2015

On 12 January 2015, in Cannes, Film Festivals, filmmaking, new feature, Whoops!, York, zomblogalypse, by Miles Watts

Hey all. It’s been a fair while since I posted on here, but I’m happy to say it’s because a lot has happened in the past nine months.

First off, Whoops! screened around the country with Raindance at Vue cinemas, then – on 13 November – returned triumphantly to York where it screened to an audience of nearly seven hundred at Reel’s classic Art Deco cinema, formerly the Odeon York. Hands down, this was the best screening of our own work that we’ve been to: there was so much support and enthusiasm and a wonderful reaction to the film, with a very entertaining Q&A afterwards for the hundred or so people who stayed behind to celebrate with us.

(click on any of the pictures to enlarge)

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Producer Sam Robinson also took the film to Nantes, where it screened in the Univercine Festival along with York production The Knife That Killed Me, to a rapturous reception. We didn’t win the Jury Prize we were nominated for but Whoops! was an instant hit and a real audience favourite, as it has been around the UK.

Sam also spoke to a French radio station about the production process.

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So the radio silence, apart from Sam’s interview, is not just laziness: it’s a sign that we needed to knuckle down and focus on taking our current films to the next level of the production process… and as many filmmakers are realising, it’s one saga to get a film made but entirely another to work out the endgame. Cinema screenings, word of mouth and distribution are things that we considered, but not to any great degree of detail, when we were making Whoops!

As we’ve learned before, during and since, however, a finished film without a resting place is an incomplete thing.

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Thankfully, we’ve been working hard this year to make acquaintances with many filmmakers, producers and creatives in York and the Yorkshire area and have become involved with a variety of not just upcoming major film projects but attempting to develop the film industry in York. I’ve met some fantastic representatives in many areas of film production, from funding to post, which bodes very well for the coming year.

I attended an event last week to celebrate the launch of York in 2015 as a UNESCO City of Media Arts, during which everyone was very keen, and rightly so, to stress what work needed to be done this year, rather than just engage in a lot of backslapping. I’ve been involved in film production in York since 2000, and it isn’t until now that it feels – despite many film projects happening in the city over the last few years – that the time is now if we want to truly stimulate film production in York beyond what has already been established.

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(photo by Ben Bentley)

This year – in fact this week – represents the start of a grand plan for our filmmaking – not just as MilesTone Films but as a collective of producers, writers, directors and creatives determined to make this year count:

– MilesTone Films – with Heavy Elephant Productions – plan to give Whoops! a home release and finally get the film to a wider audience, as well as screening it in more cinemas.

– Our Coffee Films collaboration, the Zomblogalypse movie, is continuing its long pre-production process into 2015, when we hope to begin actual prep on the film for shooting next year under the support of a film studio.

O&O Creative, alongside ‘Thirskploitation’ filmmaker Paul Shrimpton (Inbred) will be making the horror anthology feature No Room In Hell, which held its first auditions in York last month and will film in York and Thirsk this spring.

– Between us – and working with some terrific filmmakers – we’re working on about half a dozen new screenplays and film ideas for production over the next few years, from sci-fi and low budget horror to larger, more ambitious movies.

– We also plan to visit Cannes again with a selection of York-set films, and to represent the city as a centre of film industry.

So, together and separately, we’ll be working on a raft of new projects, from movie screenplays and web series to various creative projects, while working on evolving the landscape of York filmmaking to support not just us, but existing and future filmmakers.

In short (too late, I know), we are attempting to create an environment in which filmmaking in York can flourish. It’s all very well us making our own movies, which we intend to continue doing, but we’re convinced we can use this year to create more opportunities for ourselves and those who don’t just want to make films as a hobby, but are serious about the continuous hard work and slog it takes to make commercial movies that can find an audience.

Last year was all about planting seeds. This year they need to bloom.

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Raindance on Tour

On 27 May 2014, in Film Festivals, filmmaking, interviews, Whoops!, by Miles Watts

For the second time in our filmmaking career, a film we made is to be shown around the UK – and for the first time, in Canada!

This time it’s our movie Whoops! that is getting the support of Raindance and Vue cinemas. We couldn’t be more excited; once again a major film organisation believes in our film enough to support it screening to cinema audiences.

