In 2015 Inside Pictures broadened its application eligibility to include submissions from producers and executives based outside of the EU. Jill Macnab, General Manager and producer at Vendetta Films, is a participant on the 2015 programme. Based in New Zealand, Jill is the first Inside Pictures participant to join the programme from a non-European territory.
Jill has rich and varied experience across marketing, distribution and acquisitions and is now making waves as a producer with her first feature Born to Dance.
She began her career working in theatre management, then worked in home entertainment in the UK and New Zealand for five years, marketing numerous blockbuster and arthouse releases across rental and retail. From here she moved to distributor Vendetta Films to head up their sales and marketing team, and then helped launch the international acquisitions side of the business. Jill has acquired multiple award-winning films and revenue winners across varied genres, and now oversees the whole business, which encompasses all-rights distribution across Australia and New Zealand.
Born To Dance, Jill’s first feature film, will be premiering at TIFF in September 2015. We asked her to talk about the film and her experience of Inside Pictures.
Can you tell us a bit about Born to Dance?
Born To Dance is a hip hop dance movie in the vein of the very commercially successful Step Up series, but in a New Zealand setting. As a distribution company we were frustrated that local films tended to focus on critical acclaim rather than box office success or a global outlook, so of course the obvious solution was to produce my own films! I knew of the incredible dance talent we had in NZ, including our choreographer who is an eight-time world champion working with the likes of Nicki Minaj, Janet Jackson and Cirque du Soleil, so I recognised the commercial potential to make a ‘Kiwi Step Up’ using this world-class talent. We brought our team together and, five long years later, we’re proud to be premiering at TIFF in the Discovery section and launching the local release.
You worked across theatre, film marketing, acquisitions and distribution before becoming a producer. How has this broad set of experiences informed your approach?
I think primarily it makes me able to quickly gauge the audience and the commercial potential of a project. Distributing and marketing such a wide variety of films through my career so far, I also recognise that anything can work, regardless of the genre or the perceived difficulty of the material.
In terms of the day to day producer role, I come from working in very structured, strategically-minded businesses, so I cannot help but bring that mindset into production. That can be challenging for creatives but I firmly believe that commercial success and critical acclaim do not need to be mutually exclusive, which is often considered the norm.
What do you hope to gain from participating in Inside Pictures? What attracted you to the programme?
Inside Pictures gives me an amazing opportunity to be exposed to speakers and companies which I’d never normally experience, and the network which that creates for my future career will be invaluable. Also, I’m a relatively ‘fresh’ producer, so working with other more experienced producers in the group and hearing from the incredible range of speakers can only help me to improve my knowledge and skills. It’s also brilliant to be able to use the knowledge from both the business side and the production side, and see in reality how these work together.
Who is your mentor and what do you hope to gain from that relationship?
Rebecca O’Flanagan from Treasure Entertainment in Ireland is my mentor. She has great experience and we seem to have quite similar taste, which is a good start. It’s really good to have someone to talk to outside my own company who can give advice in a completely agnostic way, on everything from production queries to career progression. And who knows, maybe there’ll be a co-production in the works in the future!
What is Vendetta currently working on?
On the distribution side we are currently working on Sundance Audience Award winner Umrika, upcoming The Clan which is in TIFF and Venice, and of course Born To Dance, which is set to be our biggest release yet. We’re also very excited about a local doc featuring the strangest sport you’ve never heard of, competitive tickling, which is presented by Stephen Fry. And on the production front we are signed up to EP two excellent new documentaries, and are searching out new material and partners for our next productions.