REAL INSIGHT INTO GLOBAL PRODUCTION
SIGNS OF SUMMER? The outlook for the creative screen industries
TOP TOONS The rise of the animation sector
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Welcome to the seventh edition of makers, the biannual magazine for the global production industry. This edition is dedicated to Sue Hayes, who provided the creative direction for makers from its inception four years ago through every single issue, including this one. We pay tribute to her on page 6, but her inspiration and thinking can be found throughout the magazine. Sue was passionate about the screen industries – ﬁlm, TV, advertising and games, and continually looked for ways to bring together ideas and experts from all of the creative disciplines. Sue waS paSSionate about the Screen induStrieS, and continually looked for wayS to bring together ideaS and expertS from all of the creative diSciplineS – film, tv, advertiSing and gameS.
Reﬂecting her thinking, this issue of makers ranges from topics such as animation, which is enjoying surging demand, through to virtual production, which sees ﬁlmmakers employ games technology to create incredible worlds inside a studio. Elsewhere, we report on the outlook for commercials producers as economies start to reopen from lockdowns, and also weigh up the prospects for cinemas and the wider ﬁlm industry.
EDITOR Tim Dams
DATA & MARKETING EXECUTIVE Daniele Antonini
ART DIRECTION & COVER IMAGE Les éditions du bois du Marquis
CONTRIBUTORS Dawn McCarthy-Simpson MBE, Lori Balton, Maria Tanjala, Danny Sanz & Emma Lawson
LOCATIONS EDITOR Shona Smith
CREATIVE DIRECTION Sue Hayes
HEAD OF PRODUCTION David Lewis INTERNATIONAL SALES CONSULTANTS Alice Blanc, Juan Hincapie
COMMERCIAL DIRECTOR Clara Lé
RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR Chloe Lai
FINANCE Desmond Kroats, Farhana Anjum
MANAGING DIRECTOR Jean-Frédéric Garcia CONSULTANT Ben Greenish FOUNDER Murray Ashton
In other features, makers takes in the rise of podcasting, the creative industries’ embrace of artiﬁcial intelligence, the Nordic countries’ art of production collaboration, the growth of Spain as a ﬁlm and TV hub, and the future of branded programming. To mark the launch of this issue, makers is also holding a two-day makers pop-up virtual conference in June for the creative community exploring the merger of technology with storytelling. We hope you enjoy this issue. makers will be back in the winter. If you have any feedback, or would like to get in touch, do drop us a line at email@example.com. Tim Dams, editor
PLEASE ADDRESS ALL ENQUIRIES TO THE PUBLISHERS The Location Guide, Unit 6A, Oakwood House, 414-422 Hackney Road, London E2 7SY, UK T (44 20) 7036 0020 E firstname.lastname@example.org E email@example.com W www.thelocationguide.com 2021 © The Location Guide Limited All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be copied or reproduced in any form whatsoever, by photocopying, electronic or mechanical means without prior written consent of the publisher. The publisher has taken all reasonable eﬀorts to ensure that the information presented is accurate and correct, but cannot take responsibility for any omissions or errors, nor take any liability for any misuse of images or of the information.
PRINTERS Barley Print, UK
Sue Hayes a tribute
e’re sad to write that our wonderful friend and colleague, Sue Hayes, has passed away. For us all, Sue was a total joy to work with. A true force of nature, Sue was instrumental in growing The Location Guide (TLG) as a business, helping to launch and develop the FOCUS show, makers magazine and the makers & shakers Awards. A former London Film Commissioner, director of the Edinburgh TV Festival, producer and journalist, Sue knew the industry inside out. Passionate, positive, creative and always curious, she ﬁzzed with 6
ideas – and shared her knowledge and experience so openly and generously. If things needed to happen or a problem needed to be solved, Sue always knew what to do or who to speak to. For many, Sue was an unoﬃcial mentor and supporter. She picked people up, listened, guided and advised, and then introduced them to others and got them involved in projects. She did it all in her own unique way. Sue was kind, big hearted,
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SHE HAD THE ABILITY TO MAKE ALL OF US THINK MORE DEEPLY AND BROADLY ABOUT WHAT WE WERE DOING, TEASING OUT EXTRA ANGLES OR NEW DIMENSIONS
generous and fun – and gave her attention fully and authentically to people. Naturally, people responded to her and would do whatever she asked. In fact, it was hard to say no to Sue – people enjoyed her company as well as the energy and intellectual enquiry she brought to projects, and wanted to be involved with whatever she was doing. It’s fair to say Sue has made a massive impact on everybody’s lives at TLG, and on thousands of people in the wider industry. Sue was truly a mighty woman. Whether advising on business plans, curating sessions for FOCUS, or providing ideas and inspiration for makers and the makers & shakers awards, Sue always helped us to see the big picture. She had the ability to make all of us think more deeply and broadly about what we were doing, teasing out extra angles or new dimensions. She championed new talent, diﬀerent voices and pushed for greater diversity in everything we did. If you were going down the wrong path, or an idea was simply bad, Sue would let you know. But she did it in the nicest, most constructive way possible. You never ever came away from a conversation with Sue feeling as if you’d had a bad idea or weren’t up to the job. Instead, you’d leave feeling buoyed up and with a whole lot of new ideas or angles to pursue, often feeling like you’d had them yourself. Collaborating with Sue was therefore always a positive and enriching experience. Things were better (and more fun) if Sue was involved.
Sue was also patient and determined. Creating and curating the annual FOCUS conference section from scratch was no easy task, but Sue made it happen – and helped it to blossom over the years through hard work, passion and positivity. Sue had been ill for some time, but she never complained to us, and indeed few knew she was ill. Even for those who did know, she would steer the conversation to ask about them rather than talk about herself. She carried on working till the end – many of us were in touch with her just before she died, via Zoom, phone or email. It’s fair to say Sue has made a massive impact on everybody’s lives at TLG, and on thousands of people in the wider industry. Sue was truly a mighty woman. We send our deepest sympathy and love to her husband Rod, and her sons Charlie and Luke. From her friends and colleagues at the TLG, FOCUS, makers and makers & shakers Awards team.
018 Will it be a Summertime
Boom for Production?
010 News in Brief
Production news from around the world
012 The World at a Glance
Mapping global production trends
016 Tech & Facilities News From cameras to studios, the latest in production technology news
The entertainment sector may be starting to emerge from Covid-19 lockdowns
The Next Four Years The changing face of production in the US
055 A Fintech Future
The growth of the production industry has led to producers adopting new ways of working
062 Commercial Gain
Ad producers are cautiously optimistic as Covid-19 vaccination campaigns accelerate
065 Japan: Choose
Your Destination Uncertainty over the Olympics has reduced activity, but the production industry has transitioned well to remote ﬁlming
079 Is the UK Still Attractive
Despite having ﬁve years to prepare, it was impossible to tell what the reality would be
088 AI Gets Creative
From commissioning to post production – artiﬁcial intelligence can play a vital role
094 Production Goes Virtual
Regarded as the natural successor to green screen, many believe it will become a staple of the production industry
>CLOSE UP 033 Preview
A TALE OF TWO CANNES They are running less than a month apart, but the Cannes ﬁlm & advertising festivals are taking dramatically diﬀerent paths
DAWN MCCARTHY-SIMPSON The rise & fall... & rise again of Turkish TV
FOCUS What’s next for the annual event?
138 049 Preview
MAKERS & SHAKERS AWARDS Entries are open for the 2021 awards
>AROUND THE WORLD From incentives to location highlights, makers presents a series of in-depth guides to some of the world's most ﬁlm friendly regions
030 Hong Kong Big & bountiful
037 Colombia Small & mighty Latin ﬂare
105 Behind Greece’s
138 Keeping Animated
The animation sector has been able to avoid the worst of the pandemic
143 Mission Impossible:
What's behind the surge in demand for Greek location shoots?
116 Branded Programming:
Poised for Take-oﬀ?
Amid falling ad revenues & squeezed budgets, broadcasters are becoming more open to content funded by brands
126 The Future of Cinema
There is a cautious degree of optimism for the theatrical business as countries start to emerge from lockdowns
131 Spain Heats Up
Spain's content industry is being transformed as international streamers & studios invest in the country
BEHIND THE SCENES OF HBO MAX’S TOKYO VICE
076 Interview with
VICTORIA EMSLIE Winner of the makers & shakers Shaker Of Year Award
084 Around the World
ADVANCINg THE STORY With veteran location scout Lori Balton
059 New Zealand Dutch light
More than middle-earth
099 Poland City of light
092 Making of
DOMINA Sky recreates Ancient Rome at Cinecitta Studios
DOCUMENTARY DEMAND Once seen as rather elitist and niche, the feature documentary market is expanding
EMMA LAWSON Winner of the makers & shakers Initiative to Grow Local Industry Award
DANNY SANZ Making the leap from production services to original IP
128 Making of
SHADOW & BONE Netﬂix drama comes to life in Hungary
How Italy Returned Italy bounces back from the pandemic
148 Aiming for Net Zero
A shift towards more sustainable practices is now even more urgent for producers
153 Nordic Co-operation
Co-operation has proved key to the production sector in the Nordic countries
160 The Power of Podcasts
The medium is capturing the attention of audiences, brands & Hollywood
WILLCO Winner of the makers & shakers Production Tech Innovation of the Year Award
156 Interview with
gINA jACKSON OBE A games industry pioneer
MARIA TANjALA Blockchain will build trust in the industry
DUBBINg & SUBTITLINg The streaming revolution has had a transformative eﬀect on the dubbing & subtitling industry
113 Portugal Creative mix
123 Saudi Arabia Making waves
Open for business
147 South Korea Access atmosphere Fan favourite
NEWS in brief PRODUCTION
gameS induStry dealS get off to flying Start in 2021 According to InvestGame, 249 deals have been closed in the ﬁrst quarter with a total value of USD25 billion, reﬂecting the popularity of the games sector with players and investors coming out of the pandemic. By comparison, investments in the games industry reached a total value of USD33.6 billion in the whole of 2020, across 664 transactions. Tencent has emerged as a leading investor, closing a total of 35 deals, including investments in overseas markets such as Mundﬁsh, Dontnod, Payload Studios, and Bohemia Interactive. The Chinese ﬁrm continues to consolidate in its local gaming market, with deals for ﬁrms such as Surgical Scalpels Studio, Game Science, UltiZero Games and Dark Star.
Sony has agreed a deal with Netflix for post-cinema streaming rights to a selection of Sony's upcoming titles, including the Spider-Man films. The deal, rumoured to be for five years, sees Netflix taking the titles from Starz, which has had a partnership with Sony since 2006. It will begin with Sony's 2022 release slate.
In 2020, the US led the investment landscape, representing 36% of the total deal value, followed by China at 27%. The largest M&A deals of 2020 were the acquisition of Bethesda parent company Zenimax by Microsoft for USD7.5 billion, Zynga buying Peak Games for USD1.8 billion, Leyou being acquired by Tencent for USD1.3 billion, and EA agreeing to acquire Codemasters for USD1.2 billion. Already this year, online video and messaging app Discord, which is popular among gamers, has reportedly dismissed a USD10 billion oﬀer from Microsoft to acquire the company. Fortnite developer Epic Games has secured USD1 billion in investment from backers including Sony, valuing it at almost USD30 billion. Electronic Arts (EA) is set to buy mobile gaming ﬁrm Glu Mobile in a deal valued at USD2.1 billion.
SpaniSh language content powerhouSe emergeS US-based Spanish-language entertainment company Univision is to merge with Mexico's Televisa in a deal valued at USD4.8 billion. The combination – which will create a Spanish-language production powerhouse – will see Univision pay around
USD4.8 billion for Televisa's content, media and production assets to create a new company, dubbed Televisa-Univision. The deal should close by the end of the year, but is subject to shareholder and regulatory approval.
However, broadcaster appetite for new formats may be growing as lockdowns ease.
For example, Big Brother and The Voice creator John de Mol successfully debuted Marble Mania in January, his ﬁrst format since launching his new company last year.
Many indies have been busy developing new ideas while stuck in lockdown. “We’re hearing now that broadcasters are taking those pitches,” says Amsterdam-based Lineup Industries’ co-founder Julian Curtis “They are considering new things.”
The development push by many producers could lead to a massive slate of new ideas coming online in the months and years to come. Among new formats are ITV Studios and Nippon TV’s Stacking It! (pictured above).
In France, TF1 is experimenting with new formats. The broadcaster launched big budget game show District Z in December, and Mystery Duets in February this year.
BroadcaSterS eye new entertainment formatS Broadcasters have long focused their spend and schedules on formats with a track record. Veteran quiz show Who Wants to be a Millionaire? – which was rebooted last year by ABC in the US – remains the world’s widest-selling format, according to consultancy K7 Media, followed by Deal or No Deal and Got Talent. The success of these evergreen titles can mean there is little room for new formats to emerge. During the pandemic broadcasters have also turned to tried and tested formats – which they know how to make and can more easily apply Covid-19 production protocols to – as the safest kinds of shows to ﬁlm.
The intensifying battle between global streamers, linear channels and local streamers is also likely to drive demand for new formats.
BACK TO CONTENTS Streaming ServiceS
proved they are the
induStry’S big winner from the covid-19
pandemic, with the main platformS reporting bumper SubScriber
numberS in recent weekS.
Streaming ServiceS amaSS SuBScriBerS during lockdown Streaming services proved they are the industry’s big winner from the Covid-19 pandemic, with the main platforms reporting bumper subscriber numbers in recent weeks.
Sony Buoyed By Strong playStation 5 SaleS Sony has shipped 7.8 million units of its new PlayStation 5 games console since launch meaning the device is outstripping sales of its predecessor PlayStation 4 and beating Sony's own forecasts for the machine. Microsoft has not released hardware sales for the new Xbox Series X/S. Both consoles have been hit by supply issues since launching last year.
Netﬂix ﬁnished the ﬁrst quarter of 2021 with almost 208 million paying customers. The company plans to spend USD17 billion on content this ﬁnancial year, making up for a production slowdown during the pandemic. Amazon, which spent USD11 billion on TV series, movies and music for its Prime services last year, now has more than 200 million Prime members worldwide – up from 150 million in January 2020.
Disney+ has shot passed the 100 million subscriber milestone 16 months after launch as the streamer goes from strength-to-strength on the back of its international rollout. Disney said it plans to release at least 100 new titles a year across the various Disney brands. By comparison, WarnerMedia’s HBO Max and HBO have a combined 44.2 million subscribers domestically, and 64 million subscribers globally. However, the company is expected to roll out HBO Max more widely this year, and is predicting between 120 million and 150 million global users for HBO Max and HBO by the end of 2025. ViacomCBS counts 36 million global streaming subscribers, most of which are in the US, across its Paramount Plus, Showtime and BET Plus services. The service will be in 45 worldwide markets by the end of 2022.
Creative industry workplace culture in the spotlight One year after the jailing of Harvey Weinstein, the workplace culture of the TV and ﬁlm industries has again been thrown into the spotlight. ICM Partners was the subject of an LA Times investigation in which more than 30 current and former agency employees said the agency tolerated a hostile workplace culture. The report cited sexual harassment, bullying and inappropriate behaviour towards women and people of colour, and questioned the agency’s commitment to diversity. The agency gave speciﬁc denials on most of the allegations, and said some of the incidents were investigated internally and action was taken. Elsewhere, top Hollywood producer Scott Rudin says he is stepping back from his ﬁlm and streaming projects in addition to his Broadway productions in the wake of allegations about his abusive workplace behaviour, following a Hollywood Reporter expose that provided detailed accounts of bullying of “in the uS, the producerS guild of subordinates.
netflix’S all Quiet on the Western Front filming near prague Filming on the ﬁrst German ﬁlm adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque classic World War 1 novel All Quiet on the Western Front (pictured above) is underway near Prague. The Netﬂix series is directed by Edward Berger (Patrick Melrose) and produced by Malte Grunert of Berlin-based Amusement Park Film. The series is expected to be seen in the second half of 2022. ireland in the frame aS DisenchanteD StartS Shoot Filming is underway in Ireland on Disney+’s Disenchanted, the sequel to 2007 hit Enchanted, starring Amy Adams and Patrick Dempsey. Ireland has become a magnet for international production, lured by ﬁscal incentives, stunning locations and highly regarded crews. Apple TV series Foundation – the largest production to ﬁlm in Ireland to date – wrapped last year. So did Ridley Scott’s upcoming historical epic The Last Duel. Netﬂix’s Vikings: Valhalla is due to wrap in June.
america iS forming
In the UK, Noel Clarke a taSk force to (pictured below) was combat bullying in the subject of a Guardian report in hollywood which 20 women said following the Scott he had harassed or rudin allegationS.” bullied them during his career as a TV and ﬁlm actor, writer, director and producer. Bafta subsequently suspended his membership, weeks after giving him an outstanding
contribution award, while Sky "halted" its work with Clarke, including on the fourth series of crime drama Bulletproof. Clarke has "vehemently" denied any sexual misconduct or criminal wrongdoing. In the wake of allegations made against Noel Clarke, an open letter signed by hundreds of members of the entertainment industry said it was "time to put an end to this culture that turns a blind eye to predators and harassers operating in plain sight". In the US, the Producers Guild of America is forming a task force to combat bullying in Hollywood following the Scott Rudin allegations.
at a glance uk 5
12 united StateS
10 cZech republic
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china 2 1
malaySia 9 5 auStralia 11
india Amazon Prime Video has made its ﬁrst foray into Indian ﬁlm production, signing on as a co-producer for upcoming Hindi action adventure movie Ram Setu, which will be fronted by Bollywood star Akshay Kumar. china Ad spend in China, the only key global market to see positive growth in 2020, is expected to continue grow 5.3% in 2021 to reach USD109 billion. Of this, digital spend will make up 70% of the total, according to Dentsu Media predictions. Spain The Spanish government is to invest EUR1.6 billion between 2021-25 to power up Spanish ﬁlm and TV production, and encourage big foreign players to shoot and set up production centres in Spain. Japan Animated movie Demon Slayer has become the highest-grossing film in Japanese box-oﬃce history, ending the reign of Spirited Away from 2001. Despite the pandemic limiting cinema audiences, Demon Slayer has earned over USD366 million since last October.
latin america HBO Max is to launch in late June in 39 territories across Latin America and the Caribbean, marking the ﬁrst availability for the platform outside the US. The Nordics, Spain, Central Europe, and Portugal are next in line for HBO Max later this year. canada The Canadian government is to double the budget of Teleﬁlm Canada, investing an additional CAD105 million over the next three years to help the funding body compete in the digital landscape and champion more diverse content creators. malaySia The Disney+ Hotstar streaming service is to launch in Malaysia in June. Disney has signed multi-year content supply agreements with leading Malaysian studios Skop Productions and Revolution Media Films to bolster its local programming line-up. cZech repuBlic Film production in 2021 in the Czech Republic is set to surpass the record breaking year of 2019 thanks to a slew of incoming shoots, including the serial adaptation of All Quiet on the Western Front for Netﬂix.
uk Disney+ has ordered its ﬁrst UK scripted projects: adventure The Ballad of Renegade Nell by Sally Wainwright, heist thriller Culprits from J Blakeson, and comedy series Extraordinary from production company Sid Gentle Films.
auStralia Mad Max prequel Furiosa, starring Chris Hemsworth, is set to be biggest ﬁlm ever made in Australia. Filming begins in New South Wales in June, and is expected to bring in around AUD350 million to the New South Wales economy.
colomBia Netﬂix is to open an oﬃce in Bogota, this year and unveil more than 30 new projects through 2022 as part of a USD175 million investment in Colombia. The streamer ﬁrst launched in the Latin American country 10 years ago.
united StateS Principal photography has begun in Oklahoma on Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon. The Apple Studios feature stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Lily Gladstone and Jesse Plemons, and is the largest shoot in Oklahoma’s history.
NEWS tech & facilities
FROM CAMERAS TO
STUDIOS, THE LATEST IN PRODUCTION
poSt production lookS to the future The Covid-19 pandemic may have hit the post production sector hard since lockdowns began, but many post companies are looking optimistically to the future.
Many believe that investing in bricks and mortar post house oﬀerings remains a sensible plan, arguing that clients who have been stuck at home for over a year are desperate to return to work with talent in edit suites.
Outpost VFX, for example, has secured a multimillion-pound investment from funds managed by YFM Equity Partners.
Others have gone the other way, creating remote post oﬀers that allow ﬂexibility and a better work / life balance.
Envy Post has expanded its Soho empire with a new ﬂoor at its Foley Street facility.
Most think, however, that the future of post will be hybrid, and that those who succeed can oﬀer a combination of physical premises and remote services. In other words, they realise they will have to cater to clients and staﬀ wanting the best of both worlds.
vin dieSel readieS dominican repuBlic Studio Hollywood actor Vin Diesel has signed an agreement to build a ﬁlm studio in Puerto Plata, in the north of the Dominican Republic. The studios will be built by production company One Race Films, founded by Vin Diesel. The Dominican Republic is a popular ﬁlming destination with a 25% transferable tax credit available to any project spending over USD500,000 on production in the country. Recent productions in the country include Shotgun Wedding starring J.Lo, Paramount Players’ canine adventure Arthur the King starring Mark Wahlberg and M. Night Shyamaman’s Old.
Streamland makeS itS mark in poSt production Los Angeles-based Streamland has emerged as a signiﬁcant consolidator in the post production industry. In May, Streamland completed its USD36.5 million acquisition of Technicolor Post and integrated its services into Streamland's picture, VFX, sound and marketing divisions. Technicolor Post will cease to exist as a brand. The former Technicolor Post facilities in London and Cardiﬀ will now be home to Streamland post production companies Picture Shop and Formosa Group. Another Streamland brand, Ghost VFX, already a presence in the UK and Denmark, will deepen its role in the UK.
In each case, there’s a ﬁrm belief that the industry will bounce back strongly when the pandemic recedes.
Several ﬁrms have announced plans to expand, or to make signiﬁcant investments in new technology. They include post houses such as Outpost VFX, Envy, Digital Orchard, Splice, Roundtable, Coda, and The Edit.
Elsewhere, there has been a spate of start-ups, with talent using the pandemic as an opportunity to reassess things and to strike out on their own, often
Avid has launched cloud subscription service, Avid | Edit On Demand. The software allows users to turn on secure virtual post production environments in the cloud, aiming to be indistinguishable from on-premises editing. Post production teams can now spin up virtualised Media Composer systems with Avid NEXIS cloud workspaces to access their workflows from anywhere.
by harnessing remote working technology to oﬀer high quality services to clients.
In April, Streamland acquired Sim Video International's post production business (Sim Post), with its picture and sound ﬁnishing bases in Los Angeles, Vancouver and New York. Trive Capital and Five Crowns Capital invested in Streamland in 2018. Shortly after, Streamland acquired Finalé Post in Vancouver, providing a strategic foothold in Canada. Leading UK post house The Farm Group joined the same year. Ghost VFX in Copenhagen joined in 2020. "We have one clear vision – to build our global network providing best-in-class services with passionate individuals who are dedicated to creative excellence," says Streamland CEO Bill Romeo.
Streamland haS emerged aS a Significant
conSolidator in the poSt
BACK TO CONTENTS amaZon reported itS beSt
firSt-quarter with revenueS of uSd108.5 billion, Surging 44% year over year.
the uk Studio Boom A host of new studios are being developed in the UK. Growing streamer and US studio demand for content, an attractive UK ﬁlm and high-end TV tax incentive, and highly regarded UK talent, crews and infrastructure have all conspired to drive up production levels, and with it the need for stages. Sky and NBC Universal have begun construction on Sky Studios Elstree (pictured below) with 13 stages set to open in the ﬁrst half of 2022. Hollywood property developer Hackman Capital Partners has agreed a GBP300 million deal to build Eastbrook Studios in Dagenham. With 12 sound stages, it has a 2023 completion target date. Hackman also recently conﬁrmed it is funding a second ﬁlming facility nearby. Two existing warehouses in Barking will be converted into studios, to be known as The Wharf, and could be available in autumn this year. Leeds Studios, backed by Allied London’s Versa Studios, is set to open this year, with four stages located near C4’s base in the city. US studio operator Blackhall Studios has said it will invest GBP150 million in a studio complex near Reading. In Liverpool, two stages are being developed as part of plan to transform the former Littlewoods pools building.
ncam launcheS virtual production camera tracker Ncam has launched real-time camera tracker Ncam Reality 2021 for use in virtual production in ﬁlm, broadcast and live events. Oﬀering a fast path to virtual graphics, users can track on any camera, lens or rig, opening up visual possibilities for brands who want to build CGI into their productions. Nic Hatch, CEO of Ncam, said: “With the right tracking equipment, you can visualize live XR, real-time CGI, set extensions and more directly in-camera, onsite or remotely, giving productions a way to stay on track during trying times.” netflix hireS StageS in Japan Netﬂix has leased two stages at Tokyo's Toho Studio as it plans to expand its Japanese content oﬀer, with at least 25 titles launching in 2021. Yu Yu Hakusho, a live action remake of a classic manga series, and Sanctuary, which shows the dark underbelly of professional sumo, will be among the ﬁrst productions to ﬁlm at the leased stages in 2021.
Big tech keeps getting bigger
he tech giants have clearly had a good pandemic. Apple, Alphabet, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft have all posted strong ﬁrst quarter results amid soaring sales. Amazon reported its best ﬁrst-quarter with revenues of USD108.5 billion, surging 44% year over year. Strong performances from its AWS cloud division as well as ecommerce sales buoyed Amazon revenues. Apple smashed Wall Street expectations for the ﬁrst three months of 2021. The company posted revenue of USD89.6 billion, up 54% on a surge of iPhone sales. Its Services segment, which includes Apple TV Plus, posted revenues of USD16.9 billion – an all-time record. Apple CEO Tim Cook wouldn’t reveal the number of Apple TV Plus subscribers but said, “We feel good about where we are.” Alphabet posted revenue of USD55.31 billion, an increase of 34%. YouTube’s advertising revenue rose to USD6 billion, up 49% year-on-year. Google Search revenue surged 30% to USD31.88 billion for the ﬁrst quarter.
In January Netﬂix announced the lease of two production facilities in South Korea.
Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight is developing Birmingham’s Mercian Studios with six stages. It is targeting a 2022 launch. Three new stages are also being built as part of the Meridian Water development in Edmonton, North London. In Kent, The Creative District Improvement Company and Quinn Estates are behind the Ashford Studios development on a 15-acre site. Studio operator Quartermaster is developing two TV studios in London and Birmingham. It is also working on four ﬁlm studio developments within the M25. Elsewhere, Manchester’s Space Studios and North London’s Elstree Studios are adding two stages each. In Northern Ireland, Belfast Harbour Studios is to build a six more stages. Pinewood has consent for 26 more stages at both Pinewood and Shepperton. Great Point Media has taken over the lease of Wales Seren Stiwdios, with an option to expand the site.
dneg takeS home Sixth oScar VFX and animation company DNEG won its sixth Oscar for Best Visual Eﬀects for its work on Christopher Nolan’s Tenet. DNEG’s VFX team, led by overall VFX supervisor Andrew Jackson and DNEG VFX supervisor Andrew Lockley, helped to deliver the ﬁlm’s complex concepts of reverse entropy and time inversion. The company has previously been recognised by the Academy for its work on First Man, Blade Runner 2049, Ex Machina, Interstellar and Inception.
Facebook announced total revenues of USD26.17 billion, well ahead of expectations for the ﬁrst quarter. The company has 1.88 billion daily active users, up 8% year over year, and 2.85 billion monthly active users. CEO Mark Zuckerberg stressed the company’s commitment to augmented reality and virtual reality. Microsoft also beat analyst expectations, posting USD41.7 billion in revenues. “Over a year into the pandemic, digital adoption curves aren’t slowing down. They’re accelerating, and it’s just the beginning,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
Will it be a summertime boom for production?
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THE ENTERTAINMENT SECTOR MAY BE STARTINg TO EMERgE FROM CORONAVIRUS LOCKDOWNS, BUT THERE IS LITTLE SENSE THAT WORKINg LIFE WILL RETURN TO HOW IT USED TO BE PRE-PANDEMIC. MAKERS REPORTS ON THE VERY MIXED OUTLOOK FOR THE INDUSTRY FOR THE REST OF 2021.
s vaccination campaigns ramp up around the world, there is a palpable sense that societies are preparing for a great reopening after more than a year of lockdown. For the content production industries, this reopening is already well underway. After the ﬁlming hiatus of 2020, many employed in TV, ﬁlm and commercials production have been working at full throttle for some time. They are responding to demand from broadcasters, streamers and studios, who all want to replenish their content pipeline which was so disrupted by Covid-19. “It’s so full everywhere, in every single country, and it’s impossible to get crews,” says producer Julie Baines, who is currently in Croatia shooting new drama Hotel Portoﬁno. “There is so much shooting going on, you would not believe it.” Baines reckons nine productions alone are shooting in Croatia. As an indication of how busy it is out there, take the city of Bristol as an example. Four major new dramas – Showtrial, The Girl Before and Chloe for the BBC and The Long Call for ITV – began ﬁlming in Bristol in April alone, as the city continues to attract a consistent ﬂow of ﬁlm and TV productions to use its locations, studio space and ﬁlming support services. On the other side of the world, Queensland in Australia is reportedly in the midst of its biggest screen boom in history, with production underway on a spate of ﬁlm and TV projects including Gold Coast for Thirteen Lives, a ﬁlm adaptation of the 2018 Thai cave rescue, directed by Ron Howard. Elsewhere, the commercials production sector is also largely back at work too. “It's reasonably busy now,” says Steve Davies, chief executive of the Advertising Producers Association. “I see the rest of the year as being very promising.” However, as the entertainment sector starts to emerge from the shadow of coronavirus, there is little sense that working life will return to how it used to be – at least for the rest of 2021. Producers say they expect Covid-19 protocols such as testing and mask wearing to continue at least until the end of this year. In the short term, the reopening itself is patchy. As makers went to press, countries such as Israel, the UK and the US were in the process of emerging from lockdowns thanks to successful vaccination programmes. Others, such as India and Turkey, were locking down again as Covid-19 rates spiked once more.
