Here are the latest updates from our Down on the Farm documentary commission film makers.
With Spring well and truly on its way things are definitely livening up Down on the Farm...
Michael: March was indeed a busy time for the Balsdon Family. The sheep required constant care and every day saw each member undertake the same responsibilities. The sheep needed to be fed, drenched, moved around and the pens needed to be bedded up with fresh straw and eventually the sheep would be moved out of the farm and into the neighbouring fields.
Holly & Jo: On Friday 22nd February Holly and Jo of Black Bark Films and Dee Butterly of the Landworkers’ Alliance travelled down to Down Farm in Winkleigh, North Devon to visit Liv James as part of the Down the Farm Moving Image commission. We took this opportunity to meet Liv and Henry, take a tour of the farm and get to know each other a bit better over soup on a blustery sunny day.
Henry mentioned that growing organic food locally ticks all the boxes when it comes to food politics. It’s tangible, positive and engaging. It’s not just romanticism. "A good farming system is the answer to a lot of things." Liv says at the end of the conversation. This is one of the angles that we want to explore in the film as we spend the coming months storyboarding and planning, liaising with potential composers and firming up the dates for our summer shoot. “I’ve never felt so stretched and pushed, and learning every day, it’s beyond anything I’ve ever expected, so much more than corporate sustainability.” - Liv James
Since my last visit two of the young calves died as they contracted pneumonia. The calves were now on the other side of the shed and had a new daily routine for bedding. Both Rose and Freddy spoke about how machinery has helped them keep going especially as they are getting older. The bedding up is still strenuous but manageable as they are both so fit and strong. The older cattle were now in a different field this time and were awaiting their TB results, hopefully with the all clear; some would be off to market soon. Freddy enjoyed taking me to spend some time with them in the field, they were as friendly and inquisitive as last time! As Freddy arrives, the cattle immediately come over and announce their arrival.
Rose also spent some time talking with me about growing up on a farm, and she enjoyed sharing old photos from their photo albums.
I also spent a happy afternoon zooming around on the back of a quad bike (capturing some very shaky footage!) and having my first ride in a tractor. However, no one visits West Ilkerton during lambing without getting involved, and farmer Chris made his debut as a filmmaker capturing this clip of me delivering a very large ram lamb (which of course has been christened Florence!). Sarah talked me through the process and it was such a privilege to be one of the team for this lovely sunny birth.
video clip of Florence delivering her namesake!
James: Since winning the commission, my professional life has changed exponentially. A personal milestone was achieved late in March, when I won a Craft Award for motion graphics from the Royal Television Society – Devon & Cornwall. I’ve had a blast flexing my creative muscles on the national stage and am truly excited to focus my attention on the Down on the Farm commission.
In terms of ‘Get Big, Get Different or Get Out’ I’ve been extremely busy, completing the pre-production phase of the film in late February, and have secured the equipment, crew and permissions needed for shooting. I am in the midst of putting together a comprehensive production document, which I am hoping will support the film and its findings across the research portion of pre-production, as well as informing potential audiences of the complete process across the films production.
During this time, I have also been building a relationship with my contributor, Wayne Copp. We’ve arranged a 3-day shooting phase in late May and are both itching to get started. I have recruited Curtis Pyke (former work experience student at North Devon Moving Image) as a camera assistant. Curtis is a first-year student at UWE (University of West England) and is an amateur drone pilot and cameraman.
I feel 100% confident that we are fully prepared and are ready to enter the shooting phase of the project and I can’t wait to release some product stills, behind the scenes shots and of course – the final piece in November 2019.
Ariel: Spring shoots are on their way for our production. The crew has been expanded with the addition of Junior Researcher, Bath Spa University Film & TV Production undergraduate Caitlin.
The season's turn will mark our return to Lower Brownsham Farm, where the Jefferys are already looking ahead to summer: preparing for the spring clearing of their barns and looking after their new calves and lambs.
Thank you to all our project funders and partners who are making this exciting project happen!
Happy New Year! Here is our first Down on the Farm update for 2019. With such a variety of topics and stories - and a whole year in which to make their films - our film makers are currently at different stages of production. Some are still working on research while others have already begun filming with their chosen farmers. Here is a selection of reports and snippets to keep you up to date ...
ALICE BOLLEN - LEIGHTON, FARMING WITH NATURE
I am pleased to say we completed our first day filming on Saturday 12th January. Myself, Rem, Judah and our niece Izzy met with Leighton and his partner Jill at the Hartland Abbey gardens to film their first garden clearing session of the season. We were very lucky with the weather as the day started out bleak and wet but cleared by the time we arrived, and we spent two hours filming as Leighton and Jill cleared away last years growth and began digging tomato trenches in the polytunnels.
We also filmed Leighton planting the first seed onions of the year at his home in Stoke, where he explained to us how applying different techniques to growing seeds offers different results. He was very pleased to note that the first seed onions have taken only three days to germinate, so a promising start to the season. There is no work yet to be done on the beehives but in the next two weeks Leighton will be pruning apple trees and planting the first potatoes.
"Why farming? "Of all the careers a young woman could go into, we're really keen to explore this question. As female filmmakers with an interest in social change we're really inspired to be working with Olivia. As a small scale no dig farmer and member of the Landworkers' Alliance, Olivia has a distinctly political edge to her work, which we wish to capture through this portrait of a market gardener in North Devon."
Holly and Jo, Black Bark Films.
ARIEL PINTOR - THROUGH JOSH'S EYES
The first shoot for Through Josh's Eyes took place between 3rd and 6th December 2018. I think it was very successful, on several counts. Most importantly, it consolidated my relationship with the film's subjects, the Jeffery family. I was 'embedded' in Lower Brownsham Farm for the duration, observing and sharing in the Jeffery's daily routine and comprehensively documenting all aspects of their life and activities in and around the farm.