While Raindance is doing a grand job with publicity and trailers (this one is a real killer):

…one thing we learned with CrimeFighters is that now is the time to really get behind – and enjoy – the marketing of the film ourselves. This is a chance for us to meet audiences and really engage with what they liked about the film, in Q&As, chats and interviews. We’re also keen to meet and talk to new filmmakers looking to make their own movie, as we’ve got a few tips.

We’re underway with contacting those individuals and publications we think may be interested in the film; there’s usually only a small percentage of uptake but it’s important to cherish the ones who do care. We’re hoping for some great stories in some varied publications over the next few weeks and months about the making of Whoops! and we hope to see you at one of the screenings.

For dates, to book tickets and for and further information, check out this breaking story from our amigos at One&Other.

More dates are to be added, including York and London, we hope. Keep up to date at The Official Whoops! Website as we add more information on the tour as we go.

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It’s been a few months since I blogged because I’m not really a blogger, and also we’ve been busy doing lots of stuff that wouldn’t have made particularly fascinating reading.

Here are the things we have been doing, in brief…

 

1. MAKING A NINE BLACK ALPS VIDEO

Two, actually. In a props warehouse in Manchester. God they were fun, with a visual nod to Raiders at the end:

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Here’s the video and a One&Other report on the shoot.

 

2. DEVELOPING THE ZOMBLOGALYPSE SCRIPT

This is something we’ve been doing ever since we got back from Cannes last year with this news.

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Script development takes a long time (but not, we recently learned, as long as this one did) but when we look at the script as it is now (109 lean, mean pages of zombie action and jokes) compared to how it was six months ago (not so lean, a bit less mean and 126 pages long), we’re pretty sure we haven’t been just sitting around eating crisps. We’ve written a bloody good film script.

We also ate crisps.

 

3. GETTING INTO A FILM FESTIVAL

Whoops! follows on from its Raindance screening last September with a showing at ultra-hip film & music festival NXNE this June.

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This is exciting news on top of the other exciting news that’s happening for the film in June, on which… more soon.

One&Other: Whoops! Festival Success Continues

 

4. WRITING SCRIPTS

Oh yeah, we’ve been writing other film scripts too. Mine, Tony’s and Steve’s are all just about written to first draft. Mine’s a comedy drama, Tony’s is genre thriller, Steve’s is just epic.

One day we’ll report on the making of those films but for now, that’s all the spring news.

 

There’ll be more in May, because June gon’ be huge. TTFN.

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Ghost Dance

On 3 February 2014, in filmmaking, by Miles Watts

One of my more fascinating Christmas presents from my father-outlaw Steve Parry was a mysterious film canister containing…

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Well that was the mystery. Steve found it at in an old junk shop and discovered it had been found in an attic.

Now, thanks to Graham Relton at the Yorkshire Film Archive, it’s no longer a mystery. My actual dad, an ex-film editor, had expressed concern that if the film dated back further than about 1950, it may contain silver nitrate and possibly explode.

I could see the headlines: ‘YFA destroyed by obscure French film and obscure York filmmaker‘…

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So… we gathered this chilly morning to open the box – which thankfully didn’t explode – and find out what was inside. The answer was more intriguing than I’d hoped.

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Turns out these are some 16mm rushes from a 1983 experimental feature called Ghost Dance, directed in France by British director Ken McMullen. The film features Robbie Coltrane and Red Dwarf‘s Robert Llewellyn, although neither are featured in the rushes found in the can.

Click here to see & hear some iPhone footage I took of the film running through the Steenbeck.

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Instead, we ran through some long shots of a French actress – presumably Pascale Ogier, who tragically died of a heart attack the year after Ghost Dance was released, and a day before her 26th birthday. The cinematographer, Peter Harvey, also died, last year in fact. The last thing he shot was Stephen Fry’s ‘Planet Word’, his career having been packed with documentary work.

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Graham, unraveling the mystery…

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Me, using a Steenbeck for the first time in 20 years…

The only close up shots are of a very young, beautiful, wistful-looking Leonie Mellinger, thankfully still going strong today.

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These are the things inspiration is made of: an obscure can of film, 30 years old, opened by another filmmaker who was nine years old when this film came out.

