Latest from Anna Higgs

(20 articles)

Frank: a Twitter prequel

03 Apr, 2014 Productions Posted in: Behind The Scenes, Online

Commissioning Executive Anna Higgs on creating a prequel to Lenny Abrahamson’s Frank via the most natural storytelling medium possible for the character involved: Twitter

The @JonBurroughs83 Twitter handle is a digital prequel to Frank. It’s the main account in a really exciting storytelling project that we’ve developed over the last year. We’ve taken Jon, who is the lead character in Frank, and expanded his life out beyond the film and started his journey before the events of the film itself. We didn’t want to create a new platform or an app, but instead wanted to really think about the natural digital spaces that Jon – as a young man in the UK who wants to connect with people and start making his own music – would live. Taking our lead from the film, he would obviously be engaged with Twitter and YouTube, but also with popular platforms like Spotify, This Is My Jam and Instagram, where people can visually chart their lives. We started to build up a set of platforms where his work and his life could live, and over the last six months we’ve been slowly building that universe.

"My boss put this poster up" - Jon tweets about work

“My boss put this poster up” – Jon tweets about work

So Jon has been tweeting about his mundane life in a place he nicknames Humdrum-on-Sea, from the amazingly boring office that he works in and how he tries to liven up his white bread lunch sandwiches by making album covers out of skittles, all the way through to his first amazing light-bulb moment when he spent a weekend in Camden and heard the Belle and Sebastian song ‘Judy and the Dream of Horses’, which switched something on for him and made him feel like he could have a go at being a musician himself and start to explore that world. Yesterday he dropped his first track on the internet and people are responding at the moment, so it’s really interesting to see him start to feel that there are people out there that can listen, but maybe some of those people aren’t listening and he’s starting to get a bit desperate.

New Order's Blue Monday in Skittle form

New Order’s Blue Monday in Skittle form

His activity online is really agile, but it’s built on a really crafted story arc with a precise journey that will mesh with the film, and I hope this new approach to storytelling will have two outcomes. One is that if you connect with him before the film that you can come to the film with a richer sense of who the character is and where he’s come from, so you can perhaps dive into Lenny’s film in a deeper way from the outset. Alternatively, if you don’t engage in advance but see his handle appear during the film, you can come out of the cinema and then really fall down the rabbit hole and go into six or more months of Jon’s back-story of tweets, pictures, song choices and feel what he’s been facing with people misunderstanding him.

Ever since I joined Film4 when Frank was in development, it felt like a film that really stood out. The extraordinary storytellers behind it – Jon Ronson, Peter Straughan and Lenny Abrahamson – had done an amazing amount of work in terms of the research behind the characters and their world. Added to that as a real slam-dunk no-brainer was the fact that the character of Jon, the lead in the film, uses Twitter and YouTube and blogging within the film as part of his communication with the world while he’s making an album with Frank (Michael Fassbender) and the Soronprfbs (Frank’s unpronounceable band), so it just felt like a perfect fit: Jon is a native to Twitter.  He had to have a life there in our real world.

Jon with Frank and the band

Jon with Frank and the band

For me, the key was making sure that the filmmakers felt really empowered by exploring this sort of digital storytelling, that they felt like that they could lead a process where we expanded out the world of the film, because bringing a character out of crafted, honed film full of subtext and nuance is a really delicate thing to do. We had to ensure that the digital creative worked with the character and with the story, and that was possible with the amazing research that Jon and Lenny and Peter had done. Creative strategist Hugh Garry (@huey) felt like the obvious candidate to me, not only because he’s a really well-established and incredibly expert digital storyteller, but also because he’s got a really brilliant combination of music and film experience. He worked at Radio1 and 6Music on their digital side for a very long time and had been doing a lot of filmed content with the likes of Shut Up And Play the Hits, so he had the perfect combination of experience.

I can’t wait to see Jon’s world on social networks grow and hope the audience out there really enjoy his journey!

Frank is in UK cinemas from 9th May. Follow Jon on Twitter at @JonBurroughs83 or on Instagram here.


Five Sundance Highlights

25 Jan, 2014 Posted in: Festivals, Opinion, Sundance

Film4 Commissioning Executive Anna Higgs shares five highlights from her typically hectic but exhilarating trip to Salt Lake City.

Overall, Sundance has been an absolutely fantastic festival, with Film4 having four films here – premieres of 20,000 Days On Earth, Frank and A Most Wanted Man, and a special screening for The Double, which premiered at Toronto. It’s been a real embarrassment of riches, and has made for a very hectic festival, with lots of running around making sure that the filmmakers are all being looked after and supported. But I’m lucky to have enjoyed some incredible highlights here in Park City, which I will treasure for a long time to come…



1. Frank mask bonanza
One of my absolute top highlights definitely has to be seeing the entire audience of Sundance’s biggest theater donning masks of Frank’s face at the premiere of Frank. This was so that director Lenny Abrahamson could take a picture for Michael Fassbender and Domhnall Gleeson because they were both sadly away shooting and couldn’t come. It was quite a surreal moment, and it created a real buzz and a real energy for the audience in the screening, it was fantastic.

