Carving a Space in the TV Industry with Together TV
Many dream of making a film and watching it premiere on the big screen. However, it can be a daunting task full of funding issues, seemingly insurmountable challenges, and difficulty finding an audience.
To combat this, Together TV instituted the Diverse Film Fund in 2020. This year, the fund offered under-represented storytellers up to £20,000, mentorship and training to help them share their stories, but also present them to an audience ready to listen. For 2022, the focus is Queer Lives Today and LGBTQIA+ stories. Our filmmakers have travelled the United Kingdom to bring you typically hidden stories about the groups around us who struggle to be heard.
These stories are near and dear to our filmmakers’ hearts. Anna Mouzouri, who’s been commissioned by the BBC and Bristol Ideas and Encounters, adores all things fantastical and the stories those communities hold. Shiva Raichandani, a recipient of Netflix’s Documentary Talent Fund and regular consultant with corporations and nonprofits on LGBTQIA+ representation, has been a close friend of their documentary’s subject for years and uses media to create inclusive spaces of belonging for those in the LGBTQIA+ community. Tom Gaisford, a previous assistant producer for broadcasters, is a dedicated member of the boxing club he’s highlighting and has been itching to tell its fighters’ fight for belonging for years. Ross Adams, an actor and founder of @smallscreentalent, is showcasing an intimate story close to his heart.
Together TV sat down with these filmmakers to recount their filmmaking journeys and find out how the Diverse Film Fund has helped them make their dreams a reality.
If you ask creatives what idea they currently have bouncing around their brain, you’ll probably be regaled with a story they’ve been pondering and shaping for years. Yet whether it’s due to lack of resources or fear of presenting this personal narrative, many will refuse to shape it into a presentable product until the right opportunity comes along. How long have this year’s filmmakers been waiting to tell their stories?
Anna Mouzouri: I've wanted to do a mermaid film since 2018. I saw Together TV’s Diverse Film Fund, and I was getting really into the mermaid community because they're just these girls that want to find a community but they're doing it through a mermaid thing. I just thought that was really fun.
Shiva Raichandani: I’ve known Asifa for quite a while. When she mentioned that she's finally getting her gender affirmation surgery, I was like, This is such a momentous moment that needs to be captured. It needed to be documented, not just for herself, but for everyone else who doesn’t get to see South Asian trans people undergoing something like this. She's been so generous with sharing her story. I think we were very lucky to have her on board as well.
Tom Gaisford: I've been thinking about this film for so long. It was a golden opportunity in terms of both the funding and also the theme of the film fund and all the support that [Together TV] gives you to make this film. I'd actually quit my previous job to try and make this film on my own. I've sat on the idea for a while and been looking for a way to make it because I'm a part of the boxing club that the film is about.
Ross Adams: One of the things that is quite challenging about my film is it's a very personal story. And [the Diverse Film Fund] instantly grabbed me because it was specifically for LGBTQ filmmakers.
Some of the largest struggles facing emerging filmmakers is lack of funding and an audience for their story. Together TV opened applications for their film fund in March 2022 and spread the word far and wide with the help of media partners. How did the filmmakers hear about the multi-faceted opportunity of the Diverse Film Fund?
AM: How I found out about everything happening in film ever - @ilikenetworking, that Instagram page.
SR: Someone sent me the link. And when I looked at it, I was like, Oh, this is amazing, because how often do you get these opportunities? The industry isn’t designed for someone like me. It can be very hard to not just navigate, but find your space within it. I couldn't afford not to apply for this irrespective of what the outcome is. It just had to be done.
TG: I got sent it by another filmmaking friend. I pretty much paused everything else in my life and started writing a proposal for it.
RA: I subscribed to Broadcast Magazine because, as well as my role in Hollyoaks I run a Drama Academy for young people. I didn't expect that I would be picked purely because I've never made a film before.
Making films can be fun! But the process can also be extremely tiring, time-consuming, and stressful. What did our filmmakers think of the production process?
