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Alternative Funding

Funding 101: Lost and Sound – The Art of Finding the Right Partners

Director/Producer Lindsey Dryden is a documentary filmmaker who has worked on documentaries for broadcasters such as the BBC, Channel 4 and Current TV, but when she started making her first feature documentary she had to learn a whole new set of skills – not only to make the film, but also to find the funding.

Lost and Sound, follows its three protagonists Holly, Nick and Emily over two years, to discover if they can put music back together in their minds and bodies after experiencing different kinds of deafness. Lindsey is partially deaf herself, and she began making the film after the future of her own hearing was called into doubt. Lost and Sound gives a provocative glimpse of what our own futures might look like, as the population ages, the world gets louder and the likelihood of hearing loss increases – 1 in 7 of us will experience deafness in our lifetime. By uncovering how music acts miraculously on the protagonists’ brains and bodies, this moving and thought-provoking documentary tells us more about ourselves.

Science + Art = Unconventional

Lost and Sound is part scientific odyssey, part moving personal adventure that deftly weaves a combination of intimate observational filming; stylised science material; immersive sound design that allows us to hear through other people’s ears; a musical soundtrack that includes Beethoven, Mozart, Blur and John Coltrane; and original drawn-on animation that makes the unseen world of sound visible on-screen. Together, these elements reveal how music weaves its mysterious magic around the film’s subjects – and all of us – all of the time.

Unconventional = Uncommissionable?

Trouble is, when a film straddles two genres it can be difficult to find funding from TV commissioners. Science commissioners will consider it to be an art film; art commissioners will think it is a science film, and therefore neither are likely to want to commission it. The natural next step would be to approach issue-driven funders, but the film’s subject – deafness – doesn’t fit the accepted remit for a social issue film which generally requires an environmental issue, human rights story or other social justice agenda. Added to which, the mention of animation in any film pitch is likely to spook a funder: it’s difficult to imagine what it’s going to look like (especially when the animation is being used to visualize something invisible) and it sounds expensive.

Profitable Partnerships…

Although Lindsey already had numerous TV credits on documentaries for channels such as Channel 4 and the BBC, this was her first feature film and she realized she needed help from someone who had more experience of making the kind of film she wanted to make. She approached Kat Mansoor who is a multi-award winning producer and co-founder of production company Animal Monday in Brighton. Her credits include double Grierson winner and RTS-nominated documentary Here’s Johnny.

Kat had previously received funding for Here’s Johnny, another character driven film that incorporates science and art, from the Wellcome Trust, who are keen to promote biomedical issues through a variety of accessible media. She suggested Lindsey approach them for a development grant, which allowed her to develop her storyline, cast her contributors an make a trailer.

Lindsey also got Tom Roberts on board as executive producer, and  she says it proved “invaluable to have a big narrative overview and a very safe pair of hands, at a distance from the daily production process”.

… Pay Off

Lindsey’s practical and methodical approach paid off: the finished film premiered at SXSW in 2012, and will screen at Sheffield Doc/Fest in June 2012. Lindsey has been nominated for Best Emerging UK Filmmaker at  Open City Documentary Festival, London and Best Female-Directed Film at Sheffield Doc/Fest 2012.

Funding Tips

If you are an emerging filmmaker, or are making a film that might be challenging to fund because it outside of the normal remit of TV broadcasters you need to be more creative not only in your documentary making but also in your approach to fundraising, for example entering into partnerships with people who can help you achieve your goal. Some of the key things Lindsey did to get her film off the ground included:

  1. Partnering with a more experienced producer  and executive producer who could help with contacts, credibility and editorial guidance
  2. Working with documentary consultant Fernanda Rossi to further hone the film’s structure
  3. Approaching non-traditional funding sources such as The Wellcome Trust as they are often more open to funding something that is a little more experimental than mainstream funders might
  4. Maintaining her freelance directing jobs alongside the documentary so that she had money coming in while she was working on/raising money for her film.

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See the film:

Sheffield Doc/Fest, UK – 13-17 June 2012

Distrital Film Festival, Mexico City – 1-9 June 2012

Sled Island Festival, Calgary, Canada – 18 June 2012

Open City Docs Fest, London, UK – Between 21 and 24 June 2012


Get More Funding Tips

Read in-depth interviews with Lindsey and Kat in Give Me the Money and I’ll Shoot!: Finance Your Factual TV/Film Project to find out more about how they raised funding for a range of documentaries, including Wojtek: the Bear that Went to War (BBC, MDR, TVP co-pro): a feature documentary about a bear that became a Soldier in WWII.

Read Trailer Mechanics: A Guide to Making Your Documentary Fundraising Trailer by Fernanda Rossi to learn how to make a compelling trailer.


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