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January 02, 2008

Working Title: History of a Production Company

Working Title: History of a Production Company

(For a larger case study of a production company please see Channel Four / Film Four)

Fellner and Bevan of Working Title

Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner co-chairpersons of Working Title Productions

Introduction

The Co-chairpersons of Working Title  are  Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner. It has been an extraordinary British cinematic success story as the following comment notes:

They have been listed as the most powerful figures in the British industry and in 2002 Premiere magazine put them at 41st in the world-wide movie power list.( BBC News story (2004

Without well positioned and highly effective producers film makers would have an even more difficult time. Firstly this article will look briefly at the role of the film producer, it will then look in more detail at Working Title as a case study of a success story. Without good producers in the last few years British Film culture would have been much poorer.  Good producers are essential for the success of any national cinema especially given the outside pressures from the big guns. Film making is a high risk business and good producers know how / learn how to reduce risk. 

However according the the Daily Telegraph NBC Universal already holds a majority stake in Working Title Films, and has been looking to create a European TV studio in London. 

Working Title Red

Origins

Extract from Guardian interview

Bevan had founded Working Title in 1984 with Sarah Radclyffe, and in 1992 went looking for a corporate backer. Polygram was the one, and Fellner came on board, Radclyffe having left. According to Bevan: "Before that we had been independent producers, but it was very hand to mouth. We would develop a script, that would take about 5% of our time; we'd find a director, that'd take about 5% of the time and then we'd spend 90% of the time trying to juggle together deals from different sources to finance those films. The films were suffering because there was no real structure and, speaking for myself, my company was always virtually bankrupt."

What the film producer does

A film producer creates the conditions for making movies. The producer initiates, coordinates, supervises and controls matters such as fundraising, hiring key personnel, and arranging for distributors. The producer is involved throughout all phases of the filmmaking process from development to completion of a project. (Wikipedia entry 2nd Jan 2008)

Here is the blurb marketing a training course for potential producers:

The producer is at the sharp end of the film business. They are required to

keep all options open, develop networks of potential funding and talent,
identify outlets and new markets for their productions, keep a range of
projects live, ready for pitching
. This Film School will provide an
invaluable insight into the working practices and strategies, of the lives
of a variety of producers. They will range from those working exclusively in
shorts, in the UK, through to feature films and working in a global market.
It will provide essential information and tips for up and coming producers,
how to pitch a project, where to seek funding, how to maintain networks of
contacts. Everything you wanted to know about the producers’ job description and the detail of producing film will be revealed in this film School.
(My emphasis, Encounters Short Film Festival )

Films Produced by Working Title

Working Title's breakthrough hit was 1994's Four Weddings and a Funeral, a romantic comedy which made the term British blockbuster seem less of an oxymoron.

Successes 

Films which have been critically and financially successful include both British and American films:  

British films

Atonement 1

Atonement has been a great success for Working Title functioning as a film in the "heritage genre"

Four Weddings and a Funeral
Bean
Notting Hill
Bridget Jones's Diary
Elizabeth
and American films
Dead Man Walking
Fargo
The Man Who Wasn't There
O Brother Where Art Thou?
Failures  
But there are plenty of risks as this comment on Captain Corelli's Mandolin shows:
Flops include Captain Corelli's Mandolin. It was their most expensive film and, ironically, the one that seemed most likely to succeed.

This is even more ironic given that the prices in Kefalonia have risen as the tourist trade increased dramatically after the film's release.

How Working Title chooses the films to support 

How does Working Title choose which films to make? Fellner says projects get championed by individuals in the development department and these 'percolate' their way up to the top. Bevan and Fellner then both take the decision on what to greenlight (Skillset)

Recent Films Produced Include

More recently WT co-produced the successful Hot Fuzz comedy released in July 2007. See also Hot Fuzz)

Elizabeth the Golden Age : Shekar Kapur

Targeting Audience: The Secret of Their success?

The Working Title philosophy has always been to make films for an audience - by that I mean play in a multiplex. We totally believe in this because we know it is the only hope we have of sustaining the UK film industry. (Lucy Guard & Natasha Wharton)

Working Title 2 / WT 2: Making the Small Budget Feature

As Working Title became more bound up with larger productions it became more awkward to deal with smaller ones so WT2 was established to deal with low budget titles.  

Despite its famous name, the structure at Working Title is pretty lean. It employs just 42 full time staff, split between the main Working Title production arm and its low-budget offshoot WT2, run by Natascha Wharton, which since 1999 has produced films like Billy Elliot and Ali G Indahouse. (My emphasis, from Skillset )

WT2 has had a good success rate and clearly the whole organisation is run very effectively.

Other films it has produced are the less than well received Calcium Kid starring Orlando Bloom

Extract from a Channel 4 Film Feature

Lucy Guard, Head of Development for Dragon Pictures and Natscha Wharton (left) who co-runs WT2 share with us their secret to developing talent..

How did WT2 come about?
When I was at Working Title we set up a New Writers Scheme to develop new talent. Normally we do not accept unsolicited material (scripts that do not come from an agent or producer) but for the scheme we had to relax a bit and open the doors. The problem was that at Working Title, smaller films would inevitably get less attention than the bigger budget projects so we decided to set up WT2 to give proper attention to those smaller films. Quite a few of the writers we were developing on the Scheme we are now working with us at WT2 while others have set up their projects with other companies, which is great.

Available films produced by Working Title /WT2 include:

elizabeth_dvd_cover_special_edition.jpg Four Weddings and funeral DVD Cover Bridget Jones Bean DVD Cover

WT2 Films available include:

Inside I Billy Eliott Ali G Indahouse

Filmography 

Webliography 

Guardian Interview with Fellner and Bevan

BBC News story (2004)

Film File Europe recording Working Title / WT2 films 

Skillset Film entry on Working Title & WT2 

BBC on Inside I'm Dancing a WT2 title (This is technically an Irish film) 

BBC Review on Inside I'm Dancing

Working Title plans TV Shows:By Juliette Garside. Daily Telegraph Jan 2008

Film Four Productions Interview with Tim Bevan

Screenonline Working Title entry + links to individuals concerned

Independent Film Producer Rebecca O'Brien. Who works with Ken Loach 

(For a larger case study of a production company please see Channel Four / Film Four)


June 30, 2007

Charity Campaign Ideas

OCR Media Studies: Foundation Production Unit





cyberbullying_1.jpg





The hands of a cyberbully? Your opportunity to campaign against this!







Introduction

The development of mass media and the ability to communicate information fast has meant that media has played a powerful role in developing and maintaining improved standards of citizenship nationally and in the wider World.  Many charities and pressure groups have harnessed the power of the media to expose injustice and exploitation. They have often created broadbased campaigns to create awareness, persuade people to take action and therefore influence institutions, companies and the government of the day to make better policies. The ability to communicate powerful messages and values through effective advertising campaigns has played a fundamental role in this. In the foundation production unit you will be developing your skills in this area. 


For this specification you will need to be developing a powerful web-based media campaign. The general specification demands that it is as follows:

Main task: produce a campaign website including sound and video, including a sound and video for a campaign (eg political, health, charity, environmental. The site should include a logo, original photographs, (minimum four per candidate), written text, audio, video and easy navigation. (OCR Specification Document November 2007)


Below I have made some suggestions for campaigns based upon topical issues which can also link into other aspects of the New OCR Media specification for first delivery in September 2008. You will also find that the new draft specification for the WJEC Board will allow for a campaign of this nature. Teachers and lecturers will of course need to check out the specifications as they are fully accredited.




Choosing Your Campaign


As it currently stands the OCR specification allows you to invent your own campaign. The approach being taken here is to campaign for the development and maintenance of citizenship rights on a global basis. The production unit will be used to dvelop an understanding of three common areas where good policy needs to be accompanied by alert citizens to create awareness of hidden problems in our society.  This also affords us the opportunity to think about the important relationship the media can have with specialist organisations working towards ending specific abuses within our society. 




Public Service Broadcasting & Journalism

Many of you will be taking Media Studies with ideas of becoming a journalist. Good journalism and reporting has always managed to bring unpleasant issues into the spotlight and all aspects of media have their role to play. Good journalism must be supported by a good broadcasting framework which sees serving the public / citizens as a fundamental human right. We call this Public Service Broadcasting and is something we deal with in greater depth in the A2 year. Please note that most of the stories on this posting have emanated from the BBC not the commercial broadcasting companies who are primarily concerned with making money. As the links have been gleaned from general searches this shows you the importance of the BBC.




Campaign Against Abuse of Citizens

Previously campaigns have been focused upon four options however it is now easier to open up the range of choices. The first four choices relate to issues of abuse. 

  1. Firstly: the development of cyberbullying and other internet related issues. This will contribute an added dimension to the unit which we will study later on New Media Technologies
  2. Secondly: there will also be the option of developing a campaign for Amnesty International to help expose and stop the growth of the sexual exploitation of young women from poverty stricken countries who are trapped in a cycle of illegal immigration, violence and sexual exploitation. This links to the ooption to study Women and film for your A2 research project.
  3. Thirdly: we will look at the issue of child abuse in general which is still a big problem as shown by the work of the NSPCC.
  4. For the fourth option we will look at the issue of elder abuse which is now being recognised as an increasing problem in Britain







CyberbullyingWho is the victim of the cyberbully?

Cyberbullying appears to be coming more common. Communications systems as they are usually envisaged have the purpose of making life more transparent and opening up opportunities for all citizens of whatever age to develop their capabilities. However  most technologies can be used for unpleasant purposes and even downright criminal ones which oppress and repress people. Eternal vigilance  coupled to  an ethic of good quality citizenship rights for all  need to be combined to ensure that misuse of technologies for abusing fellow citizens is  resisted and eradicated as far as possible.

In the past one or two of my sixth-form students have taken up aspects of cyberbullying in the last couple of years and knew more about it than I did. But the phenomenon was still relatively limited. As it develops the issues of Cybercitizenship rights at a global level need to be taken very seriously. Below I have provided an initial webliography for students to do some initial research into this. It must be born in mind that this phenomenon is likely to get worse before it gets better which means that major charities are likely to get involved in the problem soon. 

For those of you who decide to take up this option you sh

ould see yourselves in a pioneeering and important role. Remember it is you rather than your lecturers / teachers / examiners who are likely to be more aware of this phenomenon in your everyday life. It is possible that major charities such as the NSPCC will take an interest in your work. Think of this project as your entry ticket into the adult world.  The fact is you can make a difference!  The combined results of personal research required for this project will provide  some useful data which we may wish to publish electronically.  If people from  a lot of colleges  find this positing and contribute then the pool of available data will become wider and the information potentially more valuable.  How valuable depends on the quality of the research.!

Cyberbullying Webliography 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/southern_counties/4412530.stm. East Sussex Council is one of the earliest to take Cyberbullying seriously.  

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/2902777.stm. About the growth of bullying of adult workers.  

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/1929944.stm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/talking_point/1930552.stm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/1929944.stm. Link here to BBC Video on cyberbullying 

Striking back at Cyberbullies:  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4912766.stm

Bullied girl sent hate e.mail: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/gloucestershire/4807396.stm

Cyberbullying on teachers (April 2007):  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/6522501.stm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/6541073.stm

Social networking sites such as Bebo and MySpace must do more to police what users do, warns Computing Which?http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/5344722.stm

Alan Johnson as the Education Minister under Tony Blair recently pledges to deal with cyberbullying (April 2007): http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/6527133.stm

Websites urged to act on cyberbullies (April 2007):  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/6539989.stm


Anger at cyerbullying in Cornwall (April 2007):  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/cornwall/6586735.stm

cyberbullying gathers pace in the US (June 2007):  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/6245798.stm


Presenting yourself on the Internet 

A new chief safety officer, Dr Rachel O'Connell, described as "one of Europe's foremost experts in internet safety", is being appointed by Bebo on 17 July. Tunbridge Wells Grammar School monitors how its girls presented themselves on the internet. Their naievty was putting them at risk. As media students should know there can be significant differences between what the producers of media intend (preferred reading) and how audiences might gain meaning from them (negotiated reading). See the story here:http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/kent/5140316.stm

Guidance on how to use social networking sites safely could be a good thing to campaign on.


Bebo safety tips: http://www.bebo.com/SafetyTips.jsp

Wired Safety: http://www.wiredsafety.org/





Anti-trafficking Campaign 


Trafficking in human beings to provide very cheap labour or else to feed the exploitative sex trade has  become an increasing problem in rescent years with the spread of globalisation as this image from a Danish anti-trafficking campaign makes clear.


freshmeatny.jpg



A recent powerful film by the Swedish  director Lucas Moodysson called Lilya 4-Ever was inspired the story of a teenage Lithuanian woman who was lured to Sweden and enslaved in the sex trade. The film is one which is considered as a representation of women for the research unit on Women and film. There is a posting on this blog which gives you a good range of internet links to research the film and this unpleasant aspect of social reality further: Lilya 4-Ever. Human trafficking is not limited to just the sex trade as the recent British drama documentary Ghosts has shown. This is also a film which we look at in year 2 for the unit Contemporary British Cinema in the OCR specification. This is a link to a posting on this site which again gives a range of external links to explore: Ghosts.




ghosts1.jpg


Many of the undocumented Chinese labourers who were employed as cocklepickers represented in Ghosts were drowned on Blackpool Sands




Child Abuse & the NSPCC

NSPCC Poster 4


For many years the NSPCC have run vey effective campaigns to highlight child abuse and child murder.  The design of these has often been in black and white and the mise en scene is often based on real looking locations and very poignant slogans which fit well with the image.

NSPCC Poster 5




NSPCC Poster 2

NSPCC & child Abuse Webliography

http://www.nspcc.org.uk/

http://www.nspcc.org.uk/whatwedo/whatwedohubpage_wda33342.html


The NSPCC FULL STOP Campaign


Full NSPCC Report on Child abuse 


Unicef Report on Slave Britain  

Slave Britain Exhibition 

Access Robbie Williams film  More Precious than Gold

BBC on Parenting: Your Kids - What is Child Abuse?

Kidscape: Bullying and Child Abuse








Elder Abuse


In recent years abuse of the elderly has been recognised as an increasing problem and several charitable organisations have developed to combat this whilst older charities such as Help the Aged have devoted an increasing amount of energy to this issue.





Kathlene an Elder Abuse Victim


Kathlene a victim of elder abuse with her new carers. Link here to BBC London's expose as Kathlene tells her story.




Good journalism and reporting has always managed to bring these unpleasant issues into the spotlight and all aspects of media have their role to play. Good journalism must be supported by a good broadcasting framwork which sees serving the public / citizens as a fundamental human right. We call this Public Service Broadcasting and is something we deal with in our A2 year. Please note that most of the stories on this posting have emanated from the BBC not the commercial broadcasting companies who are primarily concerned with making money.  Highlighting the problem is one thing but helping to get everybody thinking about WHY these things go on is very important. Programmes such as Woman's Hour have an important role to play. Here you can listen to a Woman's Hour discussion on why elderly abuse is so prevalent in our society.  


Elder Abuse Webliography


Link to Action on Elder Abuse a charity specifically developed to deal with this issue

Report highlights Elder Abuse (June 2007): http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/6752965.stm

Elder abuse affects thousands (June 2007):  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/6751155.stm

Abuse of Elderly most common in UK (June 2007): http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/wales/6751637.stm

Elderly abuse becoming common (Summer 2006):  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/5043896.stm


This link is strangely related to our unit on new media technologies for it is a BBC story about Child Abuse in Second Life the virtual world.  




Fashion Campaigns (1)

No Anorexia

Website Catwalk Queen made the following pusillanimous comment about this campaign launched at the Milan fashion show in 2007:

You can view the image after the jump but be warned that some readers might find it disturbing.


Unsurprisingly the Italian advertising authority banned the advertising campaign for breaching its 'code of conduct'. The BBC has noted the following comment in an attempt to blame the victim of course:

The image "commercially exploited" the illness, the advertising body said.


Interstingly the campaign was sponsored by Flash and Partners a fashion design company.


Of course quite a lot of readers should be rather more disturbed that the fashion industry helps to encourage mental states that leads to these sorts of symptoms. Here we need to be asking who is constructing the current set of so-called beauty standards. Many would argue it is the construction of a male gaze which creates a mental state in women who are used to be looked at. It is rare that the reality is portrayed.

No Anorexia Poster

Old-fashioned posters can still be highly effective:  No Anorexia hits the streets of Milan


Shock anorexia billboard annoys fashion designers reports the Guardian


LONDON - Unilever, the maker of Dove cosmetics and Lynx deodorant, has banned size zero models from appearing in its advertising in response to public opinion. (Brand Republic 08-May-07, 14:00)

Dove non skinny models




British Chiropractic Association (BCA) Backs Anti-Size Zero Campaign


Losing muscle mass means the support in vital areas such as the neck may not be enough to hold heavier structures like the head. This can potentially result in changes to posture such as forcing you to hold your head forward which causes the head to feel heavier, putting extra strain on the neck muscles, this can be linked to a number of long term problems such as headaches. In extreme cases significant weight loss can lead to loss of bone density (osteoporosis) and can cause changes to the menstrual cycle as well.




Fashion Campaigns 2

Children sewing for Primark

Children Sewing (slaving) For Primark


Primark & Child Exploitation

People & Planet groups organised a series of coordinated protests at Primark stores around the country on Saturday 10 March. Armed with banners and ironing boards they withstood counter-flyering attacks from Primark and collected hundreds of petitions.


Financial Times report on Primark 17 June 2008:

What you don’t know . . .
There are said to be 470 Facebook groups devoted to Primark, 392 of them positive. By severing links with three Indian factories for severe breaches of its ethical standards, including the use of child labour, the discount clothing retailer has given the other 78 something to chat about.
At least one campaign group castigated Primark for “cutting and running” rather than working with suppliers to improve. But most Primark customers, if not indifferent, will have taken the action as it was intended: a rapid, but considered, response to a grave breach that, according to Associated British Foods, the retailer’s parent, was so ingrained it would have been hard to correct easily.
That still leaves the question why the problem was uncovered by the BBC and not Primark’s supply auditors. The problem for companies sourcing products from developing markets is summed up in Primark’s statement that it would never “knowingly permit” the activities now uncovered.
Not knowing, lobbyists would argue, is no longer an excuse.

The Associated British Foods share price was in the article. Obviously serious campaigns will hurt the share price.


BBC Panoarma investigation into Primark and Child Labour


The Times, June 17, 2008

Primark drops firms using child labour


Primark takes action over child labour

By Maggie Urry


Bargain retailers Tesco's, Asda and Primark depend on sweatshops - report By SEAN POULTER,  Mail Online

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