How Do You Make a Film for the Whole Wide World?
Here are five tips for making films that transcend international borders.
[Editor's Note: In this new series, Seed&Spark will interview creators of recent S&S releases about steps they took on their paths to distribution.]
You might not know where your next film idea is going to come from, but you always need to be thinking about where your films might be headed. Primavera Ruiz is a filmmaker based in Madrid. Her first documentary, Ana y Yo (Ana and I), was a very personal exploration of a family broken and then brought back together with the addition of adopted sisters from Equatorial Guinea. Her latest, Ata, Pintando Negro (Ata, Painting Black) is about Ataulfo Casado,a Spanish painter Ruiz met and became intrigued with on the street, just as he was coming back to his art after a decades-long absence following his tragic loss of sight."One day I met him," Ruiz explains, "the next day I was at his studio with my camera."
Although both Ruiz and her subject are based in Spain, that didn't limit her from expanding her team internationally, finding an audience abroad, and achieving international distribution. Below, Ruiz shares tips for making a film that breaks borders:
"If someone hears and likes your story, they're more likely to come on board."
1. Get out of that film cave
Ruiz says the key to creating international projects is to make personal connections with potential collaborators early in the development process. "I recommend to other filmmakers that they apply to at least one pitching forum where you can meet producers, sales agents, editors, or filmmakers. If someone hears and likes your story, they're more likely to come on board."
2. Talk to people
In order to make even more connections, Ruiz regularly pitches her films at EuroDoc, Lisbon Doc, and Documentary in Europe in Torino. She also attends as many festivals as possible. "Meet producers and other filmmakers, and make as many one-on-one meetings to pitch your project as possible," says Ruiz. "Networking is very important." Through this type of networking, Ruiz has found American companies with which to co-produce all of her films, increasing each film's chances of attaining international distribution and an international audience. Her first documentary, Ana y Yo (Ana and I), was distributed on Seed&Spark's platform last year.
3. Film locally, think globally
Although Ata is a film about a painter based in Madrid by a filmmaker based in Madrid, Ruiz doesn't consider this a film only of interest to locals. "This story is about life and finding happiness, about the coexistence between generations, about co-dependent relationships, about overcoming disability. These are not issues unique to Madrid." To stay in touch with other parts of the world, Ruiz uses Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to create and maintain connections with peers and potential collaborators, as well as to spread the word about where audience members can find her films.
4. Get out of your country...and your comfort zone
Ruiz found the American company that co-produced Ata, Currito is Filming, through connections she made while going to film school at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. One reason for taking on international co-producers? It increases the likelihood of gaining a wider audience. "I try to look for story that can be told everywhere. If you only focus on making a local film about local issues, without looking at the wider implications, you might satisfy a local audience, but distribution becomes difficult."
5. Keep pushing your own boundaries
With her second documentary under her belt, Ruiz isn't ready to settle into a filmmaking formula. She's already deep into production on her next documentary, Once Upon a Time in the Rez, about unique struggles of a Spanish pilot navigating immigration and cultural barriers after fathering a child on an American Indian reservation in Arizona. "Each of my projects explores a different world, but what all of them have in common is that they teach me something important about life and myself." Apparently, international audiences agree.