British Film Institute Add 3 To Governing Board
The British Film Institute has appointed three new members to its Governing Board: Sony’s Andrea Wong, Blueprint Pictures’ Pete Czernin and UK TV host Jonathan Ross. Wong is President of International Production at Sony Pictures Television and President of International for Sony Pictures Entertainment. Among other duties, the London-based exec oversees Sony’s creative teams outside the U.S. as well as the 18 owned and joint venture international production companies around the world. Czernin co-founded London-based film producer Blueprint Pictures, whose titles include The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Seven Psychopaths and In Bruges. Czernin is prepping the release of Lone Sherfig’s Posh and is in production on Marigold Hotel 2, which is shooting in India with Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Richard Gere and others. Ross is a veteran of the BBC and now presents The Jonathan Ross Show on ITV. The BFI Board of Governors is chaired by Greg Dyke and co-chaired by Libby Savill. The other governors include Warner Bros’ Josh Berger and director Tom Hooper.
Global Showbiz Briefs: British Film Institute Taps 3 For Governing Board; BBC Two Drama ‘Banished’ Adds 4 To Cast; More
British Film Institute Add 3 To Governing Board
Global Showbiz Briefs: ‘Kon-Tiki’ Writer To Pen TV Drama ‘The Institution’; UK’s Feature Film Company Relaunched
‘Kon-Tiki’ Scribe To Develop Norwegian TV Drama ‘The Institution’
In the hot Nordic TV space, Norwegian writer Petter Skavlan is set to develop The Institution, an original series, for Nordisk Film. The drama is set inside a fictional royal family and will examine the inner workings of a modern European monarchy as well as discussing the ancient institution’s place in today’s society. Skavlan wrote and exec produced 2012 Oscar nominee Kon-Tiki. Also teaming on The Institution are Borgen producer Camilla Hammerich, Nordisk’s head of production Henrik Zein and executive producer Lone Korslund. Skavlan is represented by ICM Partners.
Global Showbiz Briefs: BFI Details Yearlong Initiative To Bolster Relationship With China; Docu ‘Web Junkie’ Coming To UK TV Via BBC Storyville
British Film Institute Strengthening Industry’s Ties To China
In December, British Prime Minister David Cameron visited China on a mission to strengthen ties across many sectors, the film industry among them. During the trip, an agreement was made in principle to support the conclusion of a UK-China co-production treaty. The British Film Institute is now moving forward with further plans to increase its relationship with the world’s No. 2 box office market. The new initiative is going by the moniker Electric Shadows — the Chinese term for movies. The program will encompass a year of business, trade, and creative and cultural collaborations between the UK and China and is designed to grow mutual economic and cultural benefits for film from both countries. Part of the aim is to bring previously difficult-to-access Chinese cinema to UK audiences and, in turn, to make British cinema available to Chinese audiences. The moves fall in line with the BFI’s International Strategy, in which China is a key priority territory. In February, Personal Tailor and Back To 1942 director Feng Xiaogang will visit the UK to accompany a retrospective of his work, a gala screening of Back To 1942 and to be interviewed about his career at BFI Southbank. The BFI and the British Council also will work closely with the Beijing International Film Festival in April to lead a trade delegation and present British films at the event. From June through October, the BFI will stage an exploration of Chinese cinema in the UK, and in the fall, a selection of contemporary and classic British film will be shown in Beijing.
Global Showbiz Briefs: BFI; ‘Doctor Who’; Yahoo & Dailymotion; Ukraine Piracy; Cineworld-Picturehouse; Televix; Universal & Canada’s D Films
BFI Lays Out Development Funding Recipients
The British Film Institute has identified 20 UK production companies that will receive BFI Vision Awards 2013-15. The grants will provide up to £200K over two years to the companies for investment in slate development. The BFI said the successful companies each demonstrated “a clear strategic vision for their future growth as well as a commitment to nurturing a diverse range of new voices and fresh ideas from across the UK.” There were 170 applicants overall. The project is part of the BFI’s Film Forever plan to foster growth in the UK film biz and keep momentum going after a strong series of local films. Among the companies receiving £100K are 42 M&P (Welcome To The Punch), Cowboy Films (The Last King Of Scotland), Independent (We Need To Talk About Kevin); Warp Films (Submarine) and Wildgaze Films (Quartet). Among those receiving £50K are Inflammable Films (Tyrannosaur), JW Films (Attack The Block), Rook Films (Sightseers) and animation companies Blue-Zoo, Flickerpix. The full list is here.
