‘You’re in commerce now’

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‘Soph’s making a film Andy,’ said my brother to my Uncle as we sat waiting for my cousin Charlie to turn up to her wedding (there was a delay, official story is it was to do with her sister Alice’s hair).

‘So you’re in commerce now?’ replied Uncle Andy.

‘No, I’m making it with a research grant and then any money we do make is going to go back to the women in it.’

‘As I said, you’re in commerce’ reiterated Andy.

At the time I hadn’t fully appreciated what Andy was saying and filed it away in other memories of Uncle-at-wedding-conversations.But as the process of making the film is nearly finished and I now have to find a way of getting it shown I’ve realised Uncle Andy was right: I’m in commerce now.

Naively I had assumed, I would make a film, some cinemas would agree to screen it and then I’d send it to schools, universities and the UN to watch and screen with a Q&A. This overlooks a well established system that involves international film festivals, sales agents and distributors that are all key if you want your film to be shown.

Being in commerce is tricky when you work in a university where if anything there is a greater trend to making research outputs more public and freely available. Rather than creating additional paywalls academia in the UK is looking to ways of taking these down. Moreover as has become increasingly evident over the course of making the film, universities are not production companies.

To get a theatrical release I need to find a sales agent to help find a distributor. I then need to find a deal that ensures the women in Miono make as much money as possible while still making the film available for educational and policy purposes. This is a key tension: film as commerce to get into cinemas and make money for the women vs. film as a research output that should be widely and freely available.

The commerce thing has me worried about tax, managing the Pili Fund, and of course, ensuring my friends and students can all see the film. The lesson here could be to listen more to uncles at weddings.

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