Some sectors of the entertainment industry also remain deeply aﬀected by lockdowns. Cinemas, for example, remain closed in many countries, and are only just beginning to reopen in others. Even if they have reopened it is usually with social distancing measures in place, which will curtail box oﬃce takings. Indeed, the big theme of the next six months seems to be one of trying to catch up. Streamers and broadcasters are desperately trying to build up their content libraries, fuelling a shooting spree. Cinemas, meanwhile, are busy trying to work out how to schedule a raft of unreleased ﬁlms. In “it’S So full France, between 400 everywhere, in and 420 feature ﬁlms every Single are awaiting release, country, and it’S according to Helene impoSSible to get Herschel, the general delegate of the National crewS… there iS Federation of Film So much Shooting Editors (FNEF). Many going on, you independent distributors would not are wondering how to believe it.” prevent their ﬁlms being crushed at the box oﬃce by long delayed Hollywood features such as Black Widow, Venom and Die Another Day. On a positive note, many exhibitors are no doubt looking at the example of China, where life has already returned largely to normal. It has taken just three and a half months of 2021 for China to surpass its full 2020 box oﬃce, according to box oﬃce analysts Gower Street. In doing so, 2021 has already set records for the biggest play-week and the biggest monthly total ever in China. In the meantime, the streamer spending spree is skewing the production market. Firstly, heightened streamer demand for content means that the rates being paid for key on-screen talent are rocketing. Secondly, the streamers are locking in talent for their long-running series, often for years at a time. It’s not unusual for options to run for up to seven years. The result is that it has become much harder to make independent ﬁlms, which are ﬁnding it increasingly diﬃcult to compete with high-end drama for talent. And without talent to help a ﬁlm stand out in the market, it’s challenging to get an indie feature ﬁnanced, no matter how good the script is.
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Says Julie Baines: “It's really, really diﬃcult to raise the money without [top acting talent] because the ﬁrst thing any ﬁnancier will say to you is, ‘Who's in your ﬁlm?’”
PRODUCERS SAY THEY EXPECT COVID PROTOCOLS SUCH AS TESTINg AND MASKS TO CONTINUE AT LEAST UNTIL THE END OF THIS YEAR.
It used to be that when actors were attached to long running TV series, there would be a window between series where the talent could join a ﬁlm to try their hand at something a bit diﬀerent. But now few are even bothering to do that. One of the reasons is that top talent is earning so much money from the streamer platforms. Another is that coronavirus has squeezed schedules, leaving actors with less downtime. Baines also says talent doesn’t know till very, very late on whether their option is getting picked up for another series. “So, they can't actually commit to something else very easily.” For top talent, committing to a small budget project is now often viewed as more trouble than it’s worth. Nick Taussig, founding partner of Salon Pictures, agrees that talent availability is becoming “crunched” as the streamers become more dominant in the market. The streamers can oﬀer multi-year deals to talent, he says, so to try to book somebody on a single ﬁlm after they have been unemployed for a year because of Covid-19 is very diﬃcult. “If you’re an actor, you’ll probably choose a three year contract with a streamer drama rather than a single ﬁlm – that is where it is tough.” Baines recalls being on a Pact-organised Zoom meeting with other producers recently. “We said, ‘Who's got a ﬁlm about to go into production, because things are opening up?’” Out of about 35 producers, two raised their hands. “You can't ﬁnance independent ﬁlms anymore. You can't get the cast, because they're all signed up to long-running TV series for Netﬂix and Amazon.” Beyond production, working life also looks set to be very diﬀerent for those in the entertainment business.
Masks, social distancing and hand sanitiser are likely to become staples of workplace culture, at least until herd immunity is achieved. At the same time, companies are reassessing travel budgets. Far-ﬂung set visits, meetings on diﬀerent coasts or continents, premieres in multiple locations and globe-hopping press junkets may all be a thing of the past even as it becomes safer to travel. Getting hired for a job that is headquartered in a totally diﬀerent city or working remotely from a distant location might become more commonplace. For those who are used “you can't get the to working in an oﬃce, a caSt, becauSe hybrid of remote and they're all Signed oﬃce-based work looks up to long likely to be the future. An internal ViacomCBS running tv SerieS memo recently revealed for netflix and that approximately 70% amaZon.” of its more-than-20,000 employees will work at least partly from home. The move toward a hybrid work model will allow staﬀ more ﬂexibility, but it also has ﬁnancial advantages as companies reduce their oﬃce footprint. Making accurate predictions about how the coronavirus pandemic will play out has proved diﬃcult even for experts, with new variants scuppering hopes of society returning to a preCovid-19 state. As makers went to press, the virus was having a devastating impact in India, a country which many had thought had escaped the worst of the pandemic. However, for those countries where vaccination campaigns and lockdowns have proved eﬀective at lowering transmission, there is now hope that business – and with that the entertainment industries – can reopen once again. Few, however, believe that it will be business as usual.
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America: The Next Four Years
coviD-19, technology, stuDio anD WorkForce expansion ARE CHANGING THE FACE OF PRODUCTION IN THE US
The election of President Biden at the end of 2020 saw the country exchange an ex-SAG-AFTRA member with a politician more amenable to the interests of the entertainment industry. But what do the next four years look like for the creative screen sectors?
ith thoughts ﬁxed on the future after the US election, the increasing demand for screen content suggests that production will be central to post-Covid-19 economic recovery, but what does the industry think will happen in the next four years? The transformative impact of technology on the production process is widely anticipated to make itself felt in coming years. Virtual production techniques like those used in The Mandalorian and the reliance on CGI and visual eﬀects such as those used in Tom Hank’s Greyhound – a feature ﬁlm set at sea that saw no use of water during production – are becoming more commonplace.
Covid-19 has also accelerated the pace of change as productions big and small have had to consider how to shoot with compact crews and require less travelling. Some of the more well-established ﬁlming hubs are looking to technology in order to maintain their competitive edge. Lee Thomas, director of the Georgia Film Oﬃce says: “Currently a lot of projects shoot physically in Georgia but do the ﬁnishing work elsewhere. Postproduction is becoming more integral throughout the whole process so I think we need more in-state visual eﬀects houses and postproduction. Hopefully that's forthcoming.” Lee points out that rather than creating smaller crews, more use of technology adds work opportunities in
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Image: e FlightAttendant © 2020 WarnerMedia Direct, LLC.
the industry. “The more advanced it gets, the more people they hire. The credits for a Marvel ﬁlm roll for 15 minutes: technology does not shorten the workﬂow, and it is work that could be done locally.” POSTPRODUCTION IS BECOMINg MORE INTEgRAL THROUgHOUT THE WHOLE PROCESS SO I THINK WE NEED MORE IN-STATE VISUAL EFFECTS HOUSES AND POSTPRODUCTION.
New Mexico is in demand, but the focus remains on staying ahead of the curve. Amber Dodson, director of the New Mexico Film Oﬃce explains: “We continue to build an ecosystem around the ﬁlm and TV industry and elevate the state’s status as a production hub. We hope to soon include services such as post-production, visual eﬀects, animation, and emergent technologies such as volumetric stages.” This requires forward planning from state leadership and educational institutions: “Strategic planning, collaboration, education, community engagement and working closely with our state leaders is critical to the industry that continues to expand rapidly. Also, as industry needs and demands evolve, we must evolve to meet those demands.” The position of Georgia and New Mexico as in-demand ﬁlming hubs can largely be put down to the implementation of a competitive and stable incentives. The impact of Georgia’s 30% incentive saw production increase from USD67 million direct spend in 2008, to USD2.9 billion in 2020, despite the impact of Covid-19. California, buoyed by its vast infrastructure and access to talent, has had three iterations of its state-wide tax credit help curb runaway production. The credit has diﬀerent pots for independent, studio and series and uplifts for post-production, out of zone and the initial season of a relocating series. Most recently HBO’s The Flight Attendant and TBS sitcom Chad relocated production to the state. Elsewhere, Montana saw Paramount Network relocate ﬁlming for Yellowstone in Utah to Montana, thanks to changes in its incentive scheme. Destinations with attractive incentives, such as Oklahoma are now concentrating on strengthening the workforce. Oklahoma is currently hosting
production on Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon for Apple Original Films. Based on a local story, the ﬁlm is the biggest production the state has hosted to date and oﬀers opportunities for local development. “Studio executives keep emphasising the importance of the ‘three-legged stool’ that we need a strong crew base, local infrastructure and production incentives,” says Oklahoma Lt Governor Matt Pinnell. Tava Maloy Sofsky, director, of the Oklahoma Film + Music Oﬃce says: “Oklahoma’s “production ﬁlm industry is incentiveS, Job ﬂourishing and while creation and we are pleased this economic growth production is already are completely employing hundreds of bipartiSan iSSueS .” Oklahomans… we are just getting started and are ecstatic about the workforce development opportunities to train up the next generation of ﬁlmmakers.” Elsewhere, states without competitive programmes are lobbying to introduce rebates. Minnesota currently has a cash rebate programme, but is lobbying for a more competitive tax credit to help rebuild the industry. The state believes credits oﬀer a more stable incentive which is particularly important for attracting multi-year series. Melodie Bahan, executive director of Minnesota TV and Film says, “The thing that is really important when discussing this politically, particularly in our current climate, is that production incentives, job creation and economic growth are completely bipartisan issues. Two years ago we started the education process for a lot of legislators, and during that time I've seen the lights go on.” There is a similar case in Florida, once a booming centre now mostly serving the advertising sector alongside smaller, often independent projects. Thanks to great weather and a remaining base of talent and crews and studios, Florida is still home to projects such as OWN’s David Makes Man,
BACK TO CONTENTS production hub in Brooklyn, while Cinespace Chicago Film Studios has announced an increase in its capacity by about 50%, with 19 soundstages. Dodson says New Mexico’s studios, soundstages and movie ranches are an asset that attracts production, but expansion is needed. “There is a major demand globally for stage space and the New Mexico Film Oﬃce is actively working to expand the state’s oﬀerings of studio and stage infrastructure in order to meet those needs.”
Image: Disney Gallery: e Mandalorian © Disney & Lucasfilm Ltd.
which shoots at Universal Studios, Orlando. Without a state-wide incentive there are at least nine local funding options oﬀered across the state including Miami-Dade, Pinellas County in St. Petersburg /Clearwater, Sarasota and Palm Beach. These vary in amounts but can require as little as USD25,000 local spend. WE HAVE TO MAKE SURE ENOUgH CREW IS THERE TO ACCOMMODATE ALL THE SHOWS THAT ARE COMINg IN.
Smaller centres often operate their own incentives, some of which can be stacked with state-wide incentives. In California, Susannah Robbins, executive director of the San Francisco Film Commission says, “We haven’t had many ﬁlms shoot in San Francisco that have gotten the State Tax Credit, but our Scene in San Francisco Rebate Programme, which rebates up to USD600,000 per project, has been a great incentive for productions to base here. Currently we have the pilot ﬁlm for the reboot of Nash Bridges ﬁlming in San Francisco, and they are using our rebate programme to help reduce their costs on things like stage space, SFPD, permits, etc.” In addition to this, Robbins says: “We are getting a lot of inquiries from independent ﬁlmmakers about our local incentive so I would expect to see more indies ﬁlming over the next four years.” Just four hours south of Atlanta, Savannah also oﬀers a 10% incentive on top the state-wide beneﬁt and has facilitated productions including The Glorias and Disney+’ Lady and the Tramp. Beth Nelson, ﬁlm commissioner at Savannah Regional Film Commission says, “Our infrastructure, crew base, and industry support services will continue to grow. Savannah is poised to take on a leading role in the creation of ﬁlm and TV content... The creative industry is evolving and the qualities that make Savannah a desirable production location will become more important. Remote workers will appreciate the opportunity to enjoy the lifestyle Savannah provides.” Across the board, pressures on stage space are leading to an expansion of soundstages and studio campuses across the country. Current expansions include New York’s Steiner Studios 500,000sqft
With ever increasing stage space, the question of a trained workforce returns. Atlanta’s Thrilith Studios, formerly Pinewood Atlanta, will have six new stages coming online in 2021. “Our challenge right now is having enough crew because we have a lot of new soundstage space coming. We have to make sure enough crew is there to accommodate all the shows that are coming in,” says Thomas. Georgia Film Academy is part of this push to fast-track people into the industry. As the country returned from Covid-19-induced production pauses, local ﬁlm oﬃces were critical in making sure productions could return, and are working hard to ensure the post pandemic production boom will be a force for local economic recovery. Hawaii was one of the “aS production most successful early on, morphS and with the Honolulu Film evolveS, we are Oﬃce introducing the aSking if our Modiﬁed Quarantine educational Programme which meant programmeS are that productions could pivoting in time.” start shooting in early June. With most work on the islands arriving from out of state, the programme was one of the ﬁrst in the world to allow the industry to travel between hotels and work during a quarantine period, something that has been adopted by many countries across the globe. Dodson says the oﬃce works hard to keep New Mexico Film Friendly, something important after Covid-19. “We do a lot to just foster awareness about the ﬁlm industry, the economic beneﬁt of this industry on a community. Film Productions in New Mexico have seen one of the lowest infection rates in the country averaging at 0.15% positivity. We're really proud of it and we tout that a lot.” The state is set to smash all ﬁlming records despite the production pause, and has seen a lot of productions relocate due to the space, locations and proximity to LA. “If there's a silver lining to Covid for the New Mexico ﬁlm industry it's certainly that we were already on an amazing growth trajectory but now I think we've really been discovered by Hollywood.”
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CHINA big & bountiful shot at the 40-stage site. The studio has gone on to host Paciﬁc Rim: Uprising, Godzilla and Chinese productions The Great Wall and US-Chinese co-production Wandering Earth.
china’s landscapes, vibrant cities and culture, and mega studios are an exciting prospect for international production. with a large industry of its own, ﬁlmmakers will ﬁnd expert partners able to bridge the gap between cultures.
hina has a wide range of locations, from vast countryside landscapes to temples hidden on top of mountains and bustling modern cities,” says Jean-Luc B, CEO and founder of Mar Vivo Films.
Amid global cinema closures in 2020, China’s domestic theatrical market overtook the US for the ﬁrst time. Co-productions provide a way into this lucrative but competitive space, although changeable political will does greatly inﬂuence the market. China has over 23 treaties with countries including the UK, Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, India, France, Australia and New Zealand. Some of the most successful co-produced projects include British-Chinese The Foreigner, and US-Chinese productions Abominable, The Meg, and Looper. Producers looking to collaborate with the Chinese market may be interested in Bridging the Dragon, an association that connects European and Chinese ﬁlm professionals with project labs and networking opportunities at major festivals throughout the year.
The key production hubs are found in Beijing and Shanghai. “The main centre of production for local movies is Beijing, while Shanghai is more open to international collaborations. TVC production is mostly based in Shanghai too,” explains Jean-Luc.
With Chinese celebrities providing clout to international brands and bustling metropolises oﬀering interesting settings, TVC production is busy and has been able to pivot to producerS looking to remote ﬁlming while strict collaborate with the quarantine measures are in place following the outbreak of Covid-19.
chineSe market may be intereSted in bridging the dragon, an aSSociation that connectS european and chineSe film profeSSionalS
China’s mega-studios are another singular aspect of Chinese production. Hengdian World Studios has 13 sets and hosted production for The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor and Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Shanghai Film Park is another massive set with backlots of Old Shanghai, Downtown Shanghai and natural settings. In 2016 Wanda Studios opened with much fanfare including a 40% tax rebate for international ﬁlms
Huangyao Ancient Town, Guangxi The ancient town of Huangyao has a history spanning a thousand years. The town reached its height during Emperor Qianlong’s reign from 1736 to 1795 and many of its buildings date from this time. The town sits on the Li river, and has rich natural resources. There are over 30 well preserved sites including temples, halls and pavilions decorated with good luck symbols. Huangyao was chosen for the small village where a British doctor ﬁghts a cholera epidemic while being trapped in a loveless marriage in 2006’s The Painted Veil starring Naomi Watts and Edward Norton. Main image: e Great Wall © Universal Studios.
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HONG KONG small & mighty are imposed. “The main points are low proﬁt tax rates, no sales tax of VAT, withholding tax, capital gains or tax on dividends and the salaries tax is a standard 15%,” says Ho. In addition, Jean-Luc B says Hong Kong is a great base for pan-Asian shoots such as French reality series Les Anges, Mar Vivo Films' last pre-Covid-19 shoot which shot an entire season in the city. “Hong Kong is very open to the world thanks to simple visa requirements. We were able to send some crews over to other Asian regions for special segments. This included Thailand, Dubai, and Japan, oﬀering an Asian experience like no other.”
hong kong is a small island with plenty of scope for international projects. the diversity of what’s on oﬀer attracts factual and reality programming, while big budget productions are drawn to the iconic settings and experienced crews.
ong Kong regularly plays host to overseas productions including US blockbusters such as Godzilla vs Kong, Doctor Strange, Ghost in the Shell, Japanese Thriller The Sun Stands Still and The Conﬁdence Man.
“The ﬁlm industry professionals in Hong Kong are reliable because they are experienced, hardworking, eﬃcient and ﬂexible. In particular, our stunt teams are well-known in the international scene and our bilingual crews have lots of experience in working with foreign crews,” says Fanny Ho of Hong Kong Film Services, which supports productions coming to Hong Kong.
Channel 4’s Travel Man spent a week exploring the diversity of the island says Jean-Luc B, founder and CEO of Mar Vivo Films “hong kong haS whose Hong Kong arm serviced the shoot. “Most of the shoots that a unique blend take place here are interested in of modernity and Hong Kong's distinct combination chineSe tradition.” of glass-glittering skyscrapers in the ﬁnancial centre and the deep-rooted Chinese culture found in Taoist temples, the giant Buddha, street food, antique markets etc... It has a unique blend of modernity and Chinese tradition,” he explains. Although there are no incentives in place, Hong Kong is particularly tax friendly, and only three taxes
Throughout the pandemic, crews have been able to shoot in the city, with crews applying to the Hong Kong Film Services for approval for ﬁlming in public spaces. A quarantine is currently in place for foreign visitors, but some international crews have chosen to shoot in person while others are opting for remote production methods.
Central Mid-Levels Escalator The Central-Mid-Levels Escalator system is the world’s longest outdoor covered escalator system. It stretches over 800 metres and will take you over 135 metres through the steep hillside district on the island. The project cost over six times the original estimate at HK245 million (GBP 22 million) by the time it opened in 1993. Luckily, the escalator has captured international attention and iconic scenes in Chungking Express from Wong Kar-Wai, Ann Hui’s All About Love and Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight have been shot here. Main image: Les Anges © Mar Vivo Films.
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A tale of two Cannes
They are running less than a month apart, but the Cannes Lions and Cannes Film Festival are taking dramatically different paths for their 2021 editions with the ad industry prepping for a virtual experience and the movie biz readying for a physical event in the South of France.
t’s set to be a tale of two very diﬀerent kinds of Cannes festivals. The Cannes Lions is to run as a digital only event, from 21-25 June. It’s the second year in a row that the world’s leading advertising festival has pivoted from a physical event towards an online experience in light of the pandemic. Just a few weeks later, however, the Cannes Film Festival is planning to go ahead as a physical event on the Croisette. The festival, which is scheduled to run from 6-17 July, said it was planning its next edition “with conﬁdence and determination” while being “mindful of the evolution of the public health situation in Europe and across the world, and the reopening of cultural venues mid-May.”
The Cannes Lions announced in April it would run online only, just months after producers insisted the festival would go ahead on the French Rivera in June. The announcement coincided with rising cases of Covid in France in the Spring, and a faltering start to the country’s vaccination programme. Each June, around 15,000 registered delegates from 90 countries traditionally visit Cannes to celebrate the best commercial creativity. However, Cannes Lions chairman Philip Thomas said that over the last year the festival had been “consulting with customers“ and working on its plans, which had led to the decision to host a digital only event. 33
BACK TO CONTENTS throughout the city, as well as around the Palais des Festivals, the main moviegoing hub. Leos Carax’s Adam Driver musical Annette has been announced as the opening-night selection, while high-proﬁle 2020 carryovers such as Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch and Paul Verhoeven’s Benedetta are conﬁrmed for the Oﬃcial Competition. “It’s time to speak about our conﬁdence, if not certitude, that Cannes will take place in the month of July,” Cannes director Thierry Frémaux told a French radio station on April 18.
“We are now able to move fully to this format for 2021 – which will have all the celebration, inspiration and participation of Cannes Lions – to unite the global community virtually during Cannes Lions Live this June,” added Thomas. THE CANNES LIONS 285-STRONg jURY LINE-UP COMPRISES OF 51% FEMALE jURORS, UP FROM 48% IN 2019.
Cannes Lions Live said it would feature “outstanding live and on-demand content and experiences delivered by exceptional talent, as well as revealing, analysing and celebrating the winners of the Lions.” Indeed, this year marks the return of the Lions awards, which were paused last year because of the pandemic. Cannes Lions has announced its 285-strong jury line-up who will award the world’s very best creative campaigns. The juries comprise of 51% female jurors, up from 48% in 2019. Lions juries will take part in remote judging from their home locations worldwide. This year’s Lions juries see representation from global brands including Nike Inc, Levi Strauss & Co, Diageo, IKEA, Mars Incorporated, Uber, KFC, and Nestlé. Among the global networks represented are jurors from McCann, Ogilvy, Publicis, BBDO, VMLY&R and Dentsu as well as specialist and independent agencies such as Quiet Storm, Above & Beyond, Stink Studios, Futerra and Tech and Soul. By contrast, the Cannes Film Festival insists it is going ahead in France in July. Back in January, the Festival announced that it would move forward from its traditional May dates, and take place instead from July 6 to 17. According to reports, the festival is working hand-in-hand with Cannes authorities to hammer out health protocols. Some health measures being studied include setting up testing stations
ADVERTISING FESTIVALS 34
The big question, at the time of writing, is who plans to attend – and particularly whether American buyers and sellers and stars will travel. For now, uncertainty surrounds international travel. However, time could be on Cannes’ side. French President Emanuel Macron recently announced a plan to allow foreign tourists with a “health pass” to visit France again starting June 9. Certainly, conﬁdence is picking up as vaccination rates improve in France. The country had administered at least 25,414,386 doses of COVID vaccines by mid-May – enough to have vaccinated about 18.9% of France’s population. This has led to growing “hiS enthuSiaSm expectations that some and paSSion for sort of event will be cinema haS given possible, albeit a very uS a huge booSt of diﬀerent one to years gone energy to prepare by. This conﬁdence was the great feStival reﬂected in recent that everybody haS Variety article on the prospects for this year’s been waiting for.” event, which began: “After last year’s cancellation, the Cannes Film Festival is expected to be back with a bang in July. The 2021 edition should be in no shortage of major auteurs, female directors and glamorous stars.” The festival is holding four days of online screenings at the end of May for the international sales industry. But it says that in July, the Marché du Film will oﬀer all its usual activities: stands, screenings, the Village International, networking programmes and conferences. Professionals unable to travel will still be able to take part via virtual screenings of certain ﬁlms, conferences that will be broadcast simultaneously and some of the networking programs. As previously announced, legendary director Spike Lee will preside over the Cannes competition jury. "His enthusiasm and passion for cinema have given us a huge boost of energy to prepare the great Festival that everybody has been waiting for. The party will be great, we simply can’t wait!," said Frémaux.
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COLOMBIA latin ﬂare
with a caribbean coast, andean mountains and valleys, colourful cities and rich rainforests, colombia delivers on location range. moreover, incentive programmes are aimed at both advertising and music video projects, as well as long-form work.
quipped with arguably the most robust system of incentives in Latin America, Colombia has ﬁrmly established its position as a serious competitor for international work. The two funding streams under the banner of Law 1556 of 2012 allow producers to decide between a 35% Tax Credit or a Cash Rebate on 40% of audio-visual services and 20% of logistics expenditure.
Changes in 2020 expanded the type of formats supported, with both streams now covering music videos, feature ﬁlms and TV series. The tax credit also covers advertising and video games.
On top of this, the main production hubs of Medellin and Bogota oﬀer additional ﬁnancial support. Bogotá Film Commission has a variable percentage in the exemptions to ﬁlming permits for projects “EL OLVIDO QUE that have already qualiﬁed SEREMOS, nominated for incentives. “Foreign ﬁlm for a goya thiS productions will be granted a year, Shot SceneS in 50% exemption from the total value of the permit and foreign TV medellín with productions will be granted a 20% moStly local crew exemption from the total value of and talent.” the permit,” explains Paula Villegas Hincapie, arts deputy director at Bogota’s District Institute of the Arts – IDARTES. She notes that projects which have taken advantage of the scheme include Amazon’s Jack Ryan, Running with the Devil starring Nicolas Cage and Laurence Fishbourne, Memoria starring Tilda Swinton and Mile 22 featuring Mark Wahlberg.
Portal de los Dulces, Cartegena The Portal de los Dulces runs along one side of the Plaza de los Coches, a bright yellow triangular square in the very centre of Cartegena. The ‘portal’ is an arched walkway above which colonial balconied houses look onto the plaza. Traditional confectionary shops and street vendors sell locally made Colombian sweets such as coconut and burnt sugar candies, milk dolls, almond and guava delicacies lined up in jars. The arches feature in the ﬁlm adaptation for Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ Love in the Time of Cholera by Mike Newell starring Javier Bardem as the Portal de los Escribanos – the Arcade of the Scribe where the protagonist writes love letters over the course of 50 years. Although never explicitly named, many believe that Cartagena was the setting for Marquez’ award winning book.
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Incoming projects which have their production or post-production stage in Medellín can receive the 10% FilMedellín Incentive. Projects must meet the same requirements as the national incentive and meet minimum expenditures in the city.
eSSential factS incentive
40% FFC Cash Rebate – 40% for ﬁlm services, 20% for logistics of the amount spent in the country. The minimum spend must be at least USD450,000. CINA Tax Credit – 35% transferable tax credit for audiovisual & logistics services of the amount spent in the country. Applies to ﬁlm, TV drama, documentary & other TV works. Both operate on a ﬁrst come ﬁrst served basis, with applications open all year. co-production treatieS
Member of the Ibero-American Co-Production Treaty, Canada, France & Argentina. ata carnet
Bogota has the most soundstages. Some of the biggest studios include Caracol, TeleColombia, MediaPro & RCN studios. time Zone
GMT -5 international talent
Director & Screenwriter Ciro Guerra, Actress Soﬁa Vergara, Director (In Treatment, Nine Lives) Rodrigo Garcia Barcha, TVC Director for Coca-Cola, BMW, & others, Simon Brand. recent productionS
Narcos, Mile 22, Jungle, Running with the Devil, Memoria, Jack Ryan, Monos, Embrace of the Serpent & Birds of Passage.
Hincapie notes that one of Colombia’s most attractive qualities is the location diversity on oﬀer. “Filmmakers can ﬁnd the Caribbean and the Atlantic seas in the same country, tropical paradises but also Andean landscapes along the three Andes mountain ranges, an enormous Amazon basin, cities and colonial towns such as Cartagena or Mompox, cosmopolitan cities such as Bogotá or Medellín, and incredible places such as Punta Gallinas, a magic landmark on the La Guajira desert, Ciudad Perdida (Lost City) on the Tayrona Park, and the Valley of the Cocorá on the central Andean mountain range among others.” Bogota has greatest number of soundstages and studios. The largest is Caracol oﬀering nine stages measuring up to 93,000sqft. Media Pro has 20 further stages, Tele Colombia has six covering 300,000sqft and RCN has eight more. Medellín and Bogota both support large volumes of on location ﬁlming, and have dedicated ﬁlm oﬃces that streamline ﬁlming: Bogota through the PUFA system and Medellín’s One Stop Shop for permits and preparations. “This year we completed a shoot that involved the occupation of more than 33,000sqm, which involved the diversion of nearly 14 public service routes in the city and included three months of pre-production. It is particularly important to include plenty of time for pre-production in accordance with the project requirements,” says Hincapie. A second area of focus for the two commissions is developing and training local crews through education programmes so there is a pool of talent ready for incoming productions. “As an example, the ﬁlm El Olvido que Seremos, nominated for a Goya this year, shot scenes in Medellín with mostly local crew and talent,” says Karol Muñoz, head of promotion and training Medellín Film Commission. It is important to note that Colombia has transformed its reputation and is generally considered a safe ﬁlming destination. Muñoz explains that “as a result of the social transformations that have taken place in recent years, Medellín is today a point of reference for audiovisual production at the national and regional level”. Hincapie adds: “The last decade has proven the importance and the credibility that Bogota and Colombia have earned as host of international audiovisual productions in order to ensure the continued development of the local industry.”
a Second area of focuS for the two commiSSionS iS developing and training local crewS through education programmeS So there iS a pool of talent ready for incoming productionS.