‘Doctor Who’ Gets New Exec Producer; Opens Pop-Up Shop
Brian Minchin is joining Doctor Who as its new executive producer alongside showrunner Steven Moffat. Minchin is an exec producer in BBC Wales drama, currently working on The Game, a new Cold War spy thriller for BBC One. He had previously been a script editor on both Doctor Who and Torchwood. Separately, the BBC says the first ever Doctor Who pop-up store will open its doors in Sydney, Australia this fall. It will feature exclusive merchandise including the Doctor Who home range, apparel, toys, DVDs, books and replica props.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Aussie Box Office, Russell Crowe, Palace Cinemas, British Film Institute & More
Aussie 2012 B.O. Up But Below 2010 Record
Australian cinemas raked in $A1.125 billion ($1.188 billion) in 2012, up 2.8% on the previous year but a fraction below the industry 2010 record of $1.128 billion, the year of Avatar, according to the Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia. The Aussie films’ B.O. share was 4.3%, slightly above the 10-year average of 3.8%. The MPDAA’s stats do not quantify ticket sales but Deadline estimates the admissions total was 85.8 million in 2012, based on an average ticket price of $13.10, compared with 85 million in 2011 and 92 million in 2010. The transition from 35mm film projection to digital continued apace an estimated 72% of the country’s 1,995 screens are now digital, including all major circuits; of those, 57% are 3D capable. The year’s top-grosser was The Avengers with $53.2 million; the best result for an Aussie film was The Sapphires with $14.4 million.- Don Groves
The 56th BFI London Film Festival, which kicks off tonight in the British capital, is set to honor Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton with the BFI Fellowship. The highest award bestowed by the British Film Institute goes to individuals in “recognition of their outstanding contribution to film or television culture.” Burton’s Frankenweenie is the opening-night film at the fest. The BFI also announced the juries for this year’s festival, which runs through October 21. Director David Hare is president of the Best Film jury, with producer Nansun Shi, director Pablo Trapero, producer Victoria Pearman and actress Romola Garai also on the panel. The jury for the Sutherland Award, which recognizes new talent, will be overseen by former director of the Edinburgh International Film Festival Hannah McGill and fellow jurors Harry Potter director David Yates, novelist Sebastian Faulks, producer Robin Gutch, and actress Louise Brealey. The Best British Newcomer Award jury will be headed by Harry Potter producer David Heyman with actors Tom Hiddleston and Olivia Colman, author Kazuo Ishiguru and director Eran Creevy in support.
Joe Utichi contributes to Deadline’s UK coverage:
British filmmakers will benefit from a boost in British Film Institute funding rising annually to £24M by 2017. The increased investment forms part of the BFI’s five-year Film Forever: Supporting UK Film 2012-2017 plan. It focuses on local and international production, education, audiences and film heritage, and reflects an especially buoyant British film industry. “With film industry growth currently outstripping the economy as a whole, we want to invest to ensure continued success,” said BFI chair Greg Dyke. Funding for British films will increase by at least £1M a year, representing a 30% boost by 2017. A new International Fund will support inward investment and film exports. It will strengthen relationships in the USA and Europe and aid emerging sectors like Brazil and China.
