Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Are Critics Critical?

'In a repeat of the previous weekend, three releases on 100-plus screens completely failed to engage wide audience attention. Torture-horror The Collector, from the writers of the past four Saw movies, struggled past £100,000 for a weak £586 average. The film wasn't a hit with critics, but the genre audience is considered virtually reviews-proof, and can usually be relied upon to generate a much stronger number than that.'

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Star system

I'll add some notes on Richard Dyer's theory later; for now, this article adds an interesting slant to it:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

China to become biggest film market?

Good article which looks at trends in US film industry, especially on the cinema (exhibition) side. A snippet:
Take China. Its 2009 box office was roughly $1bn, but the rate of cinema construction is so quick there that one producer I spoke to this week believes the country's box office will reach $10bn by 2015. China delivered stingy returns for most Hollywood movies until several years ago. Then along came Transformers 2, which made a load of money there, and of course, Avatar. China was the second biggest market in the world for Avatar behind North America. The producer reckons that by the time Transformers 4 opens in around 2014, China could be its biggest market.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Viral Video chart

Should we consider any of these 'British film'? A useful source to look at with digitization in mind: (taken from

What about amateur productions such as this: Zombie Bosh - amateur short from Huddersfield enthusiasts

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Report on UK Film Industry

Very useful article copied in below, which raises a number of issues and includes a link to a new Oxford Economics report on the economics of the UK film industry, eg:
  • UK film needs a government subsidy and/or tax breaks
  • this currently amounts to £110m a year ...
  • which generates £1.3bn extra film-based revenue
  • in total, the UK film industry generates £4.5bn, including £1.2bn which the government takes back as tax
  • the industry directly employs 36,000 people (and the same again indirectly)
  • in addition, UK films 'generate around 10% of revenues from overseas visitors, or around £1.9bn a year' (various examples are given of how individual films have created massive visitor surges)
  • 'The report, called The Economic Impact of the UK Film Industry, and downloadable at the UK Film Council website, also emphasised the importance of Britishness to audiences. An indigenous film can expect 30% higher box office takings than a similar foreign film.'
This last point seems questionable - are they referring to non-Hollywood films only as 'a similar foreign film'? Bond and Potter movies, and the occasional WT-blockbuster (basically the RC rom-coms), 'British' (and we have to remember many so-called British movies, including those by WT, all too often are largely financed by Hollywood companies, who also then take the profit) films simply cannot compete with Hollywood blockbusters, no matter how awful they are.

When over well over $100m is spent on abysmal films such as the recent Terminator and Transformers sequels, they are virtually critic-proof; such is the level of CGI and SFX that many will view these simply for the spectacle they offer. (You should be thinking here about the concepts of the big 6 and the tentpole strategy, not to mention the horizontal integration, vertical integration and synergies available to a giant conglomerate such as News Corporation, with its subsidiary Twentieth Century Fox, the Avatar main production co)

You can read the full report for yourself at and the article at

Economists defend UK film tax breaks
UK Film Council welcomes Oxford Economics report over concerns that ending filmmaking relief will cost economy 
Mark Brown, arts correspondent,
Alnwick Castle, Alnwick, Northumberland, England
Visitor numbers for Alnwick Castle, Northumberland, went up because of the Harry Potter film. Photograph: Lee Frost/Robert Harding World Imagery/Corbis
Ending the tax relief given out to encourage filmmaking in the UK would cost the economy £1.4bn, a report on the economics of the British film industry warned today

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

80s boom: go old school?

When considering the style and look of your work perhaps you should consider amongst the options a retro approach? There has been a huge 80s turn in contemporary culture, from the music charts to the cinema screens, which this intriguing article (I've long argued a similar point and wholeheartedly agree with the analysis) puts down primarily to the age of the creatives and executives behind the media. The folk in control now are looking back to the 80s as 'their' age - the era when they were adolescents. It'll take 20-30 years but the noughties and then the tens will experience a similar retro boom in time, perhaps fuelled by some of you - just with inferior music and fashions!
From TisEng to Son of Rambow, not to mention Ashes to Ashes, movie versions of The A-Team, re-makes of Battlestar Galactica and horror icons such as Nightmare on Elm Street, the 80s revival is finally here!

