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“Uniting a Fragmented Industry”: How Filmable Is Creating Impact

Production Company
Vancouver, Canada
Sara Blake and Geoff Manton, founders of the new hybrid-studio Filmable, talk LBB’s Adam Bennett through their plan to foster community in the independent film industry and create positive impact through storytelling

“The truly unique trait of 'Sapiens' is our ability to create and believe fiction. All other animals use their communication system to describe reality. We use our communication system to create new realities.” 

- Yuval Noah Harari in Sapiens.

These words underline the importance of storytelling as a tool to unite humans in imagining new realities. For Sara Blake and Geoff Manton - the co-founders of the new hybrid production studio Filmable - they’re an inspiration for shaping new narratives through their work and, while doing so, building a resilient community of filmmakers on the West Coast. 

“Vancouver is bursting with so many talented filmmakers, all of which have the passion to make their projects happen. But we’re all working in our own silos and, consequently, the industry feels needlessly fragmented.” notes Sara. “As an independent producer, where can I go to unite and coordinate my efforts with other filmmakers? And how can we work together as an industry to improve the success of our films?”

“In a larger sense, as a company, we also recognize the power of storytelling,” says Geoff. “Our culture is going through a massive shift, and so many old narratives that we’ve collectively upheld are being re-written. As filmmakers, we could play a pivotal role in influencing systemic change through helping to shape the new narratives and beliefs that will help us solve the challenges facing humanity by envisioning an alternative future. By building cohesion and community within our independent industry, we can tackle these complex issues together.”


Building Community and Telling Stories

For both of Filmable’s co-founders, the absence of a strong and connected community was apparent within their respective careers. Geoff is a co-founder and EP at Boldly, a commercial production company based in the heart of Vancouver, and Sara is the founder of the boutique arthouse production company, Ceroma Films. 

“At Boldly, as we began to dip our toes into the world of feature filmmaking, we felt like it was hard to find like-minded producers from whom we could learn” says Geoff. “We also noticed, through our commercial work, that people were responding enthusiastically to the feeling of community we’d create on our sets.”

“The pandemic highlighted the need for some mechanism to bring people together and connect our community” adds Sara. “Filming during the pandemic was a new challenge, and working together to ensure everyone’s safety within the independent industry was a top priority. Other than the unions, and few other organizations, there was no entity where all the stakeholders of the independent industry could come together to set new safety standards and provide guidelines on how to continue working in a new dynamic.”

The solution, they say, is Filmable - an ambitious new hybrid-studio.  “In Vancouver specifically, Filmable is launching with two core goals in mind: uniting a thriving but fragmented independent industry, and producing high-end British Columbian content for a global audience that helps make a positive impact through storytelling”, says Geoff.   

“Who can point to a place where crews of all disciplines in the independent industry can come together?”, asks Sara. “The writers, the producers, the gaffers, the PAs, to meet each other, build connections and, if you’re a newcomer, pave your way into the industry?”. 

In order to create that space, Filmable is looking to tap into the West Coast’s filmmaking culture and become a space in which its community can coalesce. “It’s an innovative studio that fosters a community where meaningful connections are made possible and big ideas become, well, filmable”, explains Geoff. “Our hybrid model is a non-profit community-building initiative balanced with a film studio. The commercial arm will provide the foundation on which to realise the visions and stories of the creative community on the non-profit side.”

To achieve that goal, Filmable will aim to develop and produce a slate of feature-length projects each year which ‘support new voices, build empathy, and tell stories which influence positive change’. In doing so, the studio will provide an infrastructure through which independent projects can enter the market fully developed and packaged. 

This will be coupled with Filmable’s non-profit arm, Filmable Community. “Filmable Community is the new hub for indie filmmakers of all forms”, says Sara. “It’s a space for mixing, mingling, learning, training, and, ultimately, making movies together. The Filmable Studio will invest funds from its profits into a development grant aimed at debut filmmakers who need a financial boost to develop their project ideas. The projects will be chosen through a community buy-in peer-review process, and be offered a first-look opportunity with Filmable Studio”. 

In combination, the for-profit and nonprofit arms of Filmable create - as the co-founders describe it - ‘a virtuous circle of supporting community and creating art’. And, as a by-product, provide a global stage for films made in British Columbia.


Doing It The Right Way

The Film Industry is infamous for grueling working conditions and a non-existent work life balance. Existing at the intersection of art and big business, the industry will too often prioritise profit-making over the artists who are making the work. Filmable aims to reverse that trend. Using Boldly’s principles of Values-Based Producing, Filmable will operate through a culture of care, empathy and prioritising people over profit. 

“We’ve seen talented people burn out and lose their passion for filmmaking. To us this seems backwards. We would rather lead with care, make everyone feel valued and heard and build productions around healthy work life balance” says Sara. 

“By having a culture of care at our core, it’s a no brainer that the best talent will prioritise working on Filmable projects” adds Geoff. “From a business sense, our projects will only benefit from having a team of passionate people who want to be there.”  

Combined with a resolute focus on the importance of storytelling as a catalyst for systematic change, another core concern for Filmable will be asking who is best-placed to tell certain stories. “The Filmable Slate will be carefully curated with diversity, inclusion, and gender parity as guiding principles”, notes Geoff. “When supporting projects about cultural communities that are not our own, we will adhere to the policy of ‘nothing about us without us’”.

In that regard, Filmable is taking concrete steps to ensure it’s putting its money where its mouth is. “The Filmable Community has an alliance with The Collective Bunch Society, a for-impact (non-profit) collective of above and below the line crews and creatives working in screen-based industries who identify as Indigenous, Black, People of Color and 2SLGBTQIA+”, says Sara. “Simply acknowledging the need for diversity, inclusion, and gender parity is no longer sufficient. Production companies must take action against hollow promises and create opportunities by seeking stories and creators of diverse backgrounds and perspectives”.

On that, both Sara and Geoff enjoy formidable track records. In combination, the pair have helped bring to life a multitude of projects from Women, Indigenous, Black and POC creators. These include Paco (Kent Donguines), Our Grandmother The Inlet (Kayah George & Jaime Gianopoulous), Send The Rain (Hayley Gray), Different Than Before (Mayumi Yoshida), Hair or No Hair (Janessa St. Pierre), Invasions (Sophie Jarvis), Be Still (Elizabeth Lazebnik) and Seagrass (Meredith Hama-Brown).

And so, at a time of change and shifting dynamics within the film and our culture, Filmable is setting out to provide a positive vision for the future. “It’s very common for filmmakers who live in the city to have a very small circle of close collaborators”, notes Geoff. “Our hope is that, through Filmable, those circles can expand and new creative collaborations can spark. And from those collaborations, the West Coast will play its part in influencing community, filmmaking and positive change”. For the sake of those that work within the film industry, and the craft of storytelling, the hope will be that those circles continue expanding long into the future.

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