This week, more notes from the excellent SOHO CREATE festival way back in June –
CATHERINE SHOARD (The Guardian) interviewing –
TIM BEVAN. Working Title Films. Has made over 100 films since 1984. Has won 11 Oscars, 37 BAFTA’s.
DUNCAN CLARK – Universal
FIONA WALKINSHAW – Framestore, VX, Exec producer of GRAVITY.
‘Tim Bevan, one of the country’s most successful and prolific producers, will be in conversation with Duncan Clark, President of Distribution for Universal Pictures International and Framestore chief exec FIONA WALKINSHAW . These three movie greats have been involved in well over 100 films. What can they tell us about the changing nature of the industry, technical, creative and commercial? Why does this tiny square mile of London play such an important role in Hollywood, and how will these powerful links evolve over the next ten years?’
The first film you ever saw?
FW: THE SNOW QUEEN
TB: The movies of the ‘70’s got me involved in film – a golden age of Hollywood – Ashby, Coppola, Scorsese. These films made me fall in love with the industry. Got a runners job in Soho. It didn’t really feel like work. But working in the film industry was better than work. I really love what I do. Most of all because you’re part of a team.
DC: THE WIZARD OF OZ. I remember being so scared by it. Example of the effect film can have on you. I never knew what I wanted to do – wanted to be a famous sportsman. From a family of journalists. Ended up in advertising, then did ads for a film company. Then being involved with film piqued my interest. A job to keep, a career to pursue.
FW: Not initially interested in film. But I loved reading stories, wanted to work in publishing, but didn’t enjoy it. Used to go off to the loo for a snooze! Got job as LWT news runner. Then receptionist job at Framestore.
TB: started as runner, then making music videos. Worked with directors like Nic Roeg, Stephen Frears. Learnt a lot from working with them. Worked with Frears just after he’d made THE HIT. I introduced him to a young crew. Stephen gave me and Sarah Radcliffe a Hanif Kureishi script. We had a meeting with Channel 4. They immediately gave us the money to make the film. Working Title’s first film (MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE)– it’s got a lot more difficult since then!
DC: Not a producer. But 15 years ago produced a film in Hollywood – low budget – great experience. Worked for Sony in LA.
TB: Good to have a group of people around you. When we started, we formed a community of creative people. You have to be tenacious as well as creative. In a filing cabinet you will have a tray of rejection letters to get any movie funded.
FW: Innovation is important at Framestore. Very creatively driven in advertising and film.
TB: You have to know when it’s not working. Sometimes you have a mutual respect between writer, director, producer – there’s a buzz – and the result is greater than the sum of its parts. This doesn’t happen on most movies – you have to value it when it does happen.
The film industry jades people. You have to get people at the right time.
DC: In distribution – movies from lots of different sources. When films come through – from treatment or script – it’s an acknowledged process – a journey that can take time. But when we get involved, films are generally on track – so less cynicism for me in the process.
TB: one of the things Richard Curtis taught me, quality control is everything. You have to be tenacious at every step of the process.
The industry has never been better. Britain – as a place to make films – has so much going for it. Working on movies now, there’s a proper career to be had – particularly if you specialise in one of the movie-making crafts.
FW: The new technology, ability to shoot your own films has democratized the industry.
TB: London is a really good place to be, a good time. More hours of film and TV than ever before are being made. I credit Gordon Brown. Sorted out tax credit scheme. Successive governments have stuck with it since. Now for every producer starting on funding a film, you have 25% of the budget before you start.
DC: We’re slightly on the outside here in London – but in LA it’s all a bit homogenised. Being outside of that environment can only be an advantage. The film world in Soho has been such an important part of my life. A tiny, packed area, whereas LA is vast and sprawling. Very energising.
FW: In London we don’t ever take the business for granted. Creatives at Framestore are never complacent about their place in the market.
TB: Working Title have offices in both London and LA. In the UK you have to be very pro-active. The UK punches above its weight in creatives. The big difference here is that there are various art forms. Cross-pollination is much better here – theatre and TV cross-pollinate in London. There’s very little theatre in LA compared to London.
Theatre here is a fantastic source for film – great to be able to tap into London theatre.
There’s a great social scene in Soho. Back in the day – the Groucho Club, the George. Now Soho House. Soho is socially vibrant – with lots of people from the creative industries in Soho.
DC: The big studios have a responsibility to make films that ‘common-denominate’ in 40 different territories.
TB: As a producer, we have a slate of movies. We don’t want a massive gap between films. We try to have a broad slate. Balance things out, develop as much as you can, with projects in different stages of development – from conception to production. The quickest development period we’ve had is 1 year, the longest 15-20 years. We’re thinking a few years ahead all the time.
DC: As distributor we’re thinking 3-5 years ahead. The timings never fall into place perfectly.
FW: At Framestore, we’re always looking two years ahead – things change all the time. We employ about 1000 people. We’re always trying to keep our slate full. The worst part of the job is when you suddenly see a gap, where schedules change – suddenly 200 people in the company who need work.
TB: Have the same attitude to extreme success and failure. Nothing surprises me very much – when films don’t happen.
DC: It’s a huge team effort in making and marketing a movie. If people don’t embrace a film, there’s a big debate about production and marketing. It’s always a bit of a roller-coaster.
Getting into the industry –
TB: We all had to get into it and for all of us it was difficult. Be clear about where you want to end up – be specific. Everyone at the start wants to be a runner – if you specifically want to work in the art department, for instance, it gives you an advantage.
FW: Make sure you do your research. One of my pet hates, is the standard blurb on CV’s, ‘I’m a highly motivated, organised individual…’ Don’t write that, write something interesting.
TB: Work experience – seize the opportunity when you have it. Diversity – shocking lack of diversity, especially behind the camera.
FW: When starting out, be aware of internship opportunities.
DC: Distribution – producers / distributors / exhibitors – it’s very competitive. Every week 4 or 5 movies are opening – there’s so much demand for the few available screens. Films sometimes do have very short, limited theatrical releases. But nowadays you’ve never missed a film forever – films come round in another vehicle.
TB: The studios have become very market-oriented. (BIRDMAN, GRAVITY were turned down by all the studios – both won Oscars)
One of the great things for Working Title has been the relationship with Universal. We think of the UK as our principal market, but if a film works it will have ripples all round the world. We soon realized the importance of the market worldwide. FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL changed everything – it was a massive door-opener. UK films don’t have to be huge – but there’s a big audience for them if you get them right.
Studios have different divisions – to look after and develop different types and scale of films.
There’s never a single moment when a film gets green-lit – it’s a process that happens over a course of months. Then the official green-light almost comes as a formality.
Releasing the trailer is like releasing the movie now.
FW: Huge impact (in the marketing) of sites like ‘Rotten Tomatoes’.
DC: Some movies take on a viral energy that we don’t anticipate.
TB: The response on the Mail online is a good indicator of a movie’s future success. So many hits for LEGEND (Tom Hardy as Kray twins) and new Bridget Jones movie – this reflects box office potential.
The next newsletter will be on Friday Dec 9th,
All the best
Nov 25th 2016