AM: The actual process of making the film was fun. It was just hard to get the ball rolling. I wanted to keep my crew small because the whole point of the film was LGBT communities in small towns outside of London. It was better in terms of organising, but not in terms of creating because there was no runner.
SR: One of the main challenges with documentaries is that you never know what's gonna happen. Especially because we don't have a date yet for the surgery. And so that that sort of unknown was a huge cloud. It made us collectively question the reasons we were making the film and the ways in which we were approaching it.
TG: I think the idea of producing and directing was a lot. If you're wearing both hats you'll be worried about location and permissions at the same time as trying to write interview questions. It's good to give yourself space, if you are going to produce and direct at the same time, to put down the sort of logistical tools for a second and think creatively.
RA: The hardest part for me was finding crew. I needed a director because I needed someone who could share my vision and make it happen when I couldn’t be behind the lens. And then for me, [editing] was completely new, so I knew I would need to find an editor. A lot of editors and key crew were in London, and I’m based in the Northwest. I worried that would be tricky, but the great thing about the process is that a lot of it can be done remotely.
Together TV’s Diverse Film Fund also provides its filmmakers with mentorships, training webinars about nuances in the film world and a public television broadcast. What did our filmmakers think about working with Together TV?
AM: I found working with Together TV really useful. The webinars were so good. With the John Yorke webinars, we got to tell him our exact storylines and what our films were about and make loglines with him. Then you have advice from Together TV, the other filmmakers who are in the same boat as you, and your crew. So it was great. It was really nice getting to know them all.
SR: Smashing! Together TV has been absolutely incredible. Obviously, the financing is great, but they didn’t just talk money at us. They gave us training sessions. They brought in educators to teach us and they checked in. They provided us with mentors and a wonderful producer. They just ensured that we were looked after and that isn't often the case in the filmmaking world. It can be such an isolating experience as a filmmaker where you feel like you're on your own. I don’t think this would have happened without the resources they equipped us with.
TG: The most useful tool Together TV built into this film fund was the webinars because you get to hear from people who are extraordinarily experienced in their particular fields and also from people in fields you might not have immediately gone to. They're not topics that would initially spring to mind depending on the kind of documentary you're making, but are so useful to hear. That's what I've really enjoyed.
RA: Without the support from Together TV, this film just would not have happened. I was given a fantastic mentor in David Clews and the webinars themselves were really useful and stuff that I’ve never even considered before like intellectual property. I think one of the brilliant things about the Diverse Film Fund is that it supports people who might feel marginalised or unable to tell their stories.
No matter the industry, advice from those who’ve succeeded is always welcome. What advice would our filmmakers give to budding creatives fighting to tell their stories?
AM: My advice for people applying to the next scheme is to just do it. I applied one hour before the deadline after writing stuff in my notes app. I've learned so much, and I've got a film that I'm proud of. Even if you've got one little idea, or you've had it for years, just submit it or grow with it.
SR: My advice to any filmmaker, especially those early in their journey, would be to trust in the story you want to tell. Only you have that one unique perspective to that story that you can bring to the table. But also, don't be afraid to get feedback. There's also trusting in yourself, but knowing that you're never alone in that process is a beautiful thing as well.
TG: My advice to people who are thinking about applying to this film fund is when you're thinking about your idea, try and distil it into the reasons why you're so excited about it. What compels you about it? There's a reason you're interested, and if you can find out what that is and say it clearly, then other people will be interested too.
RA: My advice to anybody who wants to apply for the diverse film fund is do it. Because if I can do it, genuinely anybody can. If you don't [have filmmaking experience], don't let that put you off, because I didn't, but I've made this happen. If you’ve got a story to share, then you should share that story.
The 2022 LGBTQIA+ Diverse Film Fund Queer Lives Today films will be premiering this November on Together TV. If you just can’t wait - and who can blame you -, check out last year’s Diverse Film Fund of Black, British, and Breaking Boundaries on our brand-new streaming service. These powerful stories, including a BAFTA winner, are sure to get you ready for this year’s premieres.