A panel of industry experts led by former culture secretary Lord Chris Smith published its highly anticipated recommendations on revamping UK government film policy today. The panel, which included Sony’s Michael Lynton, Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes and Optimum Releasing founder Will Clarke, made suggestions with the intent of increasing audience choice and growing the demand for British films both at home and abroad. With calls for regulated film investment from broadcasters like BSkyB and ITV, the review also seems to be taking a cue from its neighbors across the Channel on certain points. Within the 56 recommendations that aim to boost the British film brand are a handful of proposals that, if heeded, would make the UK business more closely resemble the French model.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron made headlines last week when he called for British filmmakers to make more “commercially successful pictures.” The remarks left the local industry in a bit of a huff, with director Ken Loach telling the BBC: “If you knew what was going to be successful before you made it then we’d all be millionaires.” (It’s worth noting that Loach’s last several films have been made with French backing). Despite Loach’s initial take on Cameron’s comments and as some industry folks I spoke to late last week suggested, the review that’s been released today is not quite so incendiary as the prime minister’s statements led people to believe. After Cameron’s quips, Fellowes last week said, “At the moment it’s being presented as if there’s a sort of polarity, you either support mainstream films or minority pictures. That isn’t what this is about at all. It’s about broadening the base, so that money goes into all kinds of films.” Supporting Fellowes’ comments, the report’s first recommendation is that major organizations must recognize that a key goal is to connect the widest possible audiences with the broadest and richest range of British films. In comments today, Lord Smith noted that between inward investment that’s helping to boost the local economy (think lavish Hollywood pics shooting in Britain) and a run of strong local films at the box offrice (The King’s Speech, The Inbetweeners Movie), British film is in a strong place. But, “we need to sustain that.” The report notes that although the average Briton watches over 80 films a year on big and small screens, UK indies made up only 5.5% of box office from 2001-2010.
The British Film Institute has added 5 new board members on the day that it takes over responsibility for running the UK movie business. The agency has also increased lotto funding for film from £15 million to £18 million ($24 -29 million), which the government has long said would happen as a result of the Film Council shutting. The 5 new board members announced this morning are:
– Josh Berger, president and MD of Warner Bros. Entertainment UK. Berger is a loyal company man. He’s been with Warner since graduating from Harvard in 1989. Since then he’s had stints in Paris and Madrid – he speaks 5 languages — before relocating to London in 1996 to head European pay-TV for the studio. Berger took over the reins of Warner Bros’ UK operation in 2002, when the studio was still under the AOL takeover legacy that content should be free. His biggest challenge is trying to find a business model that matches at some level the DVD cash cow. Over the past 8 years he has managed to get all the divisions across the notoriously silo-driven Warner to work together. This new business model has been deemed so successful it’s been exported to Spain and Italy. Berger is definitely on the rise. “One of the few studio bosses operating outside the US not hobbled by business affairs in Los Angeles,” says one colleague, “And that’s a triumph in itself and testament to …
UK press over here are gushing that The King’s Speech quadruple Oscar major wins – Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay – will be a boost for the British film industry. But I would say it’s all downhill from here. Consider the evidence. Beginning next April, there will be no UK Film Council coordinating British Film plc. Tanya Seghatchian, head of the UK Film Council film fund — which invested just over £1 million in The King’s Speech — says the pic’s success is a “magnificent final chapter for the UK Film Council”. Of course, Seghatchian and her team will move across to new film body the British Film Institute, but people I’ve spoken to are afraid there will be no encouragement to invest in commercial British films such as The King’s Speech or Streetdance 3D. Instead, the impetus will be in to back arthouse movies, which is what the BFI has always done going back to the 1950s. Even speaking to reporters backstage at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles, Firth called the decision to scrap the UKFC “short-sighted”. His sentiments were echoed by his producer Iain Canning, who said “it wouldn’t have been made without the UK Film Council”. The UKFC’s equity slug meant “they occupied a place within the finance plan that nobody wanted to inhabit,” he said.
Interestingly, the UK government’s culture department has …
Britain’s Culture Ministry just handed leadership of the industry back to the British Film Institute. The organisation will take control of and devise strategy for £15 million (£23 million) of lottery funding each year, and administer the £100 million tax incentive. Ex-BBC boss and now BFI boss Greg Dyke was understandably ecstatic. He immediately announced that the BFI hopes to increase lottery funding for film to £18 million in 2011/2012 – an increase of 20%. Dyke told me the BFI will take over movie funding in April next year. “This decision is a great vote of confidence in the BFI. It is a bold move to create a single champion for film in the UK and we welcome it. We want to achieve greater coherence across the whole film sector and to strike a balance between cultural and commercial. We see an opportunity to reduce overhead costs which in turn will allow us to put more of the lottery funds into frontline activities.”
The culture minister underlined that the film tax credit – so crucial for attracting U.S. investment — is here to stay. Overseas filmmakers injected £780 million into the British economy last year. Vaizey said: “Some people think there are two British film industries — one indigenous and the other supporting big American movies. I don’t agree. Hollywood investment promotes both British characters and British storytelling.”