April 23, 2010
Why Hollywood is remaking the Eighties

For today’s movie moguls it was the decade that rocked their world and they are certainly not going to let us forget it

The A Team, 2010 remake

Colin, the £45 film

Read more on Colin, reportedly a £45 movie that got a cinema release: Guardian article; forum thread; is the true budget much higher/is it all hype? 
Further articles linked from IMDB entry.

The trailer, naturally, is a tad gory, but search YouTube and its easily found. Below is a piece from SkyNews with the director interviewed.

£25k 'kitchen-table auteurship'

Another very useful article from the Guardian... (skip ahead and read the article if you wish!)

As with the $10k US Indie detailed in a separate post, this article (and accompanying video, with clips and interviews) centres on the growing phenomenon of micro-budget film-making, made possible by digitization, new media, web 2.0; call it what you will.

The cost of film itself, whether 8mm or 35mm reels, used to be an effective barrier to low-cost film-making. Digital media reduces this to effectively zero, and means, certainly as increasing numbers of cinemas install digital projectors, distribution and exhibition is made possible at a similar near-zero cost. Self-distribution through the web is also possible: this movie has racked up 810,036 views at YouTube by 1.6.10 - and thats just the full-length posting; its also split into 12.

The article's author, Tom Lamont, uses a superb phrase to describe director Kate Madison's status: 'kitchen-table auteurship'. He refers to another, well-established, concept seen as a key characteristic of creativity in the online age: 'crowd sourcing'. Read more on this concept: wiki; wired on rise of this; twitter feed; a slightly bizarre blog,; and, of course, The Guardian's articles on this!

It may seem a hell of a stretch, but the sort of features this article discusses aren't a million miles from you do at AS and A2 Media Studies, and the particular exam board we use, OCR, are especially keen for students to take this on board. The concept of web 2.0 was coined to describe the radical change from the early days of the web (web 1.0 in effect): users, the passive audience, went on the web to search and use media; in web 2.0 the audience and 'the media' effectively merge, as so many users are also now media creators. If you've exhibited your coursework on YouTube, well done, for you are now a distributor (the blog to drum up attention and feed potential fans inside info!) who has found an exhibitor (YouTube)!

Even just 5 years ago, Media coursework would remain largely within the confines of the school it was created within, with the possibility of exhibition at a handful of festivals including the Co-Op's. Now, you all have the power to put your work out there and attract an audience (from which you can make money if you attract a large audience: you can join YouTube's advertising programme, and take a cut of the advertising revenue they rake in from people who click through to your channel!).

I've detailed several examples of micro-budget films in this blog, all very useful to consider for your AS exam and coursework blog, not to mention both sections of the A2 exam. If any of you do watch (or have already seen) Born of Hope, Colin or any other feature-length micro-budget movie, post a comment below.

[Read more on Colin, reportedly a £45 movie that got a cinema release: Guardian article; forum thread; is the true budget much higher/is it all hype?]

Born of Hope – and a lot of charity

A budget Lord of the Rings prequel put together by hundreds of people working for nothing has recorded nearly a million hits on video streaming sites
Tom Lamont The Observer, 7 March 2010

On the eastern flank of Epping Forest, a short walk in from the town of Debden, there is a huge tree, lying on its side, upended by a storm. It was in this clearing that independent film-maker Kate Madison, along with dozens of game volunteers, filmed Born of Hope, a homemade prequel to Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy that has caused a great stir since its release in December. A production pulled together over four years with a budget of a mere £25,000 – about a tenth of one per cent of the cost of Jackson's epic – it has impressed critics and recorded close to a million views on video streaming sites.

Birdemic, $10,000 US Indie (Nguyen, 2008)

"Birdemic" was the lowest rated film on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), with a 1.8 rating until it was overtaken by Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas with a rating of 1.5.[37] [Wiki]
$10k budget; straight-to-DVD (touring single print, but no record of box office)

BASIC LINKS: Wiki; IMDB; Rottentomatoes; Official site
Critical reception was so bad it actually became a promotional device! It was for a time the lowest-rated movie on IMDB too!

