Monday, December 21, 2009

TisEng sequel?!


It seems so:
'News of another British classic (also appearing on the Observer's Top 25 list): Shane Meadows is making the sequel to This Is England - as a four-part television series. The show will move the action on four years from the end of the film and bring back many of the main characters, including Thomas Turgoose as wannabe skinhead Shaun. Entitled We Were Faces, the series will be set in 1986 and finds Shaun preparing to leave school and enter the grown-up world.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Viral marketing + UK box office analysis

If you got the Guardian on Friday you will have seen a rather handy feature on trailers and the experimentation that new media is allowing, especially as regards viral marketing campaigns and a shift away from trailers that reveal virtually the entire plot to much more enigmatic teaser-style trailers. No? Try then! Ties very neatly into the whole issue of marketing we were considering recently.
There's also a nice example, from a regular series, of a trailer being ripped apart for being ... well, read for yourself at (wee bit of narrative enigma there for you).
Another regular Film Guardian feature is in-depth analysis of box-office takings. The latest is an excellent overview of some of the key trends in release strategies, and contains much useful info on the arcane business of releasing movies in the UK, discussing the importance of digital 3D screens and the problems facing arthouse cinemas (with very precise screen/takings figures to reference), as well as the commercial failure of a spate of British releases. All useful material which you can read at

Just how many digital 3D-equipped cinema screens do you think there are in the UK? The answer shares the name of Zack Snyder's 2006 semi-animated epic...
And how many screens is James Cameron's $230m budget Avatar set to open on in the UK? I'm thinking this must be a record (the answer is 3 and a third times the previous answer) at about twice the typical figure for a UK number 1.

Hugh's he kidding?

Interesting appearance by the rom-com king and purveyor of the cliched stereotype of posh Britannia that defines the image many in the US in particular have of the UK's diverse population: Hugh Grant, sporting surely dyed hair, made a grumpy visit to Jonathan Ross' couch on Friday, which you can temporarily watch at

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

Warp X comedy playing at Bradford NMM

Bunny and the Bull is playing at the National Media Museum between Fri 11th - Thurs 17th December. What better way to combine revision and relaxing?!

Bunny And The Bull Trailer Online

It's not a Mighty Boosh film per se, but here's one for the fans anyway, by the looks of things. Check out the trailer for Bunny and the Bull here.
Written and directed by Paul King, who was behind the camera for every episode of the TV Boosh to date, it's a fantasy travelogue, with the stylistic twist that we don't actually leave the protagonist's flat. Instead, Edward Hogg, co-starring with Simon Farnaby, recalls the trip from the comfort of home, and the visuals are filtered through polaroid snapshots and wonky recollections.
You can see the connection to the Boosh's papier-mache asthetic, and there are cameo roles for Booshers Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt, as well as the ace Richard Ayoade.
Is this the Shaun of the Dead to the Boosh's Spaced? Is Paul King's career set to follow the same trajectory as Edgar Wright's? [source:]

Read Times review: 
See trailer: 
Warp reports:
Another view: 'Bunny and the Bull, from the ultra-hip (is that good?) Warp X out of the UK, is another flick I've been clocking for a long time.. long before it's world premier was announced at TIFF. (See stills here) It premiered to positive reviews and unfortunately we haven't been able to catch it yet, but the first footage just dropped today in preparation for the upcoming London Film Fest which our own Ben Austwick will be covering. Howz it look? Sick, funny, and twisted. Me likey.' [source:]

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


[I meant to post this here, not on the AS blog, but need to post it again as there are some resits - and this material is useful for aspects of the A2. A2 students should also look up another post on the AS blog centred on marketing, which includes a range of PowerPoints on specific WT films:]

I'm hoping to revise the following docs, and provide briefer essay plans for the questions from the two sittings thus far of this exam, but to ensure you've got enough to work ahead on the following should help. If you want any of these photocopied let me know and I'll do sets for both classes.

JAN 2009
Section B: Institutions and Audiences
Answer the question below, making detailed reference to examples from your case study material to support points made in your answer.
Discuss the issues raised by an institution’s need to target specific audiences within a media industry which you have studied.
Candidates must choose to focus on one of the following media areas though you may make reference to other media where relevant to your answer.
- Film
- Music
- Newspapers
- Radio
- Magazines
- Video games

JUNE 2009
Discuss the ways in which media products are produced and distributed to audiences, within a media area, which you have studied.

There is already one update to add: NBC-Universal has been bought from its owners, GE (General Electric) by Comcast. They're buying a controlling 51% stake (leaving GE with 49% of the shares) for $30bn (thats £18bn) - though this creates such a large company that doubts have been raised as to whether it will be permitted.
See: Comcast to take control of NBC Universal
• Deal includes NBC's TV network and Universal Pictures
• Critics express concerns over monopoly and stifled creativity
Comcast-NBC Universal deal faces regulatory hurdle
Federal commissioner says tie-up faces 'a very steep climb' in effort to create powerful new force in American broadcasting
Plus the NBC-Universal section of the Guardian site

This is quite a detailed overview; it would be an idea to create your own, briefer version, but this is a useful resource nonetheless:
As Exam Brit Cinema Revision Guide                                                                                                                                            

This doc tries to specifically highlight the differences (and some similarities) between Warp and WT. If I get the time I will add the last three sections, but there is already a lot to work on in this:
Wt Warp Comparison Grid Draft1                                                                                                                                            

Sunday, December 06, 2009

EMPIRE - "INSIDE EMPIRE" special edition overviews mag's history

Especially for the A2 folk currently working on producing Film Mag covers/review pages, the "Inside Empire" edition is a useful resource, billed as "THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE WORLD'S BIGGEST MOVIE MAGAZINE", though it does provide an intriguing overview not just of the development of the magazine but also the movie industry throughout (and slightly before!) your lifetimes.
Critic Angie Errigo boasts that "historically Empire has a strong track record of loving young lions and getting behind promising newbies who went on to make good." Steven Soderbergh, Spike Lee and WT-produced Coen brothers are all cited as examples (Inside Empire (2009) "They do make 'em like they used to", p. 19).
The language used in the contents page quite clearly denotes this as a laddish mag, with 'the C-word' for example rather surprisingly used without any euphemism or asterisks, though this edition lacks the usual adult chatline ads at the back.
I've added the following excerpt from this to the post -

