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Ernst & Young Warns British Film, TV Biz On Corruption And Bribery Risks Abroad

By | Monday October 29, 2012 @ 6:07am PDT

Earlier this month, the UK’s Serious Fraud Office said it would toughen its stance on bribery, meaning criminal penalties could become more commonplace. Today, Ernst & Young warns that the next front for enforcers could be the British film and television industries as companies increasingly work in emerging markets, and says the business should “heed corruption and bribery risks in financing and making films abroad.” The report notes that “In the U.S., enforcers have begun to ask questions of studios about potential bribery of foreign officials showing the extent of filmmaking’s exposure to such risks.” In April, the U.S. majors received letters of inquiry from the SEC regarding their China dealings, although it is considered unlikely the Hollywood studios are involved in any wrongdoing.

In the U.S., there are training exercises in place to teach employees the ins and outs of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. But in the UK, whereas oil and gas industry employees “have a mindset to fight corruption,” the report says, “it may not yet be ingrained in the entertainment industry” which is becoming more and more international. UK filmmakers received a funding boost this year which promotes inward investment, foreign exports and gives priority to bolstering growth and relations with Brazil and China, forming part of the basis for the E&Y bulletin.

E&Y partner Jonathan Middup said: “Film and TV making is particularly exposed to bribery and corruption risk. Films are shot all over the world and in some cases they are in countries where corruption is commonplace. There is a lot of cash being used and there is a need to get access to areas closed to the public, creating a lot of potential touch points with local governments or even the military.” In some countries, how one accesses those things can run afoul of UK law even though they might be accepted practices in the country in question. Read More »

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Global Showbiz Briefs: Indonesia, UK

By | Tuesday December 6, 2011 @ 11:48pm PST

Cinema 21 To Open Two Imax Theatres In Jakarta
Imax Corp. and Indonesian exhibitor Cinema 21 have agreed to install a pair of digital Imax theatres in Jakarta, Indonesia. The first system is scheduled for May 2012 at Gandaria City, South Jakarta and the second by 2013. Cinema 21 president Suryo Suherman welcomed the addition of Imax installations, and Imax CEO Richard Gelfond noted that with 36% of Indonesia’s population of 240 million between the ages of 15 and 40 “we believe there is a strong demand for Hollywood’s largest blockbusters to be presented in our immersive format.” The two installations mark the first commercial Imax theatres in Indonesia. Cinema 21 is the largest cinema chain in Indonesia and South East Asia with 571 screens in 31 cities all over Indonesia.

UK Call Sheet Looks To Link Crew To Jobs
A new website has bowed in the UK with the aim of revolutionizing the way those who toil behind the camera find work. Thecallsheet.co.uk database will bring together freelancers, production companies and facilities companies to match availability to job openings. To qualify as a member, those seeking work must have at least 10 credits or two years of industry experience (unreleased or short films are not accepted). Those approved will have access to job listings from UK producers and recruiters as well as a chase list, an online diary system and other … Read More »

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F&ME Boards Child Prostitution Exposé

By | Thursday September 23, 2010 @ 5:27am PDT

The UK’s most prolific producer, currently developing Aishwarya Rai project Spy Princess, has teamed up with Dutch director Jacco Groen’s Spring Films and Netherlands-based producer Jos van der Pal’s AV-motion pictures to make €1.5 million Lilet Never Happened. Shooting is planned to start January 2011. Lilet Never Happened looks at the underbelly of child prostitution in the Philippines. The story is based on the true story of one Filipina child prostitute in Manila. Sandy Talag, a teenage star in the Philippines, will play the lead. Groen has already shot footage as a finance tool. The filmmakers are raising some of the budget from national and international child welfare agencies as well as commercial sources.

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Working Title: Why UK’s Most Successful Film Production Company Is Back In Its Wheelhouse

Over the past 16 years, Working Title has made Britain’s biggest-ever movies including Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’s Diary, and Bean. The company headed by Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner is responsible for 96 films grossing $4.8 billion worldwide, 60% of which came from Universal’s 46 Working Title releases. (Working Title started off indie until 1992 when it was acquired by Polygram until 1999 when Universal bought Polygram and with it, Working Title.) Its movies have won six Oscars, 26 Baftas and prizes at Cannes and Berlin. Forget Korda. Ignore Puttnam. Bevan and Fellner are easily Britain’s most successful cinema magnates. Yet something almost always goes wrong every time they veer away from Richard Curtis and Rowan Atkinson, who are responsible for nine out of the top 10 highest-grossing Working Title films. There also has been a succession of political films and expensive thrillers. When it comes to deciding what to make, Bevan says everything starts with passion. So A Serious ManUnited 93, Elizabeth:The Golden Age, Burn After Reading, and The Interpreter put him in business with big stars or big directors or both. “These are A-list people that most producers would kill to work with. More than that, they feed your mind,” Bevan told me in a recent interview. It was Fellner and Bevan who gave Joe Wright a huge break and $28 million to direct Keira Knightley in 2005′s Pride and Prejudice, which made $121 million in worldwide box office gross and resulted in 4 Oscar nods for Focus Features/Universal. But Universal lost $50 million on Paul Greengrass directing Matt Damon in 2010′s underperforming Green Zone after its gross budget swelled from $80 million to $130 million (not including tax incentives).

