Beyond the Horizon, the community arts project in Yarmouth has been completed. Residents of the small seaside town were asked about what they imagined when looking out to sea. The results can be heard on the sound page.
A new film project with Into Film and The Gap LGBT club in Wandsworth, London is underway. This should be completed by the summer.
2014 - 15
Plans for another sound based project are afoot in Great Yarmouth. We are working on engaging a broad cross section of the diverse communities in the eastern seaside city.
Two projects produced and developed last year have been completed. I believe in... is a trilogy of short films about faith and religion made by
students at Bishop Challoner school in east London. Our first sound project, Sound Memory, made with people suffering memory loss is available on the sound section of this
website. A radio programme compiling excerpts from the project will be broadcast on Resonance fm later this year.
A short Creative writing for the screen course will be facilitated by Mark Aitken at Central At Martins this Autumn.
Polkadots founder Mark Aitken is producing and directing a new documentary feature film in Mexico about a mental hospital run by inmates – set for release in 2014. Please see here for more info.
On the 19th February, Try not to Lose from the Film Nation productions last year was shown in competition at the BFI Future Film Festival. We won the Best Documentary award. Also, later in February Street of Cafes screened at the Teen International Shorts Festival in Istanbul, Turkey – TISFEST.
An exhibition of photographs taken during the production of This was Forever (about the now demolished Manor Garden Allotments on the Olympic site) was shown at Sutton House in Hackney, London, this August during the Olympic Games. Also in August, in partnership with PAL (Performing Arts Labs) we produced a film at a school in India that had 17000 pupils. The film was called The Lost Elephant and can be viewed here.
We’ve received funding from the Evening Standard Dispossessed Fund to produce Sound Memory – an online sound project engaging people suffering from memory loss. Due for completion in 2013.
We’re also working with First Light again to produce three films about belief and faith with Bishop Challoner School in London’s East End. These will be completed in 2013.
In June we were commissioned by First Light Movies to produce two shorts for the Film Nation scheme. We completed two 3 min films about the West Ham Boys Boxing Club. The films will be shown as part of the Olympic events in 2012.
The year started with rounding off projects that got underway in 2010. We completed two musicals produced with students from Bishop Challoner School in east London. The year long Creative Partnerships project in Epping with St John’s School was completed in spring. A documentary and an animation was produced about the environment and the impact of the school now.
One of the Teenage Anthropology films was nominated for an award at the Future Film Festival at the BFI. The short doc, Meanwhile can be viewed in the movies section. Another film from the same series, Street of Cafes was nominated for a First Light award. The annual FIRST LIGHT AWARDS showcases the creative talents of young people across the UK. The event celebrates the next generation of British filmmakers. This year’s event took place at ODEON, Leicester Square, London on Tuesday 15th March. Polkadots on raindrops won the best film over 13’s in 2009 for This was Forever.
Polkadots founder Mark Aitken completed and sold the hour long documentary Forest of Crocodiles to a number of TV channels around the world including BBC World. The film is about how a rural white South African community deal with their fears. A trailer can be viewed in the movies section and the full version on DVD is available on request.
The First Light funded Teenage Anthropology series of four films received their first festival screening at the
London Future Film Festival at the BFI. The films were made by young south Londoners in partnership with Blackfriars Settlement.
We also collaborated with community garden Roots and Shoots and Resonance fm on a radio series about horticulture with a group of young people. We produced seven half hour shows that were all aired on Resonance.
A new First Light project was undertaken during the summer with pupils from Bishop Challoner School in east London. The £30K project will produce two musicals with original soundtracks written and performed by the participants.
Polkadots on raindrops worked with Creative Partnerships and St Johns School in Epping, north London. The project is multi-disciplinary with a sculptor and a design team working with primary and secondary students based on the thme of sustainability.
Mark Aitken continues to teach at Goldsmiths University on their undergraduate and post- grad courses. A Central St Martins course on Fine Art and Film with Tate Britain ran over Easter.
