Creative connections that transform




Image of a still from Balsa Wood, directed by Dominique Lecchi

Dominique Lecchi talks Balsa Wood and London Calling

Date posted: 07.11.2014

With the London Calling deadlines fast approaching, we caught up with a filmmaker from last year and the producer who selected her work to give you the lowdown on what makes a good project and what the scheme offers.

The director: Dominique Lecchi, Balsa Wood

Making my first short film, Balsa Wood, with the support of Film London and Southern Exposure Film Fund was an opportunity to get the practical film school experience I didn't have.

After initially planning to make the film on no budget (in one moment of complete narcissism, there was talk of myself and my brother acting the lead roles, but thankfully that insanity quickly passed), when I heard about the London Calling scheme, the support from known organisations and offer of workshops really appealed to me. 

I felt that my script was distinctive enough to make an interesting film, so my producer and I assembled a great team of collaborators and applied.

Coming through a scheme like London Calling gave my film a sense of credibility that I especially appreciated for a first project. I was able to get to know other filmmakers at a similar and more established level, as well as benefit from advice and workshops run by industry professionals.

Along with Josic at Film London, our executive producer Elizabeth from Southern Exposure was on hand to offer advice throughout the process. The first time we met, she assured me that in making my first film, I was actually in a position of glorious naivety in not actually knowing specifically what I should be worried about.

Unfortunately that resulted in a more general fear of the world, including a suspicion of slow walking people and falling leaves, but it did help to know there were always people there to contact once those concerns became film-centric.

Now that the scheme has come to an end, I have a film that I'm proud of, and experience in running a fully accountable and above board production.

I'm currently working on drafts for another short film and developing a feature idea. I can't wait to make my next one - I'll know exactly what to worry about, and this time it's not falling leaves.

The Producer: Elizabeth Mitchell, Southern Exposure Film Fund

It all starts with the script.

We had around 70 applications to Southern Exposure Film Fund last year and I remember quite distinctly reading the Balsa Wood script for the first time. There was something pleasingly different about it, family dynamics with a twist: the over-familiarity of brother and sister, contrasting with the put-upon politeness of young people towards distant relations. It wasn't a short film trying to be a feature, or trying to be quirky or gimmicky, it was 'just' a beautifully observed and paced snapshot of relatable life.

The fact that Dominique had written such an accomplished first draft, accompanied by a well thought-out application from her (also first time) producer Agnes Meath Baker helped allay the initial concerns about her being a first time director. The whole point of SEFF is to enable people to start out, so first timers are encouraged with the proviso that without a showreel to support your vision, you have to be really clear in your application and go into quite a bit of detail in how you can tell your story creatively and logistically.

All four teams in 2013-14 were of varying levels of experience and backgrounds - which we think accurately reflects the type of filmmaker that's out there, as well as making the year-long process fun, collaborative and exciting. The intensive development period which focuses on script work, director's notes and pitching is relevant no matter what stage you and your project are at...there's always something interesting to take from listening and engaging with other filmmakers.

Balsa Wood came out brilliantly, and remarkably similar to that very first draft in content and tone. It's a good reminder that there is no particular 'type' of film that we look for and it's not a box ticking exercise, rather (and sorry if this seems obtuse) a genuine response to a team and an application that feels considered and honest.

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