Filmmaker's Blog | Sheffield Doc Fest Day 1: “Haynesville” Documentary Lands in England

IMG_1861Welcome to Sheffield, England!  Here are some rules:

Chips = French Fries, Crisps = Chips, Bobbies = Police, Lift = Elevator, Coffee = Tea, and, this is an important on, look the opposite way on traffic (this one should be boldfaced).

You remember those, and you will be fine.

We completed Day One at the Sheffield Doc Fest and, aside from Mark nodding off from jetlag at inopportune times, everything is going really well.

The festival itself is amazing.  It’s more a working of  media power-conference with the films as the glorious highlights.  The cool thing is that the entire city seems to be our hosts.  This starts with a big hug from Hussain Currimbhoy, the amazing and congenial festival programmer.  Yes, you might have thought the British were “stiff upper lip” non-huggers, but Hussain has broken the mold (technically, he’s Canadian, but we’ll still credit England with with his outward show of emotion).  That hug began a great first day.

We started out by getting the lay of the land.  As I said the entire town is participating in the festival, so the venues can be in chapels or student unions or historic theaters.

IMG_1854While this was natural to the Sheffield Doc Fest regulars, Mark and I needed a bit of pathfinding from the locals.  This gent was awesome and almost insisted on taking us to our destination himself (another trait of the brits is that they can’t get the “Want to go to India and take it for the Empire?  Let’s go!” out themselves, so, seemingly, they’re always up for an adventure).

The day was spent at really cool conferences like hearing Steven Johnson espouse about the natural crossover between documentaries and the Internet.  I won’t bore you with the details of the global television standards of the BBC or how Europe’s forward thinking plan to expand and meld media in cool new ways… or, maybe I will… no, I won’t… perhaps, when we get back (and you are having trouble sleeping).

In between these seminars we were papering the town with posters and getting the word out.  The surprising part was that we had already started to get some good buzz around the Fest.  We kept bumping into people saying that they heard of the film or that we had put a poster on their briefcase and/or forehead (that last part isn’t true).  The challenge is that we are competing for eyeballs against the best documentaries in the World.  This includes the odds-on Academy Award winner “The Cove”, festival darling “Winnebago Man”, “Moving to Mars” and a host of studio-backed new documentaries (coming to a theater or television near you).  As a result of being a small PR-team-less film, you have to hit it pretty hard.

Tomorrow is the screening, and they have put us in one of their premiere venues.  We are excited and nervous to see if people will show and be as excited about “Haynesville” and its message.  Wish us luck, send positive vibes and messages.  With that, Mark and I settle in at a pub, grab our first Guinness and bid you goodnight.