Words by Camille Hollett- French
No one gives a sh*t about your short film.
That is what I started to believe. Comments like that are common in the film industry and they’re said in a myriad of ways. “You won’t make any money.” “It’s just a calling card.” Or from one man who owns a distribution company here in Vancouver when I tried to give him my film postcard “Yeah save the 15 cents—I won’t watch it.” Enough people had told me in their own unique ways that the months of my life (not to mention all of mine and my partner’s money) were for nought.
It’s safe to say that by the time we won the Craghoppers Film Prize of £20,000, I had to pinch myself—or you know, bang my head against the wall several times for good measure—to believe it was true. During the production of Her Story (In Three Parts), the anthology short film series about shame and sexuality of which Hush Little Baby is part two, I was constantly astounded by the support and generosity of people who believed in what we were doing. But it goes further, something else happens when you win the world’s largest cash prize of its kind, when you beat a film starring Minnie Driver. You start to feel like you’ve made it home, which is something I really needed at that point. I finally did it, I finally found my people.
Most filmmakers can tell you about that period of time, from conception to your first festival acceptance, where you know there’s a very good possibility that you’re an absolute nut, that no one will ever like your film, or worse, no one will ever “get” it. Until my partner Paul and I had been invited to the festival by Jaine Green, award-winning veteran filmmaker and founder of Discover Film, I felt pretty alone. I was flying by the seat of my pants as a first-time director and I was seriously contemplating giving up acting. I even considered not finishing the series, but Paul gave me a good talking to, telling me I had to finish it since I made the commitment to myself. (He’s a good guy.) I was lonely, even despite having a wonderful partner by my side every step of the way. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it to the festival because I had already planned to be at another one the same weekend, so Paul travelled to London solo and met an incredible group of people, down and dirty filmmakers who all seemed to share the same spirit of challenging the status quo. I haven’t met any of them in person yet, including Jaine, but instantly, I knew I was being welcomed into their inner circle. It felt like I had found my space in a world, in an industry, where you’re constantly told there’s no room for you.
The Craghoppers Film Prize has also allowed me to realize one of my biggest dreams, debunking the myth of the starving artist. I believe art is a vital, sometimes life-saving part of the human experience, and I don’t believe that in order to make art, you have to live off of ramen noodles. There’s a certain mentality in this industry that permeates slowly until we start to believe it ourselves: in order to be an artist we must be starving, that our art is worthless until we become Brad Pitt, that film, and independent film, and short independent films, in particular, are only a stepping stone, that they can’t be valuable and viable just the way they are.
When we were prepping for Hush Little Baby, something in me (probably my stubbornness) told me to fly a different flag. The film was made through a filmmaking program and when the talk of money came up, several people said things like “Pfft, these are just short films. They’re not going to make any money,” to which I replied, “Mine will! Ours is going to make money.” I didn’t know when of course, or how, but looking back now, I get excited at the thought that while we were stressed to the max making it, with reshoots and living in an old converted short bus—little did I know across the pond my people were already planning.
Discover Film believes short films are a valid art form that deserves attention. They’re bold and unapologetic (just like Jaine) and they’re quickly becoming one of the world’s premier festivals.
Their MO is making short films profitable and mainstream with discover.film, a distribution platform gives people access to high-calibre short films. Truth be told, we didn’t end up keeping much of the winnings but for a very good reason, one I believe is an important investment in the future of filmmaking: we were able to pay our actors. We were able to pay them much more than what the majority of short independent films can.
We were able to prove that being an artist is a valid and reputable profession. Even if just in our little way, we were able to be part of the change. It’s an honour I will never forget given to us by a world-class festival and top-notch clothing company. This partnership is genius, both Discover and Craghoppers being advocates for the pioneer. I’m excited to see the festival grow and I can’t wait for the day when I may be able to help the next group of filmmaker realize their potential.
The prize was a blessing and a major boost in confidence, but it also reminded me that in order to be sustained in this business, I’ve got to focus first and foremost on my love of the craft. Winning the prize has ignited a new kind of excitement in me. It’s made me remember why I love film in the first place and that it is not, in fact, all about money.
I’ve been so busy I could barely write this post! This summer has been a whirlwind. I’ve been busy developing two short films I’ll be directing, the drama Falling In about a man who comes out to his daughter in his 60s and the dark comedy Freya about a woman’s bodily autonomy that’s threatened by the State and its integrative health app. If that wasn’t enough, I’ve set a goal for myself in order to improve my knowledge as a director: to work at least one day on set in every department! I’m also developing my first feature, which is equal parts exciting and terrifying. But I suppose now I have to take my own advice: Go forth young Craghoppers’!
Camille is a Trinidadian-Canadian filmmaker from Montreal and Toronto, now living in Vancouver. After being kicked out of theatre school, Camille received a diploma in journalism. Writing was her first foray into the arts and film her first love. As such, she’ll always pursue the making of movies by whatever means she can. She and her partner lived in an old renovated bus for two years so that they could fund the series.