On March 17th, This Was Forever won the Best Film made by over 13 yrs at the First Light Awards 2009. The film is about the community of Manor Gardens allotments in Hackney, London and was shot over a year just before the bulldozers moved in to make way for the Olympics.
Work has commenced on a new set of four documentaries funded by First Light about Language, Territory, Aspirations and Regeneration from the perspective of teenagers in south London. The films will be completed by summer this year.
polkadots on raindrops director, Mark Aitken is working on a feature doc about how white people respond to fear in South Africa. Completion is also due for summer
Funding applications are also being made for a web based project in east London called Near Distance where we will create an online neighbourhood.
Courses are still being run at Central St Martins short course unit - please check their web-site for documentary courses.
Over the summer we received news of winning a new Studio Award from First Light. We’ll be producing four new documentaries with young people in the Waterloo and north Southwark area in collaboration with the Blackfriars Settlement. We’ve selected Language, Territory, Regeneration and Aspirations as subjects to investigate and form a basis for four films made by 40 young people. The research models used for these films will also be reproduced as templates so as to sustain future creative and informative film practice. The films will go into production in early 2009.
Mark Aitken and a crew made up of Nora Agapi (camera), Lina lapelyte (sound), David Enright (production) shot a feature documentary in South Africa in October. The film is called Forest of Crocodiles and it’s about the myriad ways that people confront fear in that country. Completion of post production is scheduled for summer 2009.
In August, polkadots director, Mark Aitken ran an intensive film making workshop in Bydgoszcz, Poland with the Camera Obscura festival of Reportage.
Students came from Poland, Belgium and the UK and we produced four documentaries about the river in the city. The four films were screened at the festival in October.
The film Myth, one of the Films from the River Lee series screened at DOCSF in Mexico City in October. This was Forever also screened at the LIFT festival in Stratford with a discussion hosted by director Roger Graef and at the East End Film Festival as part of the EAST END TRUE-LIFE STORIES programme in April. Director Emir Kusturica's MOKRA GORA FILM FESTIVAL in Serbia screened all four of the polkadots River Lee films in January. Also in January, Mudlarking, screened at the Roxy Cinema, London, as part of the London Short Film Festival.
In April , the 30 min doc directed by Mark Aitken, Until when you die, screened in competition at the Crossroads of Europe
festival in Lublin, east Poland. The film also screened at the Seoul Independent Documentary Film & Video Festival in Korea that month.
Polkadots on raindrops also collaborated with ELBA (East London Business Alliance) on a photography project in six east London schools. The results will be exhibited on billboards around the city in 2009. The project was sponsored by Reuters.
Two short doc making courses were run at Central St Martins in July - this time in association with the National Gallery, the course offered an opportunity to make films inspired by paintings in the gallery’s collection.
Polkadots director Mark Aitken participated at the Avant Garde festival in north Germany in July with a new film called Chevaline. The film was presented as a 'live edit' with musicians playing a live soundtrack. Mark Aitken also hosted a film show on Resonance 104.4 FM with Vaughan Pilikian. Rather than the same old review format, the show actually conjured up film soundtracks live in the studio - inspired by soundtracks sent in by contributors.
On December 17th at the Rich Mix Cinema in Bethnal Green, London, we screened the four films from the River Lee for the first time. These were funded by First Light, Leaside Regeneration and Tower Hamlets.
Polkadots director, Mark Aitken attended the IDFA Academy at the doc festival in Amsterdam. The Greek Parliament TV Channel picked up Mark’s documentary about Vietnamese refugees, Until when you die for broadcast. Plans were also initiated for a film to be made with young refugees about digital communications and how it affects their lives.
Work also started on the Taxi film (working title) about the factory in Coventry that makes the London black taxi. We’re hoping to initiate our first on-line self-distributed film once it’s completed.