Empire magazine critic Angie Errigo makes an interesting defence of the state of modern movie-making against claims that its filled with mega-budget tat that ignores narrative in favour of sheer spectacle (Inside Empire (2009) "They do make 'em like they used to", pp. 18-19).
A voice and a vision, and a reluctance to do what is expected are what's wanted in aspiring filmmakers. A-list stars and million-dollar explosions are completely optional if there's a story to be told, an emotion to be felt, a mood to be captured. Far from being a downbeat era of pap, these are wildly exciting times for all of us, rich with possibilities. Having entered the digital age with web access for all and an array of technology that gets cheaper by the minute, it's more possible than ever for movie brats to make their own productions and make them more ambitious and sophisticated than the Super 8 kids managed in their backyards. For every Hollywood film that costs upwards of $150 million, thousands of 'home movies' can be made and hundreds that are good to go in cinemas. It isn't naive to believe that 'talent will out'. The next Shane Meadows, Steve McQueen and Duncan Jones are out there at work within and without 'the System'.

 Super 8 is an old-fashioned format of video camera. If you've ever seen Son of Rambow imagine you were making your coursework with the same technology, a VHS video camera and two VHS machines linked up for editing (no digital technology at all, no computers even!).

UK Film Mag Circulations

Although there a range of smaller-scale, Indie rivals, the film mag sector in the UK is dominated by just two players, Empire and Total Film - both of which are published by major companies (Bauer and Future respectively - see the mags blog for info on Bauer), a conglomerate with global reach in the case of Bauer.
Both are quite Hollywood-centric, not especially going out of their way to reflect what the UK film industry is up to for its UK audience! Their covers routinely lead on some Hollywood star or director. Indeed, Empire ex-editor Phil Thomas is quite open on this:
Empire was set up to counter the pomposity of most film writing .... We took a different tack: movies are great until proven otherwise. Especially Hollywood movies.
The British film industry, such as it was, never really forgave us for that, but it was the 'critics' who loathed us most. They believed that every issue, with its Hollywood star on the cover and Barfing in the Movies features inside, was proof of Empire's agenda against serious European films, and our obsession with "propping up" Hollywood. As if it needed propping up.
(Thomas (2009) [Editors] "Phil Thomas", Inside Empire, p. 22)
Flick towards the back of each and look at the ads: all these invites to ring up young ladies for a nice chat suggests each sees the male reader as their primary demographic, a common assumption in both music and film publishing which I've always found a rather strange reflection of our culture (these companies are very, very good at knowing who reads their mags!).
The latest ABCs are out - figures are released monthly but half-yearly and annual comparisons are always paid particular attention to for highlighting trends. I'm sure you know by now that ABCs are how the official circulation (not necessarily sales) figures by the Audit Bureau of Circulation are known!
Here's the latest summary, from the excellent (though troubled itself; ironically the Media industry has struggled to support media on the media: The UK Press Gazette and MediaWeek the main players) MediaWeek:
IPC's NME and Bauer Consumer Media's Kerrang! reported year-on-year circulation drops of 27.2% and 28.3% respectively during the first six months of 2009.
In the film market, a special edition guest-edited by Steven Spielberg helped Bauer's Empire achieve a circulation of 194,016, up 2.3% period on period and 3.6% year on year.
The performance of Kerrang! and  NME reflected a market hit hard by the rise of digital platforms and changes in consumer behaviour. But Eric Fuller, managing director of NME publisher IPC Ignite, is committed to the title. "The paper publication remains in very rude health," he says. NME's website posted strong growth, for an ABCe of 4.7 million unique users in June.
Future Publishing's Classic Rock reported increases both period on period (0.2%) and year on year (5.5%) to 70,301. This is among a clutch of titles aimed at older music fans, including Q and Mojo, that remained steady despite market uncertainty.

You can read further analyses at:
The world’s biggest-selling film magazine EMPIRE celebrates its 20th anniversary year with a sixth consecutive ABC rise to 194,016.
Earlier this year the EMPIRE team, led by Editor Mark Dinning, relocated to LA to work with the world's most famous film director and guest-editor Steven Spielberg. The special issue included exclusives from a veritable Hollywood Who's-Who - Jack Nicholson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson amongst them.
A blockbuster packed six months in film has seen movie titles Empire and Total Film both post an increase in circulation figures.
Batman, Terminator, Harry Potter and Transformer sequels all released in the last six months must have contributed somewhat to a 3.6 per cent rise to 194,016 for Empire and a 0.6 per cent rise to 85,031 for Total Film.
Bauer's Empire scored a massive exclusive for its June issue, with legendary director Steven Spielberg guest editing the magazine's 20th anniversary edition.
While many magazines suffered falling sales, the total average net circulation and distribution of UK consumer titles over the first six months of 2009 was 63.76m copies, a fall of 1.9% year on year.
Despite the doom and gloom, the magazine sector is still growing, with a total average net circulation and distribution of 81,227,572 across the second half of 2008, a 3.7% increase year on year and up from 76,238,115 in the second half of 2003.
The top-selling actively purchased magazine, relying on subscriptions and newsstand sales, was once again H Bauer's TV Choice, which sold 1,369,088 copies on average each week in the second half of 2008, down 2.5% year on year.
Two more weekly TV listings magazines sold more than 1m actively purchased copies each week – IPC's What's on TV, down 5.1% year on year to 1,315,543, and BBC Magazines' Radio Times, down 1.7% to 1,018,704.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Shane Meadows DVDs in Library

I've just added a Shane Meadows DVD boxset to the Library collection (for Media students only). The four films can be loaned out individually - see the pic for details or look up

