About this project
** UPDATE: We are absolutely thrilled to have made it to 100%. Thank you so much for all of your support! But please don't stop donating! As mentioned below, we always hoped to exceed our target, and we'll use any extra money we receive productively - it will buy us more time, more locations and better equipment - and it might even mean we don't have to do a second round of fundraising, as originally planned. In short, the more money we raise now, the better the final product will be - so please do keep donating! Thanks again. **
London Symphony is a poetic journey through the city of London, exploring its vast diversity of culture, religion and design via its various modes of transportation. It is both a cultural snapshot and a creative record of London as it stands today. The point is not only to immortalise the city, but also to celebrate its community and diversity.
The feature-length film is being made in the style of a silent City Symphony, but it is not a pastiche. We believe that by looking at the present through recourse to the past, we can learn something new about life today. We will not parody the style, but be true to the spirit of the filmmakers that came before us, and the theories that fuelled them. We hope to capture the rhythm, the motion and the experimentation that made their films so wonderful, while simultaneously reimagining the City Symphony for the 21st Century.
Here's what some other people have been saying about the project:
"In the early days of the cinema, there were several great City Symphonies – for Berlin, Paris, Rotterdam, but never for London. Alex Barrett is going to put that right, and his plans suggest a remarkable picture." – Kevin Brownlow, Film Historian
"21st-century London deserves a City Symphony of its own" – Pamela Hutchinson, "Silent London"
"London has had a long history as a film setting but never really has anyone embraced her shapes, movements, lights and shadows with film and music. With the production of LONDON SYMPHONY, the city will be able to take its rightful place with the great City Symphonies of the past and all of us can explore her with new eyes and new dreams" – Shirley Hughes, director of Toronto Silent Film Festival.
"The City Symphony is the only art form capable of capturing the music of such a complex entity. It must be done in images that move - you need to see it - you need to feel its tempo. It's time to turn the Kino-eye on London" – Bryony Dixon, curator of silent film at the BFI National Archive
Sounds interesting, but what exactly is a 'City Symphony'?
The 'City Symphony' was a genre of filmmaking that flourished in the 1920s, arguably beginning with Charles Sheeler's and Paul Strand's Manhatta (1921) and reaching its apotheosis with Dziga Vertov's MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA (1929), which was recently voted the best documentary of all time in a Sight & Sound poll. Often musical in structure, city symphonies used techniques from the avant-garde to build poetic portraits of city life through exciting rhythms and surprising juxtapositions. You can find some classic examples on our 'City Symphony' Pinterest board, but here's one we made ourselves:
As much a cine-poem as a full-blown city symphony, HUNGERFORD: SYMPHONY OF A LONDON BRIDGE played at over twenty festivals and won three awards, and it now serves as a pilot of sorts for LONDON SYMPHONY – but, naturally, LONDON SYMPHONY will be wider in scope and richer in themes.
So it's all very musical?
Yes. Alongside the film, we will be creating a new and exciting score – an original symphony – written by our composer James McWilliam. Music plays an important role in silent cinema, and LONDON SYMPHONY is no exception – the music itself will help take the audience on a journey through modern-day London. We plan to not only record the score with a live orchestra for the film's home entertainment release, but also to have it performed live during special event screenings of the finished film.
Are you saying that the film will actually get screened, then?
Yes! We intend to enter LONDON SYMPHONY into festivals, prior to entering negotiations with distributors. Our short film HUNGERFORD: SYMPHONY OF A LONDON BRIDGE played at over twenty film festivals, and some of these have already expressed interest in seeing LONDON SYMPHONY. Furthermore, leading independent distributor Soda Pictures have issued us with a formal letter of interest in the film. Here's what they've said:
I am writing to confirm our interest in the feature film project LONDON SYMPHONY. We have read the project proposal; watched the short film (which was the starting point for London Symphony); and met with the creative team, who we believe have the ability to deliver a film that will appeal to UK and Irish audiences.
The film has a lot of scope in terms of theatrical distribution and we anticipate an event-led release, with for example live-accompaniment screenings and screenings taking place in or at the film's London locations. [Edward Fletcher, Managing Director]
Sounds exciting, no?
Sounds very exciting! But why are you crowdfunding?
LONDON SYMPHONY is a film about community, and we want to foster that community behind the scenes as well as on the screen. Our reward packages all include access to our behind-the-scenes updates, and we intend to make the production of LONDON SYMPHONY as open, as interesting and as interactive as we can.
There is also another reason: the unconventional nature of LONDON SYMPHONY renders it a 'non-commercial' project, making it hard to secure funding from more conservative sources.
Now is your chance to make a difference, and show the world that silent, 'non-commercial' cinema still matters.
And why do you want to do this now?
As we head further into the second decade of the 21st Century, London continues to evolve: diversity and modernism have exploded the city's sense of culture and design, and we want to capture this explosion in full swing. Using the lens of the past to focus light onto the present, we want to make you feel the city through the power of the moving image.
Okay, I'm convinced. But where will my money go?
The money that we raise from this campaign will go directly into the making of the film. The primary cost that we have to cover is location permits: we currently plan to film in over 200 locations scattered around the city, which should give you an idea of the scale of this project, and explains why we need your help to take it to the next stage of production.
In addition to location costs, we will also be using the money to cover the unavoidable overheads of making a feature film: setting up a limited company, public liability insurance and year one accountancy fees.
