A former psychologist who made frequent documentary appearances, Andy Glynne has, for the past decade, been working to support emerging documentary filmmakers in London. He founded the Documentary Filmmakers Group (DFG), which trains roughly one thousand filmmakers a year in all aspects of the doc game. He’s also MD of Mosaic Films, DFG’s sister company, and the director of One World Media, which aims to improve the quality and coverage of the developing world in the British media. Carol Nahra spoke with Glynne about independent doc-making in the UK.
How do you think the climate for doc makers has changed in the last decade?
Ten years ago TV was basically the gatekeeper – any new and emerging talent would access the industry through TV. There seemed to be much more opportunity for new talent slots. The good news today is that television is now not the only gatekeeper, and the opportunities for both feature films and online and multi-platform projects are far, far greater than they have ever been before. It means new filmmakers can discover other ways of finding finance for their films. The downside is that there are a lot more of us. The market has become exceptionally saturated.
What sort of reputation do British documentary makers have internationally?
In the old days British documentary was seen as the seat of talent, making great television. Now it depends on what kind of film you’re trying to make. If you’re trying to make something for the European market, then Channel 4 is often a dirty word. The format and the way in which [C4] makes things, the lack of adherence to an observational format, [when observational docs] are much more in the domain of European broadcasters.
The problem that UK filmmakers now have is it’s assumed that in order to get a certain amount of money from the rest of the world, you have to have your own domestic broadcaster, or your own domestic financier on board. That’s much more difficult when the kind of product that is made in this country isn’t necessarily the kind of product that is wanted in the rest of the world anymore. I’m talking about the kind of campaigning or social documentaries which many of us make; I’m not talking about formats like Wife Swap.
What has been the most gratifying aspect of your work with DFG over the last 10 years?
DFG is always about not selling false hope, which some organizations do. It’s about creating a community of documentary filmmakers and helping to guide them from wherever they happen to be to further along their career trajectory. So reward and success is measured in two ways for us. One, when we hear of people who have done training with us and have gone on to great stuff. The second success, which is much more tangible, is because we have a production company associated with us, a sister company. What is very rewarding is taking talent we see on our training courses and nurturing and guiding them through. We’ve got quite a few filmmakers who originally started off as students who are now working in broadcasting and making international feature docs. It can be a headache – working with new emerging filmmakers – but it’s great when you can spot someone with ambition and help them realize that.