I think I’ll be inspired by this for a long time to come, and I certainly hope I can get in touch with some of the cast and crew.

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Here’s a clip from the actual film, which I now must seek out!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nmu3uwqzbI

UPDATE: Here’s a little chat I had with Leonie Mellinger on Twitter this afternoon (Feb 3rd)…

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…and Robert Llewellyn shortly afterwards (read this one bottom to top):

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I’ve also heard from an academic and critic who’s hopefully going to get in touch with the director. Let’s hope the story continues…

5th Feb: Here’s an update on One&Other’s site: http://www.oneandother.com/features/92-dancing-with-ghosts-the-mystery-film-reel-that-unveils-a-30-year-old-story

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Clearly we’re all biding our time until we can go out and buy one of these babies…

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In the meantime, we might as well get on with some filmmaking stuff. I shall try and get through this blog post without using the word ‘excited’ (that one doesn’t count) as it tends to be a word I overuse. Yes, we are that word, but we’re indie filmmakers and therefore the ‘E’ word is a pretty important one ; without it, we’d be terrified half the time.

It’s only a week into the new year but we’ve already had some fun and fascinating meetings with various filmmaker folk and discussed everything under the sun.

Best chat of the year so far has to be from our Producer, Steve, who told a great anecdote about Stanley Kubrick & a burger in a limo, and summed up the indie filmmaking experience with the very astute observation that, ‘Indie filmmakers are usually so stressed, skint and exhausted by the time filming happens, it’s a case of, ‘Who needs rehearsals, let’s do a quick line reading then three takes and move on,’ which I have to say is often the case.

Not so, then, for our future movies.

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First off, the Zomblogalypse movie script, which we’ve now been developing for over 18 months, is in great shape. Our first script meeting of the year was productive and encouraging, as we carefully pick our way towards submitting a polished draft to the money people.

We benefitted greatly from a cast read-through a few months ago, followed by a few more meetings then a couple of weeks off for festive madness, and we all returned fresh and fighting fit to make sure there was no chaff… among the wheat. Thankfully, our now eagle-eyed ruthlessness means we can spot a weak line or plot hole and pick it off like the ailing straggler it is. Some films warrant a long script development, and Zomblog is one of those beasts.

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Amber and Whoops! are entering the domain of distribution and theatrical screenings, so we’ll politely leave them doing just that and move onto the next few weeks of activity…

We’re attending some meetings this month that could help York’s filmmakers this year and in the future. We’re tentatively starting to sketch out our return to Cannes in May. We’re in talks with a few York-based companies about some new projects that could generate jobs and stimulate industry.

That’s all a bit vague but we hope over the coming months we’ll be able to reveal more. We are planning for 2014 to be a very big year, and not just for us. It’s a key year, an important one in which we’re throwing everything we can at the wall and attempting to get a hell of a lot going, not simply making a feature film every now and then but making sure the foundations of our filmmaking castle are strong and not, you know, quicksandy.

I would say we’re excited but… damn. I’ll leave the last word to life guru Ron Swanson.

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In 2012 we could, had we the foresight of the Tenth Doctor in his dying moments, have predicted of ourselves in 2013: ‘I bet you’re gonna have a really great year.’

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Indeed, we’re celebrating a successful 2013 and steeling ourselves for 2014, which we also think is going to be pretty great.

One thing that’s been continually brought to our attention this year, other than just how much will and stamina are required to make film projects happen, is the amount of support and help we’ve had, yet again.

We’re very proud and grateful to everyone who’s been a part of MilesTone Films’ success this year; everyone who’s helped us when we’ve needed them, from Executive Producers to IndieGoGo contributors and all our cast and crew who came back to the fold after we’d all drifted off to work on our other projects. Because you all believed in us, we continue  to believe in ourselves.

So, twelve months, twelve photos that capture the mood. This time next year, who knows what those photos will be.

Here are this year’s. Click to enlarge.

