Tags: film genre, miserablism, miserablist, scotland, scottish film, scottish film genre, scottish miserablism, statistics
Scottish filmmakers have routinely been accused of indulging in ‘miserablism’, a critique levied in recent times by a wide range of people from film-makers themselves and policy pundits in Scotland to journalism students in London and critics in New York (and back in 2000 to boot). It is is a charge which has some basis if portraying poverty, drug abuse or crime necessarily equates to ‘miserablism’ (though this is a crude equation in itself) but does it overstate the case and ignore the diversity of Scottish film? Indeed does the seeming dominance of such stories perhaps tell us more about the relative success, in the UK/Global cinematic division of labour, of Scottish films with a hard edge rather than necessarily reflecting their share of what is produced? The boffins here at screen facts central have turned the handle to see what the numbers tell us and they may come as a surprise to some of our less evidence-based commentators though perhaps not David Archibald whose piece on recent Scottish Films persuaded the FT subs to go against the usual headline grain.
The graph below (based on films that had or were intended for theatrical release) shows that while ‘Drama’ remains the top genre throughout the period from 1990 to now, comedy has significantly increased its presence from 10% in the 1990s to 29% in the current decade so far. Allowing for the fact that some films designated (using IMDB categories) as romance could be labelled comedy and vice versa if we aggregate those two comedy/romance really took off in the 2000s moving from 13% in the 90s to 22% in the 2000s and 29% now.
THE X FACTOR
The graph tells most of the story but one aspect it doesn’t is the apparent big increase in the proportion of 18 certificate films which by definition exclude a large chunk of potential audience members by virtue of their more graphic depictions of violence and/or explicit sex. The relevant figures are
1990s 29 films of which 31% (9) 18cert
2000s 50 films of which 18% (9) 18cert
2010-13 21 films of which 33% (70) 18 cert
Of course we are only four years into the decade so things may look different in a few years’ time but for now perhaps the commentariat will be little less prone to reaching for the miserablism tag. We shall see!
Tags: CILECT, cinematography, editing, film schools, sound
The first day of global film school association CILECT’s conference on the challenge of digital is nearly over and is ending where cinema began – with the camera. Over the day we’ve heard from sound design, editing, producing and cinematography teachers on how digital technology has and hasn’t changed what they teach, what students learn and what students do. The eternal virtues of good storytelling, compelling images, sounds and montage have been in a dialogue with the exploration and resolution of unstable business models, fragmenting audiences, big data and audience interaction beyond the wildest imagination of Edison or Eisenstein. On the other hand many of the ‘new’ things are also reboots of early cinema, from the audience choice of peep show emporiums to the first crowd funded movie way back in 1938 ( see this post from 2012) and the early business model where film was rented by the foot. How to persuade people to risk their money on what can easily be an expensive hobby is an unchanging aspect of making films, whether its cast and crew deffering fees in the hope of being a ‘profit participant’ or the audience investing in a film before its made, technology cannot remove risk from the creative process even if it can make it easy to involve more people in the risky decisions.
Tomorrow it’s screenwriting, direction and production design’s turn. No doubt previsualisation, the virtualisation of design through cgi and many other aspects of the digital revolution in live action moviemaking will feature but sometimes it’s the simplest things which are the most eloquent – the cinematography tutor from a small Philippines film school who loves celluloid but loves the fact that shooting on a canon 5d DSLR means his students don’t need the expensive lots they don’t have to get rich images. “So if one of them wants to shoot in a prison isolation cell with a single actor, they can”.
Tags: Argentina, buenos aires, CILECT, curricula, digital, film schools, filmmaking, nfts
In a rather cool and wet Buenos Aires delegates representing film schools in 37 countries (or rather 38 counting Scotland separately from the rest of the UK) are preparing for three days of presentations, workshops and debate on “The impact of the digital age in the CILECT schools curricula”. Cilect is the global association of film and television schools, formed in 1955 at the height of the Cold War in the spirit of cross-border, cross-ideology cooperation. Some 58 years on its numbers have swelled to over 160 audiovisual educational institutions in over 60 countries from Australia to Argentina and Canada to Cameroon. Its various regional chapters including the European GEECT, are sizeable entities in their own right.
