Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Social Realism

[I'll be updating this with Warp/WT egs]

The film genre that is most associated with British cinema (costume/historical/heritage drama also: Elizabeth, Pride and Prejudice...). Features:

  • Few films from the genre enjoy major box office success, because...
  • they have low budgets, because...
  • they rarely feature any stars (maybe some TV actors that are quite well known in the UK only, but not internationally), and even...
  • often cast non-professional actors; This is England's Shaun (Thomas Turgoose) was a kid Meadows spotted bunking off school (truanting)!
  • they often have no script, instead actos improvise - Ken Loach and Mike Leigh are famous for this approach, which makes it hard for them to convince studios to fund their films!
  • whereas most successful, hit UK films are set in London/the South of England, these often use locations around the UK: Sweet Sixteen in Scotland, Mickybo and Me (WT2) in Northern Ireland
  • most UK hit films also use middle or upper class characters, or central protagonists (all those Hugh Grant Working Title rom-com characters...), but social realist films typically centre on working [DE] (or lower middle [C2]) class characters: look at the opening shot of This is England, with the peeling wallpaper in Shaun's bedroom, or the opening scene of WT's debut film back in 1985, My Beautiful Laundrette, seeing the homeless lead being kicked out of a 'squat'
  • Thats the 'social' bit of social realism - this generally means focussing on underprivileged or minority sections of society, including ethnic minority and sexual minority characters too (MBL's co-lead is a gay Asian man)
  • the 'realism' bit comes from their documentary style: they aim to present 'the truth' about the country, not an idealised version that sells, and use documentary-style approaches to do so: handheld cameras, natural lighting, which of course also means...
  • that, coming full circle, they are cheap to produce!
  • See links below: the genre comes from earlier historical film traditions

British films that fictionalise real-life social issues, using a filming style similar to documentary (handheld, shaky, natural lighting, comparatively limited non-digetic music, usually unknown or minor actors). Developed out of the 1920s-40s BDM, 40s/50s Italian neo-realism, 50s/60s French New Wave, and British New Wave around the same time.

There are at least 25 posts on this blog which reference social realism; see also: (teacher PowerPoint) (student PowerPoint)

A classic BDM eg: Night Train (Watt & Wright, 1936) follows the journey of a mail train across Britain and the working men who see our mail gets delivered. [Watch on YouTube here.]
Here's some excerpts from a PowerPoint I've done (full version available on request)

Sunday, February 21, 2016

AUSTRALIA Warp and Working Title's subsidiaries down under


IMDB's list of Carver Productions' 3 films - actually Warp Films Australia productions


The UK already provides substantial tax advantages that make it an attractive location for film production - so too does Ireland (North and South have their own specific tax benefits, thus Game of Thrones joining other major TV series in shooting in Belfast).

So too does Australia. It also has a longstanding tradition of skilful low budget filmmaking, including the Ozploitation era, and breakthrough films like Mad Max.

Acordingly, both WT and Warp have set up offices down under and have overseen a variety of productions.

Warp Films Australia has produced three so far: Snowtown; Shopping; Partisan. They have received government (local and national) funding in Australia.

The label may reappear as a co-producer, with Mark Herbert saying they plan to work in Australia again, but the co-founders of the Aussie subsidiary have left to form Carver Pictures (working in both TV and film, like Warp).

This is actually typical of Warp, which can be considered a real talent incubator (as can BBC Films, Film4, and the government-funded agencies - the BFI, but previously the UKFC and its still running regional wings such as Screen Yorkshire).

