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MA Graduates put community first with the Farrago Collective

By Elise Czyzowska

24 March 2023

When it comes to film school, one of the greatest opportunities on offer to students is the chance to find ‘their people’ – and no one knows this better than the team behind the Farrago Collective. Founded and created by ten graduates from the same MA Documentary & Factual cohort at our Berlin campus, the Farrago Collective is an international arts collective ‘focused on support systems and sharing resources for documentary filmmakers’.

With four projects already under their belt, and a steadily-growing ‘Work in Progress’ list (which you can explore on their website), we spoke to Clémentine Briand, a member of the Farrago team, and MA Documentary & Factual Graduate, about how the Collective came together, future ambitions, and of course, advice for finding ‘your people’ in the industry…

Tell us a little about the Farrago Collective, and how it came about!

Documentary isn’t the easiest art form to navigate on your own, and since it’s often given less funding than narrative, it can be a highly competitive space. We were all looking at what was ‘next’ for us after our MAs, and we got to wondering: why do it alone? Couldn’t we ‘pull an Avengers‘, and combine our powers to take on the industry together?

Between us, we’re directors, producers, editors, camera operators… Our members come from nine different countries, speak various languages, and have worked in the film industries of several nations. On the surface, this might seem like a disjointed mishmash of people, but that’s what makes this group so special. Hence, Farrago is both a medley and a coalition of skills – and, most of all, we love working with each other!

Behind-the-scenes with the Farrago Collective

Your previous projects are wide-ranging – how do you choose your topics?

Like all art, we take from our lives or interests as creatives. But while each project comes about differently, what we all learnt from our time on the MA Documentary & Factual programme is the key things to consider before moving forward: do you have access to the topic? What specifically interests you? What are the universal themes that an audience can connect to?

While it’s not impossible to dive into a story without a personal connection, it is important to have a genuine interest in what you’re investigating. So, we ask our colleagues to describe what specifically sparked their curiosity. And we ask them what larger themes the subject connects to. With these collaborative discussions, each story starts to take shape.

Because our group is diverse, our interests and experiences span many topics, themes, and genres. That is another fantastic part of working in a collective – you’re exposed to ideas you would have never thought of on your own. It’s truly exciting!

Can you share your top tips for starting a new factual project?

Always start with research and collaboration. Collaboration is a word we use a lot, but it makes a significant difference, especially for documentaries. We’ve found it invaluable to have a supportive group to bounce ideas off of – it not only helps us to hone our ideas, but may even inspire a whole new approach.

Once you have your initial idea, you need to do your research. Don’t think that you can just jump in without knowing how you want to approach things – that’s how you find yourself in trouble during post. At the very least, find someone to work through your ideas, especially if you’re exploring something outside your own experience.

Say you’re interested in a story about social justice, but you don’t have experience in this arena. Seek out someone with a connection to the topic who can, at a minimum, be an advisor on the project. Simply put: preproduction and knowledgeable people are your friends.

Behind-the-scenes with the Farrago Collective

More generally, what’s it been like starting your own collective?

We’re just at the beginning, but we’ve been delighted by the momentum of the work. During our first ‘official’ meeting in November 2022, we set two goals for the year: to create our brand, and to complete a project development package for funding. Within the next four months, we had created an organisational structure, appointed admin roles, created a brand design, launched our website and socials, and hired a designer – Analí Jaramillo created our brand look.

All of this is thanks to the hard work and talent of each and every member. As said, we discovered during our MA programme that we worked extremely well together – we couldn’t tell you exactly why, but it’s a special combination of support, respect, admiration, trust, and honesty.

What are you most looking forward to as the Farrago Collective continues to grow?

We’re ambitious – but as young collaborators, we’re also realistic. So we’ll keep our feet on the ground, and keep working on honing our craft to produce great projects.

After the pandemic, people have started to re-examine the structural systems of society – we think it’s worth doing the same in our industry. Our hope is to be able to grow into a full-service production company for documentary film, but in a model that feels more equitable, collaborative, and always puts the creative first.

Hedda Stolen, MA Graduate & member of the Farrago Collective

The Farrago team met while studying at MetFilm School – why do you think it’s so important that creatives find their community as they enter the industry?

Programmes like the one at MetFilm School give individuals space to explore and experiment. It’s extremely important to have communities with this goal, especially in the creative space. Without the space to try, test, fail, and ultimately succeed, we wouldn’t find our voice as creators.

The industry is based on a hierarchical structure, so there is endless competition and endless obstacles to face. We believe there’s an alternative way to approach it. Instead of playing by the old rules, we’ve decided that we’re stronger together – in our little way, we’re putting some of the power back in the creators’ hands.

Did you find that studying in Berlin contributed to this sense of community, being such a creative city?

Berlin is a unique place for sure. There’s so much creativity, and you can find a large variety of interests, all in one place. There’s just an endless pool of stories here.

This is a place where you can find ‘your kind of people’ – you just have to look. Was it because we were in Berlin that our group found a sense of community… Maybe? We were all pulled here for one reason or another. But we all came here for a specific reason – to deepen our understanding of documentary filmmaking. Thanks to both Berlin’s uniqueness, and these other factors, we were lucky enough to find ‘our people’ there.

Behind-the-scenes with the Farrago Collective

Finally, can you share any advice to current or future film students on finding ‘their people’?

Be open, listen, and don’t take it too seriously! The biggest danger is getting caught up in our own ideas and projects – of course, you wouldn’t be in film school if you weren’t inspired to create, but tunnel vision on your own accomplishments closes you off to important creative growth. Nothing is done in isolation, and though it sounds cliché, documentary is definitely a team sport.

Another simple tip is to HANG OUT! Get to know each other outside of class, and learn about each other’s interests outside of film. Create a WhatsApp group, invite each other out… if you’re interested in an event or screening, invite people! Even if you don’t end up creating a collective, these connections might prove essential down the line.