By Charmaine Gorman
Down Under Berlin Film Festival
Down Under Berlin has the privilege to speak with award-winning journalist, filmmaker, and founder of the awesome and inspiring film-sharing platform We Are Moving Stories. As well as being an interesting subject for our next ’10 Questions with…’ series, Carmela Baranowska is also an all-round awesome chick, a huge supporter of film, and of women in film.
If you haven’t yet browsed We Are Moving Stories, you should head right over for a look. It is a feast for every film lover, and a kick arse film database for filmmakers to connect with other films and filmmakers, producers, buyers, and of course – audiences. The films are categorized into a comprehensible structure so you can find what you want. Whether that is searching by genre, nationality, animation, and documentary, LGBTQ or Indigenous, even by film festival: all these can be found by subject heading at the bottom of the main page.
There is a huge audience out there, and these people are hungry for film. What We Are Moving Stories does is make it easy to find what you might be searching for, whilst also keeping the element of surprise, because you never know what you might find in the end. They have interviews with filmmakers and film festivals, so we thought it only fitting to find out about them too. Carmela gives us more insight into her company and passion, the growing digital footprint, as well as what her favourite films of all time are.
What is your day job?
I am the founder of We Are Moving Stories. We embrace new voices in drama, documentary, animation, journalism, music video, and web series. We also connect films to audiences, producers, distributors, sales agents, buyers, film festival directors and media by publishing profiles of filmmakers. We proudly support and encourage 50%+ women’s participation on our platform.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
My strongest memory would have involved me wanting to live in a library – and even today waking up in the morning and reaching over for a book is my idea of heaven. And I still love librarians! But ultimately I just wanted to be a journalist.
When did you first begin work on We Are Moving Stories, and how long did it take you to grow to where you are now?
When I was finishing my PhD a couple of years ago I became very intrigued by online platforms. I’d set up and taught online media at university level and I wanted to translate the theory into practice. We Are Moving Stories was established in April 2016, less than six months ago!
Why did you feel the need to start a platform such as this?
To acknowledge and celebrate filmmakers, films, issues and concerns that would otherwise be ignored or forgotten. We’ve seen a proliferation of short films and web series in the last few years and We Are Moving Stories aims to embrace these forms, as well as many others.
I believe we are also the only (I hope I’m wrong!) platform that actively publishes more women than men as a practical way of promoting women’s participation. Consider the multi-talented Yolonda Ross who is both an actor in one of our published profiles (Shelly Lauman’s Woman Outside) and a director in her own right (Breaking Night) and you can now catch her as Ms Green in The Get Down on Netflix.
Director Dawn Jones Redstone also has a unique story to tell: she worked as a carpenter for many years before writing and directing her award-winning short film Sista in the Brotherhood about what it’s like for a woman of color to work in the male dominated construction industry.
Did you have a lot of support getting it off the ground?
I spoke to a wide variety of people over many months. Once the platform began I continued to have conversations with many filmmakers – over 500 at the last count – and I constantly receive feedback from them through the articles we publish. But on a more practical level, we are always looking for interns!
What are your favorite films of all time?
The Conformist – Bernardo Bertolucci
Shoah – Claude Lanzmann
Beirut: The Last Home Movie – Jennifer Fox
The Little Rascals – Penelope Spheeris
What are five words to describe yourself?
I love learning new things.
We Are Moving Stories celebrates collaboration, how important is that in an aspect to your life and well as your work?
I’m constantly fascinated by how forms of collaboration work in a hyper connected online world. Since we began we’ve received over 70,000 page views and our contributors have come from the US, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Cambodia, Israel, Italy, Spain, France, UK, Netherlands, Lebanon and Russia. Our aim is to leave a growing digital footprint around the world.
What does filmmaking mean to you?
On the platform I’ve never been fixated by discussions of a film’s budget – just the ideas behind it and how well the filmmaker believes they’ve executed them. While we’ve featured over 40 film festivals (including Cannes Short Film Corner, Dances With Films, Fantasia Film Festival and your own Down Under Berlin) I’m also interested in films and forms that have a life outside the film festival circuit – web series would be an excellent example.