These are mostly Warp films, so obviously useful viewing for the AS, but also for A2; Shane Meadows has emerged as a key figure within Indie cinema in terms of (re-?)defining Britishness in the noughties

Be advised: The movies contain many challenging, quite adult scenes

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Warp to release zombie flick

See - Warp and C4 are producing a zombie flick. The genre seems to have gained a new lease of life (see what I did there...) of late, with the micro-budget Colin and C4's zom-com Dead Set (a disappointing effort from the Guardian's ultra-cynic columnist Charlie Brooker) coming on top of several high profile US efforts (including zombie godfather George A Romero's dire return), not to mention Shaun of the Dead and 28 Days Later/28 Weeks Later. Its been a long time since the UK has managed anything even close to the global status Hammer horror achieved through the 60s and 70s, but we may just be seeing an alternative to Hugh Grant's goshing and gurning developing here.
The new movie plays on the title of the notorious 80s 'video nasty' I Spit on Your Grave (which, sad to say, seems set for a re-make).
I've just watched the trailer (which features some swearing) looks utterly dreadful! Seems to star the annoying chap from The Mighty Boosh who has rendered Never Mind the Buzzcocks unwatchable with his annoying presence, and to have little in the way of an actual narrative. Ah well.

The Ghost of Rom-Coms Past Rises Again

Couldn't quite believe my bad luck when a wee browse through the upcoming schedule of releases in UK cinemas seemed to include the actor who sums up all that is bad about the representation of Britishness we get from contemporary UK cinema. Yes, despite announcing his retirement from film-making, Hugh, uh, ah, gosh, Grant is back - but there is hope...
He has threatened to retire at least twice before and now Hollywood actor Hugh Grant is talking about quitting acting yet again.

Blaming a string of stage fright attacks, the 48-year-old actor says he is ready to give up his day job at last.
I like everything about filming except the acting. Im wonderful in rehearsals, but I have never been very good when they actually switch the cameras on, he said.
In recent years Ive had really bad attacks where I totally froze up. I thought that well, if I am going to get stage fright, then I am packing it in, he added.
But people are wondering whether he is really serious about retirement because Grant has this habit of threatening to quit and then signing up a movie.
Grant admits that he is slightly embarrassed with his habit. His last talk about retirement came just months after completing work on Did You Hear About The Morgans?, his first film in two years.
SOURCE: actually gets worse. His new film co-stars Sarah Jessica Parker! Its just missing Madonna and Jennifer Aniston to complete this vision of hell! Surely an early favourite for the Razzies?

Schedule of New Releases in British Cinemas

Useful link this; you can see whats coming up, which has led to discover something really quite hideous - I'll reveal that in another post. See:

Warp and WT linked through Distributors

Interesting development I wasn't previously aware of: Optimum Releasing (see wiki and business profile), the company that distributes Warp's films, has been acquired by StudioCanal - yet another link between Warp and WT, and another example of the inability of UK Indies to work entirely free of the net of the Big 6 and Hollywood:
18th May 2007 : Cannes, France - Optimum Releasing / StudioCanal and Lionsgate U.K. announced today they will jointly acquire Elevation Sales. Elevation will now handle the joint sales and distribution of DVD product for both Optimum Home Entertainment and Lionsgate U.K., continuing its growth within the UK home entertainment market. ...
The venture builds upon both distributors' continued growth in the home entertainment sector. As a result of the acquisition, Elevation Sales will become one of the strongest suppliers to the UK home entertainment market with a forthcoming DVD roster including strong mainstream releases such as Saw 4 and Captivity, critically acclaimed successes This is England and The Lives of Others and classic catalogue releases Dirty Dancing and This is Spinal Tap.
 StudioCanal itself lost its operating independence in 2001:
Europe's StudioCanal is set to lose its independence by being delisted from the Paris stock exchange and then folded into Universal Pictures, its stable-mate within the VivendiUniversal empire. ...
Through its original LosAngeles-based filmmaking operation, StudioCanal struck alliances with variousUS producers such as Phoenix Pictures, Bel Air Entertainment, MandalayEntertainment and Spyglass Entertainment, while also co-financing individualfilms such as Paramount's $70m Lucky Numbers. In Europe, StudioCanal is an essential cog in thefilmmaking landscape well beyond its native France, co-financing the productionslate of the UK's Working Title, for example, not to mention this year'sPalme d'Or winner from Italy, The Son's Room. [orig article here]
StudioCanal and Optimum Releasing are the companies you want to be familiar with for the AS exam.
StudioCanal Image S.A. (aka Le Studio Canal+, Canal Plus, Canal + Distribution, and Canal+ Image), is a French-based production and distribution company that owns the third-largest film library in the world. [quoted from]

UK Film Distribution + Digital Cinema

If you hunt through the archive you'll find a detailed but fairly brief to Distribution; the following adds to this. I've posted some additional links on film distribution at the end. This is yet another example of where WT are at a huge advantage over their UK rivals, having standing distribution deals with StudioCanal across Europe (another NBC-Universal subsidiary) and through Universal in the US.
Its worth posting's full post on digital distribution (from

UK film distribution guide

UK cinema's digital dawn. FDA offers this snapshot of D-cinema, and its potential advantages and implications.

