Ahead of the (online) release of their latest work – AYOUNI – filmmaker Yasmin Fedda reflects on being an independent filmmaker and parent and shares ideas for how things should (and can) change to support filmmakers as we all slowly emerge out of the pandemic.
I haven’t filmed anything in over two years.
Am I still a filmmaker?
All the funding applications I submitted in the last two years have been rejected.
Can I still be a filmmaker?
All the festivals I applied to have rejected my new film.
Has anyone noticed I made a film?
A global pandemic. With a young child. No time.
Am I still a filmmaker?
Still managed to develop and pitch some ideas, none commissioned. Why did I bother?
How can I be a filmmaker?
The film industry has gone to sh*t, from my point of view. No film work. Limited funding.
Why am I a filmmaker?
It was like this before the pandemic – especially with UK film funding. Is it like this for other independent filmmakers here? Or is it an issue with the films I want to make?
Don’t have time to speak to anyone about this.
Why aren’t funding applications simpler?
Should I still try to be a filmmaker?
It’s still a pandemic, still with a young child, still with limited time.
I wish I didn’t love making films.
My film finally premiered at a festival – online. Did some events, released the film, did some impact.
I am still a filmmaker.
The film is about people I know, people who have been forcibly disappeared in Syria and their loved ones fighting for answers.
We wouldn’t let their stories disappear.
I worked with a great team – self-driven, collaborative, supportive. We met when we could between childcare. I made this film while pregnant, breastfeeding and juggling childcare with my partner.
I thought having a child would hinder my film career.
I realised quickly after that there are not enough structures of support – that was the hindrance. I see this as mainly due to limited state funding, and no affordable childcare, until the age of three.
But a young child and a film career are possible. (If you can accept less money each month for three years).
If you have a supportive network, be it a partner who shares childcare 50/50, to supportive teams, it can work. Just about.
Shared childcare, supportive teams – let’s normalise these completely.
Maybe this pandemic will make the film industry more in tune to the needs of parent filmmakers. This juggle is more explicit now. The need for good and accessible childcare for young children is still needed as we slowly come out of the pandemic.
But besides the pressures of childcare, the problems I found with being an independent filmmaker in the UK existed before the pandemic. They are wider than juggling childcare and parenting. The challenges are around funding and support for independent filmmakers.
What can we change?
Why do no UK broadcasters regularly showcase and support independent films – docs, fictions, artists or experimental films, films that don’t fit the normal formats or content of TV? No strand is dedicated to this? We make some great films, show them!
There is only one fund for independent documentarians in the UK. This isn’t good enough. Let’s work together to find ways to establish better support and more of it. Maybe it’s more regional funding – why don’t local councils have film funds for locally based filmmakers for example?
And crucially, more development money – it is this that can push people out of the film industry especially if they have a young child. Development support is needed to help get an idea off the ground to enable you to get that limited funding.
Let’s demand these things as filmmakers and keep making great work.
Let’s embrace the difficulties, self-doubt, and fun of being a parent and a filmmaker.
And, let’s fight to change the industry for the better because we love making, raising and growing films. Films are our way of putting different experiences on screen, to create the discussions of today, and to create the archives of our futures.
So, am I still a filmmaker?
Watch AYOUNI via True Story from Friday 26 February 2021.
Yasmin Fedda is an award winning filmmaker and artist whose work has focused on themes from Edinburgh bakeries to Syrian monasteries, and from geek anarchism to forcible disappearance.
Her films have been BAFTA-nominated and screened at numerous international festivals including Sundance and Edinburgh Film Festival, and some have screened at galleries. She occasionally makes broadcast films for the BBC and Al Jazeera English.
Header image: Editing AYOUNI with Editor Greg Pittard and my child, courtesy of Yasmin Fedda