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netribution > features > interview with david castro > page one
Here at last is our interview with The New Producers Alliance. A name that both Nic and myself had heard throughout our time at university and that had always stood for everything that we believed Netribution should stand for. The NPA is the national membership and training organisation for independent new producers. It provides a forum and focus for over 1,000 members, ranging from film students and first timers to highly experienced feature filmmakers and major production companies and industry affiliates. They rank as the most comprehensive filter of film talent for the UK industry.

Nic and I, heavily laden with post festive flu's and aches, visited their bustling London HQ to an interview and a chat and left, finally, with tremendous hope for al that we hold dear in the business. The NPA has been running for 8 years but last year 3 new and stoic workers enter the office at Bourlet Close. David Castro is the new CEO, Rachel Caplan is the Publications manager responsible for your mini, monthly newsletter/bible and Kevin Dolan is the tireless events manager. These are passionate, light hearted and exceedingly generous people that run this incomparable service well into every evening on a shoestring budget. They are our brethren. Full details on the NPA and membership follow the interview, if you are a filmmaker at any level and pursuing any goals for any reason you'd be a prize chump not to join - it's a bargain in the age of skank.

| by nic wistreich and tom fogg |
| photos by tom fogg|
| in london |
  David, how did you get into film?
Oh blimey! I was working in theatre and opera doing lighting design and as an actor and then moved from that because I wanted to dabble a bit in film. So I did a small amount of work in front of the camera but I found I got on very well with the crew whilst the actors were a real pain in the arse. Because I had doing company management in theatre I thought I'd have a bash on the other side of the camera. I started on location management, then production management with low budget/no budget films and I actually got my first job through the NPA, I got paid on my second job but then started earning decent money from it.

So your first job, through the NPA, you weren't paid for?
There's a surprise!

What was it?
It was a low budget film, a 1 or 2 week shoot and it was a long time ago now - well about 4 years ago. That was my first experience on the other side of the camera.

Have you had any formal training?
I did a theatre studies degree at Royal Holloway which included a tiny amount of film but I was being pushed onto the avant garde weird stuff. I didn't get it, I didn’t understand it because it was all about planes taking off and landing at an airport, I was being told that it was really great stuff - I didn't get it! Anyway, there was a tiny amount of film and I got involved with a couple of student films but nothing serious.

What about you Kevin?
I started off doing fine art at university and after I left I carried on painting and touring with exhibitions for about 10 years. By that time I'd had enough of that sort of way of working and I wanted something more challenging so I effectively took a couple of years off by travelling. When I came back I started getting into computer work but did a couple of short, experimental film courses - which I really like actually!
The 4 courses I did were the Oxford film and video maker courses, still running, it was very good and so I joined the workshop and made films there for 2 or 3 years and eventually moved to London a couple of years ago after editing CD Roms.

I did an art degree in Manchester, worked at the Edinburgh festival for a year in the programming department and then in the industry office. At the same time I did foundation course in film locally, then I did my MA at the BFI. After that I did some work placements at the BFI, worked at the London film festival and came to the NPA.

When did you join the NPA?
I was about to join when I saw the vacancy so I thought why join when I can work there and get the membership for free? (laughter)

Well I've been here for 8 months now and prior to that I was working at the Arts Council but that contract had just come to an end and I was looking for a place to get contacts next. I knew about the NPA ages ago and as I was looking at the website and then job came up through Shooting People so I applied. We can't join now because we are officers of the company.

David please say you joined?!
Yeah I was a member for about 4 or 5 years. I was asked to listen in on board meetings and when the vacancy came up I knew that there was a job to do here so I decided to take it on for a little while and see what happens. It was Independence day.

So in a very short space of time every member of staff has changed, giving an opportunity for a completely fresh start.
I suppose so but I don't think it was designed to happen like that.

Has it always been based here?
It started in a portacabin somewhere. (laughter)
K. Hayley and Miranda had been here for 6 months or so and Phyllida had been here for a about 3 years.