Digital film

Practically since the birth of cinema at the end of the 19th century, films have been produced, circulated and screened on celluloid stock.
More recently, digital soundtracks have enhanced the audio experience, while computer graphics imagery (CGI) is often added in post-production to realise spectacular effects. Today, most films are edited and mastered on digital equipment; a few, such as George Lucas's latest Star Wars episodes, are even shot using high-definition digital cameras, rather than being photographed on film.
Yet across the world, the standard format for presentation remains 35mm celluloid, which delivers superb quality to audiences.
Now the cinema industry stands on the threshold of a great, rolling transition from celluloid to digital, which is expected to gather momentum over the decade ahead. In time, digital technologies are likely to exert as profound an impact on the cinema sector as on the broadcast and other media sectors.
Digital or D-cinema has already been piloted in the UK for ten years. Disney/Pixar's Toy Story was supplied and presented digitally (on a Texas Instruments DLP prototype) at London's Odeon, Leicester Square, in 1995. But only a handful of cinemas have had digital projectors whilst further quality advances were achieved. Now, with D-cinema giving state-of-the-art clarity on screen, audiences may be unaware that they are watching a digital, as opposed to a film, presentation.
A great deal of work has been undertaken around the world, but especially by the studios' Digital Cinema Initiative, to develop global standards for D-cinema. The general aim is to ensure that digital content can be distributed and played anywhere in the world - as is the case, of course, with a 35mm print. The new technologies and components should be based on open, as well as compatible, standards that foster competition among equipment and service providers. The hardware should be capable of easy upgrades as further advances occur.
Who gains from D-cinema
Potentially, there are real benefits both for the industry and, most importantly, for audiences.
Film distributors - the companies that release movies and market them to the public - will benefit if there are substantial reductions in the costs of duplicating film prints and transporting them to cinemas. The UK is one of the most expensive markets in the world in which to release a film. FDA members spend approximately £125m a year on prints, duplicated in high-tech laboratories. A digitally produced or converted film could be delivered quickly and reliably via disc (a much smaller, cheaper physical medium than a 35mm print), fibre optic cable or satellite - triggering a huge systems change for the whole industry.
Cinemas that book and receive a digital copy would store it on a computer/server in the projection box, which would serve it to a particular digital projector for each screening. Importantly, distributors should be able to encode and encrypt their digital files, to ensure that each film is as secure as possible and that access to them throughout the theatrical lifecycle is controlled and traceable. In the digital era, new asset management models will emerge but for the foreseeable future, piracy is expected to continue as a key business issue, undermining the industry's further development.
In due course, it may be possible for distributors to deliver newly cut digital trailers to cinemas at very short notice, capitalising on topical developments such as awards nominations or wins, favourable reviews and box-office success, much as other forms of film advertising already do.
Film archiving could also be transformed by digital progress. Professional storage of 35mm reels can demand considerable space, care and funding.
For cinemas themselves, digital equipment may present diverse programming opportunities, such as concerts, sports events or short films of local interest, and it may help them as venues to attract business conferences. Depending on the catchment area population, perhaps a choice of classic films could be screened at selected times, if and when digital copies are available at low cost.
For cinema audiences, all these opportunities may result in wider choice. In addition, the digital images on screen will be picture-perfect every time. By contrast, the more often celluloid is run through a projector, the more prone it becomes to scratches and fading, wear and tear.
UK digital screen network
FDA welcomes and supports an initiative by the UK Film Council, to invest up to £13 million of National Lottery funds in what will become the world's first digital screen network, placing the UK at the forefront of D-cinema.
It is planned that up to 200 screens in 150 cinemas across the UK - a quarter of the total - will be equipped with digital projectors. In return, cinemas will be asked by the Film Council to show a broader range of specialised (non-blockbuster) films such as documentaries or foreign language titles on a regular basis.
Hopefully, such a substantial investment will help the hardware costs to fall, which in turn could facilitate extra installations. Initially at least, the network will comprise 2K digital projectors (2,048 x 1,080 pixels resolution).
Fast-changing area
D-cinema presents opportunities for the cinema industry to try new ways of working, and of course there is much to learn from experience.
Given lower print/shipping costs, distributors may be able to consider increasing the number of (digital) copies or increasing their advertising investment to promote the film. If they take this risk, it may in turn help to draw a larger audience to 'specialised' films which tend inevitably to have smaller releases than commercial blockbusters. Of course, simply making more copies of a film does not automatically lead to more tickets being sold.
Ultimately, audiences will decide what content they want to pay to view, and accordingly what gets shown, in cinemas; technology itself does not drive admissions. Whatever happens from now on, potentially very exciting changes are coming. The future isn't what it used to be.
Further information - includes latest news on the digital screen network - European Digital Cinema Forum - The Moving Image Society
FilmEducation describe the FDA thus:

Film Distributors' Association

Film Distributors' Association logo Originally established in London in 1915, Film Distributors' Association Ltd. (FDA) is the trade body for theatrical film distributors in the UK - the companies that release films for UK cinema audiences. FDA liaises and works with many individuals, companies and organisations to help ensure a vibrant future for film.

Various books in the library feature sections on film distribution, the process whereby middlemen, either for a flat fee or a for a percentage of revenues (or a combination of both) take on the financial risk of generating film prints and marketing a film. Also see:
THIS IS A GOOD GENERAL ARTICLE, FROM BFI'S SCREENONLINE - there are several further articles linked from this page which take you through case studies
image of film cans
The history of film is usually related through the achievements of producers, directors, writers and performers. Making films, production, has always been perceived as a glamorous pursuit.
Alternatively, our personal understanding and appreciation of film is shaped by our experiences at the cinema. The exhibition of film is a commonplace, shared cultural activity highly visible in every city and town in Britain, constantly feeding the popular memory.
By contrast, distribution, the third part of the film supply chain, is often referred to as 'the invisible art', a process known only to those within the industry, barely written about and almost imperceptible to everyone else.
Yet arguably, distribution is the most important part of the film industry, where completed films are brought to life and connected with an audience.
So what is involved in this invisible process? Distribution is about releasing and sustaining films in the market place. In the practice of Hollywood and other forms of industrial cinema, the phases of production, distribution and exhibition operate most effectively when 'vertically integrated', where the three stages are seen as part of the same larger process, under the control of one company. In the UK, distribution is very much focused on marketing and sustaining a global product in local markets.
In the independent film sector, vertical integration does not operate so commonly. Producers tend not to have long-term economic links with distributors, who likewise have no formal connections with exhibitors. Here, as the pig-in-the-middle, distribution is necessarily a collaborative process, requiring the materials and rights of the producer and the cooperation of the exhibitor to promote and show the film in the best way possible. In this sector, distribution can be divided into three stages - licensing, marketing and logistics.

