Spanner's Weekend Of
Techniques and Secrets

- 13th / 14th April 2013 -
Everything you need to know to make
independent documentaries with
no crew, commission or contacts
... and still get 62 million viewers

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 -> APOLOGIES, but we have had to postpone this year's SWOTS course as our new film project has just taken an extremely exciting new turn and we need the weekend of April 13/14 back. We have reimbursed everyone who had already booked and plan to reschedule the course later in the year. Sorry, Franny & Lizzie 

swots2011_group_photo-> STOP PRESS - After the rip-roaring success of SWOTS 2011 and 2012 - see pictures and over-the-top feedback here ("the Earth didn't stop moving for me") - we've decided to make it a yearly thing <-

The indie filmmaking team from Spanner Films invite you to come and sit in a comfy warm room in London to absorb all the knowledge we've amassed over sixteen bruising years making and distributing our blockbuster documentaries in some of the world's most difficult places (including Nigeria, Iraq and Bedford). Our pioneering methods have been called "the future of film, film culture and film distribution and marketing" and include inventing the now ubiquitous crowd-funding financing model, making the revolutionary Indie Screenings distribution system and premiering Age of Stupid via a Guinness World Record-beating, solar-powered, satellite-linked cinema tent in London's Leicester Square (making it a bigger premiere than Star Wars, wahey).


... more than 1,000 tips and secrets from every stage of making documentaries - from idea to broadcast - from crowdfunding to Indie Screenings - from cameras to editing - from interviewing to subtitles - from journalist visas to jail detentions - from 20% VAT to 5.1 surround sound - from translators & animators to websites & DVDs - from lighting with no lights to fundraising from your kitchen - from satellite link-ups in the Himalayas tosimultaneous screenings in 700 cinemas in 63 countries - from ambushing politicians to arguing on Newsnight - from recording orchestras to persuading Radiohead to play live - from screenings in tribal Indian villages with no electricity to international TV broadcast deals... 



... to maximise the real-world impact of your films. We were stunned when our first film, McLibel, led to a change in the law about advertising junk food to kids, as well as playing a big part in the sea-change in public attitudes to healthy eating. Then, within a month of Age of Stupid's release, after Pete Postlethwaite had ambushed Ed Miliband and threatened to return his OBE to the Queen, we had precipitated a "complete re-write of UK energy policy". This success inspired us to come up with something even bigger: four months later we launched our 10:10 campaign, which now operates in 42 countries and counts Colin Firth, Spurs FC, Adidas, Mexico City, London Zoo and the UK Government amongst its followers. To top it all, Age of Stupid was one of the finalists up for the first-ever Puma Impact Award - with a 50,000 euro prize - to "honour the documentary film creating the most significant impact in the world".



... all our SWOTS will get a chance to pitch their film ideas to leading documentary distributor Oli Harbottle from Dogwoof (see below for Oli info). It'll be Oli's pleasure to applaud, advise or tear apart your documentary ideas in terms of whether they could ever find an audience. 



 * A Dropbox folder containing a complete bundle of legal docs you'll need to produce your film, including our crowd-funding agreements, budgets, release forms, treatments, music cue sheets, copyright agreements and distribution contracts. 

* A Spanner Films boxset containing DVDs of our films Age of Stupid, McLibel and Drowned Out (but with no box)

* An Age of Stupid t-shirt which may or may not fit, as we only have a few sizes left

* Tea, coffee, biscuits



... how to spend three years and £65,000 at film school. Or how to run around after TV commissions. 


Saturday 13th & Sunday 14th April 2013 in Camden, London. Tea, coffee, fruit juice, tap water, croissants and biscuits will be provided. Please bring your own sandwiches for lunch each day - you won't be wanting to pop out to buy food as there will be film screenings during lunch. 

Sat 13th April: 10am->7pm. All day lectures with Franny and Lizzie, covering The Idea, Pre-Production, Fundraising, Legals and Production. Presentation from Charlie Phillips on making the most of festivals. Screening of "The Making of The Age of Stupid" at lunch. Screening of "Drowned Out" from 5.30->7pm. 