What kind of changes have or are likely to occur with 3 new people on board? Other than the lovely, new Ruby iMacs?
. (laughter) Well that's actually part of it, if the NPA is going to survive and move with the times, having computers that crash every other day and lose vital information is bit silly. Whether we like it or not there are an awful lot of organisations like us around this year than have been around in the previous 3 to 5 years. We are now in a competitive market competing on unfair terms because we are charitable membership organisation, those that aren't get a huge amount of money from the industry to do big and sexy things. I'm not knocking them for that, we are trying to operate a membership base with as many opportunities to learn and grow from wherever they start and can take it as far as they can. People who are first entry, novices who are about to make their first film, all the way up to people making million pound features - we cover that membership remit and it's massive. Logistically, good IT lets us manage the amount of areas we manage, it takes a huge amount of management, time and effort.
One of the other things we are trying to do is position the NPA in the market, not with the film council but with other people. We've always got to be able to prove what we've done for the last 7 years, these people haven't suddenly become producers they've moved all the way up and the alumni is quite incredible. If people want to become serious filmmakers we can help them do it and if they want to just dabble in it then, again we can help. What the industry has to understand is that we can feed them with the best professionals we can come up with. The membership will allow people to learn how to do things -some of it can be boring - copyright law isn't the most exciting thing in the world compared with being behind a camera but it's necessary.

Are you working with these other organisations?
We have very little money so the more collaborations we can form, the less we are taxing our resources and we can go further. I don't want to tand on people's toes and vice versa because we do something very well and so do they so it seems daft not to increase that resource base. There has been perceived animosity between certain groups for no reason in the past and we need to break all those down and just talk to people. The more collaborative the industry can be the more it can say that it is producing people and that it knows how to.

How do you think you are perceived by the industry establishment?
Well people like Film4 and BAFTA support us. Here's an example, we went to a dinner and the first thing someone said when they heard we were the NPA was, "Oh, best blaggers in town." That quote came out in an article about 4 years ago. To me there's nothing wrong with being guerrilla to a point but if you are a DJ in your garage and get signed to a label, you've got to know about your legals or you are going to lose it all. I don't like the idea of being known as blaggers because have an important place in this industry, after 7 years of this there has to be some respect given, especially since others haven't been doing it.

How do you maintain an ethos for the NPA when those that organise and run it are constantly changing?
I don't think the ethos has changed but the way that works has changed, certainly the way we are doing it. I think that all the things that can make people be the best filmmakers they want to be are out there, they need to get off their bums and do it. It's no good them sitting at home on their computers wondering why no one is giving them any money when they are not out there meeting those people. Some don't know what money is available and expect a list from us but that's hopeless unless you know what package to put together to stimulate people. It's very frustrating.

How do you deal with members at the very bottom of the ladder?
K. Our basic training is very important.
D. Yes, the fact that we do a very well structured foundation course over a 9 or 10 month period, the seminars and the Q&A's help and even the screenings to be honest. Those who are a little embarrassed about not knowing anything will learn stuff just by listening to the answers given by the producer of the film. Our networking events are now regular, monthly events and now incorporates the Screenwriters Workshop and the Directors Guild. It’s a forum for people to ask questions of like minded, like experienced people - an novice will end up talking to someone who's just made their first million pound feature but who will remember what it was like when they had nothing but their mum's video camera. Deals are starting to be done at these meetings which is excellent - we should take a commission though! (laughter)

Kevin (left). Yeah, I think it's important that those members that have been with us for 4 or 5 years feed those contacts back into it. Those people become patrons, we have a board of patrons. It's a good mix of those that know nothing and those that know a lot, within a year and a half the former know enough to offer something to the new wave.

D. The industry needs product. One of things we are trying to get known is that we are a filter for the industry so that people writing, directing or producing scripts know what a good script is before it gets anywhere near the right place to be seen. There are courses that we run to teach you that so it's there if people want it. People that sit at home, write and script then come to us later saying, 'I got turned down by 20 people.' So what, so was The Full Monty, so was Lock Stock, it takes between 5 and 7 years to get a film made. People come in with a rosy notion of writing something, slapping it on a table and getting a large cheque then the subtitle: A FEW MONTHS LATER, they are walking down a red carpet in Cannes. It's about trying not to disillusion them and feeding them fragments of reality bit by bit so that they understand the workings of the business because this is a business. It’s a bit sexier than most but it is a business about making something.
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