Film London will take over promoting the UK as a moviemaking destination from the British Film Commission. Vaizey called this a “public/private partnership” – in short, the government is asking the private sector to cough up if it wants an office whose job it is to attract Hollywood to Britain. Studios such as Pinewood Shepperton and VFX houses such as Framestore would, after all, have the most to gain.
And Film London and BFI will also work with BAFTA and BBC Worldwide on how to increase the number of UK films being released abroad – the role which Unifrance performs for the French film industry. The organisations will also showcase the work of British filmmakers in Hollywood. The BBC already runs showcases in China and in Latin America.
Vaizey also announced he was setting up a ministerial roundtable that will meet every 6 months to address film industry problems.
Vaizey said he would consider proposals from industry organisations such as the British Screen Advisory Council and the Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television to help create “a sustainable film industry”. Vaizey expects to implement these proposals by spring 2012. What was interesting was that he used the word “sustainable”. This phrase has become a shibboleth for British film policy makers. Creating a sustainable British film industry was the original mission statement of the UK Film Council – until it quietly dropped it as unworkable. “The ‘sustainable’ word is back,” Dyke observes. “The Film Council wanted to do it but they just couldn’t live with it.”
Today’s announcement from a Tory government was surprisingly well-received by the traditionally left-of-centre British film industry. It was amusing to see the jockeying for position already within this new world order. It was almost as if the UK Film Council had never existed. How quickly the waters close over one’s head. “There’s an irony in that a year ago the government was forcing the BFI to merge with the Film Council,” Dyke tells me. “Fine, we said, but it’s got to be on the right terms. Today we got those terms.”
Q&A With Brit Producer Jeremy Thomas: “My Advice To American Filmmakers Is To Marry A European. I’m Not Kidding.”
At a time when the UK film industry seems increasingly inward-looking, a recurring theme of the 46 films which Jeremy Thomas has produced has been cross-cultural — whether it’s Japanese director Takeshi Kitano looking at America in Brother (2000) or Bernardo Bertolucci retelling Chinese history in the Best Picture Oscar-winner The Last Emperor (1987). He also exec-produced Takeshi Miike’s 13 Assassins, which competed at Venice last month and will work on Miike’s next pic. Thomas specialises in filming the un-filmable, whether William S Burrough’s novel Naked Lunch or JG Ballard’s notorious Crash or his latest plan: a pic about North Korean dictator Kim-Jong il. Currently in post on David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method, Thomas gave the keynote interview at Wednesday’s Film London Production Finance Market as part of the BFI London Film Festival which is where I interviewed him.
As the former chairman of the British Film institute, he urged the British government to reconsider rejoining European super fund Eurimages to boost co-productions and had harsh words for UK leaders: “The problem with these politicians is that they’ve never made a film. They’re planning the war but they’ve never been in the trenches and had their faces splattered with blood. But when it comes to movies everybody thinks they’re an expert. It wouldn’t happen in any other business.” Thomas unlike most producers owns the rights to his films and believes that should be the endgame of any independent moviemaker. (He even owns the freehold on his office building.) He launched his own sales agency Hanway Films in 1998, which has become one of the biggest in the market. “Raising the money, shooting the film, distributing it – it’s all a nightmare,” the 61-year-old said. “But it’s better than working.”
Deadline London: Given the kind of films you make, are you disheartened by the state of filmmaking in Hollywood today?
Jeremy Thomas: Even the people who run the studios themselves – and some of them are friends of mine — when they go home at night, are dismayed that they entered a business in which they’re doing such unoriginal work. If you look at Hollywood’s output over the past decade there’s a very small percentage of original work. It’s all remakes, sequels, prequels. What you have going on in world cinema today is like a peanut compared to the 1970s. You look at the films made then compared with the films being made today – they’re thin and empty. I don’t think anybody came into the movie business to be unoriginal and plagiarising and not having an original idea in their brain. The studios are financially moribund. They are worried about their financial model because they have to spend so much money on marketing costs. Digital exhibition hasn’t saved any money. I’m still waiting to see this digital dividend.
