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THE GUARDIAN: A winning combination of High Fidelity and American Splendor

March 24th, 2011  |  Published in Reviews

Original article in The Guardian

Vinyl countdown: how crowdfunding helped tell the story of the last record shop in Teesside

Jeanie Finlay, a young documentarian who got the public to pay for her to make a film about life at the last record shop in Teesside, talks crowdfunding, Status Quo and David Cameron
by Catherine Shoard

    Sound It Out You’d think the press room at the Austin convention centre would be something of a mecca for film-makers keen to flog their wares. Yet only a handful have seen fit to stick up a poster on the grey canvas walls which the people who could offer them publicity stare at for inspiration.

    One of them is Jeanie Finlay, whose ingenuity in promoting her documentary about the last record shop in Teesside, an area in the north-east of England, is a natural extension of its organic conception and crowdfunded journey to the big screen. There are tie-in gigs and panel events and parties. There’s endless flyers and customised earrings by Tatty Devine. Battery-powered record players came along in her luggage, so the soundtrack could be heard the way musos intended. Even the website looks charmingly homemade.

    “We tried to translate that whole vibe into every aspect of the movie,” explains Finlay, who persuaded 257 people to part with cash via IndieGoGo in aid of the project. They did so in three waves of fundraising: first for the shoot, then the post-production and another to get to SXSW. In return, backers get a pre-release DVD, an associate producer credit on IMDB and a whole heap of stickers. It’s crowdfunding on co-operative lines, but Finlay is also canny about the marketing possibilities of such a strategy. “In the process of getting the money to make it, you’re also selling the film and connecting with your audience.”

    That audience is likely to be sizeable. The film has been chosen as the official movie of Record Store Day, and plays out like a winning combination of High Fidelity and American Splendor. But the music itself, thinks Finlay, is a bit of a red herring. “It’s about men and collecting. Whether someone’s telling you about their wallpaper or their record collection what they end up telling you about is their most intimate secrets. You ask someone: ‘Why is Caroline by Status Quo the anthem to your life?’ and you get good answers. We have a guy in the film who works days at B&Q and spends his savings following Quo on tour. And that’s fine. They’ve made his life better.”

    Finlay’s next project is more conventionally backed: a BBC documentary called The Great Hip Hop Hoax. But the subject, feel and ingenuity of Sound it Out put it in the frame to be one of SXSW’s surprise hits. “I don’t want to say it’s been a fairytale: it’s a hell of a lot of work, without the cushion of cash, or a crew. But it is really exciting and liberating.”

    That said, she’s hesitant about the idea of being a poster girl for David Cameron’s big society. “That fills me with disgust. But I do think that thinking creatively about film-making independently is probably the only way it’s going to go.”

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Glimmer Films in association with Sideshow present a film by Jeanie Finlay; SOUND IT OUT.

Over the last five years an independent record shop has closed in the UK every three days.

SOUND IT OUT is a documentary portrait of the very last surviving vinyl record shop in Teesside, North East England.

A cultural haven in one of the most deprived areas in the UK, SOUND IT OUT documents a place that is thriving against the odds and the local community that keeps it alive. Directed by Jeanie Finlay who grew up three miles from the shop.

A distinctive, funny and intimate film about men, the North and the irreplaceable role music plays in our lives.

High Fidelity with a Northern Accent.