It is estimated that over 43 tons of Colombian Hass avocados were eaten during the 2021 Superbowl which saw the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers go head to head. The NFL championship game is as prominent a date for the advertising industry as it is for sports fans, with over 100 million eyes watching ﬂashy half-time ads. Interestingly, for the ﬁrst time in six years the brand “Avocados from Mexico” opted not to run a spot despite audiences’ appetite for avocado based snacks. The Colombian Hass Avocado is available nearly all year round making the country one of the biggest suppliers. In 2020 there was a 50% increase in exports going to countries such as The Netherlands, China, Japan, France, the UK and the US where the fruit is in demand. There are over 4000 Hass avocado producers in Colombia producing over 155,000 tons every year.
The rise and fall... and rise again of Turkish television
Image: e Protector © Netflix & Yigit Eken.
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Turkey is repuTed To be one of The world’s Top Three exporTers of TV and film conTenT, selling inTo more Than 150 TerriTories worldwide. dawn mccarThy-simpson mbe charTs The amazing rise of The Turkish indusTry, which began more Than 100 years ago on a single sTreeT in isTanbul, and reVeals how a new generaTion of producers is Tapping inTo The rapidly growing sVod and wesTern markeTs
n 2005 when I bought my second home in the Turkish region of Antalya, I never dreamt that the country would end up being such a signiﬁcant player within my industry. I knew that television was an important part of everyday life in Turkey; shopkeepers would struggle to make eye contact as they served you, their eyes peeled on the tiny TV screen on the corner shelf. My neighbours, mostly the women, would gather daily in the house of anyone with access to a TV, arriving with plates of food signifying an important event. But it wasn’t anyone’s birthday or date of celebration, it was just the daily schedule of their favourite soap. There would be sounds emanating of ooohs and aaahs from the cosy lounge, followed by howls of laughter and ﬁnishing with a loud debate at the end of each episode. I didn't really understand why it was so popular, it looked like cheap, overdramatised telenovela style content that I just put down to local taste and culture. Fast-forward 16 years and we discover one of the most amazing success stories in television. Turkish content now sells into more than 150 territories worldwide and is reputed to be one of the World’s top three exporters. So what happened? How do minority language shows end up ranking as one of the biggest exports in the world? It wasn’t until one Friday afternoon during lockdown on a call with Burhan Gün, the Secretary General of TESIYAP(Television and Cinema Producers Professional Association) that I began to really understand the history behind their success. The story starts in Yesilcam Street, in the Beyoglu district, which stands on the European side of Istanbul. Yesilcam, translated simply as Green Pine, became the home to the birth of Turkish cinema. Romanian born Sigmund Weinberg, who started out selling ﬁlm and photography equipment in the Beyoglu district, was the ﬁrst person to introduce cinema to Turkey. He opened up the country’s ﬁrst movie theatre, called the Pathé, in Beyoglu in 1908. However, much of the movie theatres experience took place in coﬀee houses and nightclubs until 1915 when the ﬁrst oﬃcial movie theatre was set up by Enver Pasha called the MOSD (Central Army Cinematography Oﬃce). Sigmund Weinberg was placed in charge of it. Over the years more cinemas opened in the Beyoglu district, which in turn attracted creatives and production companies to set up home in this bustling district.
Independent production companies began setting up shop in Yesilcam Street as early as 1920. A handful of companies survived by making low budget ﬁlms for a few decades, but during the 1940s as part of a growing sociable and entertaining culture, cinema became more popular with city residents. This attracted more ﬁlm companies to enter the Green Pine district and the creative industries began to ﬂourish. Green Pine is now referred to in the same manner as LA’s Hollywood or London’s Soho, and remains the heart of the creative industries to this day. The number of creative jobs began to soar and, in 1948, the government recognised the economic opportunity, introducing a tax break for local “Istanbul’s Green ﬁlms which triggered PIne dIstrIct Is even more start up now referred to production companies In the same manner to move in and take as la’s hollywood advantage. So many creative companies or london’s soho, moved in to Yesilcam and remaIns the Street that from the heart of the late 1950’s it was to be creatIve IndustrIes known as the Yesilcam to thIs day.” period. During the 1960s and 1970s the district of Beyoglu was hip, and if you worked in the creative industries during this period it was likely that you lived and worked in this district. It was during these decades that ﬁlm production peaked with production houses churning out up to 175 ﬁlms per year. However, the dominance of local productions came to an end in the late 1970s for a number of reasons. After the 1973 OPEC crisis and the 1974 military intervention in Cyprus, the Turkish economy deteriorated. Cinemas struggled to ﬁll their seats resulting in management increasing ticket prices by 50% in an attempt to survive. However, their eﬀorts failed and the overall attendance at movie theatres declined by 45%. The general unrest also made the streets unsafe which kept families away from the cinemas. Gradually the cinemas began closing their doors, and many of those who suﬀered the economic impact were the smaller independent theatres. The number of theatres had grown to 2,242 by 1970 but by 1991 only 281 were left in existence, a staggering 87% drop. As cinemas took a back seat another novelty medium in the shape of the television set was growing. It proved to be a perfect solution, which meant people could be entertained in the safety of their homes,
with each episode usually running to two hours or longer. Music is also an important factor of a dizi, with each series having its own original soundtrack produced. Utilising Turkey’s rich mix of stunning historical and modern landscapes, dizi are mostly shot on location, rather than in studios. And even though the underlying principle of a dizi is to incorporate family values and culture, that doesn’t keep them away from risky story lines, covering everything from gang rapes to the historical Ottoman Empire.
Image: Ethos © Netflix.
keeping away from the danger on the streets. Many households across Turkey began to buy their ﬁrst television sets in this era. A 2010 report on TV and Cinema written by Melis Behlil, a lecturer at Kadir University, reported that the number of registered television sets went from 50,000 in 1970 to 1,000,000 in 1976.
whaT wesTern audiences mighT refer To as soap operas, TelenoVelas or period dramas, The Turkish call dizi, which TranslaTes as sequence.
During this time the most popular shows on TV included soft porn ﬁlms, along with the musical Arabesk genre, both aimed at the poor male immigrants in urban areas. It was the popularity of these genres that helped to keep production houses busy. But the most signiﬁcant change happened during the 1990s, with the proliferation of private TV channels which began to broadcast in Turkey. The novelty of having a choice of diverse content created excitement across the country, and it began to attract more of the younger audiences to the TV screen. Initially there wasn’t enough original Turkish content being produced, so in order to ﬁll the schedules with local content they turned to the huge library of Yesilcam ﬁlms, Green Pine content. These classics had sat on shelves gathering dust for decades, but now found a new purpose in oﬀering audiences a choice of original Turkish content amongst the mass imported, mostly Hollywood, programmes. To everyone’s surprise, what started out as a schedule ﬁller became the most popular shows on TV. Audiences young and old loved what they saw. Even ﬁlms that dated back decades became hugely popular. As their popularity grew, traditional ﬁlm companies started to adapt their businesses to create new original content. They realised that the stories that resonated most with audiences were those that captured the culture and values that enrich day to day Turkish family life. Although US classic family series had proved to be popular, audiences were now able to consume home grown Turkish content and they couldn’t get enough of it. The audience’s love of this type of content led to the resurrection of Green Pine and a new TV-led era. In the late 1980’s Erler Film was one of the ﬁrst companies to recognise this phenomenon and was quick to react, adopting to produce TV early on. What Western audiences might refer to as soap operas, telenovelas or period dramas, the Turkish call dizi, which translates as sequence. The format of a dizi is however diﬀerent; they are sweeping epics,
As the demand for more local series intensiﬁed, the TV industry expanded quickly. The popularity of dizi led to a similar growth in advertising, and as channels’ revenues grew more funds were available to investment in original content. Yesilcam Street transformed yet again into a vibrant production hub. With their libraries now bulging with content, it was a natural progression to begin to explore export opportunities. Turkey’s export business started small and was initially slow to build, with the ﬁrst dizi, Calıkusu, selling to the Soviet Union in 1986, but with very little exploitation taking place. However, by the turn of the new millennium, export content, although still cheap, was being bought up by neighbouring countries, which had started to take advantage of acquiring high-volume cost-eﬀective shows such as Deliyürek, which exported to Kazakhstan in 2001, for a mere USD250. But over the past 20 years, wherever Turkish content landed, it quickly became popular. Distribution focused on countries which had a shared set of religious beliefs, family values, culture and customs such as Korea, the Middle East, Latin America and neighbouring Asian territories. Very quickly Turkish content began to sell into more than 150 territories. One of the most famous dizi to come out of Turkey was the Magniﬁcent Century which really contributed to Turkey’s international success. It was a ﬁctional historical series based on the life and court of the Ottoman Sultan Suleyman the Magniﬁcent, the longest-reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, and his wife Hurrem Sultan. It has attracted a global audience of more than 500 million and sold to more than 100 countries. When it aired across the Middle East countries it triggered a surge in Arab tourism to Turkey. It was also one of the ﬁrst dizi bought by Japan. But with increased impact and success comes a heightened risk of the medium being a focus for government. The media’s soft power and strength in reaching large audiences has often been used and sacriﬁced in the hands of governments to score political points, and Turkey’s creative industry is no stranger to the impact that politics plays. Turkey and Saudia Arabia’s relationship has always ﬂuctuated between collaboration and adversity. And although the two countries are major economic partners, they have a tense political relationship. On the 2nd March 2018 tensions heightened resulting
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Image: e Gi © Netflix & Yigit Eken.
in the largest private broadcaster, MBC Group, cancelling six popular dizi which cost MBC USD25 million. Tensions further heightened between the two nations later that year, when on 2nd October journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Although much of Turkey’s success has been focused on the East it is only a matter of time before it breaks into the West. We have already seen the ﬁrst US remake of the Turkish show Son, and my current Netﬂix binge is the dubbed Turkish series The Protector created by Binnur Karaevli.
Turkish dizi have been popular for many years across the whole of the Middle East, which has been one of Turkey’s major export markets for over a decade. The series Noor attracted a 92 million strong and loyal audience. But as political pressure built there was Arab campaigning on social media against Turkish cultural exports, accusing them of inﬂuencing the local audience. However, as traditional broadcasters have lost some of their power to control what audiences view via the schedules, it’s become harder to steer audiences away from Turkish content. Loyal audiences across the Arab countries had built-up over many years, and not wanting to lose access to their favourite shows have found other ways to consume their favourite Turkish content via online platforms, including Starz Play and Turkish channels.
So although Turkey remains ﬁrmly focused on the East, its long-term ambition is to explore and capitalise on western opportunities. Yesilcam “turkey’s exPort Street in 2021 continues busIness started to be a thriving creative small and was hub, with a new era of InItIally slow to Green Pine producers moving in. This new buIld, wIth the generation of producers fIrst dIzI, calIkusu, is already stepping away sellInG to the from the traditional sovIet unIon In 1986.” 2/3-hour long dizi episodes in a shrewd move to appeal to the rapidly growing SVOD and western markets and to meet the demands of a more commercially savvy audience.
However, Turkey has also beneﬁtted from political pressure. The relations between India and Pakistan have a complexed and hostile history, due to a number of historical and political events; partition of British India, the Kashmir conﬂict and numerous military conﬂicts fought between the two nations. Because of this Pakistan has stayed away from importing TV content from its Indian neighbours, instead preferring to import large volumes from Turkey.
Burhan Gün believes it will be this new generation of emerging talent of producers and directors who will ﬁnd Western success: “Many of the traditional production companies will ﬁnd it hard to adapt so drastically to a faster pace of storytelling that is capable to fuse East-West stories and culture, and it is probably a decade away before we see any signiﬁcant success in the West,” he told me.
Turkish content is also proving to be very popular in Pakistan, which has a relatively underdeveloped domestic TV sector and relies heavily on imported content. The Turkish historical TV drama Dirilis Ertugrul (Ertugrul's Resurrection) has been all the rage since the state broadcaster began airing a dubbed version in April 2020, breaking all-time viewing ﬁgure records. Pakistan has grown to love all things Turkish, so much so that the residents of the Pakistani city of Lahore are even erecting statues to commemorate a medieval Turkish leader!
Every story has to start somewhere but who would have believed that this amazing story began more than 100 years ago on a single street in Istanbul. Dawn McCarthy-Simpson MBE is managing director of business development & global strategy at UK producers’ alliance Pact, where she is responsible for developing opportunities for international, IP exploitation and markets.
Image: Love © Netflix & Huseyin Bilgi.
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Spotlight on FOCUS
Like many events, FOCUS, the Meeting Place for International Production, pivoted to a digital only experience for its sixth edition, held in December.
t was a FOCUS unlike any other. As a result of the pandemic, the annual show was produced as an online only event instead of taking place in its traditional home of London’s Business Design Centre. Over the three days in December, FOCUS Digital 2020 oﬀered delegates a packed programme of keynotes, panels, masterclasses, workshops and presentations covering ﬁlm, TV, advertising, animation and games.
“we are Proud that focus dIGItal attracted so many deleGates and exhIbItors from all sectors of the creatIve screen IndustrIes.”
In total, FOCUS Digital hosted 2966 participants – 67% of them from production companies. They came from 108 diﬀerent countries, from Argentina and Australia through to Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Mexico, Poland, Russia, South Africa and the United States. Participants from 40 new countries attended FOCUS Digital.
There were 49 content sessions held at FOCUS Digital, featuring 113 expert speakers, attracting 1,754 unique attendees in total. The FOCUS Digital platform also hosted 3083 individual meetings. The over-arching theme of the 2020 programme was “Future-prooﬁng the Screen Industries.” The agenda was a hopeful one – looking at ways of making the industries more adaptable using the lessons of the past year. To make sure it remained completely relevant to the industry, the FOCUS programme was developed in consultation with a Content Advisory Board featuring representatives from leading industry bodies, including Pact, The Production Guild, Directors UK, BFI, BFC, UK Screen Alliance, Creative Europe UK, ScreenSkills and the Advertising Producers Association. The conference programme was curated by Sue Hayes and presented in association with media partner Variety and content sponsor Production Service Network.
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“FOCUS provided an outstanding opportunity to connect with potential partners around the world,” said John Corser, SVP Production and Production Technology at NBCUniversal Content Productions. The agenda was a hopeful one – looking aT ways of making The indusTries more adapTable using The lessons of The pasT year.
172 companies exhibited at FOCUS Digital. “The FOCUS team did a remarkable job pivoting to create a digital experience,” said exhibitor Walea Constantinau, Film Commissioner at the Honolulu Film Oﬃce. “The ability to set up meetings and use the platform to facilitate those meetings was very eﬀective and super easy.” “Being a people person I was a bit sceptical at ﬁrst doing the FOCUS this year virtually, but in the end it was a huge success and I believe we generated more leads, brand recognition and exposure that led to more opportunity for business,” said Curt Wilson, managing director of Boomerang Carnets. The conference programme kicked oﬀ with a keynote interview, titled Do Black Lives Really Matter?, with Cardiﬀ Productions co-founder and former BBC Productions boss Pat Younge. He reﬂected on the diversity initiatives announced by many creative industries companies following the death of George Floyd and the rise of the Black Lives Matter, and whether they would lead to widespread industry change.
PreParIng FOr FOCUS 2021 At FOCUS, The Meeting Place of International Production, we are keeping a close eye on developments regarding Covid-19. Safety regulations permitting, we are currently planning to oﬀer a live format for our seventh edition, returning to the Business Design Centre London. We are also exploring digital/hybrid options. Whatever format FOCUS takes, we will continue to oﬀer a vibrant space to connect, reconnect and share global production expertise – whether you work in ﬁlm, TV, advertising, animation or games. TO regISTer FOr FOCUS 2021 gO TO TLgFOCUS.COM
Another keynote with Phil Hunt saw the managing director of Head Gear Films, Bankside Films and Bohemia Media outline why the pandemic may oﬀer more, not less, opportunities for independent production companies in the future. Meanwhile, leading agent Sara Putt, the founder of Sara Putt Associates, expanded on the lessons we have learned and the future changes she would like to see happen as we emerge from the experience of the pandemic. Also looking ahead was the session The Reality of Virtual Production, which brought together speakers including Brian Mitchell, the head of Rebellion Film Studios and Glenn Kelly, the head of production at Imaginarium Studios.
Another popular session was Surviving and Thriving as a Freelancer, hosted by Alison Grade, the author of The Freelance Bible. Speakers included Jax Media exec producer Seamus Murphy-Mitchell, Complices Films producer Clemence de Cambourg and ﬁlm and TV trainer Sarah McCaﬀrey. Speakers included Salon Pictures founder Nick Taussig, Dan Films founder Julie Baines, Syncronicity Films founder Claire Mundell, Pulse Films executives James Sorton and Dav Karbassioun, Film France CEO Stephan Bender, Film London CEO Adrian Wootton, Production Guild of Great Britain CEO Lyndsay Duthie, British Film Commission head of production Samantha Perahia, Hazﬁlm producer / director Hasraf ‘HaZ’ Dulull, Olﬃ co-founder Ilann Girard, Advertising Producers Association CEO Steve Davies, Endeavor Content VP of feature production Kelly Todd, “the focus team Norsk Film & TV dId a remarkable Fond CEO Liselott job PIvotInG to Forman, and Iceland create a dIGItal Film Commissioner Einar Hansen Tomasson. exPerIence.” FOCUS managing director Jean-Frederic Garcia said: “We are proud that FOCUS Digital attracted so many delegates and exhibitors from all sectors of the creative screen industries who enjoyed three successful days of virtual meetings, networking and an inspiring conference programme. Many thanks to the CAB, all our speakers, exhibitors, partners and sponsors.” For our tribute to Sue Hayes, who was the conference curator for all six editions of FOCUS, please see page 6 of this issue of makers.
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Entries open for makers & shakers Awards 2021 The mAKERS & ShAKERS awards are calling for enTries from The commercial, TV, feaTure film, animaTion and gaming secTors.
he makers & shakers Awards celebrate excellence in global production, and were launched at BAFTA in December 2019 by The Location Guide, makers magazine and the FOCUS show.
The second annual makers & shakers Awards will once again place a spotlight on innovative and impactful contributions made by production professionals, freelancers, ﬁlm commissions, government ﬁlm liaison oﬃces, studios, production service companies, facilities and support businesses. The deadline for submissions is 23rd of July. Professionals from across the world’s advertising, TV, ﬁlm, animation, and gaming sectors are encouraged to enter. Our jury of leading international professionals including some of last year’s winners, are ready to judge entries across six categories: Outstanding Creative Use of a Location, Film Commission Initiative of the Year, Production Tech Innovation of the Year, Initiative to Grow Local Industry, the Sustainability Award, and Shaker of the Year. The Awards shortlist will be revealed in October, with the winners being announced at the Awards ceremony on 9th of December. makers & shakers Awards provides a chance to celebrate the exceptional work done by those pioneering change within the global industry. You can enter yourself or nominate a colleague for trailblazing work in each of the categories using the online submission form. To enter go to www.makersandshakersawards.com The inaugural makers & shakers Awards were held virtually in December 2020 on the eve of the annual FOCUS show in London, and were hosted by comedian Jen Brister. The winners were announced after a rigorous judging process by leading industry ﬁgures from organisations such as Netﬂix, Warner Bros Studios Leavesden, Pact, Screen Auckland, and LGMI. The winner of the Film Commission Initiative of the Year was the Lower Austrian Film Commission for its digital platform Evergreen Prisma, which provides free access to professional expertise and the tools for implementing green ﬁlming into daily production processes.
MakerS & ShakerS awarDS key DaTeS 2021
9 June – Entries open 23 July – Entry deadline October – Shortlist announced 9 December – Awards Ceremony SIx CaTegOrIeS TO enTer
l Film Commission Initiative of the Year l Initiative to Grow Local Industry l Outstanding Creative Use of a Location l Production Tech Innovation of the Year l Sustainability Award l Shaker of the Year TO enTer The 2021 awarDS gO TO MakerSanDShakerSawarDS.COM
Location manager Daniel Lee, LMGI, won Outstanding Creative Use of a Location for The Last Black Man in San Francisco. Willco App – a powerful, intuitive and time-saving cloud-based app to assist production management and coordination – triumphed in the Production Tech Innovation Award. KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission with WrapZERO took home the Sustainability Award for its Guidelines for Sustainable Production. FilmChain, a UK-based platform that revolutionises the collection and allocation of revenues in the ﬁlm and TV industries worldwide, won the Equals Money Award. Shaker of the Year was won by Victoria Emslie for Primetime, a network and database of women working in the ﬁlm, TV, and commercial industries across pre-production, production and post-production.
Northern Film & Media won the Initiative to Grow Local Industry Award for its North East Comedy Hot House initiative, which champions, develops and connects North East talent.
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NETHERLANDS dutch light
The netherlands is a ﬂourishing creative hub, and the audio-visual sector is no exception. a 35% cash rebate, grand and charming locations and a no-nonsense approach make the netherlands a favoured location for all types of shoots.
he Goldﬁnch (pictured above), Dunkirk and Undone are three examples of international projects the Netherlands has accommodated that provide an insight into the capabilities of the country’s screen sector.
“Dunkirk was the largest Hollywood production ever to come to the Netherlands and was handled accordingly. Undone, an animation series for Amazon, exposed the highly professional Dutch animation industry and the top-quality ﬁlm The Goldﬁnch was incredibly beautifully shot by director of photography Roger Deakins with the Netherlands as the backdrop,” says Netherlands Film Commissioner Bas van der Ree.
Christopher Nolan’s Second World War epic Dunkirk tells the story of the evacuation of hundreds of soldiers stuck in the French port. It was shot on the lake of IJsselmeer over four weeks in 2016. The freshwater lake is one of the largest in Western Europe, covering an area “the no-nonsense of nearly 700 miles and is just 18 workforce Is there feet in depth. “The Netherlands Film Commission would love to to assIst In any see this, our largest shallow open kInd of form, we freshwater facility, used in ﬁlms,” have an 8 o’clock says van der Ree. on wheels = 8 o’clock on wheels mentalIty.”
In 2019 Warner Brothers’ The Goldﬁnch shot for ﬁve days in Amsterdam. The city provides a gritty setting for a tense climax over the fate of a priceless painting. Picturesque winding canals, an underground parking garage, a café and a hotel room constructed in a Canal-side apartment all show oﬀ Amsterdam’s enduring charm.
Nijmegen Bridge, River Waal The Nijmegen Bridge connects the town of Nijmegen and Lent in the east of the Netherlands close to the German border. The original construction of the railway bridge in 1879 consisted of three truss arches. During the Second World War the middle arch of the bridge was destroyed twice and structure was rebuilt to the bridge that can be seen today. The bridge played an important part in Operation Market Garden in World War Two when the Allied forces tried to capture important bridges across the country. The unsuccessful campaign was the subject of the BAFTA award winning ﬁlm A Bridge Too Far, starring Sean Connery, Gene Hackman, Anthony Hopkins and Michael Caine. Nijmegen bridge also stars in the ﬁlm which shot on location across the Netherlands. Image: e Goldfinch © 2020 Warner Bros Entertainment Inc & Amazon Content Services.
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Many large-scale shoots have been facilitated in the city, but they should work with local teams who are familiar with working in such a historic city. “Amsterdam has a small city centre with very limited parking space. Placing big cranes, trucks etc is a logistical challenge, which requires creative thinking,” says The Goldﬁnch location manager Thijs Bolle.
eSSenTIaL FaCTS InCenTIVe
35% Qualiﬁed formats: feature ﬁlms, feature length documentaries, feature length animated ﬁlms, high-end TV drama, socumentary & animation series or single episodes. Minimum spend EUR600,000, documentaries EUR250,000. Minimum eligible spend EUR150,000. Maximum cap per project EUR1.5 million. Upfront cash ﬂow possible CO-PrODUCTIOn TreaTIeS
Eleven including EU Convention on Cinematographic Co-production, Canada, South Africa & China . aTa CarneT
Amsterdam Studio is one of the biggest with three soundstages close to the city centre. TIMe ZOne
GMT +2 InTernaTIOnaL TaLenT
Actress Halina Reijn, Animator Michaël Dudok de Wit & Cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema. reCenT PrODUCTIOnS
Killing Eve, Lyrebird, Treadstone, Undercover, The Spy who Dumped Me, US, Baptiste & The Widow.
Van der ReeRee highlights the strong base of local professionals. “Dutch producers are inventive and can add creative input to incoming international productions. The no-nonsense workforce is there to assist in any kind of form, we have ‘an 8 o’clock on wheels = 8 o’clock on wheels’ mentality. Trustworthy, professional and aﬀordable (non-union).” Finally, the success of Amazon Prime’s Undone adult animation series shines a light on the talent and studios available in the Netherlands. The adult dramedy explores the “elastic nature of reality” and has been commended for its distinctive immersive animation style achieved through a blend of rotoscoping and live action. Leading Dutch animation studio Submarine Animation carried out some of the work with other international partners. All three projects beneﬁtted from the Netherlands cash rebate. The ﬁlm production incentive oﬀers up to 35% cash rebate, with a maximum of EUR1.5 million and is open to ﬁlms, documentaries, animated features and high-end TV series from all over the world. A second minority selective funding scheme provides up to EUR250,000 of support and focuses on cinematographic projects from European countries and countries who have a coproduction treaty with The Netherlands. “The Netherlands Film Commission, a division of the Netherlands Film Fund, promotes the Netherlands as a professional, strong, reliable and trustworthy production, ﬁnancing and location partner. We can accommodate all kinds of budgets, obviously to enable them to take advantage of our cash rebate incentive for ﬁlm & TV,” says van der Ree. During Covid-19, the Film Fund established a guarantee for funding in lieu of a national ﬁlm insurance scheme throughout 2021 and Dutch production companies involved in co-productions are able to beneﬁt. Furthermore, as part of their work to support incoming productions, “international production companies that have been in contact with the Film Commissioner about a concrete plan considering shooting or postproduction in the Netherlands are in the position to apply for support for research of their plan. We oﬀer active deployment of staﬀ to explore production options such as location scout, line producer and postproduction supervisor including visits to qualiﬁed producers, postproduction facilities, transport and accommodation in the Netherlands.”
many larGe-scale shoots have been facIlItated In amsterdam, but they should work wIth local teams who are famIlIar wIth workInG In such a hIstorIc cIty.
Prince Harry & Meghan Markle’s ﬁrst foray into TV production centres on the story of disabled military veterans as they train for the 2022 Invictus Games to be held in The Hague next spring. The Heart of Invictus is the ﬁrst series from a 2020 Netﬂix deal signed by the couple to create impactful ﬁlms and series under the banner Archewell Productions. The multi-episode series will see Prince Harry on camera and executive produce. “As Archewell Productions’ ﬁrst series with Netﬂix, in partnership with the Invictus Games Foundation, I couldn’t be more excited for the journey ahead or prouder of the Invictus community for continuously inspiring global healing, human potential and continued service,” said Harry. Sir Keith Mills, Chairman of the Invictus Games Foundation explains that the Dutch city was chosen because, “post-war, The Hague has undergone its own process of rebuilding and rehabilitation, a theme many of those competing can intimately relate to”.
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A Fintech Future
The rise of FinTech in the last decade has changed how money is moved and managed across the board. For the production industry, its ascent has seen the adoption of new ways of working, and saved time and money for accounting departments.
he creative industries are embracing tech-led solutions on all fronts. Many start-ups are using artiﬁcial intelligence, algorithms or specialised software to help transform production, from development through to post. However, the world of FinTech has already changed production processes. Slightly less sexy, but increasingly universal in the production process, FinTech has led to more digital accounting practises and transactions during shoots. As the industry recovers from the Covid-19 crisis, further adoption of FinTech is likely thanks to the promise of streamlining and cost savings. In fact, the rise of FinTech itself can be pinpointed to the 2008 ﬁnancial crisis which saw the strength of traditional banking institutions weaken and consumer trust erode. Filling the void were innovative new entrants in the ﬁnancial services market who established themselves against key players through tech-led solutions that oﬀered faster, integrated ﬁnancial services with fewer middlemen in areas such as electronic payments, challenger banking, insurance tech, equity crowdfunding and peer to peer lending. Now, in 2021 some countries
are on the way to becoming completely cashless. In China two thirds of citizens have completely switched to digital payments, and in Sweden who is set to become a cashless society by 2023 and globally, traditional institutions have invested heavily in ﬁnancial technology. For the production process, FinTech solutions for International payments, expense management, payment and broker platforms from providers such as Caxton, Centrip and Equals Money have been increasingly utilised. These providers oﬀer payment card systems that remove the need to travel with large amounts of cash and allows for online tracking of purchases. One of the major advantages of FinTech is its ability to streamline labour heavy processes. Using real-time systems allows the accounts departments to see exactly what purchases crew members are making, where, in real time. “They are excellent because any process that has reduced the administration across the accounts department has been helpful,” says Adrian Kelly, co-producer on award winning Killing Eve, and executive producer for Tandem Production’s Shadowplay.
