Rotterdam: Genre Directors on Unorthodox Funding, Hiding Subconscious Desires

Make Up - Still H - 2020
Credit: IFFR

Ever considered paying your actors in artwork rather than money?

A variety of subjects were raised Monday at the International Film Festival Rotterdam’s “Bending the Genre” industry panel, aiming to explore the possibilities of the art-house genre film. Rather predictably, funding was among them.

Mexican filmmaker Artemio Narro — director of the comedic and politically tinged road movie ColOZio, showing at the festival — offered perhaps the most imaginative money-raising suggestion for those starting out. For his debut feature, the 2015 horror Me quedo contigo, Narro asked his friends in the art world to invest in the film through their work.

“So basically, I got about 60 artworks from different artists and then we had an auction,” he said. “We raised $120,000. Which is nothing. But with that I bought the camera. It was a Red, but one of the smallest.”

That camera was used to shoot Me quedo contigo and, later, ColOZio, with the filmmaker deploying yet another curious money-saving tactic on his latest work.

“For this film, I was like, OK, we have the camera, which is a great beginning,” he said. “But then we had the idea that our actors were going to accept artwork as payment.”

For the British psychological drama Make Up from first-time feature director Claire Oakley, the filmmakers — including producer Emily Morgan (I Am Not a Witch) — had funding from iFeatures, the U.K. development lab geared toward new filmmakers that has helped support the likes of Lady Macbeth.

While financing concerns may not have sparked the same sort of imaginative thinking as Narro's, Oakley did describe how her initial development of the film — following a young woman on a remote holiday park — stirred some internal emotions she hadn’t previously considered.

Writing the project as a short film nine years earlier, she took it into a lab with a group of other filmmakers and was asked by a fellow participant who read her piece if she was a lesbian. “And I was really surprised, because I wasn't at all and I was in a relationship that, at the time, I thought was great,” she said. “I sort of thought he was very strange and didn't speak to him for the rest of the week."

She continued: "And then about five years passed and things changed in my own life, and I looked back and realized that he had been totally right in his reading of that short film, and maybe through the work I was expressing some subconscious desires that I hadn't yet been aware of.”

Oakley says she went back to the short film and started developing it as a feature, while looking at some of those ideas about the possibilities of “hiding things from yourself and repressing your own fears and your desires.”