A special one-off screening of This was Forever with a live soundtrack performed by Amal Gamal took place at Elefest in London on the 23rd September. Over the past year, polkadotsonraindrops have produced the film in tribute to the plot-holders at the now demolished Manor Garden allotments.
Polkadots on raindrops also facilitated a two-week documentary course with Central St Martins in London. We produced a eight short films about Soho’s Berwick Street market.
Our collaboration with Creative Partnerships completed its first phase at the end of June with six schools in west London. The multi-media project was about connecting kids with different heritages from around the world through storytelling called, Our Memories, Our Stories, Ourselves. The objective was to engage families more with schools. The first phase was completed with a multi-media piece with seventy children on stage. This project is due to run until next spring and will engage film making, interactive web-sites and more theatre work.
Work continued on the four River Lea Documentaries with three in post-production and another about to go into production. The rough edits are coming together and it’s already apparent that we will have some beautiful and eloquent films to present.
Director Mark Aitken facilitated a scriptwriting course with the Arvon Foundation in Yorkshire. Sixteen adults wrote, used still and movie cameras and editing software to complete a range of creative exercises. David Pirie was the co-tutor.
Upcoming courses were a two-week documentary film making course with Central St Martins in London in September.
Director Mark Aitken presented films at the Avantgarde Festival in Germany at the end of July.
Until when you die was screened twice at the Mosaiques film festival in London on May 13th at the Ritzy, Brixton and on May 20th at the Lumiere in Kensington.
Leading up to the summer holidays, productions with schools are in a very busy phase. Work continued on the four River Lea Documentaries with two in post-production and another about to go into production with Swanlea school in east London. The rough edits are coming together and it’s already apparent that we will have some beautiful and eloquent films to present.
Our collaboration with Creative Partnerships started with six schools in west London. The multi-media project is about connecting kids with
different heritages from around the world through storytelling called Our Memories, Our Stories, Ourselves. The objective is to engage families more with schools. The first phase
will be completed at the end of June by establishing a radio station and presenting a performance piece at the Lyric Hammersmith. This project is due to run until next spring and will engage film
making, interactive web-sites and more theatre work.
The first two (of four) River Lea Documentaries funded by First Light and Leaside Regeneration went into production in March and April. One is about Manor Gardens Allotments – a site next to the River Lea in east London that’s being threatened with demolition by the Olympics development. The other is in collaboration with Swanlea School and the Ragged School Museum.
Polkadots Director, Mark Aitken was selected for the Berlinale Talent Campus – part of the Berlinale Film Festival. The feature documentary, Tell Me. The Story of El Negro was developed further and is now seeking co-production partners in France, Spain and South Africa.
Our first collaboration with Creative Partnerships is starting with six schools in west London. The multi-media project is about connecting kids with different heritages from around the world through storytelling. This project is due to run until next spring and will engage film making, setting up a radio station, interactive web-sites and theatre work.
Cinexchange, the project in collaboration with the French Institute in London resulted in six films being screened in Lille, France. The films were made to the same templates by six schools in Britain, France and Belgium. Rules and boundaries were established by the students themselves.
Polkadots films continue to gain exposure around the world. Until when you die was the centre piece screening at the True/False Festival in Colombia, Missouri, USA on the 4th March as well as at Oxdox in Oxford. Three of the 1 minute films from the Long Way Home series made by young people from Derbyshire last summer were selected for the Videotivoli Festival in Tampere, Finland.
Five of our films were picked up for broadcast on Propeller TV: Until when you die, As above, so below, Resonance FM, Talking about us and Where is Morton Valence? Propeller is the national channel for new film and television talent available on SKY all over Europe.
And finally, Zubia Masood from Hi-8tus South has joined us as a producer – starting work on the River Lea docs.
With the support of UK Film Council funded First Light, we’ve been commissioned to make four documentaries about the Lea River in east London in 2007. The films have been developed with schools and youth groups over 2006 and will be made by young people (under 18yrs) who live in east London.
