Dr. Rob Speranza is a production manager, line producer/producer, and co-founder of the South Yorkshire Filmmakers Network (SYFN), a not-for-profit organisation that promotes and enables film-based networking and filmmaking activities in South Yorkshire.
His credits include the feature films Dementamania, Inbred, Entity, and Small Creatures. Recently, he co-produced the feature film Arthur and Merlin, which involved many SYFN members and was partly shot in the South Yorkshire region. Casting Networks interviewed him to find out more about his organisation, and the opportunities it affords filmmakers.
Casting Networks: Tell us about SYFN and what was the initial aim at the outset? Over the years, has the aim of the network changed?
Rob Speranza: The SYFN is a not-for-profit organisation that helps filmmakers from all over the region. It says ‘South Yorkshire’ on the label, but really we help people from all over the country, but, yes, with mostly films that are shooting up North. People come to us with all kinds of needs. Equipment, locations, crew, cast, script help – whatever they need. We seem to now be the largest filmmakers’ network outside of London, with about 1900 people today in the network. We started with only about 7 people hanging out, talking about films, and filmmaking in a pub about 14 years ago, so this of course took some time!
Women in Film & TV (UK) is the leading membership organisation for women working in creative media in the UK, and part of an international network of over 10,000 women worldwide from a broad range of professions spanning the entire creative media industry.
We sit down with Natalie Samson, Head of Awards & Events, for a round of “Five Questions With…” to find out more about this brilliant organisation.
1. Each year you run a mentoring program open to women in the UK. Over the years you’ve had some wonderful success stories. Why do you think programs like these are so important for women in Great Britain (or even across the pond)?
I’ve actually been on the mentor scheme myself which is how I ended up working for Women in Film and TV (UK). I couldn’t rave highly enough about this scheme and think they are incredibly important for anyone. The WFTV (UK) scheme is aimed at mid-career women and Nicola Lees who runs it is brilliant, she has an uncanny knack of knowing what you need before you actually know you needed it.
I recently got a call from Directors UK, a fantastic organisation I’m a member of, telling me I had been selected to take part in a week long course training in multi camera Directing at ITV, at Media City in Salford, Manchester. The course and our expenses were fully funded by Creative Skillset. I readily accepted the place and was intrigued and excited to get started. I had previously only ever Directed single camera on drama and used two cameras very occasionally when shooting my latest documentary Still Loved, so I was keen to get stuck in and learn a new skill.
The course leaders were Kay Patrick and Ian Bevitt, two long standing Directors on Coronation Street, as well as many other programs. We were being trained to work on Coronation Street, using their house style, which I soon realised meant much more than using 2 cameras at a time! We were introduced to our 1st AD for the week, Woody Wade, and all the Heads of Department and Producer of Coronation Street, a really lovely, friendly bunch of people. They each explained their own roles and how things work on the show. We looked around the studios and galleries to see other Directors at work and get an understanding of the work flow and speed with which it is all put together. At the end of the day we were given our first script of the week, which we had to go back to our hotels and study ready to hand in our plans for the first shoot.
Bruce Webb with DOP Oona Menges; © Nicolas Laborie / Quarry Island Films 2014
Bruce Webb is an award-winning director and producer for the screen. He has recently completed directing his second feature film, Social Suicide, a teen thriller starring Jackson Bews, India Eisley, and Olivia Hussey. His previous feature film The Be All And End All, starring Josh Bolt and Neve McIntosh, won a host of awards at international film festivals. Bruce has also produced or co-produced on numerous award-winning short and feature films, including Frank Oz’s Death at a Funeral. For TV, Bruce was a regular director on Hollyoaks, as well as directing episodes of the CBBC show Dani’s Castle and the BBC1 comedy Little Howard’s Big Question. Bruce is currently directing Red Rock in Ireland, and has numerous feature films in development.
We spoke with Bruce to find out how he came to be a director, what the right way to cast is, and how actors should get in touch with directors and producers (amongst other tricky questions).
Over the coming months, we’ll be featuring articles written by our many friends within the industry to offer advice and tips to independent filmmakers. First, we kick things off with Rebekah Louisa Smith, the founder of the The Film Festival Doctor.
Obviously since I work within the film festival industry I’m a huge lover of film festivals and I could write a whole book (or even another PhD thesis) regarding the benefits of attending film festivals, especially industry focused ones which always produce useful networking.
It’s also important to remember that as an aspiring film industry professional you should go to film festivals even if you’ve not got a film screening in competition, as festivals are the places where the unexpected happens. There is a wealth of abundance and opportunity waiting for you to take advantage of and create for yourself at film festivals – an unlimited amount in fact. The anecdote below describes how that magic works:
I first attended the Cannes Film Festival in 2010. I had a huge rush of adrenaline run through me before I was about to leave. This was also the year that I started up my company; The Film Festival Doctor so I went to Cannes with a business plan and my idea to pitch to people for their constructive feedback and advice. I remember buying a book called ‘The Virgins Guide to Cannes’ just to ensure that I had done as much research as possible and was prepared to cope with being within a big festival full of all different types of people. read more
The film industry can feel very London centric sometimes and so it’s always fun to get out of the city and discover new and exciting organisations doing great stuff for the creative indie community. We meet with Emmeline Kellie of Nottingham’s Film & TV Tweetup.
Casting Networks: What exactly is the Film & TV Tweetup for those not on the know.
Emmeline Kellie: Film & TV Tweetup is the largest industry-networking event in the Midlands, UK. It allows all professional and aspiring filmmakers to come together in a creative and friendly environment to socialise and expand their network of professional contacts. The event takes place on the third Thursday of every month and is free for all to attend.
The award-winning feature film by Chris and Ben Blaine, Nina Forever, has just been in the cinemas in London, after it debuted at SXSW and later FrightFest in London, amongst other festivals. StudioCanal picked it up for UK distribution and the feature has been storming it in the UK and abroad. We caught up with the brothers behind the award winning feature film to find out about how this incredible feature came to be, what’s next and what you can learn about feature filmmaking after you’ve made your debut film.
CNI: Congratulations on Nina Forever. It’s taking the independent film arena by storm. And made it’s way to SXSW. How do you feel about the success of the film?
Blaine Brothers: Relieved, honoured, all the nice emotions. When we started writing we told ourselves it was a film that no one would like but us. That wasn’t strictly true, we always knew there was an audience that would connect to it. But we also knew that the way we needed to tell the story went directly against a lot of industry logic. This isn’t an easy film to sell. The coffin isn’t the only box that Nina refuses to lie easy in.
Creatively it was very hard to achieve what we aspired to on the money we had but even when we felt the edit starting to come close to our ambition for the thing, we still had no real idea how audiences and critics would respond. So yeah, it’s been a huge relief that people have understood it. If nothing else, it feels really nice to prove that audiences are smarter than they are often given credit for.
The Casting Networks team has been introduced to some amazing and inventive filmmaking initiatives over the years, so we were excited to learn more about the Reel Film Challenge when our good friends at MoFilm mentioned it to us.
Rob Prince, Fin O’Sullivan and John Grigg are the brains behind The Reel Challenge, a 10-day European adventure that challenges teams of filmmakers to get from London to Budapest by any means necessary. Along the way, they must create their own short film in time for submission to the ‘Finish Line Film Festival’ in sunny Budapest!read more