20,000 Days On Earth

20,000 Days On Earth

2. Nick plays piano
The 20,000 Days On Earth premiere was wonderful. We held it at The Egyptian theatre, this lovely old Art Deco cinema, which this year has this amazing projection mapping artwork on the front of it. Being with directors Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard and of course Nick Cave when they were doing pre-premiere interviews in the press line and seeing the excitement starting to build was great, and then seeing the film receive not one but two standing ovations was just the best thing that we could have hoped for. It’s been great to see the early press reactions start to come in. And as if the night couldn’t have got any better, Nick did a little impromptu show at the afterparty! He played three songs just on the piano, and asked one terrified looking guy from the audience to turn his pages for the last song. It was incredible.



3. The filmmakers
The events that the festival themselves put on are great, and the international filmmakers lunch was a really fantastic one. All the programmers were there – John Cooper, John Nein, Trevor Groth, Kim Yutani and the whole Sundance team. I chatted to lots of filmmakers including Norwegian writer-director Eskil Vogt who made a brilliant film called Blind, and I think he has a huge future ahead of him as a director. He was so excited for people to see the film.

Blue Ruin

Blue Ruin

4. The films
Of those I managed to see, the film I liked most was Blue Ruin, which I thought had a really unique style and was really, really unexpected. It’s really inspiring to see the range of films at Sundance, the range of subjects and to see the strands of the competitions, documentary, narrative, animation and shorts all come together in one space. It really showcases how special Sundance is. I’m gutted I’m going a day before seeing Gareth Huw Evans’ The Raid 2. That’s the problem with festivals, you can’t get to everything that you want to get to – but it’s a luxury problem!

5. The panels
A really brilliant highlight for me was the Storyworld Panel at New Frontiers. New Frontiers is curated by Shari Frilot and it is where all of the cutting edge digital and interactive storytelling and artwork takes place. This year they’ve taken it downtown, which is really fantastic, so it’s right in the heart of the festival. I really enjoyed a panel with an amazing range of people including Jonathan Harris, Chris Milk, Aaron Koblin, Nick Fortugno, Susan Bonds and one of the guys from Oculus VR which is this new, wearable virtual reality technology which is being showcased in the festival and has some really interesting implications for immersive story-telling. It was a fascinating panel that really tried to tackle some of the key questions about interactivity, and hit home something in which I passionately believe, namely that the story has to be the star. It can’t be technology or platform first, it has to be about the story and what the best way of telling that story is.

Film4 Forum 2013

Commissioning Executive Anna Higgs shares docs, data and a new direction for Film4 innovation label Film4.0, at an industry forum held at Channel 4 on Tuesday 19th November 2013


Hello! Those of you following @Film4Insider on Twitter on Tuesday may have noticed us getting rather excited about an event we held at Channel 4 headquarters - a Film4 Forum dedicated to exploring innovation, sharing learning and showcasing projects. Our partners from organisations like Picturehouses, Rook Films and the BFI participated in panels, guest speakers like Marc Schiller and Hugh Garry gave keynote speeches, and we heard from a range of special guests, industry spokespeople and of course the team at Film4.

In the spirit of openness, transparency and innovation, we wanted to share a few things from the day with a wider audience – which is why I’m writing this blog! You can now watch videos from the day here, and at the bottom of the page, you can find download links to two PDFs. One is to the keynote speech given by Marc Schiller, CEO of Bond Strategy and Influence, who talked brilliantly about engaging audiences using live data. The other is a round up of all Film4.0′s projects so far, since the hub was created two years ago. We’re incredibly proud of all our projects, from Dreams Of Your Life to A Field In England, and you can find out more about all of them in the PDF.


This leads me neatly on – almost as if I’d planned it – to one of our major stories of the day. We were thrilled to launch Film4.0 two years ago, to plant a flag in the fertile turf of UK digital filmmaking innovation. What we’ve found over the two years is that digital works best when completely integrated, so Film4.0 as a label is being retired and Film4 as a whole will be embracing innovation. We’ll commission the same groundbreaking work, but without the budget restriction, and the projects will all be totally plugged into the heart of what Film4 does. It is a hugely exciting announcement for the whole team!

Finally, while it is of course impossible to completely replicate the live forum experience, we’ve done our best on Storify – for pictures, videos and tweets from the event, please click this link. We’re also pleased to be able to share this link from the BFI where you can find BFI case studies of  films we talked about at the forum, including this one on A Field In England’s release, which shares hard data on who watched the film when and how.

