Leanne Rogers, Class of 2014 | Debut Doco Violet Vixen (2018)

LeanneRogers-2014Grad-LinkedInimageI’m a Project Manager/Videographer at Mediorite, which is a social enterprise and film production company that gets young people into film. Mediorite is split into two divisions: Mediorite, which is run by a bank of award-winning filmmakers, assisted by a young person and MedioritePlus, which specialises in quick, low cost, online content and is run by young creatives. I’m currently the head of MedioritePlus and have more recently been working on larger scale projects as a lead filmmaker on Mediorite jobs, working on more complex briefs.

I was recently inspired to make my first documentary, Violet Vixen (2018). The film looks at the fabulous life of 11 year old Leo who expresses with remarkable articulacy and boldness his distinctive identity. He aspires to be a make-up artist and performer as well as an inspiration to other young boys like him. Since its release on Youtube and Facebook the film has been viewed over one million times.

The idea initially came about when I was pitching ideas to a client. Having researched some films that they had previously worked on, mostly ‘shock docs’ and such, I was worried how sensitive they would have been towards the story I wanted to tell, so I decided to do it myself. I knew Leo and his mum quite well from my hometown, Corby, so I got in contact and took my camera along the next time I went home.  Originally, I thought it would be a 5 minute film. However, Lauren told me Leo was performing with his dance troupe and wondered if it would be worth my time filming it. The full narrative and film were starting to take form, completely naturally.

Another documentary-maker I’d met previously had heard about the project and got in touch. She connected me to the ‘Real Stories‘ documentary channel operated by Little Dot Studios. I thought: ‘Why not?’ and sent the email with my 25 minute doc and my badly written synopsis. I got an email, followed by a phone call asking to meet up. I was so excited! Their commissioner was upfront and honest, saying something along the lines of: ‘It’s good, but it’s not finished…we need something extra. If money wasn’t an issue, what would you do?’

I sat and thought about what I wanted to do for Leo, as it was his story. He’d previously mentioned Courtney Act from ‘Ru Paul’s Drag Race’ as one of his idols, so I suggested arranging a meet-up between the two and, lo and behold, they agreed and funded the trip to Brighton. Tickets, hotels, trains, budget for a camera op and additional editing.

My advice for anyone doing a documentary for the first time is consider pitching for a commission. Having that extra help behind me throughout has been so insightful, there were things I just wouldn’t have considered having to deal with, like legal paperwork etc. Also, when your working on a documentary you see it through your own eyes and it’s hard to let go of scenes. I had a whole shoot that I absolutely had to cut and it was upsetting to me, but with a little help and some extra eyes, I could see how it actually improved the narrative once it was gone.

Further, if you do manage to get a commission: hire professionals. I hired an editor that had worked on ‘Drag Queens of London’ because I knew he would get my project and style. It’s also great to see what kind of moments he picked out that were different to my vision. If you do go down the commission route though, my biggest advice is always calculate how much your actually being paid. My biggest regret was that I undercut myself and ended up working on a rate of around 10p an hour – but that’s passion projects for you. ‘Live and learn’, I guess.

Overall, it’s been an amazing experience. If you have time to watch my doc I’d really love to know what you think and I’m happy to answer any more questions for fellow Uni of Lincoln folk and others.