Published on Tuesday 2 August 2016

Simshar director Rebecca Cremona shares some tips on how to go international

Photo by Darrin Zammit Lupi

Last week I attended and participated in the ACM lab session, organised by Arts Council Malta at BLITZ Art Gallery in Valletta, which was about aiding artists when addressing the media. It was very interesting to hear, amongst many other things, from Ramona Depares on the timelines to take into consideration for various types of print publications; from Antonia Micallef on the realities of getting footage for TV coverage; and from Giuliana Barbaro-Sant on the ins and outs of different social media platforms. Although undeniably useful, listening to these speakers confirmed the qualms I had when thinking about my own intervention. I was the fourth speaker, presenting the media interaction of Simshar with local and international press as a case study. 

Whilst thinking through the trajectory we had when dealing with the press throughout the years, I was reminded of the ‘entrepreneurial’ aspect of the Simshar experience. An aspect which more often than not I felt competed with the ‘purer’ artistic nature of the project. However, if we were to be honest, a lot of what artists need to do today does tap into this ‘entrepreneurial’ aspect; be it researching and applying for grants, seeking private financing, pitching to the press, and countless other things necessary to get a project up and running - and as importantly - out there to the public.

This is certainly not only a local phenomenon. In my opinion, it would seem that the democratisation of the arts which came about with the digital era, also means that one needs to devote more attention to getting artistic expressions out there in an attractive way, and avoid drowning in the mass of work which is in circulation. Attention which one might feel takes away from attentions due elsewhere, attention which might make one wonder whether it entails ‘selling out’…

When I was formulating my contribution for the ACM lab, I boiled it down to the fact that I strongly believe that unless the message - or more effectively, the story - put forward through the press about your work is genuine, it can never really strike a chord. Yet, if your message doesn’t appeal to the journalist or the public, it has very little chance of coming across. So how can these two truths be reconciled? 

In our case, we decided to tackle it through research. We looked into the contexts we were presenting the film in - the different markets, festivals, countries; we studied the different platforms available to us; and we were aware of who we were speaking to - whether they were individual journalists or a certain demographic of the public. Once we had this information at hand, we deciphered where the points we were passionate about intersected with what the country, journalist and/or public seemed to be interested in. And it was that meeting point which we took as the entry point to convey what we felt was important... 

As the Simshar journey comes to an end of sorts with the DVD release this week, it is inevitable to reminisce over what was achieved, what was learnt, what could have been done differently and everything in between. And at the risk of sounding boring, I think that the age old adage that ‘balance’ is always a good thing is more relevant than we would like to think. Not a particularly easy thing, when arguably some of the best work comes out of imbalance of various types!