Author: maketh389

Sundance Film Festival London 2021 – Preview

London – 27 July 2021

This morning saw the opening preview presentation for this years Sundance Film Festival London 2021. Although the festival normally runs from Thursday to Sunday night, today was a chance to get to know the selection of films, shorts programs and masterclasses that will engage and delight lovers of independent cinma and maybe make us feel a little more cofatable about going to the cinema.

This year is an in person event (hence the move from it usual May slot) and three of the feature films and the opening night film will be ‘touring’ the UK at select cinemas across the country throught the festival.

After an opening speach from Adrian Wootton OBE, Chief Executive of Film London and Head of the British Film Commission reminding us not to lose faith and that the UK film sector is as strong as ever espcially in the areas of production, we were given a run down of the festival and the films from festival producer Mia Bays who also currently runs the amazing “Birds Eye View” and Clare Binns, Joint Managing Director of Picturehouse Cinemas.

With an exciting selection of films this year it is hard to make recomendations but I know that the opening night film ‘The Sparks Brothers’ by Edgar Wright, closing night film ‘@Zola’ and documentry ‘Writing With Fire’ are high up there on the list. Other stand outs included ‘Censor’, ‘The Nest’ and the HBO purchased doc ‘In The Same Breath’ which will not be shown in cinemas after the festival so this weekend is a great chance to catch this groundbreaking exspose on the large screen.

I will blog over the next few days with news and views so do stay posted for more from the festival.

Post Crisis Ideas: Staggered Cinema Seating

At some point around the next 3 to 4 months (possibly?) the government may be in a position to relax the rules regarding lockdown, social distancing and self isolation. How do we deal with entertaining ourselves and gathering at this stage?

Whilst I could not think of any solution for concerts, clubs and bars an idea came to mind for how we could reopen cinemas whilst avoiding the risk of a second wave of the virus taking hold through such an activity.

By booking a row of seats and then leaving a row empty in front and behind the row of seats booked should allow for most venues to have an average of 2 meters between people. Then for each booked row, seats need to be allocated leaving a gap of two seats to the left and right between customers. Provisions could be made for families from the same household to be seated together so any ticket booking system would have to allow for a group of seats to be booked close together with gaps either side.

The lobby area and how cinema patrons are seated again would need modification to allow to manage a two-metre distance between customers when queuing for concessions and to gain entry to the screen. Extra staff management in seating patrons would also be needed to make sure that the cinema is seated either from the front to back or from the back to the front of the auditorium depending on the venues entrance and exit arrangement are. 

All of this still creates issues such as customers needing to leave the movie they are watching for rest breaks or if they just plain want to leave, putting to rest the two metre rule as they brush past other cinema goers to exit the movie. We can only assume what the social distancing rules will be later this year but at this stage and there are no firm guidelines from the government if a relaxing of the rules will be staggered or not.

Either way, it could be something we have to plan for in what will be our ever-changed world.

Viewtorch Pictures co-produced short film ‘A Midwinter Nights Dream’ breaks cover for a private screening at BAFTA

The short fantasy epic ‘A Midwinter Nights Dream’, directed by Martin Gooch was given a private screening at BAFTA Saturday 25th May 2019 as part of the ‘Hole In The Road screening initiative to a packed house.

Executively produced in part by Viewtorch Pictures and co-produced with Gothic Manor and Eddy Out Productions, the film was made as part of the Directors UK and Arri UK Trinity challenge where select directors were charged to direct a short ‘one shot’, one take movie using the Arri  Trinity stabilization system.

Ambitious looking and breathtaking the film captures the true essence of how Viewtorch Pictures will engage audiences as well as highlighting the deeply creative mind of Martin Gooch, directing his fearlessly imaginative short film to open this small window into the magical world beyond the shadows.

Considering the fact that the whole film takes place in one shot or one take it goes to show that it is possible to bring a hugely different world to the screen outside of the normal confines of ‘one take’ filmmaking.

A Midwinter Nights Dream has been submitted for a number of festivals of the coming year and we will bring news of where it can be seen as soon as possible.

Avengers: Endgame and the world of marketing 2.0

On the eve of what could be the biggest grossing superhero movie…ever (whatever that means in real money) it has been interesting watching the global marketing juggernaut that is the press tour for Avengers: Endgame. What has also been interesting is the slight change in marketing tactic used by the Marvel/Disney team to promote the movie

Here in the U.K. there were fewer tv ads, far less side of bus adverts and a greater use of digital signage closer to the release date than normal.

Is this a sign that the marketing powers that be have got the message on traditional advertising? Is the anticipation for the movie so great that there was no need for such spreads. My guess it is a combination of the two. Anticipation and new digital marketing.

