North Devon Moving Image has had an impact that has exceeded expectations – engaging, entertaining and entertaining on a local and global scale. As Amanda McCormack prepares to step down after seven years, she tells us what inspired her to create a community filmmaking organisation and shares some of its successes
D&CFilm: What’s your background and what led you into setting up North Devon Moving Image (NDMI)?
Amanda McCormack: Several years ago I went to a screening in Barnstaple of some local archive newsreel films and home movies in the North Devon Movie Bus; a renovated 1960s Ministry of Technology mobile cinema. I’m a real nostalgic and quite obsessed with watching archive film footage and I pondered on what future generations would make of the life we are living now. It occurred to me that it is paradoxical how we gather so much video footage on cameras and smart phones, but there are less watchable films as most people record video but do nothing with it.
I thought it would be great if someone set up a project producing short documentaries about life in North Devon, creating an archive for the future. After suggesting the idea to several people and organisations who I thought might like to run with it I quickly came to realise if it was going to happen it would have to be me who did it.
D&CFilm: Why did you think there was a need for the organisation?
Amanda McCormack: No one else was doing anything remotely like this. Although we have regional archives for moving image there was nothing like this for the very distinct region of northern Devon. Neither was there much provision for filmmaking learning and production in the area.
I think the amount of charitable funding we have received of the years is testament to the value of what NDMI offers.
D&CFilm: There are an array of films to explore in the NDMI archive so far – what has been its impact, and what would you have liked to do more of?
Amanda McCormack: NDMI’s tagline is ‘films to inspire, enlighten and entertain’ and I believe our projects and films have done this with great success.
Running community arts and heritage filmmaking projects has connected local people with each other, their environment an their heritage. The films have not only had a local impact, but a global one and it is wonderful to think that people around the world are learning about our communities through these short documentary films.
There have been so many positive outcomes for individuals and communities. People have been given the opportunity to really look at and appreciate their lives and have pride in sharing them with others.
Working with vulnerable young people is always rewarding and I have been overwhelmed by seeing positive change taking place right before my eyes. Likewise, enabling an older person to share their stories and see how much other people are interested in them is beautiful.
It has always been an important aspect of NDMI’s work to enable and encourage new and emerging film makers, whatever their age and experience. NDMI has done this with work experience, summer schools, school and college film making workshops, mentoring and of course the recent short film commission, Down on the Farm. It has been amazing to see filmmakers growing and using the skills they have learned to move on to great things. I think there is still a real need for this in the region and hope that whoever takes the reins of NDMI can give the gift of filmmaking to many more.
D&CFilm: For you personally and professionally, what has the journey been like – as a filmmaker and as someone who lives in the area?
Amanda McCormack: Although I had worked as a freelance before, I had no experience of setting up and running an official organisation. I was lucky to gain a place on a Dartington School of Social Entrepreneurs training course, just after I had launched NDMI, and that was a great help but everything else has really been a jump in the deep end with my eyes closed and my arms flailing like windmills.
I have loved having the freedom to have an idea pop into my head and the next thing I know I’m off raising funds, finding collaborators and making things happen. The journey has obviously been one of learning for me. Now, when I am asked for professional advice or help I realise that as well as being a film maker, I am now an experienced project manager and arts producer and all the work I have done with NDMI has taught me more than I could have imagined.
D&CFilm: What have been the successes (one that springs to mind is Down On The Farm, which has led to the forthcoming TEAM commission)?
Amanda McCormack: I see every film and every engagement with participants and audiences as successes. The projects have all been very different; different age groups, different types of funding, different methods of film making and community engagement. Everything we have done has played a part in building the reputation of NDMI as a successful community organisation.
Some films may be far reaching and well watched, but even those which may only have been viewed by a few people will have impacted someone’s life in its creation and for me that is a success!
Boat Stories was our first big collaboration – with producer Jo Stewart-Smith – and being able to give Jo the freedom to go and make the films as she wanted really paid off. It was also a great opportunity for us to work with as many local film makers as we could find. These films continue to do their work in sharing some very vauluable stories of boats and fishing in north Devon.
The short film commission Down on the Farm was an experiment really. But wow! did it pay off! I thought “So, that went well. I know it’s a good idea now but there is no need to do it again”. However, I had so much positive feedback (unsolicited) from the film makers, partners and funders that I really think another commission should be a priority. We now have a template for running a commission and as a way of making films and enabling filmmakers this is a winning formula!
D&CFilm: You’re preparing to hand over the reins of North Devon Moving Image after seven years, what words do you have for anyone thinking about taking over?
Amanda McCormack: I founded and ran NDMI in a way that suited me. I have worked from home, mostly part-time and mainly on my own. Some projects had a number of partners and collaborators and for others it was just me. However, this is an opportunity for a new leader or leaders to do things their own way; to put their own energy, skills and imagination into NDMI. It could be that there is a group of entrepreneurial film makers who are excited by the idea of working together or someone with project management experience who wants to take over an established CIC with an excellent reputation.
There is potential to earn income from project management of community projects, film and video production and film making workshops. As well as money though this is an opportunity to work locally in a rewarding, creative role in a world where these are few and far between.
D&CFilm: If you can narrow them down, what’s been some of the lasting images or experiences of North Devon Moving Image?
Amanda McCormack: Take a look at Donald’s Pigeons. It is NDMI’s most watched film on Youtube with over 46,000 views. Three short afternoons, an iPad, two shy young people who overcame anxiety and physical disability to make this lovely and well loved short film. Sums it all up really…
D&CFilm: Thanks Amanda!