banyan buddha 1

Wish us luck!

We’ve just applied for a development grant from the US National Endowment for the Humanities. The program is Bridging Cultures Through Film – International Topics, and according to the NEH advisor, Arrival City has a very good shot. In addition to our seed-money commitments and sponsor interest to date, this would tip the balance and get us filming!

No matter what the outcome, the process forced us to shortlist key cities and firm up our creative treatment – which will now include training and equipping community filmmakers. They’ll capture migrant stories in 3 or 4 arrival cities, and will be guided by colleague and fellow Amazing Race veteran Kavita das Gupta, a trustee and producer at India’s acclaimed Earthcare Films. We’ll have more on this effort in the coming weeks, but for a sense of how community or participatory photography and filming can work at its best, check out Earthcare’s work and the Academy Award-winning Born into Brothels.

We’ve also enlisted the help of an international panel of engaged and really interesting advisors whose work looks at the history, geography and politics of migration; at social justice and poverty rights; at how health and crime can be predetermined by place; and at good and bad urban planning, local and global economic patterns and more. We’ll post on who they are and how that will all work shortly. I foresee lots of Skyping.

Finally, had a great meeting with Director/DOP John Holdsworth this week; he’s heading to Japan to shoot and will try out a C300 camera rig that looks like an Arco Lamp (thankfully minus the marble base). We’re very keen to see what that produces when he returns, and to have the BBC be our guinea pigs!

In the meantime, the MacArthur Foundation beckons, and I need to hit the pavement again here in London. Been a bit consumed by the great day-job at Future of London, but we’re about to get reinforcements there, so the double-up resumes!

Thanks for your support and cross those fingers, press those thumbs, send up a prayer flag – whatever works! LT

A note from the trenches

Arrival City book jacket

Like the phenomenon it explores, this documentary has been a long time coming. Author Doug Saunders did the heavy lifting by distilling 10+ years of reportage and adding new stories to create his award-winning book on the final rural-to-urban migration. Arrival City is a highly readable mix of personal stories and solid research, and moments after I opened it, I could see it. Doug had put a human face on this massive shift, and I wanted in.

It took me a bit longer – and some ribbing about reconciling my ‘grown-up’ urbanist career with my addiction to travel and production (producing for The Amazing Race doesn’t cut it with policy wonks, oddly) – to contact Doug and get the ball rolling.

I think we’re in good shape. After just a month of development, SCETV signed on as lead broadcast partner (we love you guys!); its PBS distribution network reaches 99% of US households. We have seed money committed by some generous and forward-thinking companies, and a lot of healthy interest from foundations and corporations.

We’ll be uploading a trailer to Vimeo and YouTube soon, and will have a slightly longer demo on this site for people and organisations who want to find out more. If you’d like to be a part of this eye-opening global project, personally or through your company or foundation, please drop us a line.


Lisa Taylor, Producer/Writer

In London: Lisa Taylor –
In Montreal: Karen Coshof –