Archive for September, 2011

Irish film and TV goes from strength to strength

Ireland’s screen sector posted record results in 2010, doubling production value to €388m from €145m in 2009  according to its Audiovisual Federation’s annual report.  Feature film accounted for €117m (€35m) of that output (with Irish spend in brackets)  Independent TV €242m (€150) and animation €30m (€20m).  The Irish exchequer received a total of €171m from film and TV production. Domestic investment from all sources totalled €130m leveraging overseas investment of €258.

The feature film sector itself almost doubled in value to $117m with the aid of €23m of Irish investment (most of it public) which leveraged €93m of overseas investment, of which €6m came from the UK, €51m from the rest of the EU and €30m from the US.

We will be looking at these figures in more detail in a future post but suffice to say whatever else is happening in the Irish economy its screen sector is not suffering from the recession.

Netherlands filmmakers may have to go dutch

Interesting to see Dutch producers calling for new regional film funds as central funds are cut from €37m to €28m a year.  With a population of 16 million or so that’s still a healthy €1.75 per million of population compared to the UK’s roughly €1m though nothing like Denmark’s €10m per million, keeping the Danes way ahead as in so many other measures.  At around €3.5m (though due to rise to €4m by 2013 – see Creative Scotland CEO Andrew Dixon’s evidence to the Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee on 13th September) Scotland’s direct per capita spend is around €700K per million people (though with the UK Lottery and other film investment the combined total is pretty similar to the Netherlands.

Has Edinburgh found its visionary?

The news that the Board of CMI (parent company to both Filmhouse and EIFF) has appointed Chris Fujiwara as the new artistic director of the Festival is my excuse to ‘rerun’  last October’s post ‘Edinburgh Film Festival needs alchemist and Illusionist‘, thus saving a few centilitres of CO2.  Its taken a year, but perhaps this is the point where EIFF and CMI (unlike the economy) start to recover from a difficult period.

What is a Scottish movie? Wuthering Heights and the wittering Herald

According to today’s Sunday Herald “A Scottish movie version of Emily Bronte’s brooding romance Wuthering Heights picked up an award for best cinematography at the Venice Film Festival last night”.  On this account what qualifies Andrea Arnold’s latest film as a Scottish hit is Ecosse Films‘ producer Douglas Rae’s nationality, his track record of producing Mrs Brown and BBC’s Monarch of the Glen and the fact that his production company now has a Scottish office.

With Skye-based producer Chris Young’s The Inbetweeners topping the box office for a third week in a row with a cumulative £35m that makes it the third highest grossing film of the year, it would seem Scottish film-making is riding the crest of the wave – or is it?

Sadly this journalistic boosterism (albeit perennially counter-balanced by equally wide of the mark doom mongering) is the arts and entertainment equivalent of ‘Titanic sinks: Aberdeen man lost at sea’.  Notwithstanding Arnold’s previous Scottish connections (the Martin Compston and Kate Dickie starring Red Road, shot in Glasgow and co-produced by Sigma Films) and Doug Rae’s Scottish roots, until the very welcome opening of its Scottish office last year, this has been a film and a production company about as solidly English-based and focused as its possible to be.  If only Scotland could legitimately lay claim to such a broadly-based and prolific drama operation as London-based Ecosse with over 200 hours of network drama from An Unsuitable Job for a Woman and Mistresses to He Kills Coppers and nine films including Charlotte Gray, Becoming Jane, The Water Horse and Nowhere Boy!

Since Mrs Brown in1997 Ecosse’s film output has had precious little economic or cultural relevance to Scotland save the location shooting of The Water Horse.  Nor should we expect it to just because of the company name.  Wuthering Heights is by most accounts a very fine film but it isn’t in any meaningful sense Scottish from story, cast and crew to locations, production company or financiers. To claim it as ‘A Scottish Movie’ is just silly and doesn’t help us have a mature discussion about the fortunes of Scottish film-making which is something we very much need.  Papers need pegs to hang stories on but its a rather sad indictment of newspaper coverage of Scotland’s film and TV industry that this kind of flim-flam makes it on to page two of a serious newspaper.

Hedgehog bottleneck

Just back from watching the delightful and gently heart-rendering (and explicitly Ozu-influenced) The Hedgehog currently playing at Edinburgh’s Filmhouse, Glasgow Film Theatre, Bristol Watershed and the Curzon in London if not elsewhere (not that you would know where if you looked for it via the usually reliable where for some reason it isn’t listed as being in cinemas) and distributed by our very own and doughty distributor Cinefile. Curious to know its release history we find that it opened in France some two years ago where it was seen by around 800 thousand people.  Since then it has made its way around Europe picking up the same number again across ten countries, with Italy (it was a French/Italian co-production so presumably got more push there than it might otherwise have done) generating the largest audience (414 thousand) followed by Germany (217 thousand).

It’s exactly the kind of film which, were it possible to get a wider release in multiplexes as well as its natural home in our subsidised film theatres would probably garner two or three times the audience and perhaps turn a few more people on to the joy of films not in English.  We should be very grateful that the tireless Cinefile team of Allison Gardner, Ilona Morison, Richard Mowe and John Beattie continue to seek out, acquire and promote world cinema despite the precarious economics of film distribution which remain so despite the assistance of digital distribution in lowering print costs and making simultaneous releases such as this one a bit easier. Anyway, soon be the opening episode of The Story of Film (see last post) so ‘sayonara’…

The Story of Film on your screens and the future of film education in your hands

While Madonna takes hobbyist film-making to, by all accounts, new lows, tonight on More 4 and on Monday night a cinematic rollercoaster ride through film history promises some real highs and not a few surprises.  The fifteen part adaptation of his book The Story of Film, helmed  by Mark Cousins with producer (and former Scottish Screen CEO) John Archer at his side, this fifteen part epic aims to de-centre the European and Hollywood-centric world view of cinema.  Indeed Cousins pulls no punches in the opening episode, declaring conventional histories to be racist in their dismissal of the contributions made by film innovators in Africa, Asia and the global south.

Having experienced the entire fifteen hour series in one hour, courtesy of editor and (Screen Academy Scotland graduate) Timo Langer’s deft skill at employing 50x speeded-up motion between sequences drawn from across the series, I can attest that audiences are in for a kaleidoscopic immersion in a century of moving images, allied to an incisive and insightful commentary by Cousins. No doubt some will take issue  (as I did) with one or other of Mark’s claims to cause, effect or significance.  But there is no doubting that this series will be a major contribution and indeed corrective to the story of film.  It is especially important as a potential aid to the teaching of film history to new generations of young (and not so young people) – a particular concern of Cousins evident in his and Tilda Swinton’s Eight and a Half foundation, launched at last year’s Edinburgh Film Festival following his 2007 Vertigo ‘Letter to my Eight and half year old self’ .

With the future direction of support for film education (at a UK level ) partially subject to the outcome of the current DCMS film policy review which will in turn have a major influence on the BFI’s own strategic review, there are just 6 days left to make your views heard here. So perhaps after watching episode one of The Story of Film on Monday night would be a good time to put finger to keyboard…

Angels Nightmare revisted

We first noted the parallel between Edinburgh’s tram debacle and the business of making movies back in October 2010 noting that  “the rate of increase in the predicted final cost has been almost linear“.  Eleven months on and (see figure 1) the final cost estimate (albeit for a truncated line stopping at Haymarket) continues its inexorable rise.  (The phrase “Angel’s Nightmare” was coined by Arthur De Vany and can be summed up thus: “A movie that is over its budget has an expected cost that is proportional to what has already been spent” (De Vany and Walls, 2003))


At £375m  for the 18.5 km from the airport to Newhaven, the original cost per Km stood at £20m.  When the route was scaled back to St. Andrews Square (13.4km)  in June, the £750 estimated cost meant the price per km had risen to £56m and now, with the price tag at £830m for a further reduced 9.6km its a cool £86m.  So each time there is a recalculation the cost rises exponentially (See figure 2.)

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