With a global congress focussing on broader strategic, funding and organisational issues every even numbered year, this ‘odd’ year’s conference is more concerned with practical matters. The topics to be covered include ‘Producing, commercialisation and distribution curricula: new formats’; ‘technological changes to the cinematography curriculum and ‘new strategies in teaching screenwriting and directing’. CILECT has been at the forefront of the changing film school curriculum, helping members to navigate innovations in camera, sound and postproduction technologies well before they entered the mainstream of education or indeed consumer consciousness. Amongst the pioneering initiatives it has sponsored is The Global Rivers Project which back in 2008 brought film schools in South America, Europe, Asia and the USA together ‘virtually’ to explore HD workflows in a collaborative documentary project using online collaboration to co-produce a truly global film.
Between the talk sessions there is the prize ceremony and this year, in an unexpected coup the UK’s National Film and Television School (yes they haven’t yet caught up with there being four nations, currently) will be picking up all three top prizes – something that has never happened before. Check in later this week for more.
Tags: art, Banksy, Ciara, economics, edinburgh festival fringe, fakes, forgery, Long Live Little Knife, Tachowa Covington, this looks a bit like an elephant, Traverse Theatre
By accident rather than design several of the shows I saw at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe dealt in one way or another with the way art acquires monetary value and bestows fortunes on some and misfortune on others. Tom Wainright’s ‘Banksy - This Looks a Bit Like An Elephant ‘ narrates the impact on a homeless man living in a disused water tank in the Hollywood Hills of having his home transformed into an art object courtesy of a few words spray painted by living legend Bansky. However whereas the urinal that Marcel Duchamp transformed into one of his first ‘ready-mades’ was uninhabited, Banksy’s act of transubstantiation allegedly (the facts are disputed see here for example resulted in the water tank’s resident, Tachowa Covington, finding himself turfed out of his makeshift home when the lawyers move in to realise the art work’s instantly acquired value.
‘Banksy…’ deals with the (we must assume) inadvertent destruction of a man’s home due to the midas touch of an artist who takes delight in poking fun at the mechanics of the art market but thereby further serves, intentionally or otherwise, to increase his own market value. Meanwhile Long Live the Little Knife at the Traverse told the story of two con artists who are forced by circumstance (or so it seems) to turn their skill at dissembling to the world of forged art, relishing the opportunity to seemingly get away with the equivalent of insider dealing and systematic price manipulation without committing a crime. A witty commentary on the concentric circles of greed that encompass the upright denizens of the art world, oligarchs and petty criminals alike, Long live… is a deft reminder that in the Peter Pan world of contemporary art, just as in global finance, the belief that something is valuable means that it is valuable, but only as long as there is someone who continues to believe enough to keep the price balloon inflated.
David Harrower’s Ciara, also at the Traverse, turns the art/money relationship on its head as the narrator, brilliantly played by Blythe Duff, unfolds her back story, one that has brought her into the world of dealing art to the legitimate, and not so legitimate, newly wealthy. She shows people who know they want art but don’t know what to buy, what they should want and the price tag provides the assurance that it truly is art.
All three shows deploy, to a lesser or greater extent, the familiar notion (e.g. as developed by the great french anthro/sociologist Pierre Bourdieu) that the ascription of value to artworks is a social practice that can’t be derived from either the content or the uniqueness of the art work itself. Why does the forgery that no-one but the most diligent curator can spot suddenly lose its value to the person who bought it? While it may retain its pleasingness as a work of art it has lost its exchange value, its confirmed value to others. Long live… explicitly references this 9less than straightforward question, sometimes called the Van Meegeren problem. The irony, as Banksy… tells it, of Tachowa Covington losing the home which, until the artist spray painted it, had only use value to him and practically zero value to anyone else, is that in an instant it acquired tremendous monetary value simply because of who spray painted it. That the imaginary values of traded art can, like the complex derivatives whose unraveling forced tens of thousands out of their homes, impact on the all too real lives of people without the tools to magic up value from a spray can is a very modern parable.
Tags: box office, cinema, Danish film, Denmark, film investment, film production, Headhunters, Norway, scotland, statistics, Untouchable
Scots have been looking enviously at Denmark’s film industry for some time. A recent Scotsman comment piece was just the latest in a long line (dating back to 1938- see earlier post) of unfavourable comparisons between the Danes’ generous and joined up support for film and Scotland’s historically piecemeal and underfunded attempts to get more Scottish films on our and everyone else’s screens.