BACK TO CONTENTS Digital platforms are also particularly useful for global shoots with spread out teams. James Shannon is business development manager at Moneypenny, an accountancy ﬁrm for the screen industry whose web platform provides accounting and payroll system as well as a document distribution service. “I've got a production at the moment where the team is in Croatia, Spain, and the UK so the three diﬀerent sites are feeding into the one accounting software. Everything that's going on the web platform talks in real time directly to the accounting software so the accountants have visibility of what is going on out there. People love it.”
eVeryThing ThaT's going on The web plaTform Talks in real Time direcTly To The accounTing sofTware so The accounTanTs haVe VisibiliTy of whaT is going on ouT There.
Moneypenny is not the only service that has developed an online software for the production sector. Leaders TPH have had a software tool since 2004 that utilises the cloud to integrate with other cloud apps. Sargent-Disc also oﬀers production software and a production card. These services not only help production accountants see transactions, but there are additional possibilities of analysing, auditing and reporting on many platforms. The cost-eﬀective nature of online platforms is also a big advantage. “Anything that cuts down administration and man hours is what we prefer,” says Kelly, “but frankly, they're all fairly inexpensive.” However, the prevalence of established software packages and providers across the industry means that breaking into the market can be challenging for disruptors. “Very often we're constrained as to what we can use because of deals done at a studio level,” says Kelly. Another barrier to adoption according to Kelly is how software integrates with the ﬁnancial set up in various countries. “It has been happening in ﬁts and starts because a lot of this stuﬀ is quite geared towards US production and that has been diﬃcult to integrate.” The ability to synthesise with existing production processes makes a product stand out when it comes to new services. “It’s integration: if processes are as live as possible and require as little administrative labour those are the ones that we tend to prefer,” says Kelly. One major factor behind the take up of digital ﬁnancial software in recent years has been the drive for sustainable production. “We saw a huge shift in consciousness as productions wanted to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly through the work of Albert and Green Shoots,” says Shannon. “The awareness of carbon emissions on production, and how we as an industry are impacting on the environment has informed the evolution of our digital oﬀering to what it looks like today.” A Film London trial run of a paperless production was carried out during LittleBirds 2019 UK and Spain shoot. Moneypenny software digitised
previously printed documents such as call sheets, petty cash, payslips, purchase orders, contracts, accounting reports, invoices, timesheets and bank statements over a ten week shoot with 220 members of crew. The outcome was independently assessed by Greenshoots and found that by digitising 42,166 printed A4 sheets, ﬁve trees, 5,17 tonnes of C02 emissions and GBP13,225 had been saved. If the whole project had been paperless the ﬁgures would be 141,714 pages, equating to 15 trees. Another example is the work that Albert accredited expense processing service Claim Expenses does in providing detailed data analysis on business travel expenses that shows how and where carbon and ﬁnancial savings can be made. Industry-wide disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to push forward the uptake of FinTech services further. An Albert case study on the return of UK soap Emmerdale post lockdown reveals protocols sped up the move to paperless production. “The Covid restrictions allowed our cast and crew to try new ways of working,” said senior production manager Nader Mabadi. “Before, it was diﬃcult for some people to imagine letting go of long-established ways of working.” Shannon adds that paperless working has become much more popular in light of coronavirus. “Our new digital invoice system that launched in the summer 2020 saw a large uptake.” The growth of FinTech as a sector is set to continue: in 2020 investment in the sector increased by 14% from 2019, with the UK accounting for nearly “It’s InteGratIon: half of European If Processes are as investment. There are lIve as PossIble and further areas of the requIre as lIttle production processes admInIstratIve that FinTech can labour those are explore according to the ones that we Kelly, including software for global tax incentives tend to Prefer.” budgeting. “I would very much like more competition in the budgeting and scheduling space. I’m sure there are competitors out there but they are hard to ﬁnd.” As trust and understanding of FinTech evolves, it may start having a greater impact on other areas of the production process such as ﬁlm ﬁnancing and distribution. 2021 saw the launch of Mogul Productions who use blockchain’s decentralised capabilities which means more transparency in ﬁlm ﬁnancing, or FilmChain who uses Ethereum blockchain to collect, allocate and analyse revenue in the distribution process.
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NEW ZEALAND more than middle-earth
new Zealand is a destination for large shoots such as amazon Prime’s anticipated Lord of the Rings series and James Cameron’s four remaining Avatar sequels. But the country also delivers on high calibre productions across the screen sector including advertising and VFx.
Image: Mulan © 2020 Disney Enterprises, Inc.
ew Zealand has become synonymous with large complex international productions, which are supported by the country’s 20-25% incentive, as well as high-end studio space and experienced crews. For example, Disney’s Mulan (pictured above) carried out a 143 day shoot in New Zealand which had 89% local cast and crew, and employed 36 New Zealand HODs.
Otago Southland’s Ahuriri Valley in the South Island was a critical location for Mulan but the region has previously welcomed Mission Impossible – Fallout, A Wrinkle in Time and Alien – Covenant. In a country densely packed with jaw-dropping locations, Kahli Scott, ﬁlm oﬃce coordinator at Film Otago Southland argues that the region’s appeal is down to “a trifecta of beautiful diverse locations in close proximity, resident world-class “In mId-aPrIl the crew and equipment, and ﬁlmtrans-tasman friendliness/ease of access to bubble oPened ﬁlming locations. A lot of places between new have stunning, remote locations, zealand and but you have to bring a lot of your crew/gear in from outside, or the australIa, locations are diﬃcult to access. We allowInG for really have the whole package here exPerIenced for location ﬁlming.”
crews to travel between the two fIlmInG hubs.”
New Zealand closed it borders at the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and the country quickly contained the virus. Scott says “down here in Otago, ﬁlm and TV production has been able to resume as usual with minimal restrictions. There has also been a select amount of border exemptions made to allow some key creative talent into the country to kickstart productions, with
The small coastal town of Karekare is situated close to Karekare Beach, a picturesque spot surrounded by imposing cliﬀ heads where crashing waves fall on black sand dunes. The beach was made famous by 1993 period feature The Piano about a mute Scottish immigrant who expresses herself through piano playing. Karekare beach provides one of the rugged rural New Zealand settings in the ﬁlm. Just over twenty miles North of Auckland, Karekare can oﬀer more than one idyllic beach spot, and is surrounded by the mountainous Waitakère Ranges. Nearby Piha Beach is another sought after spot, and is one of New Zealand’s most famous surf beaches, which also has black iron sand. The large Lions Rock juts out into the sea at one end of the beach.
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the remainder of the cast and crew roles going to New Zealanders.” In mid-April the “Trans-Tasman bubble” opened between New Zealand and Australia, allowing for experienced crews to travel between the two ﬁlming hubs.
eSSenTIaL FaCTS InCenTIVe
20-25% The baseline International grant is 20% of qualiﬁed New Zealand Production Expenditure, including postproduction, digital & visual eﬀects. A small number of productions are invited to apply for an additional 5% uplift, if the production can demonstrate signiﬁcant economic beneﬁts to New Zealand. Minimum expenditure thresholds are NZ15 million for a feature, NZ4 million for TV and non-feature and NZ500,000 for post, digital & visual eﬀects. CO-PrODUCTIOn TreaTIeS
18 including China, Denmark, Taiwan, South Africa, India, South Korea, Ireland, Spain & the UK. aTa CarneT
There are a range of studios & soundstages across New Zealand. Auckland & Wellington both have purpose built studios with green screens, dive tanks and backlots. There are other studios & warehouse spaces across the country that have been used by productions. reCenT PrODUCTIOnS
Mulan, They Shall Not Grow Old, The Luminaries, The Dead Lands, Alita: Battle Angel, Mortal Engines,
Amazon Prime’s Lord of the Rings series and James Cameron’s Avatar sequels resumed production early on during the pandemic, whilst the advertising industry was able to work with international clients through remote production methods. Claire Thompson, a producer at Finch Facilitation in New Zealand and Australia says 2020 saw a high volume of bids. “We saw most of the Christmas Campaigns for local productions and internationally we receive a lot of scripts to be ﬁlmed using local directors whilst having remote client/agency”. 2020 Christmas Coca-Cola spot The Letter (pictured above), directed by Oscar winning Kiwi director Taika Waititi is one shoot to be successfully managed during the Covid-19 pandemic. “We’ve been fortunate to work with Taika over many years, he continues to be a huge inspiration, we all lift our game and give everything for him,” says service producer Matt Noonan at Curious Film, which worked on the spot with production company Hungry Man. The Letter follows an oil-rig worker who forgets to send his daughter’s wish list to Santa on time and embarks on an epic cross-country adventure to deliver it personally. “The script really spoke to the diverse locations NZ oﬀers,” says Noonan. “There were some locations that just came straight to mind as a must shoot, and there are a few secret spots where we ﬁlmed where I don’t believe anyone has shot anything before us.” Rugged landscapes including snowy peaks, rough ocean settings, dense forest and mountains which all managed to support the remote production methods required during Covid-19. “The challenge for us was working across multiple time zones, the response is really thorough, detailed prep and great communication. Everyone from NZ to London, LA to Atlanta committed to the methodology and I’m very proud of what we accomplished together.” Thompson adds that “whilst our up-front estimate can seem more expensive, it’s very rare that hidden costs come later in production. During pre-Covid-19 times you would need to take a lot of talent from the US to these areas, plus include all the associated costs that go with that. Whereas in Australia and NZ we have English speaking talent and dialect coaches.”
a lot of Places have stunnInG, remote locatIons, but you have to brInG a lot of your crew/Gear In from outsIde, or the locatIons are dIffIcult to access. we really have the whole PackaGe here for locatIon fIlmInG.
New Zealand’s media watchdog marked a new era of broadcasting in February 2021 when a decision was made to no longer engage with complaints about the use of Maori language. The Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) said it had drawn a line under complaints over the use of te reo, the language spoken by the indigenous population of New Zealand. Te reo is an oﬃcial language of New Zealand but its use on air can incite angry texts and emails to presenters, with some pushback from audiences resulting in oﬃcial complaints. The watchdog has said it no longer engages with such complaints, a step further than not taking action on complaints. The change comes after the watchdog received a ﬁvefold increase in inquiries since June 2020.
Commercials producers say they are cautiously optimistic on the outlook for business as Covid-19 vaccination campaigns accelerate around the world, advertiser confidence starts to return, and consumers prepare to spend an extra USD5.4 trillion of savings stockpiled since the pandemic began.
f Covid-19 has taught us anything, it’s that it is impossible to make accurate predictions about exactly when life and business will return to normal.
However, as vaccination campaigns accelerate around the world, forecasters are becoming more conﬁdent about sticking their neck out. With some major economies opening up from lockdowns, the talk is of a consumer spending boom. Credit rating agency Moody’s reports that consumers around the world have stockpiled an extra USD5.4 trillion of savings since the coronavirus pandemic began and are becoming increasingly conﬁdent about the economic outlook, paving the way for a strong rebound in spending as businesses reopen.
Against this background, the Advertising Association and World Advertising Research Council recently forecast that global advertising expenditure is set to grow by 8.3% on average in 2021 – bouncing back from a 10.2% fall in 2020. In particular, strong growth is predicted for TV at 11.6% and for cinema at 228.4%. Steve Davies, chief executive of the Advertising Producers Association, says commercials production companies are reasonably busy at the moment, but thinks the year ahead looks “very promising.” Advertisers, he predicts, will spend money as they seek to lure those consumers who have managed to save cash during the pandemic Talk to commercials producers, and there is a cautious, but very real, sense of optimism about the outlook for the rest of the year.
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WITh COVID RATES pLUmmETINg OVER ThE pAST TWO mONThS IN CALIfORNIA, WE hAVE SEEN A SIgNIfICANT SURgE IN ThE VOLUmE Of COmmERCIAL pRODUCTION REqUESTS.
“With Covid-19 rates plummeting over the past two months in California, we have seen a signiﬁcant surge in the volume of commercial production requests,” reports Nick Martini, founder of Los Angeles-based Stept Studios, which is behind recent campaigns for Budweiser, Nike Football, Red Bull and Oakley. “Both brands and agencies alike seem to be ramping up production as the world becomes safer to work in,” adds Martini. “Throughout the pandemic we were continuing to produce the "need to have" spots, but now we are seeing more of the "nice to have" projects.” Jeﬀ Baron, managing partner of Paris and LA-based production company Loveboat – launched in January by Baron, Greg Panteix, Nicolas Winding Refn, and Fred Fiore – says: “The outlook is rosy. There is a deﬁnite sense of optimism within the production community that we are coming through the other side and a return to some sort of pre-pandemic levels of production is not too far oﬀ.” Rupert Reynolds-MacLean, managing director of Biscuit Filmworks UK – which has recently produced commercials for Amazon Alexa and Sky – says he hopes that clients will move on from the functional, UGC, message-focused ads that many brands created during the pandemic to make higher proﬁle, emotional and story focused spots. But he worries that many companies will have lost a lot of money during the pandemic and may not have the resources to spend on highly crafted commercials this year. Reynolds-Maclean says: “There’s a lot of projects we look at now which never get made. Clients are asking to make the same or similar work for half the amount of money they used to. Also, clients and agencies are spending a lot more time on Zoom rather than sitting round tables – and it is just slowing processes down.” Some companies have, of course, thrived during the pandemic, notably those in technology and home delivery sectors – and have invested heavily in advertising. Others, like hospitality and travel, have been hard hit, suppressing their spend. There is still a big question mark about the outlook for the travel sector in particular, with taking international holidays in the key July and August period still under debate as makers went to press.
For commercials producers themselves, production itself may not return to its pre-pandemic state for a while. “I think there may be a longer lasting resistance to travel which means we will continue to see some remote aspects to production, particularly for shoots in distant locations,” says Loveboat’s Jeﬀ Baron. “That also means that local crews will work more in their home markets.” Steve Davies thinks that oﬃces may no longer be critical for some commercials production companies, which will continue working remotely. He caveats this by saying that a central core where people can come together is still important for many companies, and particularly for their younger staﬀ who need to build skills and networks. Those that do stick with the oﬃce may enjoy cheaper overheads though. “Going forward, we can expect more ﬂexibility and probably lower rents because the demand for oﬃce space in London is certainly shrinking,” says Davies. Overall, commercials production companies can take heart from the latest quarterly Bellwether report from the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), which revealed that marketers are displaying the highest levels of optimism in six years towards the ﬁnancial prospects of their own business. Seen within the context of continued Covid-19 restrictions, there are some promising signs of conﬁdence coming out of the Bellwether ad spend ﬁndings, says GroupM managing partner Jenny Kirby. She points out that the digital advertising category has remained stable since the last quarter, while video investment at +3.3% has seen its strongest improvement within the past year. “The pandemic acted as an accelerator for increasingly digital entertainment consumption habits. Higher investment in areas such as over-the-top video (OTT) reﬂect these behaviour changes, but also the attractiveness of advanced targeting capabilities, cross-device measurement and programmatic buying methods available with OTT inventory. The ability to better reach audiences, accurately measure the impact of creative, and ultimately achieve desired business outcomes mean digital channels such as OTT are well-placed to gain as the recovery gathers pace through 2021.” For commercials producers, this can only be positive news after the challenges of the past year.
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Japan: choose your destination
The continued uncertainty over the Olympic games has pared down the amount of advertising work heading to Japan, but the production industry has transitioned well to remote production methods. Beyond Tokyo, the country’s varied locations are seeing an uptick in interest from incoming productions.
Image: Ride or Die © Aiko Nakano & Netflix.
ovid-19 in Japan has not been as bad as in many countries,” says Jun Yoshikawa, producer at AOI Pro. Although the country has seen three states of emergency throughout the pandemic and borders remain closed, production has continued in the country. “Fortunately, production has started to recover and many shoots following the Covid-19 infection control guidelines are being safely carried out. We can’t say that we are back in full ﬂow yet but we are deﬁnitely getting more inquiries to do remote shoots in Japan.”
The postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and the continued uncertainty over the Games has reduced the amount of advertising shoots heading to the country but there has been a steady stream of Olympic related work. “Many people and companies are still not 100% certain if the Olympics will go ahead, despite what the Government and IOC say. There would have been a lot more Olympics-related “PeoPle defInItely campaigns if there was no feel comfortable Covid-19, but we have been wIth the level of receiving some projects related to ProductIon skIlls the Olympics,” says Yoshikawa.
In jaPan, so remote fIlmInG has been a really PractIcal way to shoot.”
Spots that have been released anticipating the 2020 Games include Guinness’s British Arrows winning ad recounting the story of Liberty Field, Japan’s ﬁrst female rugby squad. Stink Films shot with production service outﬁt Mr+Positive Tokyo to produce the spot and an accompanying ﬁve-minute documentary. The documentary recounts how the team went against social conventions of 1989 Tokyo, which labelled women who played rugby as vulgar,
to make it to the Women’s Rugby World Cup in London where they came up against the top teams in the world. Despite the interruption caused by Covid-19 and the continued closure of borders, the Japanese industry has pivoted well to remote production methods. Service company Twenty First City, who have serviced productions including Avengers: Endgame and Ghost in the Shell, has been working on an international drama for a streamer whose cast were on the ground in Japan. Georgina Pope, head of production at Twenty First City, says “remote production is actually fantastic because it forces the Japanese production side to be very focused and organized. All the remote shoots we've done have just been so surprisingly smooth and successful.” Japanese crews are known for their high levels of organisation which has contributed to the success of remote shoots. “People deﬁnitely feel comfortable with the level of production skills here so that it's been a really practical way to shoot. It has really worked out much better than I think a lot of people thought,” says Pope. Japanese stories are proving popular with international audiences too. Netﬂix has leased two stages at Tokyo’s Toho Studios for several years. The lease accompanies plans to expand and diversify live action Japanese content, with at least 25 titles launching in 2021. The live action remake of a classic manga series, Yu Yu Hakusho, and drama Sanctuary, which shows the dark underbelly of professional sumo, are among the ﬁrst productions
BACK TO CONTENTS plane or bullet train and get anywhere very quickly. You can move crew around very readily without relying on road transportation which is a huge advantage and I think people are ﬁnally realising this.”
Image: Yasuke © Netflix.
ﬁlming in 2021. Other announced projects in the Japanese slate include road movie Ride or Die and nostalgic love story set in the 90’s We Couldn’t Become Adults. Many incoming productions centre on the capital Tokyo, whose high rise buildings, the famous street crossing in Shibuya, neon lights, and small alleys with tiny bars have been shown in productions such as Resident Evil, Lost in Translation, Godzilla and more recently Avengers Endgame, Giri / Haji and HBO’s upcoming Tokyo Vice (see page 68). “Tokyo is such an amazingly visual city. Access to locations and the ability to shoot on the street is easier than it's ever been,” say Twenty First City’s Pope. Tokyo is such an amazingly Visual ciTy. access To locaTions and The abiliTy To shooT on The sTreeT is easier Than iT has eVer been.
However, more recently, Pope says there has been a shift to productions wanting to explore the range of rural locations and landscapes that are available outside the capital. “People are always looking for something new and diﬀerent and people have realised that there are a lot of really incredible natural locations that can be tapped into. There are mountains and beaches, islands and forests and beautiful old inns and temples tucked up in the hills. Those sorts of locations are really underutilised.” The island destination of Okinawa is one such unusual destination that attracts a share of international production. Karate Kid spinoﬀ Cobra Kai ﬁlmed material for two episodes of its third season on the tropical island. The Okinawa Film Oﬃce provides ﬁlming support and cooperation for ﬁlming in the prefecture and assists in approval application, information on ﬁlming. The island has pristine beaches, sub-tropical jungle and coral reefs and was the birthplace of Karate with a unique culture attracts both factual projects like Katabui, In the Heart of Okinawa and scripted productions such as Okinawan Blue and Born, Bone, Boon. Although working in remote areas requires planning and research, even these locations have infrastructure. “The great thing about Japan is that, of all the countries in Asia, we have more infrastructure than anyone else. You can get on a
Although the country has no ﬁlming incentives, and production is not cheap, the government has been carrying out research on the possibility. The Pilot Project on Location Incentives for International Audiovisual Productions was open until February 2021 as an exercise to measure the eﬀect of production incentives on regional economic promotion, aiming to attract production not only to urban areas but also to rural locations. Local government and the network of regional ﬁlm commissions were involved in the project which provided up to JPY200 million, and up to the total 20% costs of production in Japan. There are also regional funds available. The Japan Film Commission is able to guide incoming productions through with non-tax incentives while ﬁlming supports are oﬀered by regional agencies as well as with ﬁnding locations, local production service companies and obtaining shooting permits. In addition to live-action “In recent years content, the appetite for netflIx has also Japanese animation is set uP several growing across the PartnershIPs wIth globe. A 2019 deal between Sony Pictures leadInG jaPanese and specialist Japanese anImatIon studIos Manga streaming to establIsh Itself platform Crunchyroll as a major for USD1.175 billion is dIstrIbutor of currently subject to a US anti-trust review. If it jaPanese anImatIon goes ahead, Sony will worldwIde.” own the streamer which has over three million subscribers to its VOD platform, and 90 million registered users in 200 countries and allows users to access simulcasts of new anime programmes shortly after airing across the globe. In recent years Netﬂix has also set up several partnerships with leading Japanese animation studios to establish itself as a major distributor of Japanese animation worldwide. These include: MAPPA, Anima & Company, Production I.G and Bones, Anima, Sublimation and David Production. Airing in April 2021, Yasuke is one example of the global output created under these partnerships. The six-episode anime series brings together revered animation studio MAPPA, creator and executive producer LeSean Thomas, director and animator Takeshi Koike, American actor LaKeith Stanﬁeld and Grammy Award winning Flyting Lotus. The series set in an alternate fantastical Japan in the feudal era and imagines the story of the ﬁrst African samurai.
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Behind the Scenes of Tokyo Vice
Kabukicho, Tokyo © TCVB
Shooting entirely on location, HBO Max’s Tokyo Vice sets out to bring the city to life from an insider’s point of view: an angle never before seen on Western television. makers speaks to director and executive producer Alan Poul and producer Alex Boden about the making of the series.
HBO Max’s eight-episode adaptation of Jake Adelstein’s eponymous memoir Tokyo Vice shot entirely on location in Japan’s capital in 2020 and 2021. The series was inspired by Adelstein’s memoir of working the crime beat as the ﬁrst American journalist at a large Japanese newspaper during the late 1990’s. As his work took Adelstein into contact with the city’s criminal underworld, the series delves deep into Tokyo through the eyes of an insider – an angle not before shown on Western television. A raft of big names are attached, including Ansel Elgort, who stars as Adelstein, and Ken Watanabe as police detective Katagiri. Showrunner and Tony Award winner JT Rogers created the series, while Academy Award winner John Lesher (who optioned Adelstein’s memoir before it was even published), and Emmy Award-winners Alan Poul and Emily Gerson Staines are producing along with Alex Boden whose credits include Sense8 and Cursed.
Michael Mann directed the pilot and serves as an executive producer, lending his extensive experience in 1990’s era character based neo noirs to the project. “1995’s Heat and 1999’s The Insider set the benchmark for suspense in 1990s cinema, so there was a clear interest in how his distinctive style and experience of working with the genre would translate to Tokyo Vice,” says Boden. Mann has also had success with series where location is imbedded as characters, such as Collateral and Miami Vice. This approach is central to Tokyo Vice, too. “We are interested in creating a show that feels completely authentic for a Japanese audience, as well as for a global audience,” explain Poul and Boden. “Our cast, in addition to Ansel Elgort, Rachel Keller, and Ella Rumpf, includes some of the ﬁnest Japanese actors working today, such as Ken Watanabe, Rinko Kikuchi, and many more. We are thrilled that, because of our outstanding cast, there is already strong interest in the show here in Japan.
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Shinjuku, Tokyo © woody. sato
we are inTeresTed in creaTing a show ThaT feels compleTely auThenTic for a Japanese audience, as well as for a global audience.
Shooting the entirety of the series on location has meant real exploration of Tokyo. According to Poul and Boden “all four directors have a strong connection to the culture. Michael Mann, Josef Kubota Wladyka, Hikari and Alan Poul have each brought their own keen insights and sensibilities to the project, always aiming to get past the alluring surfaces and dive deeply into the city and its worlds, especially the worlds of journalists, the police, organised criminals, and hostess clubs. All these worlds interconnect in JT Rogers’ vision of this unique time and place.” Boden adds: “Josef Kubota Wladyka is half-Japanese and has family here in Tokyo. Hikari is Japanese and ﬁlmed her ﬁrst feature, 37 Seconds here. Alan Poul speaks ﬂuent Japanese, and graduated from Yale University with a degree in Japanese Literature. “Finding period Tokyo in such a large and contemporary city required much preparation. Scouting extensively in and around Tokyo for 1990’s locations and architecture has at times been challenging; due to the technological advancements in Tokyo in the intervening years, and the constant change of both the culture and architecture, in part relating to advances in earthquake-prooﬁng, much has already disappeared” relate Poul and Boden. Fortuitously, many real-life locations that feature in Adelstein’s memoir have survived regeneration and made it on to the screen. “Legendary haunts that anyone who knows Tokyo will be familiar with have hosted location shoots like the Golden Gai, the red light districts in Shibuya and Shinjuku, and the Shinjuku Batting Center,” they say. The involvement of local broadcaster WOWOW has also fostered authenticity. “The series was developed with Endeavor Content for the HBO Max streaming service. They were thrilled to have WOWOW come on board the production as our Japanese side,” said Poul. “Because most of the cast and crew are Japanese, this is really a Japanese production in many ways. WOWOW’s support and guidance with regard to cultural and structural issues has been invaluable. Our aim is to make a show that works as well with Japanese audiences as it does with the overseas audience.” Two weeks into the shoot, Covid-19 struck: Once restarted in September, border closures further impacted the level of local crew input as some international crew members could not enter Japan, “While challenging, it has also been exciting to adapt to the pressures of this,” says Boden. “We were always planning to have an interesting mix of Japanese and International in the team and these pressures have skewed us towards more Japanese which is really great for the texture and authenticity of the show.” Both Poul and Boden have extensive experience working on international projects. Poul has a working JApAN
Shibuya, Tokyo © woody. sato
history in Japan, on productions including Ridley Scott’s Black Rain and Paul Schrader’s Mishima, while Boden’s involvement in productions such as Sense8, which shot in seventeen cities including in South Korea and India, has prepared him for working in new locations. “Tokyo is an amazing place to work and to ﬁlm,” says Boden. “As with any other city in the world, you need to ﬁnd the right partners and crew to ensure the very best for your project and to quickly understand how everything works. Tokyo feels very safe and is blessed with a low crime rate and there is generally a lot of respect for order.” Tokyo Vice is arguably the largest international project to shoot in Tokyo over an extended period. “There is a proud cinema and TV tradition here in Japan but a relatively small industry that is very busy with local productions and has not, yet, had so many opportunities to work internationally,” says “scoutInG Boden. The high value extensIvely In and placed on planning by around tokyo for Japanese crews is one 1990’s locatIons key diﬀerence that the and archItecture producers noted. “Be has at tImes been alert to the time that it challenGInG due to can take to make the technoloGIcal changes to a schedule and the extent of advancements In consultation with third tokyo In the parties required,” they IntervenInG years.” recommend. Another recommendation is to make use of Sundays and weekends for location shoots. “This has been essential for much of our ﬁlming with vehicles on the streets of Tokyo. Compared to other cities around the world this is something that is highly restricted,” explains Boden. “Something else that we learned is that TV series prep and shoot, as well as scheduling double-banking and cross-boarding, are not processes that Japanese crews were familiar with. To approach this, we led some workshops that all crew were invited to attend.” Japan has a strong network of ﬁlm commissions, as well as local ﬁlm oﬃces within Tokyo, that are there to facilitate a smooth shoot. “This is a complex production that often sees us ﬁlming at two or three locations around in town in one day,” says Boden. “Filming on the streets of Tokyo is not simple but with support from the Tokyo Film Commission (TFC), our team have worked very closely with the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department (TMPD), traﬃc control, and the Highway Police. We needed support with this and have established a good working relationship with the TFC along with the Shinjuku City Oﬃce, Shibuya City Oﬃce, as well as other ward oﬃces. The TFC have been supporting us with this process throughout, arranging ﬁlming permits and facilitating some of our location shoots around town.”