Thanks again to those who came to the event and made it so special. We really hope these links and documents will be useful to anyone with a passion for commissioning, developing, funding, distributing and exhibiting film in the UK industry. I’ll leave you with one slide from my talk – an inspirational quote that really sums up what the Film4 Forum and digital innovation at Film4 are all about:



Click to download Marc Schiller’s keynote speech as a PDF

Click to download the Film4.0 Story So Far as a PDF

Click to read the BFI’s Insight report on the release of A Field In England







Who is Dr. Easy?

17 Jan, 2013 Productions Posted in: Behind The Scenes, Film4.0, News

Who is Dr. Easy? It’s the question on everybody’s lips here at Film4, and something I’m very excited about as the Executive Producer of the project. Visual arts collective Shynola have provided us with an answer, by way of introducing you to their new production blog charting the progression of this new Film4.0 and Warp commission:

Dr Easy

“It is not a ‘who’ at all. What is Dr. Easy? Our first foray into film, without music or the safety net of a pop star and their legions of fans.

It’s also a teaser for a feature film we’re developing with Warp Films and Film4.0, called ‘The RedMen’. An unorthodox UK based science-fiction. There are no laser guns or aliens, rather a horribly plausible invasion of technology into personal identity. And robots.

We’re keeping a Dr. Easy production diary here. We’ll be posting any novel items we find that may amuse you.

Please add us to your blogroll and join us when you can.”

- Chris, Jason & Kenny (Shynola)

Exciting news or what? We’ll be posting select updates from Shynola on key Dr. Easy milestones here on the Film4 blog, but hardcore fans should keep checking the Dr. Easy production blog to make sure you don’t miss a moment of their creative process.




Film4.0 announce new films

07 Dec, 2012 Posted in: Film4 staff, Film4.0, Greenlight

Anna Higgs announces two new Film4.0 projects working with emerging filmmaking talent, plus a Digital Partner Project to Ben Wheatley’s A Field in England

A Field In England poster

A Field In England teaser poster by The Twins of Evil aka Luke Insect and Kenn Goodall

We’re completely thrilled today here at Film4.0 today to be announcing not one but two new projects from exciting emerging filmmaking talents, plus a unique digital partner project to our first feature film, Ben Wheatley’s A Field in England, which you’ll hopefully have seen announced by me on the Film4 blog in November (click here if you didn’t!)

We’re very proud to be working with Shynola – renowned for their extraordinary commercials, music videos and title sequences – on Dr. Easy, a London-set short film based on Matthew De Abaitua’s novel The Red Men. It stars Tom Hollander, is shot by DOP Barry Ackroyd and produced by Warp Films. Michael is a broken man with a gun, surrounded by armed police. A robot with a medical degree is dispatched – but can it save him?

Next up, Jonathan Entwistle has written and will direct End of the F*cking World, a dark teen comedy based on the comic book by cartoonist Charles S. Forsman, following the journey of James and Alyssa, two teenagers on the brink of adulthood who are forced to go on the run from their boring town. Produced by Dominic Buchanan and set to shoot early 2013, my ambition is for it to be the first in a series of beautifully crafted cinematic shorts that will be released in instalments to audiences online.

And last but far from least, I’m thrilled to announce A Film in England, the interactive digital accompaniment to Ben Wheatley’s A Field in England. Ben and Rook Films are working with Film4.0 on an integrated digital masterclass charting the development, shoot and post of the film – and we hope the project will engage audiences in the wider world of A Field in England, with content including an in-depth look at a specific scene to allow film fans, audiences and emerging filmmakers alike to understand Wheatley’s unique filmmaking approaches.

Another part of what we’ll be doing with Ben’s film is a series of really beautifully crafted bespoke items – starting with the gorgeous teaser poster you can see above, exclusive to the Film4 blog of course! The poster was designed by the brilliant Luke Insect Studio and features Michael Smiley in a very evocative image. A limited edition run of 75 hand-crafted posters will go on sale soon, signed by the designers and Ben himself. We’ll post info on how you’ll be able to get your mitts on one here next week…

Between them, these projects showcase exactly what Film4.0 is about – innovative storytelling, experimenting with ways of reaching and engaging with audiences, bridging the gap between other creative industries and film – and at its heart brilliant, distinctive talent. Ben, Shynola and Jonathan are all at the cutting edge of their creative disciplines, and share our passion at Film4 for doing things differently – I’m so excited to be working with them.


by Anna Higgs

Anna joined Film4 at the end of 2011 in the newly created role of Head of Film4.0 - the digital innovation banner for Film4. Anna started her career working on Bafta award-winning digital entertainment media and in consulting on digital strategy and audience engagement for global brands. She brings to Film4 an extensive track record of multi-award-winning independent film and television production at Quark Films with titles including The People Vs. George Lucas.

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