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Screen Edge 2014: sharing the load

Loading Docs was produced by Notable Pictures’ Julia Parnell and Transmedia NZ’s Anna Jackson, funded by the NZFC and NZ On Air’s Ignite Digital Media Fund. The results were three-minute documentaries by 10 teams, all with the theme of ‘home’.

Parnell, Jackson and Jason Sondhi, from Loading Docs’ online partner Vimeo, presented at Screen Edge on the initiative’s process and how the result is more than the sum of its parts.

The shorts are available to watch on Loading Docs although Aide Walker and Alexander Gandar’s Cat Killers has been removed since the launch last week.

Parnell and Jackson explained that the driving force behind this initiative was a desire to create an opportunity for filmmakers outside existing models, which would in turn would allow the filmmakers to create innovative new work.

They also wanted to actively encourage filmmakers to explore online opportunities includingoutreach and crowdfunding, which are becoming increasingly crucial to success in this social media-driven age. Loading Docs did have a few precedents, such as Focus Forward Films’ award winning series, but Jackson and Parnell put a local spin on it.

In 2010 they submitted the first proposal to funders, which was unsuccessful. So they kept working on it and gathering support. When they finally did get the greenlight for Loading Docs, they found they’d managed to whip up great enthusiasm for their project from guilds, NZ on Air, and the NZFC.

The process for finding the right filmmakers started with a call for proposals in October 2013, which netted 67. Whittling the selection down to 10 was a collaborative exercise, involving the funders as well.

While wanting to give experienced filmmakers a chance, and a new platform to work on, Parnell and Jackson also wanted to include less experienced filmmakers, and were pleased that the final selection included a good mix of experienced / emerging filmmakers. Budget constraints were also considered. They were looking for films that could be realised in a short time, and had no obstacles involving access to subjects or issues.

During a two-day workshop in January projects were finetuned, strategies realised, and crowdfunding campaigns begun. Notable Pictures elected to go with Pledge Me. The filmmakers had to raise $2,000 from crowd-funding in order to trigger matching support from organisers. One film achieved the target in less than 24 hours; all the films triggered the matching funds.

Production was to a tight time frame. Toybox and Sale Street Studios came on as sponsors for post-production.

All the filmmakers completed their films for the 27 May launch, an achievement in itself. Promoting to titles under the Loading Docs drew a lot of media interest and Vimeo curator Sondhi was one of those drawn to the idea.

Sondhi attended the launch. Two of the titles have since become vimeo “staff picks” giving further promotion to the whole Loading Docs stable of films.

He praised Loading Docs for the collaborative promotion, noting that the place to be discovered now was online and – with an eye to the future – filmmakers who knew how to market themselves had a distinct advantage.

Sondhi suggested that to be successful online, one needed three things: to be great, to be free, and to be frequent.

Build habits, he proposed. Shorter is better. Remember you’re competing with a myriad of other things. Blogs give the best traction. He also noted that he practises what he preaches. As someone who receives 50 – 60 requests a day to watch something, he’s selective and only watches material recommended by another person or another site.

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