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PARIS city of light
a new 40% rebate for productions with eUr2 million VFx spend may see Paris’ established post-production industry heat up, but the city is still in demand with global hits Lupin and Emily in Paris showcasing the enduring allure of the “city of light”.
ccording to studies, around 60% of foreign tourists decided to visit France after watching a ﬁlm or TV series. At least half of these 60 million visitors choose to visit Paris, so the impact of screen industry is tremendous.
“Administrations that run public museums and public landmarks know that if they want to have visitors, they have to be on the screen,” says Stéphane Martinet, international promotion manager at Film Paris Region. “Versailles, Chateau de Fontainebleau, Vaux le Vicomte Chateau, you can shoot almost anywhere in any of these places. The Elysée Palace has already appeared in two feature ﬁlms. After 15 years as a ﬁlm commission we have helped these locations open up to productions, now our main task is making sure they know how to welcome to production. There is no question when the production arrives everybody “we've seen tv knows what is required. Recent Netﬂix hit Lupin (pictured above) shows comInG to for instance showed the gritty side france to save of Paris, as well as locations like the money on theIr Louvre, museums and chateaus in yearly budGet the region.”
because a shoot day was cheaPer.”
French based service provider Xavier Roy of Froggie Production adds that Paris can be a surprisingly cost-eﬀective destination. “We've seen TV shows coming to France to save money on their yearly budget because a shoot day was cheaper,” says Roy who has serviced recent shoots for National Geographic’s Genius: Picasso starring Antonio Banderas, Jack Ryan, Modern Family and BBC miniseries The Pursuit of Love. “The thing that is really special about Paris is that street permits are usually free. You can choose to spend a lot of money
Espaces d’Abraxas, Noisy le Grand Built in 1982 by architect Ricardo Ricardo Boﬁll the unique postmodern complex covers 47,000sqm in the suburb of Noisy le Grand, to the east of Paris. The landmark buildings were conceived as an urban monument for the town of Marne-la-Vallee which was built in the 1960s. 591 apartments over three ‘elements’: Le Palacio – a thirteen storey block, ‘Le Theatre’ – a large semi-circular structure with reﬂective glass columns and ‘L’Arc’ which has only 20 homes and stands at the centre of the complex. The unusual setting has made its way onto screen many times, often for dystopian or conceptual music videos. Some of the most famous examples include 2015’s The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – part 2, Terry Gilliam’s Brazil in 1985 as well as French productions such as comedy-drama Sybil by Justine Triet and thriller A Mort L’arbitre by Jean-Pierre Mocky. Image: Lupin © Emmanuel Guimier & Netflix.
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France’s Tax Rebate for International Productions (TRIP) recently had an overhaul that may see Paris’ postproduction and VFX sector heat up. Now, projects that carry out EUR2 million worth of VFX-related expenditure can access a 40% tax rebate, rather than the standard 30%. This applies to all French expenditure, not just VFX work, which makes the prospect of end-to-end production in France more appealing. Paris’ VFX industry is well established in the global arena with credits on major productions including The Dark Knight, Thor, The Minions as well as a large array of high-end commercial work for clients including Cartier, Barclays, Porsche, Chanel and L’Occitane plus games such as Ghost Region and Call of Duty.
Image: Emily in Paris © Carole Bethuel & Netflix.
on locations, such as Paris Opera or riverbanks and parks, but it also can be budget friendly. We have shot a lot of shows that work with compact crews which is always a good idea in the city. We have very good English-speaking crews who are used to multi-tasking and working on these big international productions.” Paris is not as known for its studio facilities as other European destinations, however there are both historic studios and newer developments around the capital. Luc Besson’s Cite du Cinema complex is
one of the largest, with nine soundstages over 6500 square feet along the river Seine. Just half an hour from Charles de Gaulle airport and 25 minutes from the Eiﬀel Tower at the heart of the city, the studios are well positioned for incoming work. Martinet adds that the space available in the city is not yet at maximum capacity despite current demands. “I think we have not known so much production, it’s at the highest rate of activity ever. Still, we are managing to accommodate everybody. There is a no refusals to production”.
Paris itself also has a separate co-production scheme from the Paris Region Film Oﬃce which provides up to 50% of qualiﬁed local expenditure for projects spending between EUR100,000 and EUR500,000. French players are some of Europe’s active co-production partners and the scheme has seen much interest in the year it has been in operation. “It has been quite successful. 180 projects are applying each year, about 15% of those are receiving the help” says Martinet. “I would say that around 25 to 30 projects are going to be receiving this aid from the EUR2 million fund”.
versaIlles, chateau de fontaInebleau, vaux le vIcomte chateau – you can shoot almost anywhere In any of these Places. the elysée Palace has already aPPeared In two feature fIlms.
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interview victoria withd erspici emslie ictoria Emslie is a British actress known for her work on Downton Abbey, The Theory Of Everything, 12 Monkeys, The Frankenstein Chronicles and recently wrapped on her ﬁrst lead role in a feature due for release in 2022. She is also the Time’s Up UK liaison for ERA 50:50 and founder and CEO of Primetime – a network for women working in the ﬁlm, TV and commercial industries which helps productions hire gender-balanced, inclusive teams worldwide. As a result of this work, she won the inaugural ‘Shaker Of Year Award’ at the makers & shakers Awards, launched last year by The Location Guide, makers magazine and FOCUS.
Why did you set up Primetime? VICTOrIa eMSLIe
Through my activism with Time’s Up UK and ERA 50:50, I wanted to add my voice to the conversation and translate those words into action. Men outnumber women 2:1 onscreen, and in many cases that ﬁgure is 3:1. To change the conversation onscreen we must change the conversation behind the scenes. Women tend to hire more women and they also create more female-centric work; therefore the creative teams behind the camera directly impact the stories we tell. Yet, we know that there have only been 46 individual women directors across the 1200 top grossing ﬁlms between 20072018. The one question that keeps coming up is, “Where are all the women?”, so I am making it my mission to take this one excuse oﬀ the table.
Tell us about Primetime – how does it work? VICTOrIa eMSLIe
Primetime is a vetted global platform for all the women working above and below the line behind the camera, providing the industry with a simple solution to look at its hiring practices. We cover over 200 job titles and have members in 50 countries, including BAFTA, Emmy and Academy Award winners. I don’t believe anyone should have to pay to be visible so sign-up for women looking to be hired and those looking to hire is free, as it is for companies and men HODs who want to hire more inclusive teams. Members can upload CVs, bios, professional aﬃliations, awards, agents’ details, testimonials, reviews, personal pronouns, and self-identify if they are from an underrepresented background. The site is kept free of proﬁle pictures to combat unconscious bias; we want our members' work to speak for itself. MakerS
Any success stories you can share? VICTOrIa eMSLIe
We run Primetime Pledge events, where those with hiring power commit to making real change and result in work for our members. At BSC Expo 2020, hosted by Digital Orchard, we partnered with BECTU and delivered 260 1-2-1 meetings over two days, joining forces with illuminatrix, Women Behind The Camera and The British Blacklist. We continue to partner with our industry friends to create opportunities not only for women, but for all underrepresented professionals. Receiving messages from members who have booked highend work through Primetime has been especially energising during
Covid-19. With productions thinking more locally, Primetime gives them a great opportunity to invest in talent outside of our London-centric Industry. MakerS
How has it been setting up and running Primetime? VICTOrIa eMSLIe
My one personal challenge I have set for myself in 2021 is to learn how to delegate. I bootstrapped the business using my savings and run every aspect of the platform myself for now. Listening to feedback from members has been essential along this journey as it is important that the platform is being built by the industry. Covering over 200 job titles, there is not always a one-shoe-ﬁts-all solution and changes take time and require considerable resources. Primetime is my passion project, and being a very action-based individual, everything I do must have a tangible outcome. Having never worked in tech or business before, it has been a beautiful baptism by ﬁre. MakerS
Are things improving, standing still or getting worse in terms of representation of women in front of and behind the camera? VICTOrIa eMSLIe
The percentage of women working behind the camera has not changed in the last 20 years. There is a myriad of reasons why this is the case. There is a gender bias seen at every stage in a woman’s career which excludes them from the workforce: from being too young and “risky”, to those who want to have families or have caring responsibilities who may not be able to, or want to, juggle work alongside an inﬂexible industry setup, to a lack of women
promoted to executive and C-suite positions, being just some of them. Due to the considerable eﬀorts by many organisations to collect data, we can now say that female-led ﬁlms do better at the box oﬃce and female-penned projects tend to quadruple their ROI especially in budgets over GBP20 million. And yet there continues to be a disconnect between the ﬁnanciers and projects being made and widely distributed. We notice that as budgets increase, the number of women, especially in HOD roles, decreases. As a top-down, bottom-up initiative, this is a priority that Primetime seeks to change through greater visibility, networking and connecting our members with those with hiring power. MakerS
What’s next for Primetime? VICTOrIa eMSLIe
In one word: growth. The more members we have the closer we will come to answering our call-to-action: “Where are all the women?". We are currently looking for industry sponsors to join the likes of Panavision, Sister and Ecovis Wingrave Yeats to headline new features. Primetime is a Certiﬁed Social Enterprise and if you are interested in becoming an oﬃcial change maker, please drop us a line. As Time’s Up UK chairwoman Dame Heather Rabbatts says, ‘No matter how big or small, everyone has a part to play in making change happen.’ firstname.lastname@example.org www.primetime.network @primetime.network (instagram) @PrimetimeNetwrk (twitter) Image © Cat Lane
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Is the UK still attractive after Brexit? SIX MONTHS INTO BREXIT DOES ThE UK STILL AppEAL TO fILmmAKERS?
Image: Sex Education © Jon Hall & Netflix.
Despite having five years to prepare it was impossible to tell what the reality of Brexit would really be for the screen sector until it officially took effect on January 1, 2021. Six months on, the UK is still an in demand production destination recording unprecedented levels of production and investment.
n the face of it, six months after Brexit took eﬀect the UK sector is in rude health. “We are at pre-pandemic levels of demand for shooting in the UK,” says Adrian Wootton, chief executive of Film London & British Film Commission. “PACT, the leading UK body for independent content producers, said a recent month broke their all-time record for the number of registered ﬁlm and TV programmes, which is just extraordinary. It shows that the UK’s core strengths have not been diminished either by the pandemic or by the political changes. By and large the ﬁscal and working conditions for the large-scale American
investors or streamers haven't changed and the reasons that they would have come before are absolutely unchanged.” Much of the high-end, big budget work comes to the UK from the US, attracted by the UK’s infrastructure of studios, crews and the 25% tax incentive. Not only is the amount of incoming productions at an all-time high, but overseas investment and the rate of expansion in production infrastructure indicates a positive trend. The demand for stage space has seen expansions happening across the UK, with Bristol’s Bottleyard adding three new stages and the large Littlewood’s
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Image: Game of rones © Home Box Oﬃce, Inc.
BY AND LARgE ThE fISCAL AND WORKINg CONDITIONS fOR ThE LARgE-SCALE AmERICAN INVESTORS OR STREAmERS hAVEN'T ChANgED. ThE REASONS ThAT ThEY WOULD hAVE COmE BEfORE ARE ABSOLUTELY UNChANgED.
Studio development in Liverpool planning to open in 2023. Northern Ireland is busy too where Harbour Film Studios greenlit a GBP45 million expansion and Loop Studios, which is currently hosting Netﬂix’s The School For Good and Evil is expanding studio and workshop space by nearly 50,000 square foot. In Scotland, First Stage Studios in Edinburgh is soon to oﬀer ﬁve soundstages, and Glasgow’s Kelvinhall studio development will allow more production. Back in the capital and the South-East, there is the 200 million complex being built in Barking and Dagenham, while Sky and Universal Studios are building a new complex in Elstree, north London, Elstree, and Pinewood is in the process of a GBP500 million expansion. The well-established Twickenham Studios is undergoing GBP15 million redevelopment works that covers studio expansion and modernising facilities and US ﬁrm Blackhall Studios has invested GBP150 million in Reading. “The money doesn't lie,” says Wootton, “people are investing because they think the UK has a long-term future.” There is also a growing number of ﬁlm oﬃces in the UK that are working to attract and support the increasing number of shoots. The recently formed Filmwight on the Isle of Wight is an example of the joint eﬀort of local leaders and the industry to build on the success of shoots such as Victoria & Abdul, That’ll be the Day and Britbox series The Beast Must Die to drive economic regeneration. “It is clear that we need to be diversifying our economy to create more opportunities for islanders,” says Bob Seely, MP for Isle of Wight. “Filmwight is part of that diversiﬁcation. It has the chance to put us on the map for ﬁlm production and bring in millions of pounds a year to the Island.”
However, despite the positive growth, Brexit does pose new challenges when planning international shoots for UK based projects. Now UK cast and crew have ceased to hold EU/EEA status, they require additional authorisations, like visas and work permits, to work on feature ﬁlm and HETV productions in EU/EEA jurisdictions, while goods and equipment must be imported through customs using a Carnet system. “We have been working closely with our partners and providing information to members as we all work through the 1,300 pages of the Trade Co-operation Agreement and what it means for our industry,” “we are talkInG says Lyndsay Duthie, to our euroPean CEO of Production Partners and there Guild Great Britain Is a wIllInGness whose members include and enthusIasm studio heads, SVODs, to collaborate global producers and and cooPerate production services. because It Is In In the run up to the 1st January, the Guild everyone’s economIc held regular Brexit panel self-Interest.” sessions with industry experts and Q&A clinics. These covered topics such as visas, carnets, tax incentives, co-productions and everything in between. However, no amount of preparation could entirely ready producers for what to expect. With the sector now working through what Brexit means in practice, the main challenges that PGGB members face as an industry are now clearer. “There is a general consensus that more clarity is required, as dealing with 27 individual countries, each with diﬀerent approaches is confusing,” says Duthie. The main challenges revolve around logistics, such as visa processing and using carnets to import goods and equipment into the EU and the time and costs required. “We are used to doing carnets, but there is extra paperwork on top of this for the movement
Image: Paddington 2 © Studiocanal SA.
BACK TO CONTENTS year. The body ran a successful campaign in the run up to Brexit which saw almost all VFX and animation artist and production roles added to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL), which neutralises minimum salary immigration thresholds, although companies will still have to pay visa charges.
Image: Macbeth © Studiocanal SA & Channel 4 TV Corp.
of goods, which is not straight forward,” adds Duthie. “Timescales can be long for visas: two to three months dependent on the type of application e.g. for Spain, and can cost in excess of GBP1,000.” a successful campaign saw almosT all Vfx and animaTion arTisT and producTion roles added To The shorTage occupaTion lisT, which neuTralises minimum salary immigraTion Thresholds.
Now that the deal is done, the focus is on making sure international collaboration can happen. “Talent likes to work together, and talent doesn't particularly respect borders,” says Wootton. “Our new job is to ﬁnd a way of making those borders more porous.” The PGGB have been appealing to members to provide ﬁrst-hand experience in order to present written evidence to the Department Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee for the issue surrounding creative visas, one of the biggest challenges for international shoots. At the BFC, Wootton says the agenda is focused on two areas: the movement of people for visas, work permits, equipment etc. and secondly, making sure the access is there for anyone to call upon us for our tax credit.” This does require international collaboration, something that there is willingness for according to Wootton: “We are talking to our European partners and there is a willingness and enthusiasm to collaborate and cooperate because it is everyone’s economic self-interest. If a ﬁlm production or TV production from the UK goes into Europe, they will be spending millions of Euros. There is no sense at all that they are unwilling to make internal changes that are necessary for that to happen.” In the lead up to Brexit the international nature of the visual eﬀects sector caused some concern because talent is in high demand; international recruitment is the norm and workers move around frequently. UK Screen Alliance, the UK body for VFX and animation, estimated that the implementation of a points-based immigration system would see a minimum GBP30,000 salary needed for VFX workers, with the resulting wage inﬂation costing the industry GBP20 million per
CONfIDENCE COLLABORATION 82
Wootton adds: “We've been talking very recently with the Spanish, Italian and French industry bodies because they're aware about how talent is going back and forth, sometimes working for the same companies or crossing back and forth to diﬀerent companies. It is in very early days, but they are interested in us working together to do joint promotion of our respective visual eﬀects and animation, which is very positive. Again, this indicates a willingness to cooperate.” There is also concern for the independent sector, which is already outﬂanked by international spending in the UK. Funding from Creative Europe’s MEDIA programme saw an average of EUR18.5 million invested in the UK’s cultural and audiovisual sectors. To replace this, the British Film Institute and DCMS have launched a pilot scheme – the UK Global Screen Fund – worth around GBP7 million to support independent ﬁlm, TV, animation, documentary and interactive narrative games content across distribution, international business development and co-production investment. David Parﬁtt, Oscar“there Is a General nominated producer of consensus that The Father and founder more clarIty Is of Trademark Films, requIred, as said: “This new dealInG wIth 27 fund brings a business IndIvIdual development element countrIes, each alongside distribution wIth dIfferent support which is particularly attractive to aPProaches Is a company like ours. confusInG.” It would allow us to engage and compete on more equal terms with other global independent production companies, allowing us to take further risks and giving a welcome boost for international success.” Looking ahead, continued growth for the UK-wide sector remains likely and Wootton is conﬁdent that the industry will continue to thrive outside the EU: “Film and TV has the opportunity to lead us in recovery and growth, we're moving faster than most other industries. There is a huge amount of employment. The industry is not going to be made redundant by digitalization and embracing virtual production. As a vision for the future, ﬁlm and television is looking incredibly healthy across the UK clusters.”
Around the world Advancing the story SIX LOCATIONS CHOSEN BY LOCATION SCOUT LORI BALTON
1 LAGO BALBINA, BRAZIL I took several noteworthy detours from the Amazon River while scouting for Jungle Cruise. North of Manaus, the hydroelectric dam that created Lago Balbina is a haunting outpost of Brazil’s rainforest. To travel from the Amazonian delta to its headwaters in the Peruvian mountains was truly the job of a lifetime – arduous work yielding remarkable experiences for which I am grateful.
2 THE ROAD TO BAO LAC, VIETNAM Travelling along the northern border of Vietnam for plate shots for Marvel’s Shang-Chi She and the Legend of the Ten Rings was eye opening. Fascinating to journey where few tourists go and really experience the culture. 3 BUENAVENTURA, COLOMBIA Jungle Cruise let me explore stilt houses on the Bahia de Buenaventura on the Colombian coast, to the amusement of local residents. The long trip in a tiny boat buﬀeted by a tropical thunderstorm was equally memorable. 4 ESSAOURIA, MOROCCO Scouting Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan exposed texture and authenticity in the faces of people as well
BACK TO CONTENTS eteran Location Scout Lori Balton (pictured scouting for Disney’s The Lone Ranger at the Agua Fria Ranch in Terlingua, Texas) is the ﬁrst location professional accepted into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (AMPAS). For decades, she has collaborated with some of the industry's best directors, and production designers. Featured on numerous podcasts and master classes, Balton was a jurist for the EUFCN Location Award and the Location Guide’s inaugural makers & shakers Awards.
Balton believes that evocative locations are vital to advance the story, providing visual shorthand for character development. Grateful to have a job that lets her explore the world, these photographs demonstrate her ability to capture the nuances in landscapes and cultures. Each one has a story to tell...
as the places they dwell. I was welcomed to sit and share a cup of tea everywhere I went… the women, in particular, seemed very curious about my role.
5 GEYSER BASIN, YELLOWSTONE MONTANA Working with the small footprint of a VFX crew for Jon Favreau’s live action Lion King gave me access to locations that would be prohibitive for principal photography. Production delays includes waiting for bisons to move oﬀ the paths – in this case the locals were unimpressed.
6 HOFDABREKKUHEIDI, ICELAND An amateur geologist, scouting Iceland for Noah was particularly intriguing. The glacial rivers and black sands of Hofdabrekkuheidi were formed in the last Ice Age by a sub-glacial eruption. Iceland’s Ring Road keeps everything accessible while transporting you to an amazing variety of natural splendors, and a sense of the beginning of time. 85
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Making the leap: from production services to original IP When we considered the team we had, our network across the industry, and our physical and reality game-show knowhow, it seemed like the logical step to grow and apply this expertise to original content. For other companies it might simply be they have a brilliant idea and the conviction it will appeal to the international market. Either way, you need to really believe in your IP, your team, and be open to accessing markets you’d never considered before – you never know which audiences it might chime with. With that in mind, the biggest challenge for a services company is to change the perception that acquisitions teams and commissioners have when going to pitch original IP. They see us as the Ninja Warrior course providers. We are proud of this, but we are also an experienced production team hailing from a variety of backgrounds.
wiTh demand for conTenT booming, more companies are eyeing a moVe inTo original producTion – and producTion serVices proVider The aTs Team is one of Them. Vice presidenT of producTion danny sanz discusses The opporTuniTies – and challenges – of pushing inTo ip creaTion.
t is not easy to break into original content production when you have built a solid reputation as something else – in our case, a production services company.
For those who don’t know us, The ATS Team started more than 20 years ago as a climbing, hiking and rigging company, and is now responsible for building sets for shows such as Big Brother, The Amazing Race and Ninja Warrior. Back in October 2020 we announced our intention to step into producing our own, original IP – and we now have a full development slate which we are taking to market. We aren’t the ﬁrst and I’m sure we won’t be the last services company to move into production. The international market for original shows is very competitive but full of potential, sometimes from unlikely places. Hit formats are coming from all over the world, from South Korea’s The Masked Singer to Spain’s El Puente (The Bridge). The appetite for interesting ideas, wherever in the world they come from is growing, and international producers are showing they can deliver. So, with the market becoming increasingly competitive, why the move into original IP? We have been working with US and international producers for over a decade, actively developing and creating content that has been implemented in multiple formats and TV shows, so it felt like a natural progression for us to start generating our own ideas.
We’re now focusing on IP in our main areas of expertise, primarily entertainment and physical gameshows. We are also developing reality, adventure, and travel-related formats since that’s the production background some of us have. We are working on a few factual and documentary formats too – and even a fantasy ﬁction series which is currently being pitched to major streamers. Selling or getting a show commissioned in the international market is never a simple task. First you need a team capable of developing shows that are strong enough to work, then you need the idea developed enough to take it to market, and then you have the challenge of convincing buyers to pay for it. Reputation only counts for so much. Yes, the company determines the culture, but ultimately the talent, experience, and ambition of your team determines what is possible. Danny Sanz is the vice president of production at Los Angeles-based The ATS Team, which works across TV and entertainment development, production services, challenge & stunt design rigging, underwater & high angle life safety, set shop construction, SPFX, staging/truss rentals, and live production. Its services have been used on for feature films, commercial shoots, concerts, and TV shows around the world. Clients include NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, Hulu, SyFy, Reel, and Disney.
AI gets creative
Image: Ex Machina © Universal City Studios Productions.
From commissioning, through to script writing, budgeting, production and post production, artificial intelligence can play – indeed already is playing – a vital role in the creative industries. makers reports.
ntelligent machines are rarely portrayed as a force for good in ﬁlm. From The Matrix to Ex Machina and The Terminator, movies regularly present robots powered by artiﬁcial intelligence as the stuﬀ of nightmares. Oﬀ-screen, the idea that computers and data could play a role in ﬁlmmaking has long been considered an anathema in Hollywood, where personal taste, charisma and talent were viewed as key to success.
However, the ﬁlm and TV industry is quickly changing its attitude towards artiﬁcial intelligence and machine learning. From commissioning, through to script writing, budgeting, production and post production, there’s a recognition that artiﬁcial intelligence can play – indeed already is playing – a vital role in the creative industries.
Scepticism about AI is lessening in part because, over the past decade, it has moved from the lab to daily life in many walks of life. AI has given us self-driving cars, practical speech recognition, eﬀective web search, and a vastly improved understanding of the human genome. Within the creative industries, ﬁrms such as Netﬂix and Amazon have thrived by using technology to guide decision making. Both use complex and jealously guarded algorithms to recommend speciﬁc content for their audiences and analyse audience data to underpin their commissioning and acquisition decisions. AI also is one of the hot topics in the world of postproduction and visual eﬀects (VFX) at the moment. In fact, it almost seems like there is a new ML tool or programme being released every other week, with
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ARTIfICIAL INTELLIgENCE IS gOINg TO BE A BIg pART Of ThE INDUSTRY AND REALLY DRIVE A LOT Of EffICIENCIES.
systems such as Nuke, Avid and Adobe launching updates that liberate creatives from having to do repetitive, time-consuming and, frankly, boring work.
“It’s not so much about cutting costs but opening up opportunities for productions that don’t have big budgets,” says Phillipson.
AI can now be used to replicate eﬀects, upscale shots, resize footage, remove motion blur, metatag video, create subtitles, or to comb through archives to ﬁnd shots of speciﬁc people or places.
Elsewhere, UK ﬁrm Mirriad uses its AI tech to digitally insert advertisements and products into movies and TV shows after they have been ﬁlmed.
“Artiﬁcial intelligence is going to be a big part of the industry and really drive a lot of eﬃciencies,” says Jeremy Smith, CTO of visual eﬀects and animation studio Jellyﬁsh Pictures, who argues that AI will free up creatives’ time so they can be more, well, creative. For example, a compositor might use AI to identify certain objects that they want to remove from a sequence – such as a bus or car – and do so automatically. Depending on the complexity of the shot, it might save up to a day’s work – allowing the compositor to focus on more creative, interesting work. Graeme Phillipson, a machine learning engineer at BBC Research and Development, is working on an AI system called Ed which would allow the BBC to cover many of the hundreds of stages at the Edinburgh Festival, rather than just one or two performances. Unmanned cameras at the venues would stream content into the cloud, where it would be semi-automatically edited for broadcast by a computer that recognised speech and movement patterns and selected key shots. AI, says Phillipson, is not so much about saving money, as allowing you to do something new. In Ed’s case, this would mean oﬀering much more choice to viewers from all that the Edinburgh Festival has to oﬀer. Phillipson gives another example. BBC R&D is also developing an AI system that would allow a production to shoot in a location and automatically age it looked like a period set. For example, a drama might be set in the 1930s; by referencing images of the period, a computer would then automatically cut out any brightly coloured shop signs or electricity cables.
For example, Mirriad can digitally embed a branded bottle on a table, a new ad on an existing billboard, or a commercial running on the TV in the background – helping content owners to squeeze incremental revenues from their back catalogue. Its platform uses AI to identify the most natural and meaningful placement opportunities, and then employs VFX technology to insert real-world objects that weren’t in the original shoot, like a vehicle or a bag of potato chips, or overlays “It’s not so much existing brand imagery about cuttInG with new product shots.
costs, but oPenInG uP oPPortunItIes for ProductIons that don’t have bIG budGets.”
The idea has generated attention among broadcasters and advertisers. Mirriad says it is already working with companies such as Tencent Video, RTL, Channel 4 and France TV, and has previously worked with ABC to integrate brands like Pepsi and Sherwin Williams into its hit show Modern Family. Such is the reach of AI into the industry, that it is now being used right at the inception of creative projects.
Last year, for example, Warner Bros announced that it had signed a deal with US tech ﬁrm Cinelytic to use its AI driven project management system to help guide decision making about which ﬁlms to greenlight. Cinelytic’s other customers include Sony Pictures, leading UK-based ﬁlm ﬁnancier Ingenious and US producer and distributor STX Entertainment.
BACK TO CONTENTS Meanwhile, Swiss-based AI assisted platform Largo.ai says that close to 100 producers have signed up to use its service just within the last 8 months. Founder Sami Arpa pitches Largo.ai as “an assistance tool” that can quickly provide insights and data that can help ﬁlmmakers in their decision making. A computer scientist and ﬁlm director himself, Arpa is careful to play down any belief that AI platforms can create ﬁlms on their own, or that they will replace human creatives. Largo.ai, he says, interprets data about a ﬁlm project, then “shows patterns and analysis that can help creative people both to reduce the risks and also increase the impact of their content.” Largo.ai says it has analysed over 400,000 ﬁlms and series, 1,800,000 talents and 59,000 scripts to train its AI programmes, which can be used to inform decision making at diﬀerent stages: pre-production, post-production and distribution.
wiThin The creaTiVe indusTries, firms such as neTflix and amazon haVe ThriVed by using Technology To guide decision making.
Its software analyses content – whether a script, a rough or ﬁne cut – and predicts the audience reaction and potential revenue of a project. The platform claims to oﬀer insights on how to improve audience appeal, increase ROI and minimise risk. The company says that elements such as editing, action, character suitability, genre and music are reviewed, and a host of smaller details are also considered, such as the way characters move, how funny they are, their hair colour, or even the objects they use. Arpa cites a recent Italian ﬁlm that has trialled the software, Domani e Un Altro Giomo (Tomorrow is Another Day), directed by Simone Spada, for which it predicted an Italian box oﬃce of EUR1.6 million against an actual taking of EUR1.7 million Euros based purely on analysis of the script. Arpa says interest in Largo.ai, selected as one of the Horizon 2020 Top Start-ups at the Berlin Film Festival, has grown during the pandemic. He argues that the pandemic has naturally made ﬁnanciers more cautious about investing, so producers are more interested in exploring what a platform like Largo.ai can do help mitigate perceived risks on their projects. Secondly, digital tools have been more widely adopted during the pandemic, opening up more interest in platforms like Largo.ai. There’s also a recognition by many independent producers that they need to invest in technology that can help them understand the true value of their IP, and help them to negotiate on more of a level playing ﬁeld with streamers, investors and distributors on projects.