Seeing the directors, cast and Marvel/Disney raise their activity on the major social media platforms to promote the movie (The Russo Brothers twitter count down to watch the other Marvel MCU movies in order is a prime example), engaging more with influencers and changing from global ‘premieres’ to fan events and meet ups really shows that for this film at least, the marketers have gauged the temperature of the audience.

Then again, it could just be the fact that they did not need to spend for this movie. It would be interesting to see if this model could work for independent movie as well.

Broadcast Indie Survey 2019 reveal and lessons for the solo media entrepreneur

The 19thof March 2019 marked the preview release of this year’s Broadcast magazines Indie Survey at the Southbank Centre and it opened up an can of worms for the upcoming “Streaming Wars” as I have named it but also shed light on the fact that the broadcast industry in content production and sales is still moving upwards.

So, the money generated by the indie television sector has grown by 12% to £2.8bn overall but with this rise shows a trend towards the bigger indie production companies getting bigger mainly due to the global deals that they make.

Talking of big companies, All 3 Media and for the first time ahead of Endemol/Shine, but only by a pinch and with the renewed focus of UK regional and national companies due to Channel 4 move away from London, the top 30 regional indie production companies account for £317 million in revenues. Another interesting fact is that a lot of the production companies who took part in the survey feel that competition in getting commission has risen and not just from the traditional playing in the market but also from far smaller and less established companies as well.

Diversity also played a part in the survey revealing that although the on-screen representation of people from under-represented groups was up on last year, off-screen talent actually fell from the numbers reported in the previous 12 months. This worrying trend is most notable not only in the areas of people of colour but also in the areas of age and class pointing to a possible “close network of friends” and “it is who you know” that determines career starts or progression in the television industry.

Other takeaways include the fact that 66% of the industry feel Brexit will have no impact on their core business and the aforementioned streaming companies and “F.A.N.G’s” (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google) and their new upcoming rivals has changed the way that business is done as well as change the flow of income.

All of this was confirmed via the two sets of talks during the morning preview with Sara Geater from All3Media, Richard Johnston of Endemol Shine UK, Camilla Lewis from Curve Media and Suzy Dark of Naked Television talking about the ‘State of the Nation’. Stephen McQuillan from Icon Films, Rick Murray of Workerbee and Mair Davies from Avanti Media also picked up this subject but expanded the view to talk about the new focus of ‘Regions and Nations’ commissioning.

The state of the nation opened up the debate with Sara Geater reminding us that business is good and it is talent and good stories that make the world go round. Richard pointed out that non-scripted has grown both locally and internationally over the last two year but the market for content buyers has also grown from 3 or 4 companies to around 10-15. This could be due to more companies needing content for their platform via the internet but that is just the best guess. Camilla and Susie pointed to the up and down nature of the business when trying to win commissions from the expanded range of competition but Susie was confident that new format will continue to be a business builder. The first panel all agreed that although there are more buyers the growth in competition from other indies is a challenge.

Other points came out of this first panel relating to the streaming companies that I will touch in other articles.

The ‘Nations and Regions’ panel touch on some of the same growth areas but also showed that the move by Channel 4 to spread their offices to other regional locations may not lead to the increase in regional commissioning.

There is way too much information for just one article but I wanted to highlight how this all may seem like an opportunity for the solo-entrepreneur.

With the need for content not slowing down it has to be noted that because you are not established, it does not mean that your idea or program format has no place. There are places for your show or idea but it may not be with the big broadcasters and it may not start in the UK either.

If you are a lone media player protect your IP at all costs. In this day and age of increased competition comes the real risk of losing out due to an unprotected idea being “adapted” by a more established player. Despite what may be said otherwise it is still a risk not worth taking.

Make your sizzle reels, get those meeting, and partner with other companies but until your company has a real foothold, be bold but also be wise.

IGTV is a thing now but some creators still have a lot to learn

I have spent the last few days scanning videos from IGTV and I must say that on the whole I’m quite impressed by this attempt to bring portrait video as a form of mass entertainment to the public.

One thing that struck me earlier on was the compression that Instagram uses on the uploaded videos to allow for seamless playback. It is quite aggressive but I do believe that most viewers, strangely in this day and age of 4K video, will not complain as they have been using the stories function on Instagram for a while now and have come to expect this level of picture quality and bit rate. 

However, one thing that I feel won’t be tolerated is lazy editing. 

Yes, we want to get our videos out there as quickly as possible and yes, we do want a constant stream of content but not at the cost of a little pre-planning and forethought. 

It all comes down to three simple words from the legacy 4:3 ratio television days. Pan and scan.

The process was simple enough. In order to fit a cinemascope image from say a large Hollywood blockbuster movie for example to a square 4:3 television screen when the film was copied to video the machines they used to ‘video’ the film would move around the frame of the image to get the fit so you would see the actor who was talking at any given time or follow the action without it moving away from your field of view. 

