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Making a Euro Connection

February 2015 | Clermont Ferrand

Every year at the Clermont-Ferrand short film festival filmmakers come from all over Europe to pitch for funding for their short film projects. Lucy Brydon, writer/director of 'Sick(er)' was selected to represent the UK

We applied to Euro Connection in October 2014 with Sick(er), a short written and directed by me and produced by Dan Cleland of Lions Den Films. It is about a woman trying to overcome her anorexia and re-establish the bond with her estranged daughter.

By that stage, we had already gained a portion of our budget in the form of a £5,000 John Brabourne Award from the Cinema and Television Benevolent Fund. While this was a fantastic start, we knew that to reach our target budget we’d have to hustle and were keen to explore other options before going down the crowd-funding route.

Like many British filmmakers, I had little knowledge or understanding of the European co-production landscape for shorts and it was not something I had previously considered exploring until this opportunity came up. In early November we were selected by the British Council as one of two finalist projects to represent the UK. We were thrilled; neither of us had ever been to Clermont Ferrand, so the prospect of visiting the festival and meeting other international filmmakers there was really exciting. It was also very helpful to receive a travel grant from the British Council to support my attendance.

Before our trip, we had to supply information about the project for a book that was to be circulated to interested production companies. This included a brief synopsis of Sick(er), our biographies and production information about our current funds. We also prepared a presentation that outlined the background to the project, why we want to make it and the reasons we feel now is a good time. Looking through the project book before departure, we were both surprised to see the expected budgets of many of our European counterparts. One of them stretched into a quarter of a million Euros, even though it was animation. Granted, this is at the higher end of the scale for Euro Connections, but it's not unusual to see projects pitching around the 150,000 Euro mark, which just goes to show the contrast in expectations of filmmakers in Europe as opposed to the UK.

When we arrived in France I have to confess I thought that the pitches would be very producer-orientated. During our day of rehearsal with pitch coach and jury member Wim Vanacker it became clear that this wasn't the case. Indeed,  many of the directors were also in attendance to talk about their vision and why they wanted to make the films; for me these were by far the best pitches.

Wim was not easily impressed and gave us some really pointed but very valuable feedback which pushed us all to rehearse and rethink our presentations. The next day, when the time came, we were prepped and ready to go. The room was filled with about eighty people.

Our pitch seemed to go well - we secured seven follow-up meetings with French, Greek and Danish co-producers the next day. During those meetings it became clear that the main avenue for securing funds in France is pre-sales, or applications to individual regional funding councils. Many of the producers commented on how low our budget was – which was funny as to us it feels pretty expensive for a short!

I would encourage anyone who is looking to fund a professional short film to look to Europe for co-production investment and to apply to Euro Connection. While there are certain criteria that must be fulfilled in order to secure funding - such as basing your post-production in the country in question - it will help broaden your potential reach and market. We are in the process of following up with the seven potential partners we met there, and things are looking positive so far. Plus, it’s an excuse to go to France, eat cheese and drink wine. Not bad for a day’s work!