But Denmark isn’t the only Nordic country that takes film as seriously as the Danes. Across the North Sea in Norway (population 4.7m) they don’t just have a national film fund (established in 2001) they have six (yes SIX) regional film funds which add up to a cool €60m euro annual investment in film, tv, games and animation. That goes some way to explaining the 25 films (average over 2007-12) they release each year (so that doesn’t even count those made but not distributed) and the 20% average market share they have enjoyed over the past five years. So not quite as good as the Danes at 25% but compared to Ireland at just under 2% or Scotland at less than 1% it’s certainly enough to give us something to think about. (While we’re at it European films’ share of the overall European market is on the rise and reached its high point last year, in no small part due to Skyfall it has to be said but also, more interestingly, the success of France’s Untouchable, the most successful non-English production of all time.)
With numbers like those above to build on, the Norwegian Film Institute weren’t indulging in boosterism or wishful thinking when they set out to ‘internationalise’ their industry in their 2012-15 plan. This year they allocated around €1.5m in support to marketing of Norwegian films including €400K earmarked specifically to support presence at international markets and festivals. Indeed back in 2000 an influential Government Green Paper concluded that:
“Norway’s cinema system worked well as precisely a mixture of commercial and cultural interests, but underlined that a stronger, more directed national cinema policy was needed to secure the operations of this system.” (quoted in Caroline Strutz Skei fascinating Thesis Hollywood In Norway ).
Astute readers may object at this point that with a GDP 2.5 times Scotland’s its easy for the Norwegians to throw money at film and anything else they fancy. Perhaps so but the fact remains that like most other European countries, at 0.012% they choose to spend a considerably higher % of GDP than we do at either a UK (0.0033%) or even more so a Scottish (0.003%) level. (Denmark, whose GDP is only 50% higher than Scotland’s, spends 0.02% of GDP on film i.e. 6.6x as much), indeed they spend more in absolute terms than the Norwegians, despite a considerably lower GDP.
All well very well you might think but beyond their home turf are Norwegian films making any head way with audiences and critics abroad? Oh yes they are. Following last year’s Palm Springs win and Best Foreign Film Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for Kon Tiki (Norway’s most expensive film to date), so far this year twelve films have been selected for A list festivals including Venice, Toronto and San Sebastian with five in official selection at Berlin alone.
Meanwhile at the UK box office Headhunters, a Norwegian/German co-production was the second highest grossing foreign language film in the UK after Untouchable, taking a respectable £1.44m (which put in perspective equals or exceed the UK Box office for The Imposter, The Wedding Video or Coriolanus).
Regular readers will be well aware that one hit doesn’t mean we’re about to experience a Viking film invasion along the lines of the current Nordic TV expeditionary force however their consistent investment and support to grow a domestic film industry is making raiding expeditions on the international market easier and more likely to pay off. The growing success of Norwegian film at home and abroad is a salutary reminder that there is no recorded instance of a small (or indeed a large) country securing a consistent share of the international audience (on big, small or portable screens) that hasn’t first built its own domestic share. More on that anon.
The ups and downs of MEDIA funding in Scotland: Distribution and Training 2, development and production NilPublished July 19, 2013 Uncategorized 1 Comment
Scottish companies secured around 5% of the €9m in EU MEDIA programme funds awarded to UK film, TV and animation producers, distributors, exhibitors and training organisations last year. Setting aside film distribution subsidies which, not surprisingly, go to (the overwhelming) London based companies, a healthier looking 10% of the €4.3 spent on development, TV broadcasting, interactive, festivals, VOD and training came across the border. Sadly that apparently reasonable figure masks the terminal decline in Scottish based companies accessing funds for project or slate development which has reached its lowest level – zero – ever. A marked contrast, as we’ve noted before, to the 200,000+ that Scottish producers were averaging in the early noughties.
So to what ends did the three award totaling €492,103 in EU MEDIA funding that was secured for Scotland last year go?
Having accounted for all the funds awarded in Scotland last year that leaves development and production in Scotland bereft of any EU MEDIA support for the first time ever. In contrast irish producers scooped up a healthy €290,000 in single project and slate development support, not the highest ever but helping them to an average 440k over the last five years compared to a Scottish average of 58K.
Once again we have to ask – are Scottish production companies applying and failing or just not applying for MEDIA support? And if the former it that because we lose out on the extra weighting given to ‘small’ countries that Ireland, as an independent state, benefit from? Or is it that we’ve lost our ability to fathom the funding requirements of EU bodies, or that we don’t (difficult to believe) need the money?
In any event MEDIA is (almost) gone so long live Creative Europe which picks up the cause of cross border audiovisual and cultural support from next year. It will, however, continue to do much the same work as MEDIA did with a similar sized budget so it would be nice to think Scotland’s animation, film, games and TV producer will have more success with it than they have recently with MEDIA.