Interview with WFTV Pat Llewellyn Bursary Winner Victoria Mapplebeck
“For me, the power of smartphone filmmaking is its intimacy and ubiquity.”
In 2018, Victoria Mapplebeck was one of the inaugural recipients of an award from the WFTV Pat Llewellyn Bursary Fund. In this interview she reveals how the bursary has helped her develop her feature documentary. The bursary fund was set up to support all women wanting to develop factual entertainment or factual based projects for television -even those completely new to television. Along with Victoria, the other two winners were Cheryl Richardson and Megan Jenkins, a school teacher who had never made a programme before, who we will be hearing from later in the year. Each of them won £10,000.
Victoria Mapplebeck won the bursary for development funding for her latest project – Motherboard, an autobiographical smartphone feature documentary that will bring to life the stories and secrets archived in the mobile phones she has owned over the years. From a Nokia 8310 to the iPhone X, the film will uncover hundreds of messages, emails, videos and photos that create a digital family album spanning nearly two decades.
She is a BAFTA award winning writer, artist and director. Before developing Motherboard, she had specialised in a number of other short film smartphone productions: 160 Characters (backed by Film London), Missed Call ( backed by Real Stories) and The Waiting Room (commissioned for The Guardian) winning her many accolades, including the BAFTA Short Form Programme Award in 2019 for Missed Call. Why did you decide to apply to the WFTV Pat Llewellyn Bursary Fund? My previous smartphone shorts had been made on very modest budgets, my first one was made for just 2K. Although shooting on a smartphone requires only a small budget, we now need much greater development funding for Motherboard because of the scale of the project. For the last year, I have been working closely with my amazing executive Producer, Debbie Manners to raise finance for Motherboard. We felt that the WFTV Pat Llewellyn Bursary Fund bursary would help us to do this, which it has!
As well as £10k, the bursary award included mentoring with an industry expert. Who is your mentor and how has that relationship helped?
I was really pleased to work with Nicola Moody from Nutopia. Nicola was one of the WFTV members of the bursary awarding committee who I met when I was interviewed at the shortlist stage. She was incredibly generous with her time and her contacts. She introduced Debbie and I to Jane Root (Founder and Chief Executive of Nutopia), who is also on the awarding committee, and together Jane and Nicola helped us fine tune our fundraising strategy. Nicola also provided encouraging and very perceptive feedback on the strongest themes of Motherboard. Refining what your film is about in a couple of sentences is the key to a great pitch! What do you enjoy most about the development phase of a project? I no longer see the development phase of a film project as a time for writing and fund raising. I believe great films are made in camera, not on paper, so a development phase for me involves lots of shooting and editing which I love. Being able to shoot during an R&D phase is another advantage of developing a self-shot smartphone feature, rather than a large scale production which would need a bigger crew. “What was great about the WFTV bursary application is how simple and short the online form was.” And what do you least enjoy about development? Raising finance. Over the years, I have filled in a lot of lengthy application forms and received lots of rejections! What was great about the WFTV bursary application is how simple and short the online form was.
Where are you with the project now and what are the next steps? We have interest from an American financier who has funded many feature docs and is particularly keen on the idea of a “documentary Boyhood’ approach to telling my story, which chimes well with us too. As well as trying UK film financiers , we are thinking more creatively about other funding opportunities. Debbie and I recently had a very productive meeting with Olivier Kaempfer (Senior Microwave Executive) at Film London, who is very supportive of my work and amazingly knowledgeable about the many new ways to fund a feature. Olivier suggested Apple TV and You Tube as possible funders. We’re hoping that these relatively new funding platforms might be a good fit for Motherboard. Where did the idea for Motherboard come from? I have always been fascinated by how much of our lives are lived and captured via the mobiles we hold so close. Our mobile phones have become like time machines. Families, now come in all shapes and sizes and I wanted to explore the ups and downs of my own family life from the contrasting point of view of myself and my teenage son. My family is a small one but over the years, it has survived some pretty epic challenges. Motherboard will be bold, brutally honest and ultimately a celebration of a modern single parent family. What is it that you like about shooting on smartphones? For me, the power of smartphone filmmaking is its intimacy and ubiquity. The kind of intimate conversations I’ve captured with my son were the result of the camera-phone being small, unobtrusive and just a part of everyday contemporary life. And shooting alone with a smartphone costs a fraction of the budget needed for a conventional crew and kit. I’ve been a self-shooting director for 25 years. The camera I shoot with has gone from needing a bag the size of a small suitcase to one that fits in my back pocket. What would you say to someone who is thinking about applying to the WFTV Pat Llewellyn Bursary Fund this year? Go for it! If you’re lucky enough to win, it will make a huge difference to the future of your project. Find out more about Victoria Mapplebeck’s work by visiting her website. WFTV would like to thank Victoria for answering our questions. More about the WFTV Pat Llewellyn Bursary Fund First launched in 2018 in memory of award-winning producer Pat Llewellyn, the Bursary Fund awards successful applicants £10,000 each to develop their factual entertainment or factual TV project; matches them with an industry mentor to support them along the way; and offers the chance to meet with key decision-makers who have the potential to ‘greenlight’ their idea.
Applications are open to any woman even if she has never worked in television before. To celebrate Pat Llewellyn’s Welsh roots, and to encourage other women from Wales to follow in her creative footsteps, two places this year will be held specifically for any woman either born in or living in Wales, or with a Welsh parent.
For more information about the WFTV Pat Llewellyn Bursary Fund and to apply, click here. The deadline for applications is: Monday 25 January 2021.