The wiki isn't bad; starts with this summary:
A film distributor is an independent company, a subsidiary company or occasionally an individual, which acts as the final agent between a film production company or some intermediary agent, and a film exhibitor, to the end of securing placement of the producer's film on the exhibitor's screen. In the film business, the term "distribution" refers to the marketing and circulation of movies in theaters, and for home viewing (DVD, Video-On-Demand, Download, Television etc). (Film Distributors' Association website)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How many UK films made a year?

Useful resource at
A snippet:

The true health – or, perhaps the terminal decline – of British film hopes depends on more than the three dozen British movies that get released every year.
Equally important, perhaps even more crucial for taking the temperature are the fifty or sixty independent films that get made but are seldom seen.

WARP makes controversial jihad comedy

[See also]
The following comes from - there are further article links there

Chris Morris Unleashes Four Lions

20 May 2009 3:10 AM, PDT | EmpireOnline | See recent EmpireOnline news »
Film4 has gone where many others have feared to tread and funded Four Lions, Chris Morris' satirical and no doubt incendiary take on Islamic terrorism in the UK.Morris, the satirical genius behind Brass Eye and The Day Today and a man who once persuaded Phil Collins to appear on telly in a T-shirt with 'Nonce Sense' emblazoned on the front, is promising to show "the Dad's Army side of terrorism" with a script that follows the path of four teenage Muslims into indoctrinated jihadis.Peter O'Hanraha-hanrahan Deirdre Steed, who helped secure funding to cover its £4 million budget, describes Four Lions as "a funny, thrilling fictional story that illuminates modern British jihad with an insight beyond anything else in our culture. As Spinal Tap understood heavy metal and Dr. Strangelove the Cold War, Four Lions understands modern British jihadis."The shoot for Four Lions is scheduled to start this summer, »

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Some useful terminology

I won't usually post whole web pages, but this is a useful one - indeed, its a great website all round, there is much more to be found (this is the same source as the box office data posted earlier). I'll endeavour at some point to round up a range of useful terms to pass on as a test and then revision aid - as with semiotics there is potentially a lot to take on board...

Glossary of Movie Business Terms

Budget See production budget and Prints and Advertising (P&A) Budget.
Domestic Box Office
Total money spent on tickets by moviegoers in the United States and Canada.
Fanboy Effect
Certain films have a very loyal following, usually due to their source material. These people will flock to the film as soon as it opens, either over the opening weekend or, more likely, opening night. This inflates these numbers, reducing both the Internal Multiplier and the overall Multiplier.
Home Market
The Home Market refers to revenue derived from people viewing movies at home. It is broken down into three sections: rentals, sales and TV rights. Combined these bring in more than double the domestic box office and can turn a film that was a mid-level hit to a monster hit, or lift a film that struggled at the box office to one that shows a considerable profit. And to think, just a couple of decades ago studios were suing VCR manufacturers and Video Rental stores claiming they would kill the industry! Of course now DVD is king, representing more than 80% of rentals and nearly all of the sales.
The Hulk Effect
Back in 2003 when Hulk came out, the studio bowed to incredible pressure from fans and released early footage of the special effects. The plan was to get the fans talking and build up the word-of-mouth. However, the special effects were in the early stages and were so bad that the buzz it generated killed any chance the film had. More recently the same happened to Catwoman with the early look at Halle Berry's outfit. Just goes to show you, sometimes there is such thing as bad publicity.
Internal Multiplier
A film's weekend box office divided by its Friday number. It's basically a measure of the film's word-of-mouth, with 3.0 being the best most films can get these day while 2.3 is generally the bottom rung. Certain films have an inherent advantage (like those aimed kids), while the Fanboy Effect can shrink the number as the hardcore fans flock to the movie on Friday.
International box office
Total box office from all nations outside United States and Canada.
Legs is a term used to refer to how long a film lasts in theaters.
A film's total box office divided by its opening weekend box office. Another measure of the film's word-of-mouth but with a much wider range of possibilities. Films with below 2.0 are not unheard of, while 6.0 or more are a possibility. Just as a side note, not too long ago films with a multiplier of 10 or more were quite common, but the economics have changed and a big opening weekend is too important to the studios and the home market shortens a film's legs.
Prints and Advertising (P&A) Budget
Prints are the actual physical film that are shown in theaters and are quite expensive to make and distribute, costing about $2,000 per print. Each theater needs at least one print and possibly more depending on how many screens the film is playing on. The advertising part of the budget is the amount spent on just that, advertising. Most of the money is spent on TV, but radio, newspapers and magazines, the Internet and in theater advertising are also very important. The average film spends $34.4 million on P&A, while some films have spent more than $100 million.
Production Budget
The amount of money it cost make the movie including pre-production, film and post-production, but excluding distribution costs. The average cost of a wide release is about $65 million, with the most expensive films topping $200 million.
Screens & Screen Count
The actual screen the movie is projected on. Most Theaters have multiple screens, with largest having two dozen screens or more. Screen Count is simply the number of screens a film is playing on, but this is rarely used domestically, but internationally it is used to measure how wide a release is.
The Sequel Effect, a.k.a. Sequelitis
Think of this as a sub-species of the Fanboy Effect specific to sequels. Such films have a built in audience due to the original movie (as otherwise making the sequel is pointless).
Theaters & Theater Count
A theater is any place a movie is showing from the smallest cinema on the art house circuit to the largest megaplex. A film's Theater Count is simply the number of theaters a film is playing in at a given time. Domestically Theater Count is used to measure how wide a release is.
Worldwide box office
Domestic Box Office plus the International Box Office.