The total budget for the project is £33k and the films will be offered a multi platform release in cinemas, festivals and online. The Lea River is rich with past history and present change. Waves of immigration, child labour, the slave trade, the Port of London and industrial wastelands leading to the 2012 Olympics are all part of the Lea River narrative. The young people devising these documentaries will explore their heritage and invent their futures through the film making process. The films will document the past and present while being infused with hopes and fears about massive change currently taking place. This is our biggest commission since the company was founded four years ago and continues successful collaborations with First Light.
Blind Man’s Bluff, funded by First Light was nominated for a best screenplay award at the annual First Light Awards in London in February. We didn’t win but these people had something to say….Neil Jordan, Director/Writer: ‘Photography and acting were both very good.’ Amma Asante, Director/Writer: ‘Good twist, nice dialogue throughout also. Cleverly reaches its climax in real time.’ Gurinder Chadha, Director: ‘This film was very good, a tough decision.’
As Above, So Below and Resonance FM were screened at the Videotivoli Children’s Film Festival in Tampere, Finland and the Radio Zero festival in Portugal.
This Place – our fourth film commissioned by First Light was screened at the National Film Theatre in London in April. The short is a science fiction taking the Chris Marker film La Jettee as its inspiration and using the American neon light artist Dan Flavin as a visual reference.
As Above So Below won two awards at the Showcomotion Young People's Film Festival in July. We also worked with Film Education on INSET work for screenwriting with a group of teachers in London. Again, emphasis was placed on creative discipline and participants setting their own boundaries to work by.
In August we were invited to run a residential in Derbyshire with young people leaving care. Some of these people had worked with us on the Arvon residential in 2005. In two and a half days we produced eight one minute films. These were presented at Tate Britain in October.
We continued to collaborate with the Film & Video Workshop in London on courses for adults on scriptwriting and camerawork. We also started workshop screenings of polkadots films with young film makers talking about their work process. The first event happened in partnership with the Script Factory and the London Film Festival. Other courses on working with actors were run at Goldsmiths University on the MA Film making course and under-graduate course.
Another round of short film productions with Cinexchange, Film Education and the French Institute was launched. The cultural cinema exchange between schools in France, Belgium and Britain will bear fruit with new films in 2007. Award winning As Above So Below was screened at the Clerkenwell Literary Festival in October.
Never Give Up, a one minute film by Elliott Fraser produced during the Derbyshire residential was selected to screen at the London Children's Film Festival in London.
Polkadots on raindrops director Mark Aitken and producer Rani Khanna were invited to pitch our feature length documentary, Tell Me: The story of El Negro at the Sheffield Documentary Festival in early November. The pitch was to UK broadcasters for production funds.
Until when you die was nominated for the Silver Cub Award at the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam in November. IDFA is the biggest documentary festival in the world so we couldn’t hope for a better platform. The half hour documentary is about Vietnamese Refugees arriving in the UK during the late seventies. We combined oral history testimonials with contemporary footage from four countries and in doing so, established a meditation on memory and history. This project was funded jointly by community and lottery sources and established a new platform for financing documentaries for us. We competed internationally at IDFA with a truly independent film.
We shot our third film for First Light, Blind Man’s Bluff over one day on a Dockland’s Light Railway train at the start of the year. The film was written and directed by Damien Bent (The Blox, Ghostship on the Southbank).
Our first school residency took place at Windsor Boys School between January and March. We produced a series of short dramas, experimental work and animation that was presented at the local arts centre. At times challenging, grueling but eventually rewarding, we also completed a two-week residency at Rochester Prison, working with young offenders on animation films.
In May we worked with Spread the Word again and devised a radio show entitled The Fall of London with a group of young people in London. The 90min show was transmitted live on Resonance FM.
Reviving our links with Bow in east London, we produced a 20 min film with young people about health and fitness. The film was funded by Leaside Regeneration and Old Ford Housing Association. Work continued on the Until when you die documentary and we raised funding to take a Vietnamese woman living in London back to Vietnam and China after 28 years.
