Film4.0 Commissioning Executive Anna Higgs on digital distribution

Film4.0 Commissioning Executive Anna Higgs on digital distribution

By Tom Seymour 19/06/13

Anna Higgs spearheads Film4’s digital initiatives, commissioning film projects – such as Ben Wheatley's forthcoming A Field In England – that exist on both traditional media and digital platforms. She talks to Tom Seymour about the benefits of this approach...

What do digital platforms provide for a filmmaker? 

It’s becoming harder and harder for independent filmmakers to break through and get seen in conventional theatrical distribution. Multi-platform distributing allows filmmakers to access new and wider audiences in new ways. But it needs filmmakers willing to seize hold of an experiment. Film 4.0 tries to help with that; it’s very much about saying, “What’s the best distribution strategy for this particular film.” We try to create bespoke media projects for a film’s particular character. 

How can young filmmakers hone their craft? 

Shane Meadows talks about his sketchbook; they are the films he made very early on with Paddy Considine, improvising in a garage or field. They were made not with the intent to show people, but to build his language. Shane is a brilliant director because he just makes things compulsively, even before he became extremely fluent. It’s a bit like flying hours. Playing with techniques without feeling like it has to be perfect and deliverable to an audience is a good way of thinking about your film career in a developmental way. It allows you to build a tool kit and a pallet of colours. 

Given the technology available, is directing a solo venture these days? 

Film is ultimately collaborative, so it’s important to learn where you need help as well. It’s just as important to understand [who are] the right people to work with as it is to know what you want to work on. I know filmmakers who have a very tough and tricky feature documentary inside of them but they’ve fed themselves by working on factual entertainment, music and corporate videos. They’ve built their skillset that way, while deepening their relationship with the people they want to work with on the important stuff. 



How do you judge if a story is worth telling, even if it means dedicating years of your life to it? 

Sometimes you can’t get an idea out of your head. It’s a bit like you’re in love, and you can’t eat or sleep or think about anything else. So interrogate why that story is sticking with you, get some feedback in a pub or [over] a cup of tea and judge the reaction. You think about Carol Morley’s Dreams of a Life or Bart Layton’s The Imposter; they’re docs you can communicate in a couple of sentences, and they light a spark straight away. 

What’s your advice to new directors?

Watch a lot of stuff, because it gives you a language. You learn how other people make films, you take the pieces that work for you and you adapt that. We’re all telling the same stories. Art is about taking from others and giving it your own twist; it’s the unique voices that always come through.



In Focus: Ben Wheatley’s A Field in England 

A Field in England is the first feature to be developed and fully financed through Film4.0, and was conceived as a film which would be funded, shot, edited and distributed in a different way to traditional models.

It is going to be released online, on DVD, and in selected cinemas, as well as being screened by Film4, on the same evening (July 5). It’s an experimental, niche film, and the natural next step in the progression of Ben's work as a director.



Follow Anna on Twitter at @AnnaEHiggs. Visit Film 4.0’s website.

For more articles, jobs and opportunities, visit our Film hub.

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