ScreenDaily - co-founders of Warp Films Australia to go it alone with new Carver Films:
Snowtown and Partisan producers Anna McLeish and Sarah Shaw are moving on from Warp Films Australia to launch production outfit Carver Films with a slate that includes Nick Cave adaptation The Death of Bunny Munro.
McLeish co-founded Warp Films Australia six years ago with ’71 and This Is England producers Warp UK, which will discontinue the Warp Films Australia banner but where possible will look to continue to produce with the territory. 
McLeish and Shaw produced Kurzel’s acclaimed debut Snowtown, Ariel Kleiman’s Vincent Cassel starrer Partisan, which premiered at Sundance this year, and New Zealand drama Shopping, which played in Sundance and Berlin.
Carver is also set to cut its teeth in TV, entering into a development and co-production deal with Australian production outfit Matchbox Pictures ...
“It’s been an exhilarating journey with Warp,” McLeish told Screen. “Sarah and I remain drawn to creating content with the same kind of exceptional talent we’ve worked with to date, in Australia and abroad. We look forward to unveiling more of that with Carver.”
“What Anna and Sarah have achieved in a short time is fantastic and we fully support their decision to set up their own production company,” said Warp UK’s Mark Herbert.
“We’ve enjoyed working with them and Warp will still continue to make productions in Australia and with Australian talent.”



WARP as seen by US magazine Variety

A fantastic overview of the company's history, production philosophy, struggles with box office and distribution, distinctive Britishness, and how they're evolving to look to work with bigger budgets and with high-end TV productions that can be sold internationally ... and even stop-motion kids films!

The article dates from 2012, and several of the productions mentioned as being green lit have yet to come about, but still may do.

Brilliant resource for anyone looking to write an analysis of the film industry using Warp as a case study - Mark Herbert notes himself how common a choice of study Warp has become within Media Studies!

Edgy Warp Films eyes U.S. entre

10-year-old Brit shingle steps up with pricier slate

LONDON — On a Saturday night in November, 1,200 people gathered in a converted steel mill near Sheffield to watch the Shane Meadows thriller “Dead Man’s Shoes” on a giantscreen, with a live band playing the soundtrack and the director spinning discs afterwards. Those in the hip young crowd were paying $45 a head to celebrate the birthday of Warp Films, the Sheffield-based shingle that started 10 years ago as an offshoot to electronica label Warp Records, and still prides itself in being a bit of an outlaw.
Based 150 miles north of London, Warp has emerged over the past decade as the strongest brand in British indie filmmaking, and the anniversary marks a watershed of sorts: After winning awards and a cult following with edgy, provocative, low-budget movies, including teen skinhead drama “This Is England,” which beat out “Atonement” to nab the BAFTA for outstanding British film in 2007, the company is leveraging its reputation and relationships to launch its biggest slate of projects, with larger commercial ambitions. While trying to staying true to its distinctively British and defiantly non-metropolitan roots, Warp is aiming to make a greater impact in the international market, including a project or two that can finally break into the U.S.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

RELEASE WINDOW Cinemas love Amazon, nix Netflix


Guardian article.
There have been several high profile battles over the traditional release window - the convention that there will be around a 3 month gap between cinema run and DVD release, and another before TV release (which can be further staggered in the UK between premium subscription channels such as Sky Movies and terrestrial channels BBC1, BBC2, ITV1, C4 and C5).

Disney was forced to back down over its plans for Alice in Wonderland when several of the major chains threatened to boycott the movie if they didn't stick to the release window.

Netflix seems to have suffered such a backlash with its plans for a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon sequel (the biggest foreign hit in US history took $130m there) to be an IMAX release seemingly abandoned. Cinema chains again pledged to boycott the film, due to be released on the Netflix platform at the same time.

Thursday, February 18, 2016


Note the lack of official reviews.

**a linked, more recent film to consider alongside this: Warp's '71**

Trailer; VoD.
Culture NI feature.
Fan-made video (young boy).
Russian fan-made video/trailer?
OST as YouTube playlist.
1st 10 minutes + playlist.

Son of Rambow Wiki; trailer; BoxOfficeMojo;

This was one of Working Title's WT2 productions, their shortlived Indie-style subsidiary for low budget films:
IMDB's list for WT2

IMDB figures; BoxOfficeMojo puts it at $465k - but still a UK release only.