BUDgETINg SCRIpT WRITINg 90
Arpa calls artiﬁcial intelligence a ‘democratisation tool’ for the ﬁlm industry. He says it can provide writers, directors and producers with a similar level of knowledge as the big studios and streamers, meaning they are not simply reliant on gut feelings. Cinelytic’s oﬀer, meanwhile, is diﬀerent to Largo.ai. Drawing on data about the performance of over 95,000 ﬁlms, Cinelytic’s platform uses AI to swiftly predict the likely revenues of a ﬁlm depending on a range of factors, from genre through to budget and talent. It will calculate how the ﬁlm might make in each territory around the world as well as in cinemas and all other ancillary streams. It claims an 85% box oﬃce prediction rate, and says that it supports studios and independent producers to make “faster and better informed greenlight, acquisition, and release decisions.” Speaking at the Cannes Next workshop last year, co-founder and CEO Tobias Queisser presented a demo of the platform – running through the likely revenues of a theoretical ﬁlm directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring Will Smith. He showed the ﬁnancial forecasts of such a ﬁlm in each international market, and in cinemas and from other platforms, based on past performance of ﬁlms starring Smith and of those directed by Fuqua. Such information, he said, can help studios and investors to decide whether to back a ﬁlm, and also how much to allocate to its production budget and marketing spend to ensure they achieve a proﬁt. Such ﬁnancial forecasting took days or even weeks to model in the past, but the AI technology used by Cinelytic now quickly carries out much of this time-consuming task. Notably, Cinelytic’s co-founder and CTO is Dev Sen, who previously worked for NASA for 15 years, where he led teams of programmers and rocket scientists developing risk-assessment software for the analysis of launch vehicles and spacecraft. Queisser says that in the past gut instinct drove decision making in the ﬁlm industry. “We always say that 50 to 60% of any ﬁlm project should be based on experience and creative instinct. But having a system like this can help guide you with your research to help you understand earlier how a ﬁlm might play out.” In most cases, AI is unlikely to lead to a bonﬁre of jobs, drive huge cost savings or replace human instinct. But it may help with more intelligent decision making, and free up people from some of the more tedious and monotonous tasks in production.
Making of Domina
SKY RECREATES ANCIENT ROME At CineCittA studios
BACK TO CONTENTS ilmed at Rome’s Cinecitta studios, big budget Sky drama Domina saw production interrupted midway through ﬁlming as Covid-19 took hold in Italy in March 2020.
Cameras ﬁnally started rolling again in July 2020 as Domina became Sky’s largest scale production to get back underway during the pandemic. The Ancient Rome-set series, which focuses on the story of Emperor Augustus’ wife Livia Drusilla, was created by writer and showrunner
Simon Burke (Zen, Fortitude), with Australian ﬁlmmaker Claire McCarthy (Ophelia, The Luminaries) as lead director. She collaborated with DoP Denson Baker ACS, production designer Luca Tranchino and costume designer Gabriella Pescucci. Tranchino built all the sets at Cinecitta. “We wanted to create a multi-layered society, full of contrasts where people had to constantly ﬁght for survival,” says Tranchino. “We built the chaotic alleys of the Suburra. We created the illusion of scale for massive public spaces
reﬂecting the severity of the Senate avoiding the neoclassical idea of a white city of marble opting for vibrant colour.” Domina is a Sky Original co-production between Fifty Fathoms (Fortitude) and Sky Studios, with Cattleya as executive production services. The eight parter stars Kasia Smutniak, Liam Cunningham, Colette Tchantcho, Christine Bottomley, Claire Forlani, Matthew McNulty and Ben Batt.
Images: Domina © Antonello&Montesi & Sky.
Production Goes Virtual
Image: Disney Gallery: e Mandalorian © Disney & Lucasfilm Ltd.
Virtual production is one of the hottest topics in the industry right now. Regarded as the natural successor to green screen, many believe it will become a staple of the production industry for years to come.
Famously, over 50% of The Mandalorian’s ﬁrst season was ﬁlmed using this ground-breaking technology, eliminating the need for location shoots entirely.
Advances in technology have aligned with Covid travel restrictions and safety requirements to create huge interest in virtual production techniques.
For example, in an early scene of The Mandalorian a door opens to reveal a barren, icy landscape. The camera swoops outside to follow the titular character, a solitary gunslinger in silver armour, making his way across the vast expanse of ice.
lthough it has not had a widespread impact on production yet, virtual production is slowly but surely coming down the line, particularly for big budget ﬁlms, dramas and commercials.
A broad term, virtual production actually spans visualisation, performance capture, green screen, and in-camera virtual production. Of these, in-camera virtual production workﬂows have caught the imagination recently by allowing ﬁlmmakers to capture complex shots completely in-camera using real-time game engine technology and LED screens that provide photo-real digital locations within a studio setting.
The shot, however, was one of many created on a ﬁlm set in Manhattan Beach, California, using its StageCraft technology. The actor was performing against a giant 20ft high semi-circular LED video wall and ceiling with a 75ft-diameter performance space. The icy landscape was photorealistic created by ILM, using Unreal Engine gaming technology, and
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Image: Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey © Gareth Gatrell & Netflix.
over 50% of the MAndAloriAn’s
first seAson wAs filMed using this ground-breAking teChnology, eliMinAting the need for loCAtion shoots entirely.
played back on the vast LED wall, allowing the actor to appear in real time within the environment. As the camera moves, the view on the screen changes accordingly. The result is that the video wall, from the camera’s perspective, behaves exactly like a window looking onto a 3D environment. This approach also helpfully lights the actors realistically, with the scenery reﬂecting oﬀ the Mandalorian’s silver armour, for example. The beneﬁts of live imagery projected behind the actors are massive. In some respects, it’s the culmination of all of the previous development work done in the sphere of virtual production. Unreal Engine’s Virtual Production Field Guide says: “Compared to green screen cinematography, there is no uncertainty for cast or crew. Everyone can see exactly what is in the shot as it unfolds in real time. The camera operator can frame as they would any real object and the actors can react not to a marker representing an imaginary image, but the actual ﬁnal imagery live in front of them.” Crucially, in-camera virtual production allows ﬁlmmakers to work on visual details in the moment, not deferring key decisions to post after crews have long since disbanded. From framing and blocking to lighting, environments and FX, creative decisions can be made in real-time. Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) has now built a second StageCraft set at the Manhattan Beach studio. ILM has also built a third permanent StageCraft volume set at Pinewood Studios in London, which opened in March. A fourth is being created at Fox Studios Australia. The latter is being used for Marvel’s upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder directed by Taika Waititi. Elsewhere, Netﬂix has quietly established a virtual production initiative dubbed NLAB. Last July, VFX powerhouse Weta Digital launched a new virtual production oﬀering in New Zealand. Pinewood Atlanta Studios has also opened a new LED-stage virtual production service in partnership with MBSi, Fuse, and SGPS/ShowRig. Top VFX ﬁrm Pixomondo has just opened one of the world’s largest virtual production studios in Toronto. As the technology slowly takes oﬀ, more productions are making use of virtual production. Netﬂix recently incorporated the process in the production of recent releases The Midnight Sky and Jingle Jangle.
London’s Dimension Studio has tested virtual production at its studios. Last August, it worked with DNEG and Unreal Engine among others to explore using LED stages and real-time engines for virtual production, ﬁlming Gunslinger, a cowboy gunﬁght set in the deserts of the United States, entirely in the studio against an LED screen backdrop. Garden Studios, which has just opened in Park Royal, London, has a virtual production stage at the centre of its facility with a 12 x 4.5m curved LED wall.
“Compared to green sCreen Cinematography, there is no unCertainty for Cast or Crew. everyone Can see exaCtly what is in the shot as it unfolds in real time.”
Garden Studios manager Marnie Keeling says virtual production allows ﬁlmmakers to “customise environments, locations and backgrounds in real time.”
This, she adds, makes it a more collaborative and eﬃcient process, “reducing the requirement for post-production and allowing the team to communicate with one another in real-time.” The beneﬁts go beyond creativity, though. Keeling says Garden Studios provides a safe and socially distanced environment to shoot in. It makes for more sustainable ﬁlm production too, she argues: “It enables you to explore a multitude of aesthetic locations, changing your environment in one space, greatly reducing the need for travel.” Being able to create environments in a virtual world and make real-time changes can reduce the requirement on building huge physical sets too, which may only be used for a few days shooting, and shorten the time needed on set for turnarounds when changing the setup for a stage. Virtual production is also cost eﬀective, explains Keeling, as everything can occur in a controlled environment, saving time and mitigating any risks for changes in weather or lighting that would otherwise impact a shoot, prolonging the shoot time. Virtual production is not without its challenges though. The innovative technology is very new and specialist and there are multiple combinations of equipment, servers and techniques to explore, says
Image: Midnight Sky © Philippe Antonello & Netflix.
BACK TO CONTENTS Keeling. “We have spent a lot of time testing multiple variations to ensure that our setup reﬂects the very best in virtual productions live capabilities.” Highlighting concerns about a shortage of skilled virtual production talent and the importance being placed on the technology, the UK government recently announced it was backing training organisation ScreenSkills to develop national standards for training in high-tech roles in virtual production. This is part of a bid to make the country a global centre of excellence in virtual production. Images: Garden Studios & Dock10 Studios.
Being aBle to create environments in a virtual world and make real-time changes can reduce the requirement on Building huge physical sets.
It also comes amid a reported shortage of virtual production supervisors, and of specialist equipment needed. Although the technology has become better understood and more reliable, it is still in its early stages. For now, virtual production is also seen as the preserve of big budget, well resourced projects. With The Mandalorian costing USD15 million an episode, the technology for now seems out of reach for smaller productions. It’s also something that suits certain kinds of projects such as sci-ﬁ, fantasy and comic book, which create alternative worlds through visual eﬀects, rather than grounded and realistic dramas that rely on the interaction between a location and the actors to create their speciﬁc worlds. On the plus side, virtual production can reduce the occurrence of expensive reshoots. Based on Deloitte research, reshoots are common with high budget ﬁlms and can account for 5-20% (and sometimes more) of the ﬁnal production cost. Although not every story or director is a good ﬁt for LED live-action production, virtualising sets saves on travel, transportation, and location costs and reduces risks. VFX costs on a high-budget sciﬁ/fantasy ﬁlm can be as high as 20% of the total ﬁlm budget; shooting against an LED wall signiﬁcantly reduces postproduction VFX costs like compositing and rotoscoping and helps ﬁlmmakers get ready for test screening more quickly. Of course, not every shoot might want to fully embrace in-camera virtual production. Hybrid virtual production – the use of green screen with CG elements – has been used for a while for live broadcast, especially in sports, but has also proliferated in commercials, ﬁlm and drama, and is growing in entertainment production. dock10, the Salford studio that’s home to shows including The Voice UK and Who Wants to be Millionaire?, has invested heavily in the latest next generation virtual studio technologies. BBC’s Match
of the Day and BBC Bitesize are among the projects that are ﬁlmed in its virtual studio. In recent months, the studio has also been working to deploy the system on more genres beyond sport and education, such as entertainment and commercials. The virtual studio system works by using a green screen studio space, replaced in real time with a photo realistic virtual set. Productions can use the green screen or LED walls to recreate a whole set, or replace speciﬁc areas combining physical and virtual elements. dock10’s head of studios Andy Waters says a virtual studio can deliver a number of beneﬁts. For some productions, it might provide additional creative possibilities; for others it’s about doing things more eﬃciently and eﬀectively. A game show on a tight budget, for example might be able to use the green screen background to provide “that Saturday night appeal at a fraction of the cost.” Or a sports show could introduce a new look very quickly. Waters says virtual production technology was around when he used to work at BBC Television Centre in the mid-90s, but it was incredibly expensive and was often more trouble than it was worth. “You would need teams and teams of graphic designers to try and create something which was a bit clunky and a bit ugly. It would cost far more than just building a real set.” Since then, game engines like Unreal Engine have revolutionised virtual production – and opened up a world of possibilities. dock10 is at the forefront of introducing it to the entertainment industry, and has started to showcase its possibilities to entertainment producers and to talk them through the technology. Not all studios are pushing so hard into this space, though. Over at BBC Studioworks, operations manager Steve Jenkinson says he hasn’t seen much uptake from customers for the tech. “Traditionally, it works best in ﬁxed set ups, for sports presentation or news, where you are doing the same thing day in day out. That’s not really our world, which is very bespoke entertainment productions.” He notes that shows produced at BBC Studioworks, such as Strictly Come Dancing, have experimented with augmented reality in recent months. One of the reasons they have been able to is that Covid-19 restrictions have prevented audiences attending. “If you’ve got a big studio audience, they need to see what is going on.” For many producers, virtual production is still largely unfamiliar ground. But as they become more educated in the technology, it’s likely to gain traction – and to open up a world of creative possibilities.
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POLAND creative mix
Poland has become more competitive since the introduction of a 30% ﬁlming incentive in 2019. its established service sector and reliable English speaking crews were able to meet the demands of the international industry as it opened up after covid-19.
Image: e Woods © Netflix..
oland’s steady growth as a ﬁlming destination has seen an uptick since the 30% incentive was introduced in early 2019. After just a year of its implementation ten international and 16 national projects had been supported. Some of the largest included German mini-series The Turncoat, HBO Europe’s The Thaw and sci-ﬁ thriller Warning starring Patrick Schwarzenegger, Tomasz Kot and Rupert Everett.
Poland’s mix of well-preserved period and Soviet era architecture, and more modern districts, attracts a range of projects. Warsaw’s historic centre was completely reconstructed after destruction in the Second World War and is a good option for period shoots. Large Soviet buildings are popular ﬁlming locations; the Palace of Culture and Science, for example, has hosted ﬁlming for Hindi action feature Kick which saw Bollywood star Salman Khan perform a stunt sequence on its exterior.
“poland’s mix of well-preserved period and soviet era arChiteCture, and more modern distriCts, attraCts a range of projeCts.”
The country has also a range of natural landscapes including coastline with stretches of craggy cliﬀs, desert dunes and sandy beaches. The north of the country is dominated with lakes while the south has mountain ranges including the Polish Tatra mountains, and the Carpathian and Karkonosze mountains which oﬀer caves and waterfalls. There are also large swathes of forested land, which featured in Polish original Netﬂix drama The Woods, an adaptation of Harlan Coben’s crime novel.
Errant Rocks, Stołowe Mountains Set on the border between Poland and the Czech Republic, Errant Rocks, or Bledne Skały as they are known locally, is a region in southwest Poland that is full of chiselled natural rock formations and canyons that reach up to ten metres tall. During the seventeenth century the labyrinth like passageways were used by smugglers moving goods between the Czech and Polish kingdoms. The location featured in 2008’s The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. The area is close to the Czech border and in close proximity to the ﬁlm studios at Prague’s Barrandov Studios. The fantasy feature also ﬁlmed at the nearby Kamienczyk Waterfall.
While Warsaw is the centre of production, there are large studios across the country including ATM Studios that has ten soundstages spread over two 99
BACK TO CONTENTS ESSEntial FactS incEntiVE
30% Feature ﬁlms, documentaries & TV series, including ﬁction, animation & documentaries, are all eligible. 10% of the annual budget is intended for animated productions. sites in Warsaw and Wrocław, and Alvernia Studios near Krakow which has soundstages and a processing lab. Alongside the national Film Commission Poland, there is also a network of regional ﬁlm oﬃces covering cities such as Lodz, Wrocław and Krakow as well as regions such as Lower Silesia, Mazovia and Małopolska, and 11of the regions have ﬁlm funds. in 2020, the polish film institute supported nine minority CoproduCtions inCluding jonathan glazer’s ZONE OF INTEREST, a holoCaust drama based on a martin amis novel with a24, film4 and aCCess entertainment.
A Polish palace may be the site of a stash of gold bars, jewellery and coins worth more than GBP1 billion hidden by Nazis at the end of the Second World War. Researchers from the Polish-German Silesian Bridge Foundation tracked down the stash believed to be at the bottom of a destroyed well in the grounds of Hochberg Palace near Wroclaw. An SS diary acquired by the foundation is said to include details of deposits from wealthy locals who handed them over to SS soldiers for safekeeping as well as deposits from the central bank of the German Reich. Roman Furmaniak, head of the foundation which traced the location, said he is going public with the ﬁndings in an attempt to pressure the government into investigating because planning and ﬁnancing a dig without government permission is diﬃcult.
Although Covid-19 impacted the return of large-scale shoots, smaller scale remote productions for the advertising sector were able to begin ﬁlming again more quickly. With the added need for trust on remote shoots, experienced Polish service companies were called upon to deliver onscreen value. The high level of craftmanship of local crews as well as the creative talent that is available on the ground saw the industry pivot to remote ﬁlming, using local directors and DoP’s for various projects. For larger projects, the Polish Film Institute put in place measures to attract ﬁlming in 2020 and 2021 after the pandemic. Its new incentive scheme requires service productions to meet a lower local spend than co-productions. For example, a TV co-production must spend PLN1 million per episode, while a service production must spend 1 PLN million over a whole season. One measure put in place because of Covid-19 reduced the minimum spend threshold for co-produced feature ﬁlms from PLN4 million to PLN3 million throughout 2021. The move has allowed more productions to qualify for the rebate and led to more interest in regional collaboration. In 2020, the Polish Film Institute supported nine minority coproductions including Jonathan Glazer’s Zone of Interest, a Holocaust drama based on a Martin Amis novel with A24, Film4 and Access Entertainment, and American/Polish coproduction The Brutalist by Brady Corbet starring Vanessa Kirby and Sebastian Stan which started ﬁlming in Poland in January 2021. The Incentive also reserves 10% of the annual budget for animated productions. The country has a number of well-established animation studios some of whom also oﬀer postproduction services. Breakthru Production is an example of an award-winning animation company that has seen success with Loving Vincent, which grossed over USD42 million at the box oﬃce.
Minimum expenditure applies & varies depending on format, & if the project is a service of co-produced in Poland. A cultural qualiﬁcation test must be passed. Maximum support for one project is PLN15 million, maximum support per applicant is PLN20 million per year. Polish eligible costs may not exceed 80% of the total audiovisual production costs. co-PRoDUction tREatiES
EU Convention on Cinematic Co-production, New Zealand, India, France, Israel & Canada. ata caRnEt
ATM Studios in Warsaw has the seven studio spaces, the largest measuring 1500sqm. Also in Warsaw, WFDiF has two sound stages measuring 600sqm each. Near Krakow, Alvernia is the largest and most modern ﬁlm studios in Poland with post-production services. tiME ZonE
GMT +2 REcEnt PRoDUctionS
The Turncoat, The Delegation, VFX/CGI work: Rambo: Last Blood, Atomic Blonde & The Peasants. intERnational talEnt
Art Directors Ewa Braun & Allan Starski, Costume Designer Anna B Sheppard, Cinematographer Lukasz Zal, Director Pawel Pawlikowski, Director & Producer Dorota Kobiela & Director & Screenwriter Agnieszka Holland.
Once seen as rather elitist and niche, the feature documentary market is expanding as audience demand for real life stories continues to grow.
hings seem to be looking up for feature documentary makers. After years of talk about the diﬃculty of funding premium docs, there’s a sense of buoyancy in the industry. Documentaries have become a huge genre in their own right, says Lia Devlin, head of distribution at Altitude Films, whose recent slate includes Tina, Zappa, David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet, and festival hit Gunda. “Audiences have reappraised the documentary genre. They are treated very much now as feature ﬁlms and a solid entertainment format.” Producers say there is heightened demand for docs from audiences given the right subject matter such as access to big name talent, crime stories, or tales with twists and turns. “Documentaries have become part of watercooler conversations,” says Leo
Pearlman, managing partner of Fulwell 73, whose credits include Amazon original All or Nothing: Juventus and I am Bolt. “They never were. Documentaries were something that strange cinephiles spoke about in corners.” The streamers have played a big role in driving demand, and opening up new ﬁnancing opportunities for producers beyond traditional theatrical and TV investors. Netﬂix, for example, won the Oscar documentary feature category this year with hit ﬁlm My Octopus Teacher (pictured above), following on from last year’s win with American Factor and 2018’s victory for Icarus. Apple TV+, meanwhile, set the industry alight in 2019 by paying a reported USD25 million for Billie Eilish – The World’s A Little Blurry, highlighting that there is money to be made in the genre.
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Discovery Plus and Nat Geo have also pushed hard into the premium doc space, with the latter recently acquiring worldwide rights to Sundance doc Playing with Sharks. It’s not just the streamers though. Last year, pay-TV ﬁrm Sky launched its own documentary service, Sky Documentaries. “Premium documentaries and nature series are increasingly important to our customers,” said Sky UK managing director of content Zai Bennett ahead of the launch. Moreover, long-time documentary backers such as the BBC, Channel 4, HBO, Showtime and RTL have come to appreciate the longevity of premium docs on their streaming platforms, where viewers can catch up and discover docs weeks or even years after they launch on their channels. “They can sit around for a long time, and platforms also want to be full of amazing, diverse stories,” says Karen Edwards, executive producer at Zinc Media, who is currently making a feature length documentary for ITV to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11, which also has US and French broadcaster funding. The BBC iPlayer is proving a fertile home for feature docs, reckons Mandy Chang, commissioning editor for the BBC’s Storyville. “The numbers for Storyville online are starting to eclipse the numbers on TV. They sit on iPlayer for longer, and gather an audience by word of mouth, as well as on Twitter and other forms of social media.”
Image: My Octopus Teacher © Netflix.
apple tv set the industry alight in 2019 By paying a reported usd25 million for billie eilish – the world’s A little blurry.
Chang also links the growth of feature docs to the demise of long-form, investigative newspaper journalism. “It’s a way of going deeply into the story in a way that a newspaper article may not be able to,” she says. By way of example, she cites Collective’s years long and jaw-dropping investigation into corruption into the Romanian health service. For documentary makers, there is a realisation that it is possible to make money out of feature docs, partly because of the growing number of platforms. “People are coming into the market because there are more sources of funding,” says Chang. “It is just about understanding how to tap into it.” As an indication of the state of the feature doc market, specialist documentary distributor, sales agent and producer Dogwoof has just closed its best year yet, says Oli Harbottle, head of distribution and acquisitions.
This is despite the closure of cinemas due to the pandemic. With audiences stuck at home, Dogwoof – whose UK distribution slate includes I am Greta, Stray, The Mole Agent, and Collective – has been buoyed by a 50% increase in transactional video on demand (TVOD) revenues over the past year. Some of these revenues have come via its recently launched Dogwoof On Demand platform, but also via other digital platforms such as Amazon Prime Video and iTunes. Dogwoof has also launched ﬁve feature docs as ‘virtual cinema’ releases; for the launch of Stray on March 26, over 40 “for doCumentary cinemas participated. makers, there is Harbottle says virtual a realisation cinema numbers are still that it is possible small but growing. “I think it could play a role to make money in the future distribution out of feature landscape,” he says. doCs, partly beCause of the
As well as TVOD, growing number broadcasters and of streaming streamers have also been platforms.” buying over the past year, says Harbottle, who adds that Dogwoof ’s sales arm has also had an “incredible year.” Among recent deals, Dogwoof sold Playing with Sharks to Nat Geo, having boarded the project a couple of years ago as a ﬁnancier, exec producer and sales agent. The increasingly competitive nature of the feature doc market means that companies like Dogwoof are increasingly getting involved at an earlier stage, as sales agents or ﬁnanciers. Dogwoof, for example, launched its production arm a few years ago, just as streamer demand for feature docs was building. “We realised we had to be in at the source of the origination of the IP,” says Harbottle. “There are numerous other companies operating in this space, who perhaps weren’t four or ﬁve years ago, because they’ve seen the documentary genre blossoming.” It’s a point echoed by Lia Devlin at Altitude, which also develops its own slate of documentaries. “Nowadays, every sales company has documentaries as part of their oﬀering – and that wasn’t the case a few years ago.”
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Behind Greece’s Production Boom
EARLY IN THE PANDEMIC GREECE ATTRACTED PRODUCERS STUCK IN LIMBO now the Country is in huge deMAnd
Greece is gearing up for its busiest summer season on record for the screen industries. Over 18 large projects are lined up to take advantage of the country’s locations and attractive rebate system. The country’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis and the early reception of returning productions have paved the way for the current wave.
he slate of productions heading to Greece in the summer of 2021 is impressive both in number and scale. Disney+ feature ﬁlm Greek Freak, a biopic of NBA star Giannis Antetokounmpo, is one of the largest Hollywood productions ever to shoot in the country and is joined by other high proﬁle projects including the Knives Out sequel that starts production in June, David Cronenberg’s sci-ﬁ feature Crimes of the Future, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan and My Big Greek Wedding 3. They are among over 18 large projects lined up to shoot in 2021.
Greece has all the makings of a popular ﬁlming destination: it has reliably sunny weather, long shooting days, as well as a large range of picturesque locations from island and beaches to cities, mountains and valleys, ancient sites and period settings. Since 2017 the country has become more competitive with the launch of an incentive programme. Increasing levels of production have led to more skilled crews, and notable titles in recent years include BBC’s The Little Drummer Girl, Michael Winterbottom’s Greed and ITV series The Durrells.
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This set the stage for Greece’s current wave of popularity, but the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and a revamped incentive coupled with the hard work of the Greek industry to meet the needs of productions during a tough year, have helped to secure the big productions. the lost dAughter, directed By maggie gyllenhaal, was scheduled to shoot in the us, But greece managed to lure the film to the island of spetses.
The strict lockdown imposed by the Greek authorities early on was successful, and well into the autumn cumulative deaths remained in the hundreds as opposed to the thousands seen in other countries. “This attracted a lot of attention,” says Venia Vergou, director of the Hellenic Film Commission (HFC). “People were re-planning their shoots, and they were monitoring results according to Covid,” adds Vasiliki Diagouma, head of communication & international relations at Greece’s National Centre of Audiovisual Media and Communication (EKOME). Applications for the rebate programme run by EKOME remained open during this time which provided conﬁdence to foreign producers. “When they gave the green light for resuming ﬁlming, in late May, we had an extra wave of requests from incoming productions, because they saw that the programme was running and we had all the information about Covid protocols ready that we could send them,” says Diagouma. Simultaneously, the country overhauled the rebate system. “We were looking for something that would give us a competitive, sexy edge,” says Diagouma. The headline 35% cash rebate was increased to 40% but changes made the payment process more ﬂexible and less bureaucratic too. The most enticing change has been a new provision that allowed for above the line expenses to be eligible for up to 25% of the total amount of eligible costs. “That is a deal-breaker for
high-end productions” explains Diagouma. “I was on calls with big production studios from LA during the ﬁrst lockdown in March as people were designing their next project. When they saw that we changed the law and we made it more friendly for big budget projects, they immediately came to Greece. This is one of the reasons why we are having more ﬁlming which started in late April, early May.” The work of the Hellenic Film Commission (HFC) and EKOME laid the foundation for production to return, but “90%, if not more, of the productions coming to Greece were attracted “training is by the production something that companies that are we want to doing the services or for invest a lot in, producing,” says Vergou. partiCularly “Finding the right for loCation locations in terms of the needs of the script, as managers, beCause well as being protected their role is very by Covid was really CruCial when it crucial, and these Comes to production companies attraCting oﬀered that to these produCtion.” productions.” The Lost Daughter, starring Olivia Coleman and directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal, was scheduled to shoot in the US, but Greece’s Faliro House Production Services managed to lure them by ﬁnding what they wanted, on the island of Spetses. Commercial projects have also returned, helping to provide production experience for working under Covid-19 conditions. One notable success was Perrier’s Heat, from No Time to Die director Cary
BACK TO CONTENTS by the Hellenic Film Oﬃce in April 2021 both helps support international productions, as well as growing the skills of the local industry. It oﬀers economic support for location scouting to international productions that are interested in exploring locations in Greece for their projects, and participants are encouraged to train and hire students. “Training is something that we want to invest a lot in, particularly for location managers, because I think their role is very crucial when it comes to attracting production,” explains Vergou. By the end of 2021 the oﬃce will have organised training sessions, tutorials and workshops with international experts sharing their knowledge.
the most enticing change has Been a new provision that allowed for aBove the line expenses to Be eligiBle for up to 25% of the total amount of eligiBle costs.
