Archive for March, 2010

The numbers game

[This post also published as a letter in the Guardian, Wednesday 31st March 2010] I have nothing against games or the games industry but I can’t abide commentators playing fast and loose with box office statistics to reinforce an otherwise valid point – that games are big, getting bigger and and are a crucial part of the creative economy.  Yesterday’s Guardian Media story on how the games sector is celebrating their Darling tax breaks is a case in point.  Citing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2’s opening week’s sales of $500m “dwarfing the opening weeks of blockbuster movies such as The Dark Knight ($203.8m) and Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince ($394m)” and the games sales to date of over $1bn, the piece makes the routine but erroneous implication that big games outsell big movies.

In fact this comparison is extremely misleading – today theatrical revenues of movies typically account for less than one-fifth of total earnings and a movie like The Dark Knight (whose theatrical revenues actually stand now at over $1bn) can be expected to gross in excess of $3bn over its lifetime in distribution.  Titanic’s total revenues passed $3.2bn ten years ago in 1999 when its global box office was $1.8bn)

Although focussing on blockbusters such as Titanic or Call of Duty can be misleading it remains the case that theatrical box office, while still the best predictor of overall revenue rank for films, is now a minor part of the overall picture, whereas retail sales of games is by far the largest part of total revenues.  Time then, perhaps, for media journalists to use a more meaningful comparison than the current apples and oranges approach.

Creative Scotland is born but Scottish Screen may still bark

Reading the debate that finally ushered into being Creative Scotland is only marginally more entertaining than watching paint dry, if only because its possible to skip the most tedious parts to get to the slightly less tedious.  One can’t help wondering who nobbled the tories to try and secure an ammendment to the Bill to give CS the title “lead body” which, if you believe its opponents, would have set it above the national companies, Museums Scotland etc.  Pauline McNeill (Glasgow Kelvin) (Lab) bemoaned the non-transfer of Scottish Enterprise’s creative industries budget (something SE bods like to deny exists) to the new body and the potential loss of the Scottish Screen brand so  doggedly built over the past decade.  Culture minister Fiona Hyslop didn’t comment on the SE issue but she did hold open the prospect of the Scottish Screen scottie dog continuing to wag its tail if Andrew Dixon and his soon to be appointed board feel so inclined:

” I say to Pauline McNeill that the use of the Scottish Screen brand will be an operational matter for creative Scotland, and I will pass on her remarks to the body.”

So good news for the (‘when we thought we might lose it we realised how much we loved it’) film-making community not to mention dog lovers.  Speaking of the latter Scottish Terrier lovers can get a further film-related fix with an account of how a Coraline Animator got 200 Scottie dogs doing their thing. 

Have a good weekend.

the age of slightly less stupid

Good to see Age of Stupid Producer/director Fanny Armstrong promoting a ‘means tested’ distribution channel, Good Screenings, backed by Britdoc and Indie Screenings.  Community and campaign groups can access films such as Armstrong’s The Age of Stupid or Jeremy Gilley’s The Day After Peace.  Although there is nothing particualry innovative about offering graded rental prices for films (The Other Cinema were doing this in the 1970s) the neat thing claimed about this initiative is the speed and ease of organising it online: the Indie screenings software “lets you make your own booking of a film online, it automatically calculates the screening fee, takes your payment and the whole thing takes about 5 minutes“.  Anything which both grows audiences for scoial action documentary and establishes a viable distribution model is a good thing in my book.

skill shortages abound

Reading Skillset’s Sector Skills assessment for the Creative Media Industries Scotland highlights not only the issue of skills gaps and skills shortages in the creative media industries but skills gaps in analysing and presenting data about the industry.  Important and valuable as the document is, its very basic level of analysis, in places cavalier generalisations and generally inconsistent presentation of data and usage of terms simply isn’t good enough to decide priorities in developing and delivering training initiatives.  A good first draft but not ready to be made…

Scottish film gets a boost in the urals

Though it might sound like a euphemism our celluloid dreams are reaching parts perhaps no-one knew they could reach, in this case Ekaterinburg in the Urals.  Perhaps not as glamorous as Tilda Swinton’s Cinema of Dreams in Beijing last year, nonetheless the good citizens of Russia’s third largest city sport a Ural Scottish society and last sunday was Scottish Cinema Night, complete with “documentary films show & discussions, short lectures about whisky & Scottish sweets and, of course, true bagpipes music“.    As well as showing a film called ‘Who I am” a discussion around the question “What do you know about the Scottish cuisine?” was scheduled – it can surely only be a matter of time before the (fiction become fact) deep fried mars bar takes the Urals by storm…

Creative Scotland inspires our friends across the sea

Hardly out of its nappies and Creative Scotland is already being cited as a model for others to follow.  Making the case in the Irish Times for a joined up department of culture and creative industries, Gráinne Millar (head of Temple Bar Cultural Trust) offers a refreshingly upbeat description of our almost-there-now agency as “a radical, innovative new statutory non-departmental public body responsible for developing and promoting culture.”    If nothing else this counts as a belated vindication of whichever nameless civil servant had the brilliant idea of replacing QUANGO with NDBP thus coining a much more melodious acronym for arms-length bodies (if you don’t believe me just try replacing ‘non-departmental public body’ with ‘Quasi autonomous non-governmental organisation’ – see?).

Millar is keen to see a single new department audit, streamline and centralise  not two but five Government departments and no less than eight organs of the arts, crafts and creative industries (the Irish Arts Council, the Irish Film Board, the Heritage Council, the Crafts Council, the Libraries Council, the Council of National Cultural Institutions, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and Culture Ireland).   Makes our synthesis of the Arts Council and Scottish Screen look like a walk in the (sculpture) park.


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