Sometimes, being very bad can be a good thing ... This is a film seen as so bad its actually entertaining, much like The Room (though that was a $6m budget disaster), and has taken on cult movie status. It has also led to a 2013 sequel!
Birdemic was made with no studio support, largely self-financed and produced through Nguyen's Moviehead Pictures company for a budget of less than $10,000. The film has gained notoriety for its poor quality, with many critics citing it as one of the worst films of all time.[2][3] After a limited theatrical release, the film gained a cult following and was picked up for distribution by Severin Films in 2010. [Wiki]
This video sets out its critique over 20mins (the same vloggers gave The Room their unique treatment) - NB: I haven't had time to pre-vet this for language, so exercise caution.

Hebden Bridge re-premiere 1921 film

Helen of Four Gates to get screening after 80-year hiatus

After global search for last remaining negative, Cecil Hepworth's 1921 classic to be shown in Yorkshire town where it premiered
helen of four gates
A still from Helen of Four Gates starring the actor Alma Taylor in the title role. Photograph: BFI
A classic British film which helped the birth of the Hollywood star-and-blockbuster system is to be screened again in the UK after an international search for the last remaining negative.
Packed with 19th-century northern melodrama, from broody moors to cobbles, the 90-minute silent epic Helen of Four Gates was last shown in this country in the 1920s.
Based on a novel by a Yorkshire mill girl, who took the literary world by storm at the end of the first world war, the film had punters queuing at cinemas when it was released in 1921. Critics acknowledged the power of the much-clogged and be-shawled cast, and especially the landscape of Hebden Bridge in the Pennines where the pioneer director Cecil Hepworth did much of the filming.

DVD finally to kill cinema?

Closing the window on the multiplex
Plans to slash the time between cinema and DVD release, alongside improvements in home viewing technology, could kill multiplexes. Would you care?

Prince Charles wearing 3D glasses in Budapest, March 2010
An old business model gets a revamp … Prince Charles wearing 3D glasses in Budapest, March 2010. Photograph: Imre Foeldi/AP
It does not seem quite the right moment to be worrying about the future of our multiplexes. This weekend, Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland will become the second movie of 2010 to break the $1bn barrier at the box office, following James Cameron's Avatar earlier in the year. Prior to its arrival on cinema screens, some speculated that audiences might find a reimagining of Lewis Carroll's famous tale from the peculiar mind of Tim Burton a little too weird for comfort. Yet it is about to join an exclusive club of six movies, including Titanic, The Dark Knight, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. The huge success of these films suggests that people are seeing movies in ever greater numbers.

UKFilm best on low budget?

Budget cuts are no problem - British film is best when it keeps it real
Danny Leigh Friday 28 May 2010
It might be derided as 'poverty porn', but social realism provides British film-makers with a poetic – and relatively cheap – way to make truly great cinema
Lesley Manville and Peter Wright in Another Year by Mike Leigh
Real life rewards ... Lesley Manville and Peter Wright in Mike Leigh's Another Year
The sight of Mike Leigh and Ken Loach soaking up the plaudits at Cannes should have been omen enough. Then, with impeccable timing, came this week's sun-kissed announcement of the long-pending first round of government cuts, Tory chancellor George Osborne ushering in the new age of penury. For the observer of British cinema, these twin signs could mean only one thing: an imminent new wave of social realism, a gold rush of movies about dole claims, manky flats, smack habits and black eyes. I can see you wincing from here.
But personally, should such a thing arise, I'll welcome it. For one thing, in contrast to, say, the CGI-laden blockbuster, social realism has always been something British cinema is actually good at. Invariably cheap to make and enriched by the complexities of class, our eternal elephant in the room, it's been responsible for some of British cinema's most indelible movies ever since the kitchen sink era (in fact, ever since the Boer war), from the knuckle-hard It Always Rains On Sunday via the undimmed brilliance of the late Alan Clarke to the vibrant self-confidence of Andrea Arnold.
And yet there's still that persistent bad name: in certain eyes, the genre has become a byword for dreary poverty porn. Calling on some, if not all, the social realist party pieces (non-professional casts, dowdy small-town locations), Shane Meadows has slogged his way to a certain commercial reliability; Shifty, with its scuffed-up naturalism, pulled in a decent crowd. And, of course, Leigh and Loach have their audience.