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Filming pickups for Whoops! - February

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Gathering our scripts for the year – February

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Up to more bloody antics filming the Zomblogalypse Cannes-paign – April

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Working on the Whoops! edit with Sam Robinson – June

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Taking part in the Proudly In York event – April

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Sound editing Whoops! - July

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Making the Top 3 IndieGoGo campaigns list – May

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Enjoying the sunshine and movie deals at Cannes – May

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Addressing some empty chairs at Cannes – May

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Richard Dreyfuss hosting a seaside screening of Jaws – May

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Whoops! sellout performance at Raindance – September

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Answering Qs with As after the Whoops! screening – September

(photo: James Arden)

Our online output this year was mainly geared around promoting Whoops! and Zomblogalypse:

 

 

Returning from a film festival is always a pleasantly baffling experience; bit of a comedown and a sense of ‘did that just happen?’ and ‘what exactly comes next?’ as well as buzzing like a very excited sugar-filled child.

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Whoops! was a sellout at Raindance and we couldn’t be happier about that. The audience laughed in all the right places – and in some places we didn’t expect – and many of them came up to us afterwards to congratulate us.

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                                                            Photo by Vicky Parry

We got to do a very fun Q&A afterwards and that was the most giddy part. Talking to people who’ve just enjoyed something you spent two years working on is nothing less than immensely gratifying.

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                                                              Photo by James Arden

And so onto the ‘What’s next?’ part.

Concerning Whoops!, we’re waiting to see if the film has been accepted into any of the other dozen or so film festivals to which we’ve submitted it, and are fielding interest from distributors who could take the film further. We’d like to see Whoops! in cinemas, on discs and VOD and eventually on TV. That’s what we’re aiming for, and we have high hopes. Hiiiiiigh hopes.

Then there’s the small matter of another completed film we have in the MilesTone vaults, Amber, which is currently seeking festivals and representation. More on that soon but suffice to say, WE’RE ON IT.

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                                                           Artwork by Roi Pardo

The Zomblogalypse movie is heavily into the script development/rehearsal stage as we work out the very best dialogue, situations and action scenes for the film. It’s also in the tentative early pre-production phase, as locations and logistics are worked out for when we put the movie on its feet.

And then there’s the issue of our next film. Daaaaan Daaaan DAAAAAAAAA…

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                                    ‘Did they really just say there’s going to be a Whoops! 2?!’

Tony and I have various scripts and ideas that we’re in the tremblingly early stages of discussing. A couple are written, a couple need writing, a couple need a good arm-wrestling match or two to decide whether they live or die.

Apart from Zomblog, there are no firm plans other than to make sure that the next movie we make is even bigger, bolder and ballsier than anything we’ve made before.

Our little brains are buzzing, post-Raindance, and we’re working out things like if we can fit a production in before Zomblog, after Zomblog, or during… no, that would be madness. OR WOULD IT?! Yes it would, that’s totally not going to happen.

It’s funny though; after all the pain and poverty and panic attacks of making one feature, the urge to get going on another one kicks in. It’s like a drug. It’s like some of Heisenberg’s blue meth… but we’ll leave before we spoil something…

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Raindance

On 4 September 2013, in Film Festivals, Whoops!, by Miles Watts

We’ve waited a good few weeks to be able to announce the news that Whoops! has been accepted into this year’s Raindance Film Festival, and yesterday was the big reveal.

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The response has been a mixture of recognition among some, and curiosity among others, as to what getting into Raindance actually means. There are a lot of film festivals flying about and, other than the red carpets and the fuss, it’s not always clear what they represent.

In the case of Raindance, it’s the one every independent filmmaker wants to get into because Raindance truly does champion the independents. One look at the list of films shows an eclectic slice of drama, comedy and experimentation from largely unknown filmmakers such as ourselves, given the chance to screen their work to a wider audience.

On the other hand, it’s just awesomely cool.

Raindance equals Tarantino, Ben Wheatley, a London premiere and the coolest people pimping your film to the World. It equals an independent voice, the recognition of burgeoning talent and a pleasing lack of corporate-led nonsense. This is is a festival for people who love films; a celebration of new voices, styles and stories rather than empty, cynical pomp and back-slapping.

The fact that Julian Assange is on this year’s jury should give you some idea of the radicalism that Raindance prides itself on.

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We’re honoured to be included in this year’s festival and are keen to see what the Raindance laurels bring us. For us, getting into Raindance is a very welcome point of pride, satisfaction and relief after working on Whoops! for two long years.

