BLOG: Lessons from Georgia
Script Grandmaster Jay Basu ponders his protagonist’s next inciting incident at our Georgian Microschool
Film London's Deborah Sathe in full swing in Georgia
Deborah Sathe, Film London's new Head of Talent and Production, headed to Georgia recently to oversee a 'Microschool' in Batumi. Imagining she'd be there to teach she wasn't expecting quite how much she'd learn.
One of my first jobs coming into the Talent and Production Department at Film London was to oversee the delivery of our Microschool in Batumi, Georgia hosted by the Batumi Arthouse Film Festival (BIAFF), and funded by the British Council in partnership with the Georgia National Film Center in Tbilisi. (Microschool is Film London’s flagship feature film training programme closely linked to Microwave). I also had to mentor two of the Georgian film teams. Coming in from the outside (in my case BBC continuing drama – where we worked 7 days a week, 52 weeks of the year in Elstree, Borehamwood) the trip to Black Sea Coast sounded like jolly forays into foreign climes!
Prior to flying, my team and I sat down and went through the applications...reading these didn’t fill me with hope... The translations weren’t great, and trying to get a handle on the stories really tricky. So we called for another lot of translating. The ensuing results were much more promising, and filled with a world I didn’t know, wars I was unfamiliar with... Suddenly the trip to Georgia was beginning to feel like potentially exciting work, particularly when I could see that there were some really interesting moments emerging from the scripts.
We arrived on the opening night of the Batumi Festival, a massive skyrise hotel on the coast where the school was to be run, and the school started the following morning. From the moment the school started, to the end of the week, the days flew by. We had a bunch of exceptional mentors: Jay Basu, Paul Fraser, Mike Kelly and Mia Bays; also my team, Kevin Dolan and Tessa Inkelaar. We took the Georgian talent through every aspect of releasing a film into the international market, as well as the development process, and even had time to show our latest Microwave feature Borrowed Time and host an evening reception in partnership with the Festival.
We were warned that the talent weren't used to 'notes' on their work, something me, and all our mentors are overly familiar with, so we delivered lectures on the importance of listening to experience, and redrafting the script to enable its full potential. In the afternoons we mentored the film teams in one to ones. What was so intriguing when talking to the film makers in our individual meetings was so much of what they thought their film was about wasn’t on the page – tales of battles and snipers, war torn childhoods, the history of Georgia; the writers had assumed that an audience would know the Georgian history, because the films so often remained inside the domestic territory. It was our job, to enable the film teams to put these storytelling riches into the scripts – and make them stronger propositions for the international market. We are continuing to work with the teams, and our ambition is to deliver both the teams and the projects into a European Financial Market next summer.
The whole collaboration was such a rich one, and one we could not have delivered without the support of the Georgia National Film Center in Tbilisi and the Georgia British Council office, who were so enthusiastic and passionate about the Microschool project.
I thought we would go and teach in Georgia; however we as a team learned a great deal, new ways to tell stories, brilliantly drawn characters, how a short term domestic market influences the film and its life span, and how lethal chacha is! It really was a cultural exchange, a sharing of learning and ideas.