It seems so long ago. As the March icestorms melted into memory, during what’s proving to be an unseasonably hot summer, finally ‘Voyageuse’ is gaining traction. These past months, much as I’ve felt buoyed by the positive comments by those who’ve watched it online, the prospect of a cinema screening after the Glasgow Film Festival seemed remote – until now.
In June the film was selected for Distribution Rewired, an industry event hosted by the Edinburgh International Film Festival. This involved a series of panel discussions and one-to-one talks with those involved in sales and distribution. With nothing to lose, I put my doubts aside and took their knowledge and advice at face value. Films without distribution and marketing face an uphill climb, especially those with no festival presence to help attract reviews and attention.
In spite of my optimism, I struggled with an assumption mooted during the first talk, that the films selected possessed some pedigree – i.e. they were already festival darlings. Speaking to my fellow selectees however, I found the reality quite different. Few of us felt our films had theatrical prospects but still we were prepared to accept the wisdom on offer.
Personally I had several useful meetings which I’m following up now; some fruitful, others blind alleys. In the world of online distribution especially, I learned how companies seeking to grow their catalogues are always looking for those films that somehow fell off the radar. Even so, I’m aware of how, if your film can make it into cinemas, it helps towards securing an online release on a platform that puts it ahead of the self-uploaders on Vimeo and YouTube.
Elsewhere, very quietly a few kind people who genuinely love ‘Voyageuse’ are supporting my efforts to get V on the big screen. Johanna Blair, a highly experienced cinema programmer who until recently was based in London, has facilitated a screening that will take place on September 14th at Picturehouse Central with a Q&A with me and the wonderful Siân Phillips.
During a trip to London I had lunch with Siân – amazing as always, even in the oppressive heat – where I also had the pleasure of meeting Paul Smith who, at Jo’s behest, watched ‘Voyageuse’ and fell under its spell, tweeting:
‘Just got round to watching the poetically beautiful, sense-soaked @VoyageuseFilm helped by the cheerfully engaging narration from #SianPhillips. Looking forward to reading more about the remarkable @MayMilesThomas #Scottishfilmmakers‘
I’m pleased to say Paul (@Smithyshere) is handling publicity for the Picturehouse Central screening and any future outings.
In London I also met Martin Myers, a positive result of my one-on-ones from Edinburgh. Martin hails from a dynasty of film distribution execs so plainly knows the business. I admit I was hesitant about his reaction to the film. Martin, naturally cautious, told me the film is ‘beautiful’ but had some hard-headed wisdom to offer too. By the end of our conversation he agreed to help put it to the type of cinemas that might support it.
So the planets align. Out of the blue I was delighted when Allison Gardner, the co-director of the Glasgow Film Festival and senior programmer at the Glasgow Film Theatre, requested the film to screen from August 24-26th with a Q&A on the 26th, an event hosted by the journalist and broadcaster, Siobhan Synnot, doyenne of all things film and another great supporter of the film.
Previously Siobhan wrote a fulsome piece in ‘The Sunday Times’ about its making, a far cry from the time she visited me during the very early days of the edit and shortly after I shot in my neighbour, Edna’s house, a house I dressed as a stand-in for Erica’s. Hard to believe that I’m sitting here writing this almost four years later.
While I couldn’t be more pleased that V is screening again in my home city – Glasgow – especially for those who couldn’t make it through the March snows, I’m struck how the announcement of a single London outing commands attention. For a long time I’ve wondered – is ‘Voyageuse’, an outlier film made without institutional or industry support, simply too ‘local’ to be noticed outside my city? The contradiction, even the irony is that V is made by a Scottish woman, voiced by a Welsh woman, about the life of Erica, a woman whose lifelong struggle was to become English. Thankfully, several female-led film organisations have now offered to help promote the film and for that I’m grateful.
It’s a big deal for me to screen ‘Voyageuse’ in a central London cinema knowing I’ve nowhere to hide given the way it was made. I haven’t done a Q&A there since 2004, so if you’re reading this then please come to any of the aforementioned screenings. With any luck the film will secure further outings in the UK so hopefully I’ll have more good news soon.
The above image is a screengrab from the film showing pieces from a jigsaw of Great Britain.