Fukunaga, with Gang Films for Ogilvy in central Athens, serviced by Green Olive Films. At a time when many commercial shoots were choosing to ﬁlm remotely, the production was one of the largest international advertising shoots to take place in 2020. Two months of prep led up to a four day shoot that required an international crew of forty. Multiple units, three cameras and numerous stunts and the closure of roads, squares and major streets were involved for the campaign which sees a woman on horseback entering an empty square in blistering heat. The ﬁzz of a Perrier bottle attracts a thirst drenched crowd who pursues the woman as she escapes across rooftops. In addition to the key production team, a local crew of 220 people and 150 talent and extras saw many people on set. All of this was possible due to the help of the Athens Film Oﬃce, Municipality of Athens and Mayor’s oﬃce and the fact that there were no quarantine restrictions or limits on crew numbers on set. “That was a huge and demanding production. They did amazingly well with a very strong supportive collaboration of Athens Film Oﬃce,” says Vergou. The HFC has acted as a liaison between the ﬁlm industry and policy makers to make sure the needs of the industry were met throughout the pandemic. The anticipated second wave of Covid-19 in the autumn and winter months was another critical moment for the return of international projects to Greece. Vergou explains “crews were in the middle of shooting Ruben Östlund’s Triangle of Sadness, which was due to wrap in about ﬁve days so it was really crucial to convince policymakers with concrete arguments that it was important to leave the cameras rolling.” Another example was the implementation of quarantine for foreign travellers. “One huge issue for producers was how to scout or prep for shoots. We liased with the government to overcome this”. Now, crews who have been tested and have entered quarantine are able to start doing production work from day number two under very strict protocols. “This is a crucial way of making it possible to shoot within the condition of a pandemic,” says Vergou. In order to maintain the upwards trajectory of ﬁlming in Greece, the country is evolving its oﬀer. The location scouting support programme launched
The HFC also has a strong focus on expanding the talent pool and skills of the industry in order to continue to attract higher levels of ﬁlming. Vergou explains: “We're trying to think of ways of expanding our talent pool by involving ﬁlm students. During 2021 we will invest a lot in training “the KNIVES OUT organising workshops sequel, TOM and training sessions for CLANCY’S JACK RYAN both our crews in order and MY BIG GREEK for them to develop their WEDDING 3 are level of expertise, and among over 18 also for younger people large projeCts who are possibly going lined up to shoot to be absorbed by the industry.” in 2021.” Greece’s existing crews can handle current level of production, but to grow further an evolving production oﬀer is required. The establishment of a network of regional ﬁlm oﬃces, known as the National Network of Film Oﬃces, is one way the country is doing this. Thirteen oﬃces have been established in each of Greece’s local districts, as well as the two largest municipalities Athens and Thessaloniki. “We wanted to put emphasis on decentralising ﬁlming in Greece and to improve the quality of services provided to projects that are shooting all across Greece,” says Diagouma of the EKOME-led project. The Hellenic Film Oﬃce remains the ﬁrst port of call for international productions with links across the country, and the oﬃce is working with the regional outposts to best facilitate ﬁlming up to industry standards. “Training and working closely with the ﬁlm oﬃces is also a priority for us right now,” says Vergou. “The idea is to actually expand and we want to work very closely with the Film Oﬃces on training and encourage them to become members to the European Film Commissions Network (EUFCN) and the Association of Film Commissioners International (AFCI).”
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PORTUGAL making waves
Portugal is making waves as a ﬁlming destination. Having long been a favourite for the commercial sector, an increasing number of ﬁlm and tV projects are looking to the country where sunny weather and varied locations are abundant.
ortugal’s reliably sunny weather and picturesque scenery have made the destination a top choice for high-end commercials for many years. The long sunshine hours, low rain levels and an average three hundred days of sunshine a year all help bring in production. Since a national ﬁlm commission was launched to accompany the ﬁlming incentive, interest in Portugal as a ﬁlming location for feature ﬁlm and international TV has also grown.
Lisbon remains the centre of production in Portugal. As a coastal city it provides both historic and metropolitan settings as well as city beaches and more rural coastal options. Most postproduction studios are close to Lisbon, and there are studios, rental houses and a good base of multilingual professionals. “produCtion is heating up in the algarve, where a new studio projeCt in the town of loulé has been announCed.”
Travel time from north to south is just ﬁve hours, meaning that Portugal’s plethora of location options on its mainland are all within easy reach. Ancient pine and eucalyptus forests in Aveiro and Coimbra, to rolling plains and rivers in Alentejo, to historic cities like Porto to the north, as well as modern and futuristic settings in the capital, can all be found. 12 local commissions help facilitate ﬁlming across the country’s cities and regions, Production is also heating up in the Algarve, where a new studio project in the town of Loulé has been announced. UK investors MovieBox and
The coastal resort in Estremadura is one of Portugal’s most picturesque beach settings. Cobbled narrow streets wind down to the open beach. High cliﬀs also run along the beach and provide a vantage point out to the Atlantic Ocean. The destination is popular for the summer months as well as New Year’s Eve and the winter carnival usually held in February. Nazare is also a top destination for competitive surfers. Its record breaking waves have attracted top surfers, as well as productions. 2015 Mercedes shoot featuring American pro surfer Garret McNamara shot in Nazare where he broke the world record for the largest wave ever surfed. Estremadura is in the centre of Portugal and oﬀers rolling hills and valleys inland, as well as the coastal settings.
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ESSEntial FactS incEntiVE
25-30% Film & TV qualiﬁes. Minimum expenditure is EUR500,000 for ﬁction & animation & EUR250,000 for documentaries & post-production. The maximum rebate is EUR4 million per project. co-PRoDUction tREatiES
13 including EU Convention on Cinematic Co-production including Belgium, Italy, Israel, France, Morocco, Germany & Spain. ata caRnEt
The main studios are in Lisbon. tiME ZonE
GMT +1 intERnational talEnt
Directors Terese Villaverde, Michael Gomes & Antonio Ferreira. REcEnt PRoDUctionS
There’s Always Hope, Color out of Space, Fatima & The One.
Lansdowne Capital partners have invested EUR60 million in the project that will turn an old Unicer beer factory into a ﬁlm and TV complex. The Algarve has seen interest from international productions, with the streets of Loulé and the nearby Santo António Convent featuring in the ﬁlm Miss Willoughby and There’s Always Hope. It is only three years ago that ago that Portugal overhauled its tax credit incentive programme and replaced it with a more competitive 25 to 30% cash rebate. With a larger budget, more beneﬁts to incoming productions such as faster reimbursements, and no minimum shoot days for eligibility, Portugal has become a more competitive player as a ﬁlming destination.
the faCt that the rebate provides upfront payments in instalments is popular beCause it Can be used to Cashflow produCtion in portugal. appliCations reCeive a deCision within twenty working days.
At the same time, the Portugal Film Commission was launched to promote the new incentive and act as a liaison for incoming productions. “We were created in June 2019 as a consequence of the Portugal Cash Rebate that launched in September 2018. The rebate has already approved 79 projects, including international co-productions and national projects,” says Manuel Claro, ﬁlm commissioner at Portugal Film Commission. “The system is very transparent, and the cultural test is very easy to pass. We refer to it as the 30% rebate because all of the projects so far have been approved for the higher 30%. Even a couple of Bollywood projects have passed without any problems. The fact that it provides upfront payments in instalments is also popular because it can be used for cashﬂow of the production in Portugal. Finally, applications receive a decision within twenty working days”. “We don't have a huge track record because more than a half of the supported productions are not yet released, and the pandemic also saw many projects postponed,” notes Claro. However, some of the notable projects to be supported thus far include Ira Sach’s Frankie, sci-ﬁ fantasy Color out of Space starring Nicolas Cage, Liberté from Albert Serra and Fatima, based on religious events in period Portugal.
2020 saw Portugal’s ﬁrst Netﬂix original directed by Porto ﬁlmmaker Tiago Guedes. The historical spy thriller Gloria tells the story of the re-broadcasting oﬃce of Radio Free Europe during the Cold War. The production shot around the capital city as well as the small Ribatejo region in central Portugal. Developed by Portuguese producer SPi, executive director José Amaral notes “As producers, this moment also represents the beginning of a new cycle for the Portuguese audiovisual market, since it places our country on the roadmap of the great international productions that Netﬂix has been advocating.”
Brand funded programming: poised for take-oﬀ?
Channel 4 recently announced a number of brand funded shows, including the Hellmann’s backed Cook Clever, Waste Less with Prue & Rupy (pictured). These orders build on successful C4 series such as Extreme Everest with Ant Middleton, financed by Berocca.
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amid falling ad revenues and squeezed Budgets, Broadcasters are Becoming more open to commissioning content funded By Brands. MAkers asks why Brand funded programming is rising up the agenda for Broadcasters and Brands, and whether tv or ad producers are most likely to Benefit?
fter many false dawns, brand funded programming ﬁnally looks poised for take-oﬀ. For numerous reasons, this long maligned form of programming is gaining popularity with broadcasters, advertisers, production companies – and viewers. For example, Nike-funded The Day Sports Stood Still, a documentary about the lockdown and NBA basketball, recently debuted on HBO and HBO Max, produced by Brian Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment and Waﬄe Iron Entertainment, Nike’s production entity. Shaving brand Gillette helped to produce another HBO sports documentary The Cost of Winning, which launched in November. Elsewhere, Gay Chorus Deep South, a documentary produced by Airbnb, debuted on the festival circuit in 2019. In the UK, meanwhile, Channel 4 recently announced a number of brand funded shows, including Ronseal Presents… The Great Garden Revolution and the Hellmann’s backed Cook Clever, Waste Less with Prue & Rupy. These orders build on successful C4 series such as Extreme Everest with Ant Middleton, ﬁnanced by Berocca. A major 2021 report by global consultancy K7 Media titled Brand Funded Programming – Why It Matters Now is upbeat about the prospects of advertisers, producers and broadcasters working more closely together in future: “Amidst a sea of depressing news about stalled TV productions, squeezed programming budgets and diminished ad revenues in 2020, there is one area that is perhaps set to beneﬁt more than any other from the year’s upheavals - that of brand funded programming.” Brands have linked themselves to movies and TV for almost as long as the mediums have existed. The term soap opera is, of course, a reference to that fact that in the US and UK such programming was originally funded by soap companies like Procter & Gamble. Long before he became president, Ronald Reagan hosted the popular General Electric Theater TV show from 1954 through 1962. In many parts of Asia, meanwhile, upfront brand investment is integral to getting shows made and on air, reports K7 Media, and that has been the model for some time.
Outside Asia, brand funding is gaining traction because all the key parties necessary for it to happen are becoming more open to the concept. Broadcasters have long been sniﬀy about allowing advertisers to have a say in the editorial of shows. Even if it did make it to air in the past, most brand funded programming was often shunted to the margins of the schedule, playing late at night or in daytime. Image: Cook Clever, Waste Less with Prue and Rupy © Channel 4 & Freddie Claire.
But, after suﬀering steep ad declines during the pandemic, cash-strapped commercial broadcasters are rethinking how they fund content. “Broadcasters have had a pretty horrendous year, and are now more open to conversations with brands than they might previously have been,” reports Graham Hayday, content director and COO of branded content agency Nemorin Film & Video, which was recently acquired by superindie Argonon. Nemorin’s client base includes NBCUniversal, Nat Geo, Hugo Boss, McDonalds, Amazon and American Express. Advertisers are keen to get involved too, says Dominic de Terville, director of branded content at TV production group Zinc Media, which owns leading production companies Brook Lapping, Films of Record and Blakeway. He points out that viewers can easily skip ads thanks to PVRs, or avoid seeing them altogether on ad-free subscription video on demand services like “there is one area Netﬂix, Disney Plus and that is perhaps set Amazon Prime Video. to benefit more “That backdrop means than any other there’s an increased requirement for brands from the year’s to think diﬀerently about upheavals – that how they deliver their of brand funded messages to consumers,” programming.” says de Terville. At the same time, brands are keener on storytelling to drive aﬃnity with their products, says de Terville, and are beginning to focus more of their creative communications on their values and purpose. “Clearly, ad funded content lends itself really well to this,” he adds. Pete Fergusson, the founder and CEO of Nemorin, says there is another key change in branded funded programming’s favour: audiences are more receptive to content that’s paid for by brands. This is backed up by recent Channel 4 research into its branded entertainment shows, carried out by BVA Group. Six in ten viewers said they felt positive about branded entertainment as an approach to advertising - considering it the third most preferred method after traditional TV spot adverts and sponsorship. Notably, the research also found that branded entertainment particularly appeals to younger audiences. For those more sceptical of advertising, it’s seen as an eﬀective medium for engaging viewers with a ‘softer sell’ than traditional advertising. For advertisers, the C4 research found that branded entertainment can boost brand perceptions +29% vs a traditional spot advertisement. Perhaps this is unsurprising: using a whole programme, there is more space to land a message about a brand.
BACK TO CONTENTS Even though there’s a recognition that advertisers and broadcasters are more open to branded programming, getting a project oﬀ the ground remains a huge challenge though. It needs to be the right idea for both parties, which is no easy task. “It’s hard to get all the stars to align in the same place at the same time,” says Hayday. Notably, the brand should have a logical ﬁt with the programme. Branded entertainment works best when the integration and alignment of brand and content is so seamless that viewers will associate the two with minimal prompting or mention of the brand. Image: Extreme Everest © Channel 4.
Broadcasters have long Been sniffy aBout allowing advertisers to have a say in the editorial of shows.
Hayday says Extreme Everest with Ant Middleton (pictured left), which saw the SAS veteran attempt to scale the world’s highest peak, was a good example of a show that “just ﬁts the brand.” Backed by energy tablet Berocca, “it didn’t feel like the brand was having to crowbar itself into the show.” He also cites Supermarket Sweep, the retro game show relaunched last year on ITV2, backed by the supermarket Tesco. Tesco helped to build the set for the show, which used Tesco fonts and colour cues, and was stocked with Tesco own-brand products. “It just ticks so many boxes,” says Hayday. Getting to this stage is the hard part though. Fergusson says branded content producers need to be skilled at getting diﬀerent partners to pull in the same direction. “It is complicated. You need to have a lot of empathy, you need to be able to understand the politics of a room well, and to have ﬁrst-hand experience of negotiating those deals.” If you come up with an idea, for example, you might need to make it look as if it was dreamt up by the new marketing manager of a brand. “Just understanding that world is really valuable.” It’s a point echoed by de Terville: “Agreeing on an editorial proposition that aligns with both brand and broadcaster is not without its complexities.” This begs the question of who is best placed to deliver branded content shows: TV producers who are specialists at creating long-form content for broadcasters, but might lack experience of working with brands, or commercials producers who are skilled at juggling the needs of advertisers, but may lack long-form experience. Many think those best-placed to beneﬁt sit somewhere in the middle. “Brands seem to still be establishing their preference for partners, but I think the organisations that have experience in the commercial world who also play in longer form production will have the most success,” says Nick Martini, founder of Los Angelesbased Stept Studios, which produces both commercials and branded content for advertisers such as Facebook, Canada Goose and New Balance.
“The blend of experience working with brands and products combined with the capabilities to execute content on a larger scale is something everyone is searching for.” Indeed, many commercials producers say that branded funded programming has not been as fruitful a business as they might have hoped. One commercials producer tells makers that the budgets to make long form branded content for broadcasters are not normally enough compared to traditional commercials rates. “One of the reasons it has fallen apart in the past is that there isn’t a standard rate for work.” TV producers, meanwhile, have hired or bought in branded content specialists – many of whom have honed their skills in the digital world – to juggle the competing needs of brands and broadcasters. This explains Argonon’s acquisition of branded specialist Nemorin in December 2020. Hayday says Argonon – whose TV production companies make shows including The Masked Singer UK and House Hunters International – “clearly thinks there is something going on in the TV market that indicates branded content is an interesting place to be. On the digital side of things, it has just been growing year on year.” Fergusson makes the case that branded content specialists who can tap into the skills of TV production houses, as Nemorin is able to within the Argonon group, are best placed to lead on brand funded programming. It’s a similar model at Zinc Media Group. De Tervillle – a former Sky sponsorship controller – talks regularly with producers about ideas in development and commissions, and takes them to brands and agencies to “put together a package of rights and beneﬁts that make it an attractive proposition for a brand, but in a way that doesn’t undermine the editorial integrity of the content.” Brands will either fully fund or part fund content, depending on the idea. They might also want to retain some of the IP for the format as well. Brands, says Fergusson, often prefer to part fund with a broadcaster because it’s a signal that the broadcaster really wants the show, and may also give it more marketing support. But he suspects that broadcasters would prefer brands to pay in full for a show. “So, again, there’s a tension there.” It’s this tension that lies at the heart of the question of whether brand funded programming will really take oﬀ. For it to do so requires collaboration and understanding between brands and broadcasters and for producers to successfully navigate a course between their sometimes competing needs. Given the commercial challenges facing broadcasters, we are likely to see much more brand funded content on air in coming years. Along the way, production itself is likely to become a whole lot more complicated for programme makers.
Growing a local production industry
The North East Comedy Hot House (NECHH), a Northern Film + Media (NFM) project for developing local comedy production, won the inaugural makers & shakers Award for Initiative to Grow Local Industry. Executive producer and co-founder, Emma Lawson, reveals how the NECHH won a raft of TV commissions for new talent in the region – and the lessons learned along the way.
he North East of England is a region brimming with funny, fresh and diverse voices, but has very few home-grown indies that are making their mark in broadcast, and none producing scripted comedy. We wanted to help change that.
Alison paired me, an experienced scripted comedy producer with strong broadcaster and industry relationships, with Lisa Laws, an NFM project manager extraordinaire, new talent whisperer and active member of the production community in the region. And so, the North East Comedy Hot House was born.
Back in 2019 I was invited to a meeting with Northern Film + Media CEO, Alison Gwynn, and Focus / Canning 24 managing director, Jamie Hutchinson, to discuss practical ways of connecting the comedy talent in the North East (speciﬁcally underrepresented and working class) directly with broadcasters to help invigorate scripted comedy development in the region.
We act as an industry facing production co-operative and development initiative, oﬀering a safe space for ﬂedgling production companies, new writers, performers, producers and directors to come and be supported and inspired to develop their comedy projects with us for screen. We work with active commissioning opportunities giving people a tangible opportunity and focus for their projects. We work directly with broadcasters, oﬀering them a new talent pipeline via a safe pair of hands. We take the responsibility for ensuring practical delivery and a level of editorial quality, thus lowering the risk of the unknown for them.
Rather than simply launching another production company in an increasingly saturated space, we decided to create a more unconventional project with social enterprise at its heart. A model that would beneﬁt many, rather than just one new company.
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When it comes to the talent and regional development, we get to spread the opportunity wider, making one commission go a lot further in terms of reach, inclusion and development. Had we simply launched as an individual production company, I feel we would have monopolised the local market rather empowering existing local companies, bringing people together and encouraging collaboration enabling the local talent to ﬂourish rather than ﬁght. It’s not an easy ride, as collaboration is hard when everyone has been ﬁghting for scraps for so long. In its ﬁrst two years NECHH has brought in over GBP100,000 worth of entry level broadcast commissions from Channel 4 and BBC that we redistributed in the region. We have collaborated with seven new production companies, over 160 regional cast and crew and managed to keep 96% of the total spend in the North East. Overall we created 30 three minute sketches for Channel 4’s social channels and BBC iPlayer, all made by new-to-broadcast companies involving on-and-oﬀ screen comedy talent from across the North East and from a diverse range of backgrounds. For example, 14 of the 30 scripts were created by emerging women writers, with 90% new to broadcast, giving them key creative roles and a broadcast credit.
Image: If Boobs Were Like Balls.
We act as an industry facing production co-operative and development initiative, offering a safe space for fledgling production companies, neW Writers, performers, producers and directors.
NECHH has shown that when good people with a professional track record take a leap of faith and open their doors to marginalised people and places they can spark something capable of reinvigorating a region and a sector. They say it takes an army to raise a child, and for this baby, broadcasters, commissioners, execs, regional development agencies and experienced crew were all instrumental in supporting brave and ambitious new talent who are prepared to aim high and take the knocks on the chin. Finding the people on the ground who will continue that momentum is key. The hard work has really only just begun. We need a much more strategic, high level buy in to keep things going, like our current relationship with the North East LEP, for example, which has backed us to develop Development Producers and Pitch Deck training for a select group of people. We are also working more closely with the BFI and other partners in the region to make sure any cash for scripted comedy development and growth is targeted eﬀectively. We have partnerships with leading indies to support and develop slates with local producers and talent – meaning they get to be included without having to uproot from their hometowns. The pandemic has actually helped open people’s eyes to remote working, so geography is becoming less of an issue than it has been historically for those wanting to work in this space.
Emma Lawson - executive producer & co-founder of the NECHH.
NECHH remains a passion project for both Lisa and I, with all of our free time being dedicated to keeping plates spinning and the momentum going, but we are gathering talented and generous friends at “14 of the 30 scripts speed who help us were created by along. Our model has emerging women proven successful, and writers, with 90% we feel trusted now by a new to broadcast, region who had every giving them key right to be cynical creative roles and initially towards the a broadcast credit.” outreach. We are currently meeting potential partners to support an expansion to allow us more capacity to access all of the exciting opportunities for development that are out there. I truly believe the tides are turning and people are opening their minds, rather than ticking boxes, to the industry ﬁnally stretching much further beyond the M25. Top Tips for invigoraTing a local indusTry
By Lisa Laws, NECHH project manager l Put your big girl pants on – there isn’t a quick ﬁx. It takes time and genuine commitment. l Generous, active, high level industry ﬁgures with connections are essential to unlocking connectivity - ﬁnd and cherish them.
l Be authentic, transparent, honest and fair in all your partnerships. l Identify holes, and target learning. Make it sustainable, not just a tick box. l Change the narrative. Encourage and celebrate the people who collaborate and work together. Take risks on the passionate people with big ideas and nourish them. l Connect talent to markets and invest in multiple opportunities to widen access, build resilience and real pathways.
l Be brave, loud and proud and have a laugh along the way.
7-8 Dec 2021 Business Design Centre London
See You There!
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open for business
four years after saudi arabia’s vision 2030 programme was announced, there are burgeoning opportunities for the creative industries in the kingdom. incoming productions can expect logistic and ﬁnancial support and a growing ﬁlming infrastructure and some stunning backdrops.
nnounced in 2016, Saudi Vision 2030 is an ambitious framework that aims to diversify the Gulf nation’s economy away from oil and position Saudi Arabia as a hub that connects three continents. Unsurprisingly, as a proven driver of economic growth around the world, the creative industries are part of this blueprint. The ﬁrst signs of a burgeoning creative economy have already materialised and include the establishment of the Saudi Film Council and the Red Sea Film Festival, regional ﬁlm oﬃces and a proliferation of public cinemas which had been banned until 2017.
Saudi Arabia is becoming increasingly outward looking and is positioning itself as the next destination for big budget productions by investing in supporting infrastructure. The Saudi Film Council debuted at Cannes 2018, promising a 35% rebate on eligible “situated close to expenses and more recently Film the existing arab AlUla oﬃcially launched at Berlin filming hubs of Film Festival 2020. “It was Jordan and dubai, received positively by the industry additional and media alike,” says Stephen Strachan, Film Commissioner equipment can be Film AlUla. “Our focus is to oﬀer sourced close by.” a welcoming ﬁlm environment for international and local productions to shoot their project in this extraordinary destination. Along with competitive ﬁnancial and production support incentives, we are now in a position to oﬀer the ultimate ﬁlming destination to produce world-class ﬁlm and TV content.”
Wadi Al Disah, Tabuk Region The Al Disah Valley is a desert landscape found in the region of Tabuk in the northwest of Saudi Arabia. Wadi Al Disah translates to the Valley of the Palms and consists of a complex of six sandstone canyons that run through the landscape to create towering cliﬀ faces. Often compared to the Grand Canyon, the valley is actually more arable than its American cousin with crops such as bananas, mangoes, tomatoes and citrus fruits grown alongside the palm trees. In addition, there are architectural sites including Nabatean tombs. The valley is part of the Prince Mohammed bin Salman Natural Reserve, where the climate is characterised by warm summers and mild winters.
The region of AlUla is roughly the size of Belgium and sits to the north of the country. It has dramatic landscapes such as sprawling desert, valleys and oases as well as heritage sites like Hegra (pictured above), Saudi Arabia’s ﬁrst UNESCO World 123
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Heritage Site. Sought after advertising cinematographer Bruno Aveillan recently shot Leo Burnett campaign The World’s Masterpiece for the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), fully utilising the desert light to highlight its cinematic potential. Aveillan says “an historic and important destination as this needed the appropriate gravitas. We wanted to convey feelings of nostalgia and the emotion of seeing the destination for the ﬁrst time”.
EssEnTial facTs incEnTivE
35% The best way to ﬁnd out if your production can beneﬁt is to contact the Saudi Film Agency directly. rEcEnT producTions
Born a King, The Perfect Candidate & Champions. aTa carnET
Director Haifaa al-Mansour. TiME ZonE
GMT +3 TravEl
Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport is 35 minutes from the city centre. King Fahd International Airport is the second airport in Dammam. BEsT TiME of yEar
The temperature in Saudi Arabia can climb as high as 44C on average in June, July & August, & down to 21C in Winter. There are cooler temperatures at night. The country has a dry desert climate, apart from the southwest which has a semi-arid climate.
Strachan explains that interested producers should approach the commission directly to discuss ﬁnancial incentives and adds that “producers can expect a production-friendly setup, a range of accommodation options, and a skilled, Englishspeaking team of experienced and established production experts to guide and support them every step of the way… Our strategy countrywide and in line with Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 roadmap is to support the development and growth of the national ﬁlm, TV, and media industry by establishing and investing in infrastructure, partnering with leading networks to produce local content, and providing training courses and educational programmes to develop a robust ﬁlm and content sector, which is integral to the success of international productions in AlUla and throughout the kingdom.” Even prior to the concerted push of Saudi Arabia to be part of the global ﬁlm industry, a number of incoming high-end co-productions have helped train local talent alongside international crews. Born a King, a biopic of Prince Faisal of Saudi Arabia in the early twentieth century, shot in the capital Riyadh in 2017. Directed by Agustí Villaronga the UK / Spanish co-production was one of the ﬁrst major ﬁlms to shoot in the country. Since then, a number of international projects have followed including Haifa Al Mansour’s The Perfect Candidate which ﬁlmed with German and Saudi crew, and Spanish-UK co-production Champions from Manu Calvo in 2020. Riyadh remains the centre of production industry in Saudi Arabia where facilities like the Nabras Film Studios provide both physical and postproduction services and equipment. Situated close to the existing Arab ﬁlming hubs of Jordan and Dubai, additional equipment can be sourced close by. Due to the strict laws and cultural norms, having the support and guidance of a local service provider and commissions is critical for foreign productions planning to shoot in the country.
our strategy countrywide, and in line with saudi arabia's vision 2030 roadmap, is to support the development and growth of the national film, television, and media industry by establishing and investing in infrastructure.
Despite being one of the most oil-rich nations, Saudi Arabia has unveiled a number of initiatives to help the country kickstart a move toward sustainability. The Saudi Green Initiative seeks to plant 10 billion trees in the next decade and The Middle East Green Initiative aims to plant 40 billion across the Middle East. Announced by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the plan is part of the world’s reforestation project launched by the World Economic Forum in 2020. The global plan is looking to plant one trillion trees by 2030. Opportunities for the expansion of solar projects are great due to the intensity and consistency of sunlight in the kingdom. Commentators have noted that a commitment to a greener agenda could have a powerful impact across the region. Saudi Arabia has previously announced plans to generate half of its power from renewable sources by 2030.
The Future of Cinema
Cinemas have had a torrid time during the pandemic, but there is a cautious degree of optimism for the theatrical business as countries start to emerge from lockdowns.
he big question for the cinema sector coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic is: will theatres still make money in a streaming world? It’s not just a question for cinema owners. Everyone involved in ﬁlm production is wondering if the economics of ﬁlm funding and distribution, which have traditionally relied on cinema releases, have been profoundly altered as a result of the pandemic. After all, the ﬁlm industry has seen three key changes over the past year which would seem, on the face of it, to pose an existential threat to the business model of cinemas.
First, with theatres closed, audiences pivoted towards streaming services during lockdown. Buoyed by rising subscriber numbers, Netﬂix and Amazon have pushed more deeply into original ﬁlm production, backing starry, big budget features such as The Gray Man and Red Notice – which will skip theatres entirely. Second, many of the new studio-owned streamers announced cuts to the traditional 60-90 day cinema ‘window’. Warner Bros now has the option to send ﬁlms directly to HBO Max after 45 days in theatres beginning in 2022. Paramount is opting for a 30 to 45 day window before launching ﬁlms on Paramount+.
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Third, cinema operators themselves have faced a torrid time. Cineworld and AMC were forced to reﬁnance to avert bankruptcy during the pandemic. US theatre chains Arclight Cinemas and Paciﬁc Theatres have closed down. South Africa’s Ster-Kinekor, Africa’s largest cinema group, ﬁled for voluntary bankruptcy in February. Yet, as we slowly emerge from lockdowns the world over, there is a cautious degree of optimism about the cinema sector.
the next 18 months promises to be a time of unprecedented plenty for exhibitors around the World, With a big movie released each Week. people Will be spoilt for choice.
