February 10, 2008
■ SFN INTERVIEW / New Producers Alliance CEO, David Pope
Marjan Riahi - SFN: David Pope, the British director, producer and instructor, was one of the attendants in the 6th edition of FIKE Festival and held a filmmaking workshop for young Portuguese. He has a long experience as a trainer and during the past 15 years he, together with his colleagues in New Producers Alliance, have had important role in training and connecting English independent young filmmakers. His is the CEO of the New Producers Alliances and previously held the post of Director Education at The New York Film Academy UK and the Curriculum Development Consultant in Irish Film Academy. Also, he is the Director of Advance Films ltd. in England. He started filmmaking by directing Skulls and Angels Mom and Dad and directed his first feature, Miles from Nowhere, in America in 2002. In this interview you will read his opinions in different categories: the position of short films and independent cinema in UK, the activities of New Producers Alliances, his favorite cinema, etc.
You are the CEO of New Producers Alliance. As far as I know, most of your members are independent filmmakers and that is why I would like to know about the independent cinema in the UK and the challenges you have?
Our membership is made up of producers, directors and screenwriters and we are an international training provider. In the UK the challenges of making a film are the same as filmmakers in most other countries. Producers are always searching for new ways of financing and distributing the films.
UK has many famous features in artistic and admired cinema of international festivals such as Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Michael Winterbottom, and Andrea Arnold. I am curious to know where a young filmmaker in UK should begin from.
Most filmmakers begin by making short films and using these to showcase their work. Also I think young filmmakers need to realize that it is a lifetimes journey to have a career in the film industry. We encourage networking and building contacts. I am pleased with the directors you have chosen to name because they are directors the UK should be particularly proud of.
It is probably a general concept from UK cinema in many places of the world that it is a huge and experienced system which is in close relationship with Hollywood. Many famous Hollywood actors are from UK and the Hollywood block busters' world premier in London publishes all over the world. Of course, this is not the whole reality of your cinema. What is your image of UK cinema?
Well the US UK connection is easy to explain through the spoken language. However I think a lot of countries have parallel independent and large scale systems going. The US independent scene is vibrant and produces many fine films. In addition the UK has a tradition of making great low budget character driven stories. The budgets of large scale US films are generally not available in the UK although some British directors such as Paul Greengrass are able to work on projects of that size in the US. I don't think the UK industry is huge financial resources but I think we have a huge variety of stories and talent.
It is nearly 15 years NPA is established. How much have you been successful as a network to connect independent English filmmakers who have new words?
Our membership keeps growing. Producers, directors and screenwriters keep joining looking to make connections with each other. We regularly run networking events to facilitate this and feature films have been made out of this process.
What is the position of short films in UK? Is it only a start to enter professional cinema or it is accepted as an independent art form by the audiences and critics?
We have many great organizations such as Future Shorts and BBC film network that show short films and treat them as an independent medium. Also festivals dedicated to short films such as London short Film Festival and Encounters.
You have an experience in short film and help the winners of the competitions in producing and screening their films. Please tell us about your goals to establish this competition. Is this competition exclusive for the members of NPA?
Yes, the competition must have a member involved (producer, director or screenwriter). We are an open access organization that anyone can join. The competition was set up to celebrate the work of the short film makers in the NPA. Among the many prizes the winners are screened in Cannes.
To hold training and practicing courses are other activities of NPA. Do you intend to train a new generation of directors, screenwriters, producers, and actors?
Our courses are always developing to keep up with new methods of financing, distribution and co-production for example. Our training is geared towards helping independent filmmakers navigate the global industry.
What are your methods in these courses? Theory knowledge, workshop method, or a combination of both? Please explain.
NPA runs seminar, classroom based courses on producing, screenwriting and directing. My company advance runs practice based workshops as well as seminars and labs and consults on film training.
Who are the instructors of NPA courses? What courses do you teach?
The instructors are all film industry professionals with training backgrounds. It is important to us that the instructors are up to date with industry knowledge and are also good teachers. I teach directing and script development.
Is it possible filmmakers and students from other countries participate in these practical courses? If positive, what is the process for the applicants?
Our workshops are open application for everyone and can be booked online or by contacting the NPA office.
In Fike, I found out that the participants in workshop respected you more than an instructor and it attracted my attention. What are your principles in these workshops?
My main principal in teaching is that the students must leave with tools that are useful to them and can help them develop their storytelling. The most important things I teach can be put to work immediately on their projects.
How did you feel and what experiences did you gain by presenting in FIKE Festival?
The workshop in The FIKE festival was great. The students were all very supportive of each other and committed to their work. This is the atmosphere of the whole festival. It is very busy but maintains a wonderful feeling of collaboration. We made 20 short films in five days.
In NPA website I saw UK Film Council and some other UK cinema organizations among your colleagues and sponsors. Do you have any special relationships with film festival as well?
The NPA presents events at many festivals. Panels, seminars and networking events. Among the festivals are Edinburgh, London, Cannes and Berlin.
You have had many workshops and training courses in different countries besides UK. Do you like to have this experience in Iran?
We would be very happy to run a workshop in Iran.
As a filmmaker who has directed and produced many films, what is your favorite genre and characterization of cinema?
Arthouse, drama, and thrillers.
What kind of films is usually produced in Advance Films? Are you interested in co-producing with other countries?
Advance is in several discussions with producers from other countries about co-production projects and is always looking for new projects. We are looking at arthouse dramas and thrillers.
How much do you know about Iran cinema?
I am lucky in living in London which screens cinema from all over the world so I have seen some of the Iranian films that have entered the international arena.
What are your comments to young filmmakers as a profession and an experienced teacher?
Tell the stories you really want to tell and build strong working relationships with those you trust. Also do not just have one project developing at one time.