International Markets

The largest international box office market and one of the few markets where a movie can reach $100 million. Fantasy films tend to very well here, as do home grown films, especially Anime.
United Kingdom
The biggest producer of international films in terms of worldwide appeal and another market where a film hitting $100 million isn't unheard of, although for a film to bring in $30 million is about as common as a film hitting $100 million domestically. Not only do they produce a lot of their own films, the U.K. also tends to be the international market that is most receptive to most Hollywood films, especially comedies.
Germany is a market in transition as recently homegrown movies have really dominated the German speaking markets. Low brow comedies tend to do well here, as do films aimed at an urban audience domestically. Austria tends to have very similar box office tastes as Germany, just with a much smaller box office; a typical film will earn 10% to 20% of what it made in Germany.
Similar box office totals to the U.K., but local films tend to dominate the box office more in France. Also, the foreign language films with the biggest domestic box office tend to come from France.
Eclectic tastes means films that received just a limited release domestically tend to do well here. Hitting $10 million here is about as common as films hitting $150 million domestically.
Similar to the U.K., with similar tastes, except the average film will earn just half as much at the box office. Also, the local film production industry isn't nearly as strong. Films tend to open in Australia and New Zealand either on the same date, or within weeks of each other.
Horror films are the biggest draw here. One of the smaller major markets with $10 million a major milestone for the market and very few making it to $20 million or above. Films tend to open big and drop very fast, 50% second weekend drop-offs are common.
Family films tend to rule the box office here, especially animated films. For a film to hit $10 million in this market is a big deal.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

BritCinema's hoodie obsession

Another great article from the Film Guardian (you might have heard me mention this before...), highlighting, with plentiful examples from the past decade, the trend to use so-called yobs/hoodies/thugs (i.e., depictions of your generation) as the monsters in a succession of Brit-flicks, whether horror or straight drama. See Jane Graham's article here
Hoodies strike fear in British cinema

If you want to scare a British moviegoer, you don't make a film about zombies – you cast a kid in flammable sportswear and a hoodie

Kate Winslet worth £60m to UK economy?!

Interesting article - from the Film Guardian, where else! - on a UKFC report which has calculated KW's value to the UK economy in terms of film investment and tourism, plus her own salaries. Came as a titanic shock to me...

She has been appraised and audited and metaphorically slapped with a price tag. It's official: Kate Winslet, the Oscar-winning star of The Reader, is worth a grand total of £60m to the British economy.

Winslet, 34, is the first actor to be audited in a bold new venture by the UK Film Council, designed to calculate the exact value of the industry's stars. Jokingly referred to as the "Winslet algorithm", it bases its findings on a number of factors, from Winslet's basic salary through to the "general promotional effect" that her films have on British tourism.

The formula calculated that the actor had earned £20m from her acting roles since starring in Sense and Sensibility back in 1995. However, it also credits her stardom as a key factor in boosting UK-based film production. According to the study, the "production investment effect" of casting Winslet in a British picture is worth £34.4m.

The Winslet algorithm is the brainchild of David Steele, head of research and statistics at the UK Film Council. "When an actor achieves international prominence, they have a general effect of boosting their country of origin that works its way through television appearances, advertising and celebrity news," he explained in a statement. Steele now plans to use his formula to audit a number of other notable British actors.

Reading-born Winslet first came to public notice thanks to roles in Sense and Sensibility and Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures, before starring opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in the record-breaking Titanic. Other notable films include Iris, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Revolutionary Road. Steele calculates that her single biggest acting payment was the estimated £6m she pocketed for her work on the 2004 drama Finding Neverland.
 Source: Xan Brooks, "Kate Winslet 'worth £60m' to UK economy", Film Guardian [online], 9.11.09. Accessed online 10.11.09 at

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The power of a good idea...

Nice example here of a short film which leaps straight into the dis-equilibrium and has a nice twist ending. Sharing it is doing exactly what the corporation behind it are hoping for: an example of viral marketing. But then it is CanalPlus, which links in with the AS British Cinema case study of Working Title...


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Slumdog and the growing UK Bollywood scene

I'll add more to this another time, but a quick note on the growing significance of the UK-Indian film scene, which isn't necessarily limited to Bollywood style productions - indeed, there is a question over whether the dominant social realist tradition of UK film-making may be gaining some influence on the sub-continent through the rising number of productions shot in the UK.
Have a look at though you'll also find detailed analysis in a variety of Film Guardian articles with a quick search.

Local Film-making That Goes Under the Radar, and PropellerTV

As some of you will know, PropellerTV is a Leeds-based Sky digital channel that screens short films and music videos. Its worth having a look at two examples of productions that have been screened on the channel (though their length might bar one from being considered a 'short' by some, including the Oscar organisers!); there is a level of film-making which exists at a financial level well below even the likes of the Warp X circa £1m budgets.


One Hundred and Ten Percent

Partially as it links into the research you need to do to show your grasp of the instiutional context of film, but also because its simply intriguing, check out

For similar reasons, but also as it might inspire some of the more energetic and ambitious amongst you, have a look at this: - a quite extraordinary record of/resource for amateur/hobbyist film-makers in one overlooked corner of England

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bollywood-UK links + 'Flash mobs' as film marketing technique

Use the post heading link to go to an interesting article on an alternative to mainstream, paid-for advertising; the example used is from Bollywood, but the concept is universally applicable.
Also useful to consider the increasing blurring of the lines between some Bollywood productions and British cinema, with an increasing number set and/or shot in the UK to help exploit the sizeable emigre market for Bollywood fare - several good articles on this can be found in the Film Guardian site.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Nice FilmGdn art on questionable future of British cinema

Can't recommend highly enough that you get the Guardian on Mondays (Media supplement) and Fridays (Film/Music supplement, and usually media-related stories in business section too) for a bit of wider reading, to keep yourself up to date - and to help keep me up to date once you've read it! I've got 45p off vouchers you can have for this purpose.
From last Friday: 'What Creation's US deal means for the future of British cinema' - addresses the key issue of the influence the lucrative American audience has in the decision-making and creative work of British film-makers.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


There is also a post with a brochure on TisEng

This is England Some Points                                                                                                                                            


This is useful


The million-dollar question

SOURCE: The Guardian, Monday 23 February 2009

Homegrown movies are attracting audiences and accolades and yet the industry is under threat - with even Slumdog backer Film4 facing uncertainty. So is there a future for British film? Stephen Armstrong reports

On the face of it, times couldn't be better for British film - with Slumdog Millionaire's awards success so far adding to a huge growth in audiences. Cinema admissions are bucking the downturn trend, as figures released last week proved - the UK box office had the strongest January performance for five years with takings of £100m, according to Nielsen EDI, while total admissions rose 7.7% year on year.