Mainly, this worked and we were able to enjoy the movie without wondering why I am hearing someone speak but I cannot see them. 

I watched a segment from 5 News in the UK and whoever edited that video should know this. Throughout the piece, the two people being interviewed could not be seen but could be heard. This was an example of the very poor use of the IGTV platform. 

Most video editing programs have settings and functions for not only the screen ratio but also allows you to zoom across the imagesbyou are editing and in a fluid way that will follow the action on screen. 

Yes, it takes a little longer to edit but the results are worth it. 

If you want to win in the world of content creation just a small change such as panning and scanning your widescreen footage (if you have not filmed in portrait) will create far more engaging viewing experiences. 

The BUFF Awards 2018

Yesterday saw the start of the British Urban Film Festival 2018 which has been my go-to event in London for nearly a decade. It is always a pleasure to catch up with the great and the good of independent, diverse cinema.

This year saw the BUFF Awards 2018 being held at the Genesis Cinema in East London. A mecca for anyone who wants to bathe in its long and deep cinema history as well as catch movies way beyond most distributors reach.

It was a great way to start the festival as I assume once the glamour of the awards is out of the way then you can concentrate on showing great films for the rest of the week. And great films were mentions with my highlight from last year ‘Free In Deed’ starting David Harewood picking up a few awards including Best Actor. Best Actress for Edwina Finley in the same film as well as the Best Feature and ‘We Are Moses’ picking up the Best Short Film award as well as many others.

This year sees BUFF become film producers as well as its ‘BUFF Originals’ title ‘No Shade’. This puts BUFF in a similar vein to the work of Sundance to help encourage and nurture new talent on and off the screen and provide a creative well beyond the festivals screening program.

Amma Asante was also in attendance to receive the BUFF Honorary Recipient award.

So all in all talent new and established were awarded reminding us all that there is no time like the present to go out there and make your voice heard in the world of movies.

What was and ‘What Next?’ from the Sundance Film Festival London 2018

You know me (or maybe you don’t) but I do love a film festival. The chance to see films that would have no release or a limited run in cinemas as well as taking in short films from new talent is the main draw. Add to that the talks and networking opportunities plus the possibilities of a party or two and you have a great event to look forward to.

We start our journey from last Thursday to Sunday (31 May – 3 June) in the now familiar surroundings of the Picturehouse Central cinema in London’s West End where the stage was set for the 2018 Sundance Film Festival London and a second chance for those lucky enough to go to the main festival in Utah to either catch up on what they missed, see some films again for a second time or just to soak in the atmosphere of festival life for a few days in a warmer climate.

Day one style confusion and fuss in setting up a festival is underway as I go to collect my industry pass on Thursday but this is to be expected as the Picturehouse is a working cinema and quite non-stop when it comes to it normal screening schedule. The day for me started with a talk on short film strategies when submitting to Sundance and Mike Plante who programs for the festivals shorts screenings gave a lively if an honest account of not only the process he goes through but also the scale and the type of submissions he and his team receive.

In total there is a core team of 6 people that dig through the, on average, 9500 submissions with an extra 4 to 5 people Mike can call on once the submissions have been split into categories. With the quality of shorts ranging from home videos of kids doing talent stunts filmed by their parents for the sole purpose of hoping it will make their kids famous to fully realised cinematic mini-epics, it can take 7 plus months to whittle this number down to 350 ready to shortlist for the shorts strands in the festival.

The takeaways from this talk taught me that short impactful stories (try not to make a 20 min film) really grab the attention of the programmers. Not just punchy stories but films which will affect the audience emotionally either through thought or laughter. Better still if you have a 1-4 minute film that may put it in front of a feature which is great exposure for any new talent.

The other talks on short films were given by the Film London team where in the case of one of the filmmakers talking the point of his short was to try and promote a feature story, almost like a proof of concept.

The theme for the Sundance London this year is ‘What Next?’ relating to gender inequality and this played a big part in the festival not only in the talks but in the fact that 58% of the films presented at this festival were directed by women. No small feat even in this day and age. Inclusivity, as highlighted during the Film Hub London brunch and talks hosted by Film London reminded us that all areas of the media industry still have quite a way to go to bring real opportunities and real change to their gates. All of the causes of inequality must receive equal footing.

One thing that needs highlighting is that BAME audiences still rely on word of mouth recommendation when it comes to going to the movies. How that works in a digital marketing world is going to be key to building new and younger audiences for cinemas.

In my opinion, I feel the cinema space itself needs to change to reflect the ever-changing attention spans of not only the young but incorporate more of a community feel for more established cinema-goers. This in part came up during the Film Hub brunch as John Cooper the director of the festival explained the need for festivals to be more competitive in the current marketplace.