Sun 14th April: 10am->5pm->pub. All day lectures with Franny and Lizzie covering Distribution, Promotion and Campaigning.  Late morning advice session with Jess Search. Screening of "Age of Stupid UK Premiere" and "Cinema Jalsindhi" at lunch. Afternoon pitching and distribution session with Oli Harbottle and Franny Armstrong. Evening in pub, if anyone has the stamina.



Franny Armstrong      Franny Armstrong, Director of Age of Stupid, Drowned Out & McLibel and founder of 10:10

Former pop drummer and self-taught filmmaker Franny Armstrong has directed three feature documentaries - The Age of Stupid (2009), McLibel (2005) and Drowned Out (2003) - which have together been seen by 60 million people on TV, cinema, internet and DVD worldwide.  Through her company, Spanner Films, Franny pioneered “crowd-funding”, which allows filmmakers to raise reasonable-size budgets whilst retaining ownership of their films - Age of Stupid is the most successful known example, raising £800,000+ from 300+ investors – and the “Indie Screenings” distribution system. In September 2009, Franny founded the 10:10 campaign which aims to cut carbon emissions by 10% in a year and which now has autonomous campaigns running in 42 countries. Participants include Adidas, Microsoft, Spurs FC, 120,000 people, 1,500 schools, a third of local councils, the entire UK Government, the Prime Minister and the cities of Paris, Oslo, Brighton, Marseille and Mexico City.

Franny has been called a "21st Century Heroine" by Harper's Bizarre, an "Eco Hero of the Decade" by The Guardian, one of London's 1,000 most influential people by The Evening Standard, one of the world's "Top 100 Women" by the Guardian and "Green Personality of the Year" by Edie. She is a Londoner born and bred.

-> More about Franny 

Lizzie Gillett      Lizzie Gillett, Producer of Age of Stupid, founder of 10:10 Global

Lizzie Gillett came to London from New Zealand in 2001, where she'd been working in local TV producing a weekly sports show. She started volunteering at Spanner Films and by 2004 was the producer of ‘The Age of Stupid’. Over the five year production she managed a crew of 105 people in six countries and a budget of a million pounds. She helped develop and then implemented the unique "crowd-funding" scheme whereby 300+ people and groups (including a hockey team and a women's health centre) invested between £500 and £35,000. Lizzie also produced the Global Premiere of the film, an event which more than one million people in 63 countries participated in, including Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, Moby and Kofi Annan who appeared live as part of the post-screening show. In 2010 she founded the "Global" arm of 10:10, and then built a small team and raised half a million quid to coordinate the development of 10:10 campaigns in 42 countries.  

-> More about Lizzie  

Oli Harbottle
    Oli Harbottle, Head of Distribution at Dogwoof Pictures   
    Oli has been at Dogwoof since 2006, having previously produced the Raindance Film Festival. He is responsible for overseeing all aspects of distribution at Dogwoof, managing the process from acquisition through to release. He has overseen the highly successful and innovative campaigns for titles such as The Age of Stupid, The End of the Line, Burma VJ, Restrepo, Countdown To Zero and Bobby Fischer Against The World.
-> More about Oli   

Jess Search      Jess Search, Director of Britdoc and Founder of Shooting People
    After 5 years as a commissioning editor in the documentaries department at Channel 4 TV in the UK, Jess Search left to set up the Channel 4 BRITDOC Foundation - Britain's first documentary foundation. She has produced or exec-produced more than 30 feature documentaries, including Unknown White Male, The Yes Men Fix The World and The End of the Line. Jess is also a co-founder of Shooting People- an innovative online filmmakers community very active in the UK and New York.

-> More about Jess   


SheffieldDocFest      Charlie Phillips from Sheffield Doc Fest
    Sheffield Doc/Fest brings the international documentary family together to celebrate the art and business of documentary making for five intense days in June. Doc/Fest is a film festival, industry session programme and market place, offering pitching opportunities, controversial discussion panels and in-depth filmmaker masterclasses, as well as a wealth of inspirational documentary films from across the globe. Charlie Phillips is the marketplace director. 

-> More about Charlie




... part with your cash.

Full price = £400 +VAT = £480
Early Birds = £325 +VAT = £390 - for bookings made before end of March 16th
Shooting People discount = £325 +VAT = £390 - for members of Shooting People
Students/OAPs/Unemployed = £260 +VAT = £312 - proof required
Spanner Films volunteers = £0 - anyone who has already done a month or more volunteer work at SF