“The last batch of movies represented them breaking free of the Working Title formula,” says one producer who’s worked with them. “In Hollywood, you’re judged by how you’ve just done, not what you’ve made over the years. So they’ve gone back to the formulaic stuff. It’s depressing.” Still, retreating “back in their wheelhouse”, as the American phrase goes, is also smart business. For now, Working Title is playing it safer. Indian Summer, a big budget movie about the last days of Britain’s colonial rule of India in 1947, has been dry-docked even though Joe Wright (Atonement) was set to direct Cate Blanchett as Lady Edwina Mountbatten. As Bevan says in an interview with me, “You don’t produce a misfire and then not take heed from it.” Fellner adds: “It’s a consolidation period for us. A retrenchment period.” To that end, Working Title made six staff redundant in July last year, reducing headcount to around 40, which is historically what it’s always been.

Working Title’s latest release is the sequel to Emma Thompson’s Nanny McPhee Returns which Universal releases August 20th. Upcoming projects include Johnny English Reborn starring Rowan Atkinson and Gillian Anderson, as well as the Richard Curtis comedy Lost For Words, and a third Bridget Jones movie. The first Johnny English, which cost $40 million to make, earned just $28 million in America but did enormous business internationally grossing $132 million overseas. That’s typical: Working Title movies routinely make 2/3s of their gross outside of North America. Bevan tells me, “The thing that always sets us apart is that we’ve always done so well in the international marketplace. If there’s going to be any growth in this business, it’s going to be outside of North America.” And yet, waiting for Bevan and Fellner in their office building, I realize that Working Title has always struck me as being intensely London — as much a part of the city as red double-decker buses, Trafalgar Square, and pigeons. Even its logo used to look like the symbol for London Underground.

When Bevan and Fellner first sat down with then Universal CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr in 1998, Read More »

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Handmade Films Backers Buy It Back

By | Thursday July 22, 2010 @ 8:04am PDT

handmade_films_logoJersey-based investors who put up the money for Planet 51, which Sony released last year, have bought Handmade Films for £6.1 million ($9.3 million). Handmade was selling the Spanish/UK co-production. The company has now delisted from the London Stock Exchange. Wealth manager David Francis is deciding what to do with Handmade, which had been planning remakes of The Long Good Friday set in Miami with director Paul WS Anderson and a new version of Mona Lisa, directed by Larry Clark. The old management had also been planning a big screen version of Eloise, starring Uma Thurman, but that ended up with the lawyers after Thurman said she hadn’t received her pay-or-play fee. Handmade’s woes have also added to the financial problems of the Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson, who had been banking on it turning her kid’s books into TV series.

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Michelle Ryan Goes Back To Her Roots

Michelle_RyanEXCLUSIVE: The former UK soap EastEnders star, who went on to become the Bionic Woman, is set to return to the East End. She’s in negotiations to appear in Turnout, a low-budget Brit love story set in east London. This micro-budget production is due to start filming next month. The director is Lee Sales. George Russo plays a man who foolishly tries to make some quick money on a drugs deal that goes wrong. In the process, he manages to lose his girlfriend (Jaime Winstone), his money and his friends. Young Brit soul singer Plan B co-stars. Executive producer Leo Pearlman describes it as a “twisted love story.”

Private investors are fully-financing this sub-£1 million drama, which shoots for three and a half weeks. DP Films and Fulwell 73 Productions are co-producing. They’ll go out and find a sales agent once it’s in the can. Let’s hope it’s not the usual “you fuggin’ Muppet” East End gangster nonsense.

Pearlman tells me: “These kinds of low-budget films are so execution dependent, but when we were brought the script for this one, it really stood out.”

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UK Movie Spend Falls By 11% In First Half

Bel_AmiTotal amount spent on UK feature films fell to £643 million (982 million) in the first six months of 2010. This compares with £726 million between January and June last year. The £643 million figure is still the second highest on record after 2009 though, driven mainly by Hollywood movies shooting over here. Big-budget movies using British studios included the latest Harry Potter and Pirates franchises, plus John Carter of Mars.

Production volume fell by 15% overall in the first six months, with 51 movies shooting (60 in first-half 2009). And indigenous production has been badly hit, down 22%. Twenty nine home-grown productions have cranked up so far in 2010 compared with 37 in 2009. Total UK independent investment (including co-pros) has fallen by 21% to £80 million. Indie British films that have shot so far in 2010 include Burke & Hare, The Great Ghost Rescue and Bel Ami.

The amount spent on home-grown UK films also fell by 18% last year to £169.2 million, according to the latest UK Film Council figures. But that was counterbalanced by some big Hollywood movies shooting in Britain, including the next Harry Potter and Inception. Inward investment more than doubled last year to £753 million. Co-production investment fell by 28% to £35 million. Overall total UK production spend was £957 million compared with £613 million in 2008 – a rise of 56%.

Domestic production volume fell slightly from 77 to 71 features last year. The number of … Read More »

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