Finally, we will also put money towards travel expenses for the crew, and additional kit hire and purchase. Although we will primarily be using our own equipment, there will still be additional costs, such as buying the hard drives we need to hold and backup the material we shoot (we expect to shoot well over 100 hours of footage for the film).
What will I get if I help you?
The rewards you receive will depend on the amount you pledge, but no matter what you can afford to give, your donation will make you an official part of the LONDON SYMPHONY community, and will mean that YOU personally have helped us take one step further towards realising our goal.
The full list of rewards can be found to the right, but here are some pictures and a few more details!
Once you've ordered your photographic print(s), we'll contact you via email to ask for your selection choice(s), so please make a note of the print number(s) from the following gallery:
Our beautiful poster, designed by artist Andrew Yap.
The final etching is still being prepared by independent artist Buffy Kimm (http://www.buffykimm.co.uk), but here is the photograph that the etching will be based on, alongside two examples of Buffy's previous work.
If you have an idea for another reward you want that isn't listed, then please send us an email… Maybe we'll add it!
What if I don't want a reward, I just want to help?
Then you are, officially, a superstar. Claiming a reward is optional, and you can donate any amount you want to.
What stage are you at?
We have been developing the project since the beginning of the year, and are now ready to enter production. We have a script, a list of locations, an assembled team, a production schedule, and a clear idea of how to move forward – but now we need the money to do so!
Who are you, anyway?
Alex Barrett – Director/Editor: An independent filmmaker whose films have been screened at over 60 international festivals and garnered ten awards. His debut feature, LIFE JUST IS, was released theatrically in the UK in December 2012. Sight & Sound contributor Brad Stevens called it "one of the most promising debuts in contemporary cinema", while Mark Kermode acclaimed it as 'DVD of the Week'. The feature was nominated for the Michael Powell Award for Best British Film at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in June 2012, where it was also selected for the 'Best of the Fest' screenings. www.alexbarrett.net
Katharine Round – Producer: A producer and director with over fourteen years' experience in broadcast television and documentary films for theatrical release. She has made films for the BBC, Channel 4, ITV, and Discovery, amongst others. She established Literally Films to produce documentaries which push boundaries in form and content. She is also founder of leading documentary organization Doc Heads, and regularly gives masterclasses on documentary production & funding. http://literallyfilms.co.uk
Rahim Moledina – Writer: An award winning filmmaker and writer, Rahim completed his Masters in Screenwriting at the London College of Communication in 2012 and currently works as a freelancer. His script Iqbal's Shoes was selected from more than 3000 scripts to be part of the BBC Writersroom scriptroom 2013. www.101projects.org
James McWilliam – Composer: A composer and orchestral arranger, James has written music for 3 successful feature films, a number of high profile short films and TV shows for the BBC, Channel 4 and international network stations. As an orchestral arranger he has worked with some of the leading film composers including Eric Neveux, Gabriel Yared, Klaus Badelt, Gustavo Santaolalla and Patrick Doyle. www.jamesmcwilliam.com
Peter Harmer – Cinematographer: A professional filmmaker and film tutor. His production company Stories specialises in community and youth-based filmmaking projects and helps outside organisations work successfully with the moving image. www.storiesfilm.com
What happens if you don't reach your target?
We don't get a penny. Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing platform, so if we don't reach our goal, then we can't make our film. So please do help in any way you can, from giving us a donation to spreading the word – it all helps!
If LONDON SYMPHONY is a feature length project, how come you're asking for such a small amount of money?
Comparatively speaking, LONDON SYMPHONY will be a cheap film to make, and right now the crew are signed up to make this film without taking an upfront salary. It's something that we're all very passionate about, and it can definitely be considered a labour of love. The money that we're asking for here will allow us to shoot the film and complete the off-line edit. We then plan to raise additional funds to allow us to complete the final polish. We've tried to keep the initial target as low as possible, in order to help us get to the finish line – and, of course, we'd really like to go over the target!
And what happens if you do go over the target?
If we're lucky enough to go over our target, we'll use the extra money productively – it will buy us more time, more locations and better equipment – and maybe even cover the costs of the finishing touches mentioned above, meaning that we wouldn't need to do a second round of fundraising. In short, the more money we raise now, the better the final product will be.
What's your predicted timeline?
If this campaign is successful, we plan to enter production in November. Due to the nature of the film, we plan to shoot in blocks, allowing us space for some back-and-forth between the shooting and the editing phases. We therefore intend to continue shooting through to early summer next year, with the off-line edit completed by mid-summer, and the final film completed by autumn 2015.
Apart from pledging, is there anything else I can do to help?
Yes! Tell your friends, tell your family, tell anyone and everyone – tell the world! Shout about our project from the rooftops! Or, failing that, Tweet and Facebook a link to this page!
This all sounds good, but I'd like to speak to you personally. How can I contact you?
Risks and challenges
Making a film is always a risky and challenging endeavour. For this particular project, we believe that the biggest individual challenge comes from the size and scope of our planned survey of the city, and the time it will take to do it justice. The most important thing in this respect will be to set ourselves clear limits – London is a big city, and without having such limits in place, the temptation will be to continue shooting and shooting. We believe that the combination of our past experiences and careful planning will help keep us on track and allow us to achieve our stated aims.
As mentioned above, we will be giving very regular updates throughout the entire process of making the film, so in the event we do encounter any problems or delays, you'll hear about them as soon as we do.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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