Three more docs were made with young people that summer. Where is Morton Valence? And As above, so below and Resonance FM all contributed to the growing body of polkadots productions. We also worked with BBC Blast on a comedy sketch called The Park with young people in west London. The film went out on BBC2 at the end of the year.
The French Institute and Film Education invited us to contribute to Cinexchange – a language, cultural and cinema exchange where four schools in Britain, France and Belgium made short films to the same creative template.
Our first scriptwriting residential at the Hurst – an Arvon Foundation centre – took place over two weeks in December. The first week involved making films with young people leaving the care system, which resulted in Albert’s View and Emily’s Fantasy. On the second week we worked with adults interested in scriptwriting. Both weeks used the same work templates for devising and developing ideas through writing, photography, sound recording and filming. Groups also set boundaries and limitations for each other when making films. Some films were only allowed one character or one location while others weren’t allowed dialogue or could only use non-sync sound. The idea of participants making their own rules established a new form of creative discipline to work by.
The year began by collaborating with the Film & Video Workshop in north London on a series of short film productions with adults. We also worked with young and older people in Bow on a film about the history of a housing estate called R Enz. The film was commissioned by Chisenhale Art Gallery and funded by Old Ford Housing Association. This was our first foray into oral history with the use of testimonials and documentary. Private courses for adults on weekends at the Electric Cinema in west London were also successfully introduced.
Taking the work environment into consideration, we collaborated with Skyros Holidays in Greece on our first residential courses. Two five day courses were run with adults and the beauty and culture of the island led to uninhibited creativity and inspiration. The Lambeth Crime Prevention Trust also commissioned us to make a documentary film about the Vietnamese Refugee community in south London. Along with funding from the lottery and other community grants amounting to £20k, the process of research and production of Until when you die began. Testimonials from refugees were recorded about the journeys made to the UK from Vietnam in the late ‘70’s.
Other productions that year included the first Get Reel documentaries for the London Development Agency called Prisoners Abroad about British citizens held in prisons abroad and one about the Time Out news desk. A commission from the Hayward Gallery and First Light produced Ghostship on the Southbank. The crew included Damien Bent from the Blox and the Super 8mm film was part of an exhibition about early cinema at the Hayward.
polkadots on raindrops was founded in 2003. The name was designed to imply a sense of visual playfulness and a marriage of the artificial and organic; film and what is being filmed. Mark Aitken designed a series of courses that focused on the separate components of film making. Finding an entry point into film making can be difficult but finding a sound for a picture or a frame for a shot is a lot easier.
These courses were designed to explore film making as if walking in the dark without having to worry about bumping into anything. Technology played a part in these courses and with a DV camera, laptop, mini-disc recorder and Final Cut Pro, making films had never been more accessible. Pilot courses were tested on film makers, teachers, artists and writers. The overall ambition was to establish an educational context as the most productive and interesting environment to make films in.
2003 also saw the first polkadotsonraindrops films being produced. The Blox with Southwark Youth Services, written and directed by Damien Bent; O Dia De Santa Martina with Lambeth Arts, First Light and the Lambeth Portuguese community and Talking About Us with the London Film Festival and London youth groups about citizenship. A photography and storytelling course with Spread the Word and Lillian Baylis school was also completed.
The company also received lottery and community funding to acquire two laptops, and a full digital production kit.
While completing post production on the independent feature, Same Same But Different, writer, producer, director, Mark Aitken formed a new approach to film education. Making an independent feature film had taken three years: writing the script, raising finance, casting, production, post production and distribution. The experience was an intensive learning curve but unforgiving in the sense that being spontaneous and creative on a feature film production is an all too rare commodity. Discovery through the work process is difficult when you have a crew of thirty people watching you on location in the freezing cold. Having worked in film education and film making since 1990, Mark realized that a new way of working was required if making films was going to be a creative experience.