At least three major Hollywood productions start shooting in the UK this year - Gulliver's Travels, Nottingham, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - as well as Film4's post-Slumdog projects such as Peter Jackson's and DreamWorks's film of The Lovely Bones and Sam Taylor Wood's Lennon biopic, Nowhere Boy.

Behind the scenes, however, there are problems - TV and DVD revenues have fallen, the credit crunch has stopped British banks lending to indie producers, and the consequent delays are threatening to wipe out indie productions before they've even started. There are those who fear a more fundamental threat in 2009 - that a possible merger between Channel 4 and BBC Worldwide could permanently damage both BBC Films and Film4. If it does, Slumdog, In Bruges and Revolutionary Road could be the last of their kind.

"I'm concerned we're at a tipping point for British film," says Andy Harries, chief executive of Left Bank and producer of 2006's Oscar-nominated movie The Queen as well as next month's The Damned Utd. "The future is very uncertain. C4 and the BBC are the only source of funds for anyone who isn't Working Title and when times are tough for broadcasters a film company can look like a bit of a luxury."

Reports last week suggested that merger talks had settled on a joint venture between C4 and BBCWW, combining E4, More4 and Film4 with various BBC digital channels. The move worries John Woodward, chief executive of the UK Film Council: "We only have a few sources of funding for riskier projects in the UK - us, BBC Films, Film4 and a couple of others," he explains. "Any suggestion that we reduce that would be very damaging."

Harries also fears a separation of Film4 and C4 could damage talent. "TV and film are so intertwined in the UK," he argues. "Channel 4 are arguing they should survive based on their PSB remit - well, if Channel 4 were to go, what would I miss most? The films.

"Inside the BBC, without [former fiction head] Jane Tranter there's no one leading the creative tub-thumping for film, while all the indicators were that Film4 had more than a whiff of endangered species about it until the huge success of Slumdog."

The woman behind Slumdog is Tessa Ross - C4's controller of film and drama. She famously bought the rights to the book after reaching chapter three of the unpublished manuscript. Then she quickly packed The Full Monty's Simon Beaufoy off to Mumbai to research the screenplay. She believes a proposed merger would bring significant change.

"I don't think change is bad if there's a wholehearted great vision that carries us through it," she says. "I have an overview of film and telly. I have a brilliant head of drama and she makes all her own decisions. I can help if necessary, but most importantly - and this is the point about telly making film - I say here is a single door. Inside we make telly and we make film. Drama, documentaries, arts - all our commissioning editors work with talent that has aspirations to make film."

Ross highlights Four Lions - Chris Morris's film about British jihadis, currently in pre-production - as an example of this relationship. TV companies rejected the script but it found funding through WarpX - a Film4/UK Film Council joint project with the Sheffield-based indie Warp - that can finance three low-budget films a year.

"The point of public money is to make stuff that the market doesn't want to make," she argues. "You need the freedom to take risks because that's always where the biggest British hits come from. I'm not making derivative films - that feels cynical and the studios do it better than us. So you can't work at market rate - and with Slumdog that meant working with [the production company] Celador to pay more than the market would."

After starting Slumdog, the producers approached Celador to secure the rights to the gameshow Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. The makers of the TV quiz co-financed the film.

"At other times we develop films that no one else wants to pick up - which makes it harder to raise the money. But that's our job. If you knew what would make it you'd be a studio, wouldn't you?"

Ross has a relatively limited budget of £8-£10m a year for Film4's entire output. Typically, independent producers looking to make £4-5m movies will use public money to develop projects, then take the script and proposal to film festivals in the US, Cannes and Berlin to secure distribution agreements. Each distribution contract acts as collateral in securing bank loans to start production. Adam Kulick, a partner at Goldcrest, warns that the credit crunch means those loans have dried up.

Vicious circle

"Producers are having real trouble starting productions and they survive on production fees - which means some may go out of business in the downturn," Kulick explains. "At the same time, those distribution agreements they can secure are worth less this year as overseas markets struggle with their own recessions. You can see the beginning of a vicious circle developing. Producers are having to go further and further afield to places such as the Middle East for cash."

The creative industries are notoriously conservative about new forms of funding, with most industry insiders supporting the publicly funded status quo. Only a few companies, with Working Title the biggest, operate like commercial studios. Kulick, however, does praise the film-financing tax break that the government launched two years ago.

Woodward agrees. "It's very simple, the downside is protected and HMRC is very quick in processing claims," he says. "It's got a very good reputation in the industry - here and abroad. What I think you will find is that what money we do have tends to end up in the best films. The independent slate for 2009 is very strong and we've got high hopes for the films that will get released."

The Labour governments of the past 12 years are seen as largely supportive of British film. The other plus for UK film is that, while the downturn is forcing C4 into merger talks and hitting producers' credit lines, the fall in the value of sterling is making the UK a very attractive place for Hollywood studios to film.

"The UK's talent and creative base is very strong," says David Kosse, president of Universal Pictures International, who is preparing to release Richard Curtis's new movie The Boat That Rocked, in April.

"Couple that with the weakness of the pound and that's attracting strong inward investment from the US. Some of last year's biggest pictures - such as The Dark Knight and Mamma Mia! - were shot in the UK so Pinewood and Shepperton [studios] are feeling pretty optimistic after a difficult few years. Having said that, this further underlines the need for a strong UK independent sector.

"You can't have actors, craftspeople and camera crews who only work on a couple of big pictures a year - they need to be working all the time to make sure the creative base remains strong."

Which brings the argument back to Film4. Sadly, Oscar recognition is unlikely to secure much more cash for the unit. Slumdog is highly profitable - having returned four times its initial costs - but only a small proportion of this profit will return to C4. For Ross, however, the profit isn't the main point.