The actual ‘What Next’ talk gave insights into the production and acquisition process of movies from a female perspective with representatives from BBC Film, Film Four and Film London explaining as best possible that the film projects they choose are brave choices and have nothing to do with any quota system real or imagined. The talk became a bit awkward when two ladies in the audience asked about the thinking behind funding Idris Elba’s directorial debut ‘Yardie’ where the audience members accused BBC Film of continuing to highlight stereotypical images of black people. This was soon batted away by Eva Yates of BBC Films reminding us all as filmmakers that it is about the story first and nothing more.

Adobe, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Mayfair Hotel (who hosted the first party of the festival) and many others took up the mantle of festival sponsors and this made Sundance London for the filmmakers and visitors very comfortable indeed.

I only got a chance to see a few films with Yardie, The Tale, American Animals (Surprise Film) and Leave No Trace being the highlights for me. The UK Shorts and Sundance Shorts Tours were very eye-opening and entertaining.

At the end of it all and with one lively and sweaty party on Sunday night (I think the AC at the Picturehouse Central may have broken) I can say with confidence that Sundance London is one of the best ways to catch up on a great selection of films if you are unable to make the pilgrimage to Utah.

What does the Bank Of England base rate hold mean for overseas movie investment in the UK?

At the time of writing (10 May 2018 – 12:14 pm) the Bank of England announced that it will hold the base interest rate at 0.5% in a 7-2 vote. Only a few financial broadcasters and pundits predicted a rise of 0.25% but the UK’s cooling inflation picture did not correlate with such a move.

With news of the rate hold the rates and fx market flat-lined prior to trading in the US which could mean that fx traders will wait to see how much further the pound will fall against the dollar on the day before scooping up cheap pounds hoping for a rise in the GBP-USD to $1.40 to the pound.

How does this help or hinder studios and producers who want to make movies in the UK?

In the next few months, there will be a cheaper pound.  Studios and producers will have a small window to secure talent and facilities at a much cheaper price than by this time next year so even if you will not be on UK soil to film your next blockbuster until then if the expected rate rise happens in the next 14 months the fx market will be such that it will be almost impossible to get a cheaper pound. With the uncertainty of what Britain will look like once we leave the EU (this is dependent on any possible trade agreement) a panicked and random FX market could spoil any plans of making a saving in the UK whilst taking advantage of the UK technical and creative talent pool.

My recommendation. Spend the rest of the day tweaking and re-planning your spending again (yes, those film business plans you have may now hold even more savings) and resubmit your projects. What may not have looked like good business sense now could work well as a profit-making project. The UK now has a cheaper lending rate still so even holding on to money from investors or loans for at least the next 6 months could be cheaper than waiting to decide to secure your facilities and talent later.

With the BREXIT picture still uncertain I still feel that there are opportunities for braver investors to make great savings on making movies and television in the UK but this is a limited offer and after August of this year, if no trade agreement is more formed with the EU then any savings that could be made will be lost in my opinion.

To simplify the matter, a 0.25% saving on £30 million is still a lot of money that can be used elsewhere. I understand it is not a simple as that but with the changes in the fx rate today it could be that amount, if not more.

Did Apple miss a 4K trick? Maybe not.

Another day, another Apple presentation and while the world and his wife were marveling/drooling/despairing (delete as applicable) at the shiny new old things that Apple told the world it needed we may have missed a trick in the less sexy news surrounding the new Apple TV release.

Yes you can play games and use more apps than the current model. The software now gives you lovely fullscreen previews of movies and TV content information, multitasking and even weather information via the new remote which looks and acts nothing like an Amazon Fire TV remote in the slightest. Oh no. The ting that worries me a little was the lack of any mention of a 4K HDMI output.

The presentation went on with no hint of the Apple TV box being able to output 4K.

Now I am not saying that 4K (UltraHD for the people at home mainly) is the be all and end all of all television viewing. Sales in the UK are patchy at best but 4K currently is the sales pitch of the moment when it comes to visual products of all kinds including the new iPhone 6s.

Looking further at the specs put up on the Apple website after the presentation and the HDMI output is listed as 1.4 and being able to output Dolby Digital 7.1. With this in mind you could squeeze some UltraHD 4K video out which would keep Netflix happy at least. It still, at the moment, specifies the video output as 1080p. Are we to expect a software update in the near future? That aside the other item surrounding the Apple TV we as content creators should all keep an eye on is the new tvOS programing language running the show underneath the new taller box.

With all the recent talk of television viewing being treated as an app (it’s all BBC iPlayers fault), tvOS maybe more significant that we can first image.

It is clearly a case of watch this new TV space.