BAFTA and the British Film Institute are hosting a series of screenwriter lectures throughout September. Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon, September 20), David Hare (The Reader, September 9), Ronald Harwood (The Pianist, September 23), Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire, September 17), Christopher Hampton (Atonement, September 10) and Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada, September 21) will all speak. The season has been organised by screenwriter Jeremy Brock, who says: “The idea is to celebrate screenwriters as collaborative authors of films, rather than adjuncts of the director’s vision.” Public perception that somehow director’s are the sole author of a movie has irritated screenwriters for years. Likewise, that possessory credit on movie credits. As the old joke about two screenwriters in a car driving past a director’s house goes: “Oh, there’s Joe Smith’s house … Or should I say, a house by Joe Smith?”
UPDATE: UK culture minister Jeremy Hunt and arts minister Ed Vaizey have rowed back transferring the £15 million ($19 million) lottery film cash to the British Film Institute. Nor are they going to ask BBC Films and Film4 to split the money between them. I’m told that BBC Films has reacted “with horror” at the prospect of controlling the lottery cash. The BBC’s film department may make the same kind of features as the UK Film Council, but getting hold of that money could see its own £12 million funding being cut.
The irony is that it was the Arts Council of England’s original bungling of the lottery film cash that partly led to the UKFC being established. In the late 90s, producers were crying out for proper industry executives to award production funding, not a committee of well-meaning amateurs. Now it looks like we’re going full circle. “Once it finds out what’s going on, the whole industry will start laughing and then start crying,” says my source.
Tim Bevan, co-chair of Working Title, and UKFC chief executive John Woodward met Vaizey and Hunt this afternoon at 2:30pm (6:30am PST).
Liam Neeson, meanwhile, has weighed in to the controversy, calling the government’s decision “deplorable”. Neeson told the BBC: “We need movies. It’s a powerful industry that provides a credible entertainment for millions of people and I think it is wrong, I just think it is wrong for the government [to do this]. I …
EXCLUSIVE: The UK government is considering handing over the £15 million of lottery film production cash, which the UK Film Council currently handles, to public broadcasters the BBC and Channel 4. Ed Vaizey, the government arts minister, has talked about splitting the UKFC’s £15 million of lottery funding only recently. He argues that both broadcasters both fund the same kind of films. One UKFC insider I spoke to today described this as an “appallingly dumb” idea. “It may have come up now they are desperately scrabbling around for something to do with film money,” this insider tells me.
Even if BBC Films and Film4 go with the plan – and both complain that they’ve long been starved of funds – what’s to stop Auntie BBC and Channel 4 from just cutting their annual budgets as a result? BBC Films currently receives £12 million a year, while Channel 4 has just had its budget increased to £10 million annually. Producers would also likely howl as it further reduces the number of gatekeepers from three to two.
Department for Culture, Media and Sport tells me nothing has been decided yet. A detailed implementation plan will be worked out over the summer. But DCMS is considering options to transfer these funds to other existing bodies. There’s been talk of the British Film Institute handling the lottery production cash through an arm’s length commercial body — much like the arrangement BBC has with BBC Worldwide. I’m …
Hurrah. Some good news for the British Film Institute in the wake of its merger with the UK Film Council being cancelled. American Express will be headline sponsor of this year’s BFI London Film Festival this October. The credit card company will also support quarterly screenings at the BFI Imax, and the Screen Epiphanies series at BFI Southbank, where celebrities introduce and discuss films that have inspired them. Stars including John Hurt and Juliet Stephenson and director Sam Taylor-Wood have taken part. Amex cardholders will be offered priority tickets, the best seats in the house and “meet and greet” opportunities. The BFI won’t say how long the Amex sponsorship deal will last for, nor how much it is worth.
Amanda Nevill, director of the BFI, points out that 58% of the BFI’s total funding is self-generated. Our cheekychops culture minister Ed Vaizey has inserted himself into the press release, congratulating the BFI on how the Amex partnership is an excellent example of private business supporting the arts. It’s something the BFI’s going to have to get more adept at. Vaizey has just cancelled the BFI National Film Centre, leaving the institute to find the entire £166 million ($271 million) cost itself.
After months of bitching and spinning from both sides, the UK government has abandoned plans to merge the two bodies. Poor British Film Institute. Earlier this week, the government cancelled its cherished National Film Centre. The institute has absorbed 50% of the cuts announced by the culture department in its austerity package. I suspect the UKFC had second thoughts when it realised that the BFI’s charitable Royal Charter status would have meant the tail wagging the dog in any merged body.