The subject matter is endless including Shakespeare Republic (drama), Boondock Alley (sci-fi), Waiting on Sound (comedy), 6North (documentary), Fragments of Friday (comedy), Real Tinder Convos (comedy), Last Will and Testicle (comedy), Cathy in Real Life (comedy), My Single Married Friend (comedy), Doucheaholics (comedy), Not It (drama), To The next Girl (drama), Her Story (drama), The Ghost and the Negro (supernatural drama), Savance (drama), Chicos de Alquiler (comedy), Lonely Lil (comedy), Burning Bridges (Accidental Porn Star – comedy). We’ve recently enlarged our focus to include profiles on films that are currently crowdfunding including Mary Janes: Women of Weed, Mortality of Dreams and Memory Box.
Do you plan to expand We Are Moving Stories in the future? In what ways?
Now that we have over 500 films on our platform we are actively working with filmmakers to discuss our next step. There are a lot of consultation and discussion going on behind the scenes and we’d love all our readers to stay in touch as we will be announcing some exciting new updates soon. I’d really like to thank Down Under Berlin for the opportunity to answer these questions and wish you all the best for future film festivals and remember: if you’re a filmmaker whose just finished a film we’d love to hear from you and if you know a filmmaker can you recommend us?
Charmaine Gorman is an Australian actress and writer living in Berlin with her family. As a content writer and editor, she works for many clients around the world, she also facilitates the Robert Marchand acting and directing workshops in Berlin.
Interview with Founder: Carmela Baranowska
From: Give it Mouth - August 2016
How journalist and filmmaker Carmela Baranowska makes it matter
Founder of We Are Moving Stories, Carmela Baranowska certainly knows how to give it mouth. Not only is she a Walkley AND Rory Peck award-winning journalist, through We Are Moving Stories, she broadcasts new voices in drama, documentary and journalism. This woman is fast as a hustle and she knows her game – the perfect advocate for creatives and their work.
How do you give it mouth?
I’m the founder of We Are Moving Stories, an online platform that embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, web series and music video.
We publish profiles of filmmakers and films and connect them to producers, sales agents, distributors, buyers and audiences. We proudly support and encourage 50%+ women’s participation on our platform.
Tell me about the meaning of the name of your website, We Are Moving Stories. How did you come up with the name?
I love names that are more than one word long! We Are Moving Stories is a play on the word ‘moving’ so we help ‘move’ or break through a film that nobody’s heard about before and then these films are also ‘moving’ you emotionally.
Why is affect such a vital aspect of a message?
Interesting questions! As we are an online platform You also need to consider the issue of network effects – they’re a little bit dated now but Manuel Castells’ theories are good on all of these points. Perhaps it’s a discussion for our next interview!
What moves you?
Ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
Give me a snapshot of what kinds of content I will find at We Are Moving Stories
There’s so much content out there!
So, while we can categorise films according to subject headings – including by film festivals, nationality, genre (horror, sci-fi, romance, melodrama, action, thriller) LGBTQ, Indigenous – there’s also animation, documentary, drama and now web series which can incorporate all of the above subject matter. The real challenge is not only to organise the content but to make it compelling to an audience.
There are many award-winning feature films directed by women we’ve profiled that I wish would be seen more widely at international film festivals. These include Suicide Kale directed by Carly Usdin (US), Five Nights in Maine directed by Maris Curran (US), Those Left Behind Directed by Maria Finitzo (US), American Fable Directed by Anne Hamilton (US), Good Enough directed by AnnaRose King (US) The Weatherman’s Umbrella directed by Anne Richey (Australia) and The Bird Watcher directed by Siobhan Devine (Canada). Many of these films also have many crew roles filled by women and this is a trend that will only continue to grow.
Many filmmakers including Kerry Drumm, Katrina Mathers (Tanked), Alexandra Billington (Geography of the Heart) Annabel Graham (The Ravine) Blair Skinner (Eleanora, the Forgotten Princess) Jenna Gelenberg (Snip) Holly Hargreaves (Real Tinder Convos) Darine Hotait (I Say Dust) Alejandra Carmen Díaz (Seven Questions About Being Twenty-Seven) Genna Chanelle Hayes (Wurinyan) Alex Burunova (Pale Blue) Kate Rees Davies (Aberration) and Angelita Mendoza & Victor Capiz (The Darkest Black) are using their shorts as proof of concept for longer work.
We also have many films that are real ‘passion projects’ and that exhibit a long term commitment by the filmmakers: here I’d like to mention the work of Jon Staley and Kelly West (Brown Paper Bag) and Andrew Garton (Ocean in a Drop, Higher ground, Forged From Fire). Of course, all these filmmakers can be found on our platform.
We’re starting to deal with the challenge of so much content by partnering with ACMI X as Industry Members to move the platform to real life events as well as its online component. Watch this space!
What social media platforms have been the most useful in promoting your work?
Facebook! We launched with twenty profiles in April this year and now in August 2016 we have over 400 profiles and nearly 60,000 page views. It’s been almost exclusively organic growth – relying on social media virality. You can find our filmmakers in Australia, the US, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Israel, the Netherlands, France, Italy, Spain and Russia.
What’s one of the biggest challenges faced by filmmakers?
There are two huge challenges. Firstly, the lack of women in key roles in film and TV, including director, screenwriter, producer and cinematographer are astounding. It’s now been well publicised but unlike the tech industry change is much slower.
At We Are Moving Stories we aim to make a positive contribution. We continue to profile more women than men for a simple reason: we want to make it easier for women’s films to be found online. Earlier in the year I heard Lindsay Crouse from the New York Times Op-Docs bemoan the lack of women filmmakers on its platform. Our response would be: look no further than We Are Moving Stories for your inspiration.
Secondly, there’s a real need to investigate ways for filmmakers to monetise their work in a way that is innovative and beneficial to all. Rest assured, we’re working hard to address both these challenges.
You’ve been journalist, academic and filmmaker. What role does creativity play in each of these forms of story making? In what ways is the creativity they require different?
I’ve often been in different environments (be they third world countries, war zones or universities) and built things from the ground up, be they films, university courses and now, a start-up.
I’m a strong believer in research but ultimately, when you’re in a new place or job, it’s best to put aside everything you’ve read, look around and start from where you are now.
Are you spontaneous and chaotic in your work? Or do you prefer method and order?
When you publish profiles every day of the year you need to have a certain degree of method and order; at the same time in the world of journalism you need to make allowances for the spontaneous. If there’s a ‘moving’ or breaking story you need to cover it now (and not in three day’s time!)
In May 2016 we were able to broadcast an exclusive video from West Papua. In a series of peaceful demonstrations 2000 people had been arrested across the Indonesian province. We Are Moving Stories broadcast the video within a few hours of the demonstrations taking place – that’s what I mean by spontaneous!
How did it feel to win a Walkley? Can you recount the moment you were told you’d won?
There’s the first part of this story which is when I won a Rory Peck Award a couple of years earlier for my work in East Timor. I was in London at the award ceremony and a member of the British aristocracy tipped me off that I had won.
The Walkleys are definitely not like that. It was a great moment, an acknowledgement of all the hard work and perseverance you need to make a film.
How did your time living and working in difficult and challenging conflict zones change your work? Did you learn any important lessons about collaboration and negotiation?
I started when I was 23 years old so in a way I grew up doing that work.
At heart, I’m a journalist and I always like being around other journalists and learning from them. I also filmed some pretty amazing events, including the last six months of the Indonesian occupation of East Timor in 1999 and I saw people at their worst and more importantly, at their best.
The world has changed so much in the last few years and honestly, it’s become a far more dangerous place. I’m unsure if many people are still doing what I once did – but I’m very happy when I discover them!
What are your top three tips for founders of online businesses like We Are Moving Stories.
1. Find a good mentor;
2. Wake up earlier;
3.‘Focus on the road, not the wall.’ Ben Horowitz – The Hard Thing About Hard Things.
We Are Moving Stories was founded in April 2016. Here is our first interview:
Congratulations! Why did you establish We are moving stories?
It’s simple. I’ve always loved watching films! I’m interested in all genres, lengths and countries. Recently I’ve found that there’s so much content out there online but no central place where I can go and discover films that are not only completed but also in development and in production.
At the same time, I’ve also been a student of film, a filmmaker, journalist and university lecturer for over twenty-five years! I know a lot of filmmakers and I like to talk to them about the challenges and difficulties we’re facing. Without the marketing budget of Star Wars, publicity and exposure remains the number one problem.
But it’s not only exposure to an audience that we’re aiming for at We are moving stories. We also want to connect filmmakers to producers, distributors, sales agents, buyers, film festival directors and media. And we’re hearing feedback from filmmakers and audiences, producers, distributors, sales agents, buyers, film festival directors and media that they are also delighted and interested in our platform.
Why is it called We are moving stories?
Films can work on an emotional level – they are moving - but they can also break through and introduce new stories to different audiences. We promote both processes.
Why are you interested in new voices?
We broadcast new filmmakers and new film subjects. We’re also interested in subjects and genres that are well known but that are presented in new ways.
As our title says, we want to move filmmaking forward. We don’t ever want to stand still! We want to move the debate from me to we.
We’re also different as we promote and proudly support 50%+ women’s participation on our platform. We closely follow the debates around gender parity in film but our main aim is to act and do something practical and concrete about them as well.
How do you select the films?
We have an open-door policy. There are no gatekeepers and as we’re online there is no limitation of space. But we’re different from other platforms like Vimeo and Youtube as we only excerpt between 1-3 minutes of film. Every film excerpt will also have its own dedicated question and answer blog with the filmmaker.
What type of feedback have you received?
I’d like to quote from two of our director/contributors:
'I'm truly impressed by the range of life affirming films We are moving stories are presently showcasing. It's this kind of curatorial approach that's going to bring a while new audience to non-fiction films in spite of the flood of block-buster storytelling plugged by top end of town streaming distributors...who may in turn find new material, important material through these curated platforms.' Andrew Garton, director and contributor of A Trilogy of Films: Ocean in a Drop, Forged From Fire and Higher Ground on Facebook.
'Our friends at We are moving stories @WMoving_S are really getting behind the indie cinema movement! Please give them your support :)' Aidan Prewett, director and contributor of A Venue at the End of the World on Twitter.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
I’ve been extremely happy and heartened by the feedback. As the founder I can talk at great length about all the 300+ films currently on our platform. I’m constantly amazed by the great variety of film excerpts that have been submitted – from TANKED, a feature in development about military wife Jackie, to I am Evangeline, a feminist rewriting of the sci-fi thriller to The Weatherman’s Umbrella, one of the world’s only community feature films to Ocean in a Drop which documents the impact of 1 billion people coming online in India by 2020 to Punks for West Papua, to BAM BAM about a female Muslim boxer. I could go on!
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this platform’s message and audience?
Everybody! We would love to promote collaborations, alliances and knowledge sharing between all interested parties. We are also collecting lists of producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors and journalists. We will regularly distribute information about all our films either in development, production or completed to them as well.
What type of impact would you like this platform to have?
We’d love to break down barriers that currently exist in the world of filmmaking. One surprising fact that I’ve encountered is that filmmakers are often working on similar subject areas, genres or countries but they are not aware of each other’s work. At We are making stories we can help connect people to each other.
What will happen next?
We’re beginning discussions with filmmakers working in similar subject areas or genres to come together for a curated talks program. Watch this space!
Lastly, what’s a key question that will help spark a debate about this platform?
Can you recommend We are moving stories to another filmmaker?