Phil Clapp, chief executive of the UK Cinema Association, says there is no denying that the ﬁrst weeks after theatres reopen (set for 17 May in the UK) will be challenging. Covid-19 safety protocols such as social distancing, mask wearing and handwashing will remain in place. In particular, social distancing measures, which are likely to be followed for the rest of the year, will dent box oﬃce takings. “Despite this, there is a huge amount of optimism by owners and cinema goers,” insists Clapp. “People want to get back to cinemas – if anything, not going to cinemas has made people realise how much they enjoy it.” Clapp points to recent research by the Film Distributors’ Association which reported that 59% of the public cited the cinema as their most missed out-of-home entertainment activity. The research also found that the most avid streamers – those who have digitally rented or purchased ﬁlms – were in fact the keenest return to the cinema as soon as they reopen. Also, the media narrative about the inexorable streamers replacing cinemas may need questioning. During lockdown, a string of ﬁlms went direct to streaming, such as Mulan, Coming 2 America, and The Trial of the Chicago 7. This prompted fears that bypassing cinemas will become a norm for Hollywood. Yet, the vast majority of big ﬁlms have been held back until cinemas reopen, emphasising the importance that box oﬃce revenues still have for major studios and independents. No Time to Die, Top Gun: Maverick, Avatar 2, Mission Impossible 7 and Black Widow are among many ﬁlms that have delayed their opening dates to try to score the biggest box oﬃce possible. As a result, the next 18 months “promises to be a time of unprecedented plenty” for exhibitors around the world, with a big movie released each week, says Clapp. “People will be spoilt for choice.”
Image: The Trial of the Chicago 7 © Niko Tavernise & Netflix 2020.
BOX OFFICE WINDOWS
Cinemas will also be buoyed by a bounce back in the ad market. The Advertising Association and World Advertising Research Council recently forecast strong growth for cinema advertising, up 228.4% year on year. Windows, of course, may be shorter. But there will still be periods of exclusivity for theatres. Even at 45 days, which is looking like a new normal for exclusivity to theatres, most ﬁlms before the pandemic earned 80-90% of their ﬁnal box oﬃce revenue. Avengers: Endgame, for example, earned 91% of its USD858 million US gross in its ﬁrst month of release. Distributors too are keen to support cinemas, keenly aware of the revenues they help to generate. Before the pandemic struck, worldwide box oﬃce receipts totalled a recordUSD42.5 billion in 2019. For distributors, the hope is that cinemas can thrive alongside the streaming platforms. “As a company, we really all still believe in and are passionate about the theatrical experience and think that it can coexist with the growing relationship that people have with ﬁlms they want to watch at home,” says Lia Devlin, head of distribution at Altitude Films, whose slate includes Oscar winner Minari. “Of course, we’re going to see some changes and time will tell,” adds Devlin. “But we think that cinema is a shared experience, and that people will still choose to go to cinemas to watch ﬁlms. Not every ﬁlm though – I think consumer choice is king now – and that's something I don't think we can roll back. People just want to watch what they want to watch when they want to watch it. As an industry we need to ﬁnd a way for the entire eco system to thrive.” Cinemas, meanwhile, are likely to make changes to the way they operate. Clapp expects UK cinemas to diversify their oﬀer so they reduce their reliance on content from US studios and serve up a broader array of ﬁlms. “What the last 12 months has shown us is that, when the content supply was turned oﬀ, we didn’t have a supply of independent, home grown content that we could fall back on like other European territories could.” Clapp also predicts greater investment in the ‘cinema-going experience’ to lure in audiences, with a focus on higher quality seating as well as food and drink. But he pours cold water on reports that streamers such as Amazon and Netﬂix may invest in cinemas themselves. “Never say never, but nothing has been stopping them from doing so,” says Clapp. “But there’s a world of diﬀerence between running a streaming platform and cinemas.”
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Making of Shadow & Bone
NETFLIX FANTASY DRAMA
COMES TO lIFE IN HuNGARy
BACK TO CONTENTS antasy drama Shadow and Bone stormed into Netﬂix’s top 10 most watched shows list as soon as it landed on the streaming platform in April.
Adapted from author Leigh Bardugo’s best-selling Grisha trilogy, Shadow and Bone was developed by executive producer and showrunner Eric Heisserer. The production shot in and around Budapest in Hungary, using real locations for its palace interiors and exteriors, and employing visual eﬀects to extend and embellish them further.
Much of the ﬁlming took place at Origo Studios in Budapest, which provided key settings. Filming locations also included Budapest’s iconic Buda Castle and the Castle District, as well as Festetics Castle, one of the largest country houses in Hungary, plus several national museums. The Museum of Ethnography, for example, acts as the Shadow and Bone Grand Palace ﬁlming location, with the Throne Room set in its richly
decorated hall. Other scenes were shot at Budapest Stock Exchange Palace, open-air museum Szentendre Skanzen Village Museum, and the picturesque town of Szentendre, a few miles from Budapest. Shadow and Bone is not the ﬁrst major Netﬂix fantasy series to be ﬁlmed in Hungary – with The Witcher and The Last Kingdom also having been partly shot there. A few additional shoots for the series took place in Vancouver, Canada.
Images: Shadow & Bone © David Appleby & Netflix.
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Spain Heats Up
SPAIN’S CONTENT INDUSTRY IS BEING TRANSFORMED AMID GROWING DEMAND FOR SPANISH SHOWS AND FIlMS FROM GlOBAl STREAMERS AND STuDIOS
Image: La Casa De Papel © Tamara Arranz Ramos & Netflix.
The arrival of the international streamers has shaken up the Spanish market, sparking growing demand for local content. Meanwhile, Spanish producers are increasingly finding success in international markets. makers talks to some of the country’s key players about the huge changes taking place in Spain, and asks where the new opportunities now lie.
The Spanish broadcasting landscape has changed dramatically in the past decade. Traditional broadcasters have largely been successful in creating fruitful relationships with new players, and opportunities lie beyond the domestic sector for local producers. Mediaset España and Atresmedia are the two biggest players in Spanish broadcasting commanding 60% of terrestrial Spanish TV audiences over thirteen free-to-air channels. State-owned public service broadcaster Television Espanola (TVE) operates ﬁve advertising free channels subsidised by
the Spanish government. All three have focused on increasingly digital strategies, with OTT streaming platforms Mitele from Mediaset, Atresplayer and RTVE’s alacarte. Established paid for channels like Movistar are now competing with international streaming providers such as Netﬂix, Amazon, HBO Espana and Disney+. Atresmedia is the broadcaster behind Money Heist, the Spanish series that broke through on a global scale on Netﬂix in 2017. Despite not being a hit in its home country, within three months of Netﬂix
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Image: Westworld © ©2020 Home Box Oﬃce, Inc. All rights reserved.
picking up the rights Money Heist became the most watched series in countries as varied as France and Italy, Argentina and Brazil. Its success paved the way for increasingly synergistic relationship between international platforms and Spanish producers and broadcasters.
there are 75 series being produced in spain as We speak, Which is a colossal leap from maybe 10 three or four years ago.
The success of Spanish content with audiences across the globe has also led to an increasing focus on original content creation by broadcasters. Jose Antonio Anton, deputy director of content at Atresmedia, says: “Content production is probably the key element in our business, because we believe content to be the central part of all the operations we develop.” In response to changing media landscape, Anton says Atresmedia has “been able to transform from a company that basically broadcast linear channels to the most important audio-visual content producer and distributor in the country. Today, not only do we produce the best news, drama series and entertainment programming in Spanish, but we are able to bring it to the audiences in every way possible, linear and on demand, free and pay, by ourselves or through third parties.” Mediaset España Group has also worked closely with streamers. Ghislain Barrois, CEO of Mediterráneo Mediaset España Group, the broadcaster’s sales and distribution arm says: “It is really a fruitful and very deep relationship. It has been really exciting and dynamic. It also obliges us to modify: every month we propose new shows for Telecinco, Mediaset and for streamers to broadcast after the free TV broadcast. Barrios adds that demand is no longer limited to Spain: “There are really no boundaries anymore.” In 2018 Madrid was chosen for Netﬂix’s ﬁrst European Production hub in its move to expand local production levels. The new campus Ciudad de
la Tele in Tres Cantos, Madrid, saw Netﬂix partner with Grupo Secuoya, Spain’s leading production outﬁt which has studios and production services across Spain and Latin America and Miami. The move marked a deepening investment in Spain from the streamer and came soon after signing a ﬁrst-option agreement with Atresmedia. Fastforward to April 2021, and Netﬂix announced that it would double its studio capacity from ﬁve to ten stages as well as postproduction stages and is now one of the biggest investors in Spanish “the risk is that series and ﬁlms, this avalanche of releasing over ﬁfty titles demand will affect since 2016. Tres Cantos the bottom line of is also now the home of the productions, Mediapro Studios and and the quality the headquarters of of the content.” Atresmedia and Mediaset and Movistar Plus. International players are also investing more heavily in local content. Netﬂix has worked with over 35 of Spain’s audiovisual producers, and is currently working on a slate of originals with long-standing production partners such as Zeta Studios, Nostromo, and Money Heist producers Vancouver Media. But Netﬂix isn’t alone: Bambu Producciones is currently working on Apple+ bilingual thriller Now and Then, while Disney+ just launched its ﬁrst Spanish original Besos al Aire. The momentum is positive for independent production companies as Jessica Ortiz, VP international co-productions & content development at drama and entertainment production company Onza explains: “Since Onza was founded in 2014 the market has changed a lot. Spanish ﬁction has now an incredible appeal nationally and internationally and we have been in the spotlight of the new OTT platforms. Companies like Netﬂix,
BACK TO CONTENTS of dependable weather, varied locations crews and an established incentive have made it a go to, with recent major shoots include Brave New World, season three of Westworld, shooting in Valencia city and region, Glow & Darkness in Madrid, and studio features Terminator: Dark Fate and Spiderman – Far From Home alongside advertising shoots for clients including Samsung, Honda, Heineken and Babbel.
Images: Little Coincidences & Parot © Manuel Fiestas.
in march 2021 spanish prime minister pedro sanchez announced the launch of a spain audiovisual hub With eur1.6 billion investment in tax breaks and credit lines and training initiatives.
Amazon, HBO or Disney among others, are very interested in local original content. That is great news for us.” The company has seen success with dramas such as TVE’s Little Coincidences and Amazon Prime’s Department of Time. The reason for Spanish content’s ability to travel, break down language barriers and attract broad audiences remains something of an enigma, but Anton argues that “Spanish-speaking content has the advantage to begin with that it is able to reach one of the highest number of viewers in the world [because of its reach into Latin America]. We think that the key has been to work with amazing talent and fuel the industry with a level of conﬁdence that no other company in the country had before.” Ortiz adds: “I think Spanish ﬁction content has an incredible quality. We create great stories that travel well internationally. Genres like drama and thriller travel very well but comedy has more diﬃculties traveling. However, comedies like Little Coincidences that have a high and strong concept that can also perform very well outside of Spain.” Onza has sold the comedy to the US, France, Russia, Scandinavia, and Latin America among others. Mediaset’s Barrois notes that for a very long time producing in Spain was extremely cost eﬀective compared to the rest of Europe. “It's not a secret anymore, all of the platforms have come to Spain and are tapping into this talent pool and creative talent. We have to be to make sure that we don't kill the golden goose. The risk is that this avalanche of demand will aﬀect the bottom line of the productions, and the quality of the content. We have to be very vigilant because I believe there are 75 series being produced in Spain as we speak, which is a colossal leap from maybe 10 three or four years ago.” On top of this domestic activity, Spain’s position as a bustling international production hub is set to expand further and faster in coming years. Its mix
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During the Covid-19 pandemic, the Spanish government hiked its tax incentive to 30% aiming to capture the interest of post pandemic activity and reaﬃrm its reputation as a cost eﬀective destination. Now shoots can claim the 30% on the ﬁrst million euros and 25% on the rest of the expenditure made in Spain with a maximum rebate of EUR10 million. The increase also applies to the higher regional incentives. Productions in Navarre region can access a 35% rebate and the Canary Islands incentive provides 50% to 45%. Moreover, in March spanish fiction 2021 Spanish Prime now has an Minister Pedro Sanchez incredible appeal announced the launch nationally and of a Spain Audiovisual internationally Hub with EUR1.6 billion and we have been investment in tax in the spotlight breaks and credit lines and training initiatives of the new ott between 2021 and 2025. platforms.” The hub is designed to power up Spanish ﬁlm and TV production as well as encouraging foreign players such as Disney to set up in the country. Meanwhile, the obvious next step for Spanish production houses is increased collaboration with international markets, particularly with the Latin America sector with its market of more than 400 million people. “One of the most important markets for us is Latin America and US Hispanic and we recently collaborated with Mexican production company Dopamine to produce Hernan,” says Ortiz. In 2021 the company opened a Miami oﬃce. “This new oﬃce is a fundamental step in our international growth strategy, especially in Spanish speaking countries. Our aim is to increase local productions in the territory through Onza Americas and also increase our international co-productions between Spain and Latin América.” Current projects include thriller Brava, musical feature Acapulco Girl and psychological horror ﬁlm Seres Queridos. As audience demand for Spanish content continues to expand horizons for domestic producers, and the country doubles down on facilitating international players there is no doubt that the Spanish wave is set to grow.
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SLOVAKIA access atmosphere rising,“ says Bieliková. “The budget estimate for support in 2021 is EUR5.7 million, up from EUR2.5 million in 2020. “The more projects that will be ﬁlmed in Slovakia means better development of the infrastructure, innovation and skilled labour force.”
slovakia’s increasingly accessible 33% cash rebate has seen the country host a growing number of larger shoots. The central European destination is well set up to facilitate advertising work alongside high-proﬁle productions looking for its varied locations.
“In order to further boost ﬁlmmaking in Slovakia, the 33% incentive scheme eased its requirements starting in January 2021. This new amendment reduces the minimum limits of eligible expenses and at the same time regulates in more detail the time range of individual ﬁlm projects that can apply for the cash rebate,” says Zuzana Bieliková, manager of Slovak Film Commission. The new minimum sum of expenses allows high-end TV series spending at least EUR300,000 and shooting up to 26 episodes in the country over three years to apply. For individual feature ﬁlms the minimum expenditure is EUR100,000 and for documentary or animations features or series it is EUR50,000. hen international production returned to Slovakia after the ﬁrst wave of Covid-19, the majority were commercial shoots after reliable locations and experienced professionals. Bratislava, the country’s capital, is at the heart of the local industry with most of the rental companies and latest equipment. Nestled between the ﬁlming hubs of the Czech Republic and Hungary, any additional specialised equipment can be quickly sourced.
Many incoming shoots are looking for the unique locations of the Tatra Mountains, Bratislava or the many manor houses and Slovak castles that scatter the countryside. Some of these “nestled between include Amazon TV series Hanna, the ﬁfth series of Van the filming hubs of Helsing, German action thriller the czech republic Blood Red Sky, and a number of and hungary, co-productions including TV specialised series Maria Theresia and The equipment can be Nightsire. Upcoming projects include the third season of Tom quickly sourced.” Clancy’s Jack Ryan. Slovakia dramatically increased its incentive from 20% to 33% in 2019 which has seen a positive impact on Slovakia’s ﬁlming infastructure. “The number of registered and supported projects is continuously
Banská Štiavnica is a town in central Slovakia and sits in the middle of an immense, 25km caldera created by the collapse of a volcano 15 million years ago and is rich in iron ores. Mining made it a prosperous town, although during the 16th century its inhabitants lived under constant threat of Turkish invasion. Nowadays, the city is a tourist destination and a UNESCO world heritage site due to its well-preserved medieval site. The town’s castle that sits above the town’s winding streets hosted ﬁlming for BBC/Netﬂix mini-series Dracula.
Image: Wolfwalkers © Apple TV+.
The animation sector proved its resilience during lockdown, with production teams quickly switching to remote production and continuing work on projects. Coupled with growing demand from the streamers, it has meant the animation sector has been able to avoid the worst of the pandemic.
From Europe to North America, Africa and Asia, local animation industries have grown steadily in recent years – and the Covid-19 pandemic has done little to halt the growth. Unlike live action projects, the global animation industry – worth a reported USD250 billion – has largely been able to continue during lockdowns. Production teams have switched to remote working, with animators working from home on projects within two weeks of lockdowns being announced. “It’s not been ideal, but we have worked through it,” says Gerry Shirren, managing director of Cartoon Saloon, the animation company behind Apple TV
Plus’s Oscar nominated Wolfwalkers. Based in Ireland, Cartoon Saloon has around 100 artists and technicians working on a new animation for Netﬂix, My Father’s Dragon. “It’s been slower, and a bit more complicated – and it has cost a bit more too.” Voice recordings for the animation were, for example, captured from the homes of the voice actors, rather than in a studio. “Those kinds of processes are quite diﬃcult during lockdown,” says Shirren. Hiring new talent and integrating them into the Cartoon Saloon team has also been tough too, he says. “We’re really missing in a big way the creative collaboration that comes when people are in the same room.”
BACK TO CONTENTS Ireland is one of many countries around the world that has seen its animation sector ﬂourish in recent years, bolstered by government support and tax breaks. Animation in Ireland, for example, now represents around 50% of all audiovisual production spending in the country, according to Moe Honan, chair of industry body Animation Ireland, and CEO of Galway-based Moetion Films, which has just released 3d animated kids feature Two by Two Overboard. Ireland’s Section 481 tax credit is worth up to 37% of budget. Image: Pip and Posy © Sky UK Limited 2021.
voice recordings for the animation Were, for example, captured from the homes of the voice actors, rather than in a studio.
Honan says “ingenuity and innovation” has allowed animation companies to continue working through the pandemic. “We regard ourselves as being extremely fortunate. It doesn’t mean that we haven’t had bumps and challenges though – we’ve had to change a lot in terms of people working at home, our workﬂow and our systems admin.” She says the music, sound and picture post process has been particularly challenging. “It was just zoom meeting after zoom meeting – the reviews process was strenuous on everybody.” Michael Rose, the joint managing director of UKbased Magic Light Pictures, whose most recent animation BBC One animation Zog and the Flying Doctors was watched by more than 9.4 million viewers on Christmas Day 2020, says that if anything the company has grown during the pandemic. Production on Zog, which is made at Giant Studios, went remote and delivered on time to the BBC, while new series Pip and Posy, for ViacomCBS and Sky, also continued on schedule, with production company Blue Zoo moving the entire crew to remote working. Rose says that there was also continued demand for Magic Light’s library of content, which includes the adaptations of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheﬄer’s Gruﬀalo series. “There was no let-up in buying. Trusted, high quality content was very much in favour.” Licencing revenues have dipped, he says, as a result of shops being closed, but not to the extent he feared at the start of the pandemic thanks to the growth of online sales, where categories such as children’s clothing performed well with kids at home rather than at school. Elsewhere, France’s animation industry – one of the biggest in Europe – is also thriving, with foreign investment higher than ever. In 2019, international spending – in the form of co-productions and pre-sales – stood at EUR62.3 (USD75.5) million, or 26.2% of the total investment in French animation, according to CNC ﬁgures. As it is, France already commissions more animated titles than any country bar the US and Japan. Indeed, public broadcaster France Télévisions is the ﬁfth most proliﬁc commissioner of animation in the world, after Netﬂix, Warnermedia, ViacomCBS, and Disney.
Of these commissioners, streamers such as Netﬂix have invested heavily in animation. Netﬂix, for example, recently partnered with Hachette’s Les Editions Albert René and playwright Alain Chabat to create the ﬁrst-ever animated limited series based on the iconic French comic book The Adventures of Asterix, which is being made in France. Indeed, Netﬂix is on a path to becoming a major force in animation. The streaming giant is gearing up to release six original animated features a year – more than any other US studio – on top of a healthy slate of animation series. This includes Cartoon Saloon’s upcoming My Father’s Dragon. Recent Netﬂix feature animations — originals Over The Moon and The Willoughbys, as well as acquisitions Bombay Rose, A Whisker Away and A Shaun The Sheep Movie: Farmageddon — illustrate the variety of projects the company is targeting.
“netflix is on a path to becoming a maJor force in animation. the streaming giant is gearing up to release six original animated features a year – more than any other us studio.”
Amid a lack of originality among many US studio animations – which are ﬁrmly aimed at broad family audiences – there is hope that Netﬂix’s ﬁlms will be more diverse in voice, tone, and target audience. Indeed, there’s a recognition by funders around the world that animation content works across all genres and across all demographics. The longevity and evergreen nature of animation particularly suits on-demand and catch-up focused streaming platforms. The animation industry is also highly successful in terms of the ancillary revenues from licensed products that it generates, such as children’s DVDs, books, toys and clothing. Typically, animation has been seen as something only for the children’s market. But audience patterns have been changing for a while. Thanks to the success of more adult-oriented shows such as Family Guy and Rick & Morty animation has proven that it can appeal to audiences of all ages. New work in advertising and corporate marketing has also boosted the animation sector. Animated commercials, for example, have become something of a Christmas tradition in the UK – brands such as Disney, John Lewis, Disney, O2 and McDonalds all rolled out festive animations in 2020. These were all possible to make, of course, during the pandemic when a great deal of live action production had to shut down. Having proved its resilience during lockdown, it’s likely that animation will only grow in popularity with funders – and audiences – in years to come.
Image: e Willoughbys © Netflix.
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PROFILE Willco “Basically, Willco oﬀers fancy tools to production people for an every-day use,” says Jarzyna. “At the same time, a real-time view on the production progresses is created for the producers, studios and investors, almost as a “bonus track” with no additional eﬀort.” She says Willco has been created by people with experience of production management, rather than by a pure tech company. “Willco was born out of a necessity, by people with a huge experience on set.” Willco, of course, is one of many such digital production management applications such as Scenechronize, Set Keeper or StudioBinder or SyncOnSet.
Winner of the production Tech innovation of the year award at the inaugural makers & shakers awards, Willco is a digital platform designed to make production management and coordination easier.
kEy sTaff CEO: AsiA JArzynA CPO: PAul VAliEntE COmPutEr EnginEErs: JEsus mAnuEl gArCiA ViCtOr rOdriguEz dEVElOPErs: JOsE rillA dAVid AnguitA kEy fEaTurEs PAPErlEss CrEw And CAst hiring, intEgrAting lEgAlly binding digitAl signAturE; suPPliErs And lOCAtiOn mAnAgEmEnt; sChEduling Of PrE-PrOduCtiOn & shOOting ACtiVitiEs; PrOduCtiOn And lEgAl PAPErwOrk rElEAsing. crEdiTs THE CROWN, THE RHYTHM SECTION, THE WITCHER, WHITE LINES, LA BODA ROSA And mAny mOrE.
Asked about what makes Willco stand out from the competition, she says it has been designed to be as straightforward and intuitive to use as possible, with a very user-friendly interface so people can get started quickly without the need for lots of training. reated by Spain-based production coordinator Asia Jarzyna and product and UX designer Paul Valiente (pictured above with their makers & shakers award), digital production management platform Willco has been used by international co-productions, studio productions through to independent productions, from The Crown to The Rhythm Section.
The idea, she adds, is for Willco to “transform the production process into something smarter, eﬃcient, and above all, sustainable.”
The idea, says Jarzyna, is to help “leave behind the most tedious, repetitive tasks of the production process.”
“The beginning of Willco is quite a personal story. Paul and I were a couple for many years, sharing life and our passion for ﬁlms. I was a was a production coordinator always absorbed by productions and with not too much time for personal life, and Paul was a VFX designer, director and producer. Both trying to ﬁnd the balance between work and personal life.
“Our main goal is to create smart workﬂows in order to use the huge amount of information created and shared in every project is a smart, collaborative and still secure way.” Through the Willco application it’s possible to manage all crew, cast, supplier, activities and locations, and to issue production paperwork and contracts, manage payroll, organise crew activities and movements and keep everybody informed about the production plan. Willco, Jarzyna points out, is a shared workspace for production teams, and all data can be imported and exported easily. It also incorporates a digital approval tool, and crucially is paperless as well as multi-language.
TEll us aBouT THE Background To Willco?
We couldn’t, so we must confess, that Willco started with a divorce. Then we thought, ok, if life gives you lemons, make lemonade! Leaving personal dramas behind, we took advantage of our privileged vision on the ﬁlm industry and our experience in UX Design and we brought to life an application to help production teams to focus on what’s important: the creative job of making ﬁlms. We started programming the application in 2017 and we launched the ﬁrst version in early 2019, starting with none other than 007 production team on The Rhythm Section.”
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Mission Impossible: How Italy Returned
Image: Domina © Antonello&Montesi & Sky.
italy was the ﬁrst European country to be engulfed by the pandemic, halting the big productions such as Mission Impossible 7 that the country has become synonymous with. makers takes a look at how italy returned and reinvented itself ready for the post-covid-19 production boom.
ovid-19 began to aﬀect European-based shoots when cases started to mount in the northern Italian region of Lombardy in late February 2020. Soon after, international work, such as Mission Impossible’s three week Venice shoot, began to halt pre-production. “The advantage is that we were the ﬁrst to lock down, and we were also one of the ﬁrst to come out. The choice to set up and quickly deﬁne Covid-19 procedures meant that we could restart production in early June, and set a very good example for how to manage production at this uncertain time,” says Andrea Spagna, marketing brand and business development advisor at Rome’s newly revamped Cinecittà Studios that has seen a resurgence in ﬁlming since Covid-19. The capital saw much of this production return from early summer thanks to national and local agencies, producers and studios like Cinecitta all working together.
“from MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 7 to RED NOTICE, from CYRANO to GUCCI… 2021 will be one of the biggest years for international productions shooting in italy.”
The ﬁrst priority was to make sure local crews were supported during the initial period of lockdown, which was met though the creation of a support fund of EUR1 million by players like Netﬂix. The second priority was to create Covid-19 production protocols. “What we needed was a strong protocol that could reassure cast and crew that going back to work was feasible and safe. Not only from just a health point of view but also from a psychological one,” says producer and
president of the Association of Italian Executive Producers Production Service Companies (APE) Marco Pugini. Rome Lazio Film Commission general manager Cristina Priarone, who is also president of the Italian Film Commissions, says industry wide collaboration meant “the outcome was a very stringent protocol. The resumption of work by productions on the national territory, and especially in Rome and Lazio, has been gradual. Thanks to the protocol shared with all parts of the audiovisual sector, the reopening of the sets has never been a cause of danger and with rare exceptions, there have been no situations that favoured contagions, both among national and international productions.” To kickstart the industry after the hiatus, the Italian government increased the tax rebate by a third for local producers, meaning they could claim 40% rebate on production expenditure rather than the usual 30%. Rome’s iconic Cinecitta Studios was another critical player in getting ﬁlming underway again for both national and international shoots, and the amount of production at Cinecitta in 2020 surpassed 2019 levels, despite the March lockdown. “Often, Italian productions which need to be eﬃcient would shoot on location because it is cheaper than a studio. However, the added costs from Covid protocols and being able to manage shoots studios are becoming more appealing,” he explains.
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Image: e Flight Attendant © 2020 WarnerMedia Direct, LLC.
to kickstart the industry, the italian government increased the tax rebate by a third for local producers, meaning they could claim a 40% rebate on production expenditure rather than the usual 30%.
The studio was also the base for international work to return to Italy. “The ﬁrst important production that resumed after Covid was Domina (main image). It was meaningful because the series had an international cast and was the ﬁrst international production that applied the new protocol to really test if it would work again,” says Spagna. The tenepisode series, from Sky Studios and Fifty Fathoms, follows the power struggles of Ancient Rome from the perspective of Livia Drusilla, who emerges as Rome’s most powerful and inﬂuential Empress. Employing an international cast, it was headed by lead Australian director Clair McCarthy. The series returned to production at Cinecitta in July, becoming one of the ﬁrst productions of this scale to resume in Europe. Domina paved the way for other productions to return. Pugini, whose members work on international shoots, says “from the moment production started again, APE associated members have been involved in several international projects, from Mission Impossible 7 to Red Notice, from Cyrano to Gucci as well series like Jack Ryan and Mozart in the Jungle. At the moment all of our associated members are working on several projects and it seems that 2021 will be one of the most successful years for the international productions shooting in Italy.” “Working during Covid-19 is deﬁnitively a “team eﬀort” and a “team” that goes well beyond the ﬁlm community,” says Pugini. For example, in November 2020, APE associated production house, Panorama Films, shot a scene with over 300 extras and 250 crew members in Rome. “This is only feasible if production service companies work in collaboration with all authorities, local and national.” Commercial productions are ﬁnding their own ways to handle the short prep time often required by the industry. Carrying out all the necessary testing of cast and crew on a short prep schedule can pose challenges, says Arianna Dolini, producer at service company 20 Red Lights who had ﬁnished a Rome
Image: e Young Pope © Gianni Fiorito.
shoot for HBO Max comedy The Flight Attendant (pictured above) before the pandemic hit. “The big change is that you cannot improvise, