All entries for Wednesday 02 January 2008
January 02, 2008
British Directors: Edgar Wright (1974-)
Edgar Wright did a lot of his early work in TV as so many up coming film directors have done in the past. spaced was a successful sitcom which went into two series runnig between 1999 - 2001 and significantly helped Wright to establish a reputation. His first work after studying film at Bournemouth was low budget comedy and he has worked in the comedy idiom ever since. Wright has done a lot of work with Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson and the success of Spaced allowed them to launch Shaun of the Dead a comedy-horror. The success of this film with a moderate budget allowed them to make Hot Fuzz. Wright also spent some time working with more established comedy acts in the BBC namely Alexei Sayle and Dawn French.
Romero eat your heart out - or maybe they will. Shaun of the Dead marked the return of the comedy-horror hybrid genre.
BBC film Network Wright interview. Includes extract of Hot Fuzz
Working Title Shaun of the Dead with trailer available
Hot Fuzz, 2006. Dir: Edgar Wright
Bye Bye The Matrix !
Well I haven't fully investigated it yet but the marketing of the film was clearly brilliantly organised. The BBC website below provided the materials for a very carefully orchestrated launch. Perhaps even more unusual was a preview in the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA). This was clearly an attempt by Working Title to build on its considerable reputation and target an much wider audience than might usually go to what might seem to be a typical 'Britcom'. The success of the low budget Shaun of the Dead also by director Edgar Wright also created an air of anticipation.
Film Availability: DVD available in UK
This is an abslotue must go to site if you are interested in the film at all. There are a host of interviews etc off the landing page. First class pages *****!
Working Title: History of a Production Company
(For a larger case study of a production company please see Channel Four / Film Four)
Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner co-chairpersons of Working Title Productions
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.
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.
Films which have been critically and financially successful include both British and American films:
Atonement has been a great success for Working Title functioning as a film in the "heritage genre"
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
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:
WT2 Films available include:
BBC on Inside I'm Dancing a WT2 title (This is technically an Irish film)
Working Title plans TV Shows:By Juliette Garside. Daily Telegraph Jan 2008
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)
British Directors: Stephen Frears (1941-)
Stephen Frears has had a fine film making career making many notable British films some of which have had a controversial edge live My Beautiful Laundrette and Sammie and Rosie Get Laid. With these films and with Dirty Pretty Things Frears has shown he can make films with his finger on the pulse of social change. His most successful recent film was The Queen which won many accolades. A fuller evaluation will appear in due course however there are a good range of web links established to aid research.
2006: The Queen
2005: Mrs Henderson Presents
2002: Dirty Pretty Things
2000: High Fidelity; Liam
1998: The Hi-Lo Country
1996 The Van
1995: Mary Reilly
1993: The Snapper
1992: Accidental Hero
1990: The Grifters
1989: Dangerous Liaisons
1987: Prick Up Your Ears
1987: Sammy and Rosie Get Laid
1985: My Beautiful Laundrette
1984: The Hit
1979: Bloody Kids
Screenonline Biography.(Excellent range of other links to specific films here)
BBC Film Network page on The Queen. Clip and trailer available here.
Guardian interview of Frears 2004 (who reveals that he watches Big Brother)
British Directors: Mike Hodges (1932 - )
Mike Hodges is still known for his 'gangster heavy' film Get Carter which seems to get number one in the 'Lad's Mags' lists for the 'well 'ard'. In fact it was an insightful view of relationships between British Gangland and various local businesses and of course the police. In terms of representations of Newcastle and the North East at the time the corruption of the Poulson affair.
The film was a continuation of the representation of British Gangland from Brighton Rock through The Long Good Friday which also dealt with corruption and was prescient about developments in the London docklands. Hodges has contributed another gangster heavy film in recent years I'll Sleep When I'm Dead.
For more on the theme of British Crime Films please follow this link.
A fuller evaluation of Mike Hodges work will follow however there are some useful links here to help with your research.
1970 Get Carter
1974 Terminal Man
1979 Flash Gordon
1985 Morons from Outer Space
1987 A Prayer for the Dying
1990 Black Rainbow
2001 Murder By Numbers
2003 I'll Sleep When I'm Dead
2004 Murder by Numbers
BBC Radio 3 series of interviews with Mike Hodges about work in progress on I'll sleep When I'm Dead
Bullet Boy, 2005. Dir: Saul Dibb
Currently this film is being limited to a Webliography
Film Availability: There is a DVD available
Elizabeth the Golden Age, 2007 . Dir Shekhar Kapur
I was very impressed with Kapur's first rendering of the early part of Elizabeth's life and it will be interesting to see how this history film stands up to its predecessor. It is improtant to differentiate the genre of history film from that of costume drama as a genre. The latter are usually stories set in a specific historical period but which often have no historical grounding in the facts. By comparison the history film is about specific people and events which are accepted as facts although interpretations of these facts will of course differ. It is also important to note the creation by critics of the notion of the 'heritage film' which suggested that countries undergoing some sort of crisis perhaps of identity often recourse to a golden past which is something of a mythical one (See also Heritage Cinema in France). There is an abundance of films about the Tudor period and Elizabeth 1st whilst there is a paucity of films about large tracts of other parts of British history. There will be a comparison of this film with the earlier versio of Elizabeth in due course.
Shekhar Kapur's previous version was very succesful in financial terms by the standards of British films. Kepur was a controversial choice the last time after his film Bandit Queen was banned in India. It was a fine film and Film Four backed the original project. I'm looking forward to seeing this one in any case.
Not currently available as a DVD in the UK. Still in cinemas.