I felt we grew to like and trust one another quickly. For my part, my first stay at Lower Brownsham Farm confirmed what interesting - and welcoming - people the Jefferys are, as well as the visual richness of their farm as a film location.
My initial concept for the film, to portray the working/family dynamic of Lower Brownsham Farm through the POV of its youngest tenants Josh, Steven and Charlotte, played an important part in this first shoot. The individual interviews and scenes I filmed featuring the boys and their baby sister have already given me plenty of good material to present themes central to the farming experience.
"The filming of the lambs and the daily routine of the Balsdon family at the start of lambing will take place in January and this will serve as a way of showing the small workload in the early stages and when the shoot in March is completed there will hopefully be quite the strong contrast between the start and middle of lambing season when it comes to the work that is undertaken."
Michael Balsdon, Film Maker
FLORENCE BROWNE - LOCAL MEAT BOXES
I had a brilliant time doing my first stint of filming at West Ilkerton farm in the autumn - the depth of knowledge that Chris, Tortie and Sarah have on their animals is amazing, and will be a challenge to get everything into my 5 minute film!
We went out to visit the herds in the landrover, and saw deer at the same time which are frequent visitors on the land. Nothing gets past Chris, and he has a keen eye for detail on the animals' wellbeing as he checks up on them. We also visited the local abattoir at Combe Martin to pick up meat to be sold at the Lyn Food Fest the next day, and it was great to see this stage of the meat-box process and the team effort that goes into labelling everything round the kitchen table when it's all brought back home.
I got some lovely shots that evening as the sun was setting of Chris doing the rounds on the farm and feeding his beloved rams, and I was also lucky enough to 'help' sample all the types of beef to be sold the next day at dinner time!
LINDA MASON - LIFELONG FARMER
I arrived one sunny morning on 9th October, to a very welcoming Rose. We spent a few hours having a cup of tea and talking about the farm. We then went on a walk around the farm, (with the dog) I was impressed at how fit Rose still is, and she still was climbing fences to get around. We visited the older cattle out in the fields and Rose enjoyed sharing stories about living in Devon all her life.
When we got back from our walk Rose started to get ready for feeding the young cattle that are in the sheds, they have to be fed twice a day, still by hand (the machine they were going to invest in did not work). This is truly a partnership, and with her husband (Freddie) they fed the twenty-three young cattle.
I began filming the young cattle and the feeding routine; Freddie enjoyed sharing about their life as farmers. This first visit was to get to know Rose and Freddie and for them to become comfortable with me filming them. I spent the rest of the afternoon with Freddy visiting the older cattle in the fields, they both have such a lovely relationship with their animals, and I could see how much they cared for the cattle. The cattle are very inquisitive and enjoyed exploring me with my camera, many trying to eat the camera straps!
"Wayne doesn’t claim to be unique in his farming practice and ethos, but when pushed he would say that his environmentalist practice and organic production make his farm unique. In particular, he pastures his cattle along the picturesque marshlands and sand dunes of the North Devon coastline.
Wayne wants to promote organic, environmentally friendly and sustainable agricultural produce, but he can see that cost is the lowest common denominator and a lot of people in Britain can’t afford this type of lifestyle." James Cox, Film Maker
Our next update will be in April 2019 when we will bring you more news from Down on the Farms.
In the meantime if you want to follow us and the project on social media you can find us here:
Facebook: North Devon Moving Image CIC
Twitter: @NDMovingImage #downonthefarm #northdevon
Community film making organisation North Devon Moving Image CIC (NDMI) is partnering with the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon to share a collection of short films about farming heritage in north Devon.
NDMI is calling for film makers to apply for a £1,000 documentary short film commission, Down on the Farm which will produce six short films about farmers and farming in north Devon. The resulting films will be on show at the new social history gallery being created as part of the Museum's £1.8 million Long Bridge Extension.
Museum manager Alison Mills says "Farming is of course the foundation of life in North Devon, and of our wonderful landscapes, but the everyday aspects of this work are not well known to our increasingly urban populations. As working practices are changing and many farmers are leaving the industry now is the time to record our area’s practices and peculiarities to enable people learn about and engage with our local heritage."
Amanda McCormack, Creative Director of NDMI says “We work with local people to create, collect and share short films about north Devon and our projects give individuals and communities a voice whilst celebrating our local heritage.”
“An important part of NDMI’s remit is to support and nurture film making talent and Down on the Farm is our very first film commission. Thanks to our funders, each successful applicant will receive £1,000 to produce one film sharing the heritage and promoting the work of farmers and farming within the boundaries of North Devon’s Biosphere Reserve, including the coastal Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”
The selection panel, comprising members of the TV and film industries, as well as farming and environmental organisations, will be looking for the most engaging stories and fascinating characters with the spirit of north Devon at their heart. Applicants will need to demonstrate strong story telling skills, creative outlook and examples of previous work.
Amanda added “Our consultation for this project drew out plenty of farmers with great stories to tell, so if you are a film maker from outside the area we can put you in touch with willing subjects. We will also have local volunteers on hand to act as location managers and researchers if needed.”
For all the project and application information visit northdevonmovingimage.org.uk, email Amanda McCormack, Project Manager email@example.com or telephone 01271 860610.
The closing date for applications is Wednesday 1 August 2018.
Keep up to date with all the latest news from NDMI Creative Director Amanda McCormack.
North Devon Moving Image CIC
Amanda McCormack, Creative Director
telephone: 01271 860610
North Devon Moving Image CIC is a Community Interest Company Limited by Guarantee
Community Interest Company No. 8737215
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