"I'm very concerned that public money for film is protected and I've always thought that the fact that we're end users - that we have always had film in our DNA - has meant we know our purpose in film," she argues.

"Protecting public money for film and protecting Channel 4, well, I would like them to be the same thing but they don't have to be. Change, when it comes, and it will come, will hopefully be about a wholehearted vision for a sustainable public service."

Harries, however, is less sanguine. "For some reason we have an incredibly strong TV culture in this country and yet a very ambivalent relationship with cinema," he says. "I don't know why that is and it's a shame. If you had the scripts for The Full Monty, The Queen and Slumdog purely on the small screen, they'd still be great scripts but the simple fact of them beginning as movies means they have far more cultural impact and will still be talked about for years to come.

"We're facing a real battle and we've got to win it - because it's more important than ever. People have to realise that we can't afford to lose British film."

Monday, June 08, 2009


This doc should help - its not complete, but there is a lot here


Although they've not necessarily been kept up to date (reflecting this being the last ever running of your exams), the blogs at (some good theory guides) and should be useful

Thursday, May 28, 2009

AS Exam guides

If you weren't at the revision sessions on this, it may be useful to catch up with some of those who were. I focussed in particular on the issue of DISTRIBUTION, which exam board feedback from January suggests was an area students countrywide didn't tackle too well. This doc briefly summarises some key points on this, though I went into more detail in the revision classes. If time permits, I'll type up further notes and add them here.
This doc takes you through the outline of content covered in this question, and the assessment criteria. I also focussed on the issue of the Key Concepts in the revision slots, as cited here.
Some key points to work on for the exam:-
  • look closely at the issue of distribution; the doc above gives a brief summary of this, with links for further reading; I'll add to this if I get time (distribution co's pay a flat fee and/or a % of potential profits for the rights to sell a production co's film to exhibitors - cinema, TV, DVD etc. Distributors pay for the marketing of a film, not the production co - tho' WT are unusual as they insist in being involved in the marketing campaign - use BJDiary as a case study, but also ref Love Actually)
  • do focus your answer on the case study of WT, but put this into context with reference to Warp Film/X as a more typical Brit production co (working on much smaller budgets than even WT's 'Indie' arm, WT2; social realist films; genre films 'with a twist'; working with Optimum Releasing and Film4/C4 for distribution; tho WT was sim to Warp when it started out) AND some specific comparison too to a Hollywood producer (use Universal, obviously part of the NBC-Universal conglomerate)
  • how do these sometimes giant corporations go about targeting an audience? Marketing is key to this (BJD cleverly taps into a wide aud thru its soundtrack etc), but so is the use of stars (Richard Dyer's star system), setting/accent (focus on white, S.Eng, m-class?), and the trend of hybrid genres (rom-COMs reach out to males thru comedy aspect; LActually makes this explicit with its 'ironic' sexist music vid with Bill Nighy, a parody of Robert Palmer's 1980s 'Addicted to Love' music video. For a company like Warp X, use of stars generally won't be an option; they focus on working within familiar genres - eg the slasher Donkey Punch taps into the wide fanbase of horror/slasher movies, featuring a 'final girl' - a tough, resourceful female character who overcomes the typically male killer - to reach out to a female audience for this primarily male genre
This part of the exam may focus on Aud/Inst'n, but there's certainly scope for touching on issues of representation - do you feel the typical WT film represents you as British person? Look at the fate of Mickybo & Me, a $5m WT2 film that, unlike the similar Son of Rambow with its S.Eng protagonists, flopped - it was only shown for one week in N.I. cinemas, the decision then being taken not to fund a UK wide cinema distribution.
On this topic, but also for some light relief, have a look at the BBC3 satire 'Curtisland', which savagely critiques the WT/HGrant/RCurtis rom-coms narrow white (upper-)middle-class, S.Eng representation of Britain (NB: the humour is fairly adult):

For the TV Drama Q, though, nothing will help more than practicing note-taking and writing up your analysis - using the exam timings [30 mins for 4 viewings of 4-5min clip of recent British TV drama; 45 mins for writing essay on this]. Look at the listings for programme descriptions, and make an educated guess at which area of representation it might be useful to look at - a female lead for gender [eg Ashes to Ashes], a northern setting for region, etc - record, play, write...
If you want me to add docs from earlier in the year on semiotics and TV drama send me an email and I will:

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Warp X: Low Budget DIGITAL Film Production Co

There are a series of materials I'll add to this, as well as posts on the films This is England and Donkey Punch which we've looked at to varying degrees; many are linked below. I'll revise this doc and add a fuller summary.
Warp contrasts nicely (effectively forms a binary opposition) with the juggernaut that is WT (whilst sharing the same roots).
There's much more detail in the docs that follow, but some key points:
  • just like WT, the key personnel behind Warp gained their initial filmic experience in music videos (Warp was initially a record label)
  • Warp Films was set up first, followed in 2006 by Warp X - both are essentially the same company, but WX was specifically funded by the UKFC to the tune of £3m (EM Media & Screen Yorskhire added £1.5m [total £4.5m]) to produce 6 films in 3 years and to foster the development of low-budget digital film-making in the UK. WT's low-budget subsidiary, WT2, spends more than this on any one of its releases!
  • Optimum Releasing handles distribution (TV rights to C4/Film4) - hardly on the same scale as WT with their tie-ins with Universal and Studio-Canal providing distribution deals for the USA and Europe
  • Just as with WT in their early days (with MBL), Warp has had critical acclaim for some of its initial output, including Shane Meadows' TisEng and Dead Man Walking
  • forging long-term creative relationships seems to be another trait they share with WT (perhaps they've studied what has made WT such a success?), with Paddy Considine and Shane Meadows two examples of this
  • amazingly enough, given the tiny budgets they work on, Warp has even found time to launch its own offshoots, or subsidiaries: as well as a competition for female comedy film-makers, it has sought to set up a production arm in Australia, taking advantage of government funding there