself – too much coffee – you’re probably wondering who the hell I am.
So, a potted history:
I’m a filmmaker – from Devon – currently working in London as a freelance Editor/cameraman/1st AD anything that pays and plenty that doesn’t. I’m primarily a director of Drama. I’ve shot around 60 films of varying degrees of quality and interest; two through the Phoenix Media bursary scheme, another at Brief Enounters – as it was then called – several at The Arts Institute at Bournemouth where I studied Film Production and, more recently, three self-funded HD projects; two half hour and one of 70 minutes.
The reason I am here in Germany is to have some meetings about a feature project that I am trying to get made.
‘But Why Berlin’ I hear you ask? Well I’ll tell you the Berlinale has a European Film Market so, along with Cannes, it’s an important place to go to do business for all the big companies.
I’m also lead to understand that compared to Cannes it has a much more open and egalitarian approach. I experienced Cannes in 2006 and 2007 and it can be both a beautiful and an obnoxious experience. On the one hand you have the setting, some truly ground-breaking cinema, great wine, great food and one of the largest collections of exciting film professionals you’ll ever find in any single location. On the other hand you have a stark ‘class system’ that leaves the majority of festival goers on the outside of most events, while wealthy old men, with beautiful young girls hanging off their arms, drink champagne on yachts.
A lot of people have also said that the programming here in Berlin is a bit more daring and it’s a chance to see some cutting edge stuff that might not get into a festival like Cannes.
This blog will aim to chart my progress and relate to you the experiences of a young filmmaker trying to negotiate the terrifying world of film financing. Not only that but I’ll keep you up-to-date with all the news from the festival, review some films being screened, feedback from the Talent Campus (I booked tickets to 13 events today), upload video and photographic content and generally try to cause as much trouble as possible for the next 10 days.
Tonight I’ll be recording a video report from the red carpet of the opening film, Tom Tykwer’s ‘The International’ – why they always open these big festivals with action blockbusters eludes me; see Cannes 2006 opening with the Da Vinci Code – there will be lots of celebrities and many of them will be beautiful women in their full finery so I shall be there with my camera – on full zoom – and my mouth open
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