ON THE BLOG: Andy Glynne on scandi noir and the power of partnership
Mosaic Films succesfully applied for TV programming funding for their documentary, Out of Thin Air. We caught up with executive producer Andy Glynne to find out more about how they got the project off the ground.
Tell us about Mosaic Films
"Mosaic Films is a small but well-established production company, specialising in both documentary and animation, with films that compel people to think, ask important questions, and maybe learn a little bit more about the wider world. So, we don’t do quiz shows or documentaries about cars!"
You received Creative Europe funding for Out of Thin Air – a documentary feature exploring Iceland’s most infamous murder case. What interested you about the story?
"Well, before being a film producer I was a clinical psychologist and I think it is almost impossible for this experience to not creep into my work – this film being no exception. To find a story about the fallibility of memory - which in turn led six people confessing to murders that in all likelihood they didn’t commit – obviously piqued both my curiosity and fascination. Add to this a truly infamous miscarriage of justice story, set within the stark landscape of Iceland, and it felt that there was both an important film to make and one that would surely find an international audience."
The feature is co-produced by Margrét Jónasdóttir. How did that come about?
"The need for a solid co-production partnership in Iceland was essential for the project - not only to help release finance (Icelandic Film Fund, Icelandic National Broadcaster) - but, given the fact the most of the filming was taking place there, we needed a solid co-producer who could help us pick the best team for both the documentary shoot and the dramatic reconstruction. We spoke to a number of producers but it was Margret (and her company Sagafilm) who not only showed the track record and expertise to achieve both of these objectives, but also had that important, invaluable and often unquantifiable asset – in that she ‘got’ the project, and appreciated (and tolerated) from the outset, a bunch of Brits coming to Iceland to make an international orientated feature documentary about a very local story."
The documentary was shown on BBC Storyville this summer. Can you tell us a bit about its broadcast journey?
"It’s always a challenge to raise finance for a feature-length documentary and this one, with its relatively large budget, was no exception. BBC Storyville came on board right at the beginning, first under the mentorship of Nick Fraser, and afterwards with the invaluable support from Kate Townsend as the BBC Exec Producer. This helped leverage interest from other broadcasters and investors too. The BBC were the most hands-on in terms of giving regular support for the development of the film (and countless viewings from Kate too). For us, it was a changing landscape of documentary finance too; we were lucky in that Netflix came on as major partner which helped immensely, but we also got support from a range of other broadcasters and financiers - and of course Creative Europe’s MEDIA fund."
How have audiences responded to the film?
"Truthfully, I had mixed feelings about the potential success of the film as we moved through the production process. The director, Dylan Howitt, and team did a great job but I found myself worrying that the very density of the subject matter would make the translation to a cinematic film difficult. Spending most of my adult life hanging on the precipice of extreme pessimism, I was therefore pleasantly surprised not only at the success of the film, but also at the precise nature of that success which applauded that very density, the narrative device used, the pace and overall aesthetic of the film.
Its World Premiere was at Hot Docs in Toronto, and not only did it open to packed cinemas with queues going around the corner for standby tickets, but they even put on extra screenings to accommodate demand. Something similar occured at the UK Premiere at Sheffield DocFest and it went on to have a successful and extended run at the Bertha DocHouse too, with great reviews, including a multitude of “Film of the Week” accolades in the UK press prior to its launch on the BBC."
Why do you think it has been such a success?
"I think much of the accolades for the film can be seen in the context of the trend for Scandi-noir films, and the interest in crime genre in general and of the miscarriage of justice film in particular – although I wouldn’t necessarily label Out of Thin Air with that epithet. I also think Iceland – with its alien landscape, and Fargo-esque (or 'Hobbit-like') community makes compelling viewing. The film’s success is also a testament to the notion that intellectually complex and more ‘cerebral’ films not only have a place in the international marketplace, but also can become incredibly successful and have significant audiences– something that many broadcasters often fail to realise!"
What has MEDIA funding enabled you to do that you may not have otherwise?
"MEDIA funding - apart from its obvious function in helping one reach a desired budget – has a much more important purpose for us. It firmly places a project within the architecture of European coproduction, compelling each project to find strategic, creative and financial partners to realise a creative documentary that is often all the better for its pool of talent from across Europe. This, in turn, can help the film find new and varied audiences."
The call for TV programming funding is currently open. Any tips or advice for those considering applying?
"I’d avoid trying to pitch your project to simply tick boxes for an MEDIA application. It doesn’t work and doesn’t really make for a better film. Think genuinely about the partners that would not only help reach your ideal budget, but also about how those partners- both broadcasters, production companies, sales agents and so on – can make the film better."
Would you apply again?
Visit the Out of Thin Air website to find out more about the documentary, or watch the trailer below.
08 Nov 2017