Rose Clements, you done well.

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Patience

On 24 July 2013, in amber, Cannes, filmmaking, MilesTone Films, Whoops!, zomblogalypse, by Miles Watts

…is one of those things filmmakers are supposed to have in spades.

Since I’m not really a patient person, I’ve developed this thing I call ‘deferred giddiness’ when it comes to making films. It’s when you have really exciting things happening but you can’t really tell many people, or if you can, you can’t really do much about the exciting things. Yet.

Partly this is the nature of the process: you have a great idea, the idea needs developing. You write a treatment, the treatment needs to become a script. You finish the script, the script needs lots of drafts. You start filming, the film takes several intense weeks to shoot. You finish the film, the film needs editing. You finish the edit, the edit needs tweaking.

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And tweaking.

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And tweaking.

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And tweaking.

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For months.

And then re-tweaking.

And re-tweaking. And so on until everyone’s happy, or something approaching happy.

And even then, after the months of post-production, of sound editing, picture grading, special effects work, music scoring and agonising over every detail, even then when you bite the creative bullet and sign off your film, you have to wait some more; wait for a festival to accept the film, wait to announce the film getting into the festival, wait to get a sales deal, wait wait wait.

Waiting is one of the reasons you have to learn to love the process; to enjoy the view from the summit you’ve climbed rather than staring wistfully at the next mountain.

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Right now we’re waiting for the finalisation of the digital effects shots in Whoops! which are more complicated (and larger in file size) than it’s possible to explain; waiting to see if Whoops! has been accepted into some film festivals to which we’ve submitted it; waiting for our previous film Amber to pick up a sales agent and also get into some festivals; working on and waiting for the Zomblogalypse movie script to be just right (currently working on a Draft 11) and for several big, exciting developments to kick into gear on that project…

Waiting, waiting, waiting.

You kind of go into this state of perma-wait where there isn’t much in the way of catharsis. I’m beginning to understand why filmmakers make such a fuss of red carpet events; quite apart from the back-slapping, it must be nice to sit back for a night and enjoy the spoils of your months of hard work, far from the long months of obsessing over every little detail.

On which note, time to be a little more patient…

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Patience, T Man…

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Thanks to the financial support of 150 people – and the moral support of countless more – we went to Cannes, we did some deals, we return with an international sales agent for the Zomblogalypse movie (or movies) and some potential deals for Whoops! and Amber. We are happy.

Cannes is a great experience but despite the glitz and swagger that you may associate with the name, it’s really just a (mostly) sunny place to talk to people and make friends and deals that could shape your film career.

So without further (we didn’t get into the press screening of Much) Ado (About Nothing), here are ten things I noticed while I was out there.

1. It’s vital to learn all aspects of the film industry. Whether you’re creative or business-minded, the bigger picture – and your place in it – is essential to understand.

2. Thanks to the Digital Film Library, I have a newfound love of short films. So many ideas and styles and it’s inspiring to dip into over two thousand films and try to select about one percent of them that you might enjoy. The ones with the best-written blurbs and eye-catching posters stood out the most. It’s a good lesson in marketing for filmmakers everywhere.

3. Cannes has its share of loud, obnoxious, swaggering people but we noticed it’s mostly the quiet ones doing the deals. The best ones played it down.

4. My boredom threshold for parties is approximately one hour. Free booze, however, is nice.

5. Panamanian filmmakers are much more welcoming and friendly than British ones. Plus you get free hats.

6. Some people will genuinely wish you well and share in the joy of your journey. Treasure those people.

7. Being 20 feet away from Marion Cotillard with no-one in between you is a lot more exciting when you realise the day after who it was.

8. Always be nice. Get on with people and forge new working friendships.

9. Believe in your work, be realistic and find the best deal. Compromise but don’t sell out, have a solid grasp of what you’re selling and pick the most fitting people to work with, people who share your vision.

10. Never give up. Even if you start small, think big and work hard. Amaze yourself, worry less about amazing others.

So that was our Cannes 2013. Coming soon: deals, news and a new phase of filmmaking in York. You can catch up with our adventures in Cannes over at One&Other where we blogged the hell out of the whole experience.

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