This film came out around the same time as Son of Rambow; both films were about two boys obsessed with a movie (Rambo; the Western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid). The film set in southern England did much better at the box office ... TWENTY TIMES better!!!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

BOX OFFICE COMPARISON Working Title v Warp Films

(but here's a start)


BJ:Edge of Reason report; box office report; with the 2001 original taking $282m and the 2004 sequel $264m, only Les Miserables (2012) keeps the franchise off WT's all-time top spot ($442m) [the-numbers all-time list].

Other films that come close: Bean (1997) $257m, Love Actually (2003) $248m, 4 Weddings (1994) $242m [their most profitable film as a $4.5m budget!], Everest (2015) $204m. Those are the 7 WT films that grossed $200m+ worldwide.

9 more top $100m: Burn After Reading (2008) $168m, Johnny English Reborn (2011) $165m, The Interpreter (2005) $163m, About a Boy (2001) $131m,  Atonement (2007) $130m, Everest (1998 44min IMAX film) $128m, The Theory of Everything (2014) $122m, Billy Elliot (2000) $110m [2nd most profitable as a $5m WT2 production], Paul (2011) $101m.

Thats 16 grossing $100m+ in total, with several more at $90m+. provides estimated average figures for WT:


WARP v WORKING TITLE WEB 2.0 comparing social media

Through various case studies I've noted a key difference between the two companies in how their social media operates: scale.

In theory, web 2.0 creates a potential level playing field for Indie minnow and (conglomerate subsidiary) mini-studio alike ... but it still takes skilled, paid operators to create and update content, and respond to user comments/posts ... not to mention doing so in multiple languages (Paul and Les Miserables are just two WT examples which had Facebook accounts in multiple languages; you have to look to the truly weird L for a Warp example: essentially a Greek film, its no surprise to find a Greek language presence!).

Although we do see some very smart content (the Le Donk Xmas card) on some Warp sites, the considerable investment that WT make (encroaching on traditional distributor territory in doing so) on content rich websites stands out: the huge interactive Tinker, Tailor... online/offline game, Hot Fuzz Pacman, Shaun of the Dead Space Invaders... even the Smokin' Aces comic book.

Three basic points:
  1. These combined materials are a vast learning resource freely available to you - the YouTube uploads especially
  2. Warp's shift towards TV (think convergence) is evident based on my sampling today (Feb 14th 2016), with This is England 90 and The Last Panthers most prominent
  3. As I note above, the lack of investment from Warp in maintaining these sites is also clear, with nobody updating the YouTube description for example for at least 6 months!
IMDB (no separate TV division)
IMDB Warp Films US (limited brand)
IMDB Warp Films Australia
WARP FILMS 10 (a dead link - they can't afford to maintain hosting fees?!)
TUMBLR (actually Warp Records, no separate Films site, another sign of limited funds; sample: '71 post)
TUMBLR TAG: warp films (plenty of UGC, and links from other companies, such as Australia's Madman Films (Snowtown, Shopping, Partisan all with Warp).

VARIETY Leading Hollywood trade magazine.
BFI (Google search) - see their review of 10 key Warp releases.

TUMBLR - no official page, but tagged a lot (including Working Title Korea) 

VARIETY (also a simple search, brings up different results) 

Twitter Warp 30k v WT 8k
Facebook Warp 50k v WT 24k
YouTube Warp 666 v WT 388
Instagram Warp 4k v WT 4k
Tumblr numbers not shown
TOTALS: Warp 85k v WT 36k
BUT ... on YouTube views: Warp 159k v WT 466k (on a new channel, launched 2013, replacing previous channels)


IMDB (no separate TV division)
The shift towards TV is clear

IMDB Warp Films US (limited brand)


IMDB Warp Films Australia

Notably this site only picks up on FOUR Warp films! An indication of their lack of US success (though the likes of TisEng are missing)

Four social media outlets listed/linked.
Click on the 'read more' link for further screenshots, links and analysis

Friday, February 12, 2016

MALE GAZE left behind in Deadpool?

A lengthy discussion here on the extent to which the 'pansexual' Deadpool character is or is not counter-hegemonic (underming hetero-normativity), given that the only relationship or physical intimacy (other than with a unicorn in the end titles) is with his girlfriend ... but also a very direct discussion of the male gaze, and how it might be subverted here.

Note how the writer homes in very specific moments; this is just what you need to do too when writing an analysis of cinema - in the micro elements we find evidence to discuss the macro environment in which these are created and consumed:
The film’s reluctance to make good on its hero’s pansexuality should not overshadow the little moments of daring, the subtle advancements, that have survived to the screen. In a medium characterised by the male gaze, it is implicitly radical to include a lingering closeup of a man’s pert behind, especially when that shot isn’t giving straight male viewers the get-out clause of replicating a woman’s point-of-view: everyone, male or female, is simply being invited to enjoy the image on its own merits.

UNIVERSAL tentpole franchise kings hiking ahead

ScreenDaily reports on the huge turnaround, after a poor 2014
IN THIS POST: Analysis of how Universal's shifting strategy impacts on WT; an outline of what this strategy is, with key figures; details of how the new horror universe was proposed in 2014, and how its taking shape in 2016; the Battlestar Galactica bid to take on Star Wars.

Working Title's conglomerate parent, NBC-Universal, clearly knew what it was doing in downgrading its subsidiary's relationship to 'first look' status*; NBC-U would have first refusal over any new WT production, but had no obligation to pick it up for distribution or to fund production proposals. WT have to find their own financing now, even if that still often means pre-signing distribution deals with StudioCanal or UIP, all part of the NBC-U (and Comcast) conglomerate. Gone are the days of massive block funding for WT.
*See this post for details on the new deal (and a definition of first look), signed in 2012 and due to run out in 2015; no news yet of any changes

This shift in approach, which may seem surprising given how successful WT have been, reflects a hardening of Universal's commitment to the tentpole strategy, and the franchising that largely underpins this. Anita Elberse, who uses the term 'blockbuster' in her book, would approve: she argues that this is the only viable approach for any major player in any entertainment industry (she also considers football and music among other industries - a very interesting, digestible read, I recommend it).

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Bridget Jones's Diary v This is England

We've been exploring the similarities and differences between these, and I'm going to note some of the points we raised below - I've blogged extensively on both, and I'm not trying to reflect the full range of that in this one post!

To add:
BJ:Edge of Reason report; box office report; with the 2001 original taking $282m and the 2004 sequel $264m, only Les Miserables (2012) keeps the franchise off WT's all-time top spot ($442m) [the-numbers all-time list].

Other films that come close: Bean (1997) $257m, Love Actually (2003) $248m, 4 Weddings (1994) $242m [their most profitable film as a $4.5m budget!], Everest (2015) $204m. Those are the 7 WT films that grossed $200m+ worldwide.

9 more top $100m: Burn After Reading (2008) $168m, Johnny English Reborn (2011) $165m, The Interpreter (2005) $163m, About a Boy (2001) $131m,  Atonement (2007) $130m, Everest (1998 44min IMAX film) $128m, The Theory of Everything (2014) $122m, Billy Elliot (2000) $110m [2nd most profitable as a $5m WT2 production], Paul (2011) $101m.


Working Title, StudioCanal, $26m budget. £42m UK box office ($61m), $72m US ($281m world)

The money and the lead are American; the marketing in the UK featured Grant and Zellwegger, but everywhere else it was only Zellwegger featured on posters, sleeves etc. (Stereo)typically London/South setting, and comfortably middle-class (and upwards) white characters. A female director ... who wouldn't work again for several years despite the success with this (she didn't direct the sequel). A franchise, an increasingly key part of a successful film company's output and strategy, with considerable merchandise too - and even tie-ins (Does my Butt Look Big In This 2-for-1 London-New York seat?). 

Friday, February 05, 2016

DISTRIBUTION Video resources

An evolving playlist of YouTube videos on distribution. There are a wide range here, most are from/by industry insiders - often Indie, so similar to yourselves - with a range of specific themes covered. Click through to watch on YouTube to view the full playlist.

If you have any suggestions of more resources you've found useful, send a link/brief description as a comment

BELOW: boxofficemojo data on Bridget Jones' Diary.
Compare to films like Submarine - 
[film site]
[posts on this blog]
[BFI feature]
[review of the book]
[Guardian review].


Tuesday, February 02, 2016

DISTRIBUTION What is a 'wide' release?

Up against the continuing might of animated sequel Kung Fu Panda 3, as well as fellow debutants including romantic drama The Choice and horror-comedy Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the 50s-set tale of a major film star gone missing scored just $11.4m (£7.9m) to open in second place. The Coen brothers’ previous lowest bow for a film in wide release – usually estimated at around 2,000 cinemas – was the $12.5m taken by 2003’s Intolerable Cruelty in North America. [Ben Child's US box office column]
The UK equivalent would be around 150-200.

A big risk/investment in short!

Whilst digital copies reduce the distribution cost to near zero, physical prints (costing around $10k apiece) remain the norm for now, with the cost of prints AND marketing generally matching the production as a rough rule of thumb. The $250m Avatar (estimates vary as to the actual budget) was well over $500m in costs once distribution (a simultaneous worldwide release meant an exceptional number of prints) and marketing costs are considered.

Wide release means the majority of cinemas in a territory will be showing your film on at least one screen. In the US that means around 2,000-4000+, in the UK around 300-600+ (the Gant Rule applies here to an extent: as well as the box office the theatre count is likely to be around x10 for the US).

You can see this from various Working Title films - although, being British, they often enjoy high popularity in the UK.

Does it work with these charts?

Gant argues that most UK hits make 1/10 (ignoring currency values) of a US hit (roughly!)...

THE REVENANT: UK £12m, US $140m ... so, roughly, yes!
STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS: UK £120m, US $900m ... roughly, yes!

See 'Gant rule' tag on this blog for more...

The BoxOfficeMojo chart.

From Gant's weekly column.


Monday, February 01, 2016

'71 Distribution and Marketing

This overlaps with other posts, but as there are a lot of images, a new post makes sense.

This is a film with wider ambitions, and arguably a more commercial approach, than most of Warp's productions - as it should, with its ambitious £5m budget*, twice that of Four Lions. UPDATE, 2016: BUT...It flopped, despite the awards, critical acclaim, and gaining distribution in the US and 10 more territories (12 total including the UK) for a worldwide total of $3m: $1.6m UK,, $1.3m US and just $355k from 10 other territories. *According to this Screen article (cited in Wiki) it was £8.1m

According to IMDB, it is getting theatrical releases in France, Spain, Greece, Germany, Canada, USA, Australia, Middle East (eg UAE, see section below). However, we have seen past Warp films such as Tyrannosaur getting distribution in multiple territories, but not getting any marketing spend to give it a real chance (its specialist LGBT distributor didn't issue a trailer, and it limped to a mere $22k). The absence of any information on its US distributor does not augur well.
IMDB company list.
Boxofficemojo: Not every distributor took up the option for a theatrical release.
OPENING WEEKEND: This has become a key figure - if it is lower than expected a film is likely to be labelled a flop and the odds are high that the public will be deterred from seeing a 'flop', while distributors may hold back on further prints and marketing investment. What is significant about the table above is that almost all of '71's national releases saw most of the entire box office raised in the opening weekend - it failed to get a wider, longer release beyond then. The UK figure, in contrast, is just 21% - in this case it built well by word-of-mouth, as I saw first-hand at Bradfor's National Media Museum, where a low opening night (Friday) turnout would be hugely boosted by a review in that day's Guardian (UK broadsheet/quality) newspaper.

The 'commercial' element lies in pushing the action/thriller genre over the setting or any real exploration of the issues raised.