Working the film festival circuit for the first time, Stroma Cairns, 2014 BA(Hons) Film graduate, has been promoting her new documentary ‘If You Knew’, which has been shortlisted for an award at Sheffield Doc Fest.
The leading and BAFTA qualifying documentary film festival in the UK, Sheffield Doc Fest celebrates the art and business of documentary and non-fiction storytelling across all forms.
Stroma told us: “It feels incredible to be nominated, to even be screening at Sheffield Doc is a massive honour! I’ve never done the festival circuit with a film so it was a bit of a shock but I’m so excited.”
‘If You Knew’ tells the story of two teenage twin brothers meeting up for the first time after months of fighting and no communication.
“The brothers have a unique connection and shared passion for bikes,” Stroma said. “Whilst both being born with hearing loss, they have experienced challenging situations and been involved with gangs. Today marks a fresh start for the boys, with Lewis being a new father and Conner putting family first.”
Stroma was inspired to make the documentary after meeting Lewis and seeing him interacting with his friends on the street. It was made possible by an award from Homespun Yarns, who run funding competitions for new and aspiring film directors.
Stroma told us: “The process of making a sensitive documentary about characters you have only just met involves a lot of trust. The time I put into hanging out with my cast before shooting anything was essential.”
Since graduating from BA(Hons) Film, Stroma has directed a variety of music promos for labels such as PMR, Sony and Columbia, whilst also being signed to the LA/London production company Prettybird. She has also been working as a second camera operator for a Director duo named ‘Call this Number’ and has been writing and directing her own shorts.
On top of all that, Stroma has also been accepted onto Channel 4’s new directors’ scheme, 4Stories, where she has been working on an episode for C4’s TV series, ‘On the Edge’.
When asked for her top tips for aspiring filmmakers, Stroma said:
- “Don’t have an ego, people have good memories in the industry. You don’t want to be remembered for the wrong reasons.”
- “Say yes to every opportunity, even if you have to blag it. You won’t regret it.”
- “Be comfortable with shooting yourself, try to borrow/rent equipment for small jobs.”
- “Good writing goes a long way. At uni I found the essays difficult to get the hang of, but writing skills become handy for treatments to sell your ideas.”
- “Connect with other filmmakers. Don’t be shy to DM people on Instagram or email them directly. You will be surprised that most people are happy to help or meet up.”
- “Having said that – don’t obsess with social media or what others are making. Sometimes it’s good to have your blinkers on and focus on your own work.”
- “Travel, even if it’s just to the shop. Be aware of what’s going on around you. Most of my ideas come from when I watch a scene play out in real life.”
- “Be brave. I think it can take some time to build confidence, especially with doc. You have to introduce yourself to strangers; when I first did it, I really had to force myself. Remember, one introduction can go such a long way.”