“Chances are like leaves on a river, you have to grab them as they may never come again”
And so the opening words to ‘Mira’ go. Just as Mira grabbed a life opportunity that came her way in the form of running, I grabbed a leaf that floated past me back in January 2015.
Rewind to 9am on January 23rd 2015 and I was sat at my desk at home on Lantau Island when I received an email that simultaneously sunk me with a kick in the guts and set into motion the most significant filming work I’ve been part of so far. I was due to fly overseas for a filming assignment that had been in the planning for a long time. It was a project that I had sank a lot of personal money into with the purchase of equipment and had turned down other work for & made sure my schedule was clear for at least six months so I could wholly dedicate myself to it. When I read the email from the overseas client that they were pulling the plug at the last moment & were going to hire local film makers, my mind flooded with the inevitable questions: “What do I do now?” & “How am I going to cover the costs of the equipment I just bought?”
After gathering myself, I sent an email to Richard Bull & Mira Rai in Kathmandu to see if they wanted to work together on filming Mira’s story. And so, the adventure began…
It is funny how life works out. I was absolutely gutted that I was not to be involved with the original assignment but instead, I ended up filming ‘Mira’ & working on something that was very special. If the plug had not been pulled on the original assignment then there would have been no ‘Mira’. The original filming assignment was typical of most visual adventure pieces: the funding had been secured, it was clearly branded & there was a strategy in terms of filming & distribution with percentages all tidily agreed beforehand. In stark contrast, when I landed in Kathmandu on February 23rd 2015, we had no brands or sponsors and certainly no distribution strategy. In fact, we had absolutely no funding for filming ‘Mira’. All we had was an inspiring story, a film-maker with a notebook full of ideas about how to capture it & a hungry unsponsored protagonist. That’s all you need really. Isn’t it?
It was a completely different scenario to present where Mira is now sponsored and has become well known in Nepal and overseas. When we started filming, Mira was relatively unknown we could walk down the streets of Kathmandu without a second glance from those we passed. Those days are gone. ‘Mira’ is so far removed from the typical film making & release strategy. In a time when sports films and documentaries are shot of sponsored athletes mainly by film makers who are also sponsored (often by the same brand) & the filming projects are usually funded by brands then the story is visually captured in a certain way. Mira & I were free of any brand constraints & she simply wore whatever little she owned & was comfortable wearing while filming & I shot & edited as I felt served the story. I did not need to submit the film to brand marketing managers or anybody else for approval before release. It was a rare opportunity. There are no sponsor logos in the credits at the end of the film or on the film poster or other promotional materials, for the simple reason that there were none. Instead there are 120 people listed in the film credits. Each one of them were part of the crowd funding drive and believed in the value of this film and trusted us from the very beginning. When there are screenings of ‘Mira’ in different countries, I insist that the film is played right to the end of the credits so that the names of each of these 120 people are shown. They are the real ‘brand’ behind ‘Mira’.
We released the film via Vimeo On Demand before any screenings simply because it was the quickest way to generate much needed income for the girls fund & mobile cinemas in Nepal [read about film funding here ] The usual strategy would have been to release the film via screenings first & then submit to film festivals to try & gain a few prizes and then release on Vimeo to rent or buy. We didn’t follow the ‘A-Z of Film-Making’ as the film was made with a different purpose & was never intended to be a commercial project. That explains why I still haven’t recouped the costs of buying equipment and lost income from the original film project but the past year working on ‘Mira’ have been totally worth it and you can’t put price tags on that. We have quietly submitted ‘Mira’ to some film festivals and it’ll be interesting to see how this unbranded project fares.
Awards [Updated – Feb 2017]
- Grand Prize – Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival 2017
- Parkstad Limburg Jury Award – Dutch Mountain Film Festival 2017
- Prix du Dépassement de Soi – Les Diablerets International Film Festival 2016
- Best Film in Mountain Culture – New Zealand Mountain Film Festival 2016
- Winner of Emerging Talent Award – Alaska International Film Awards 2016
- Winner of Audience Choice Award – Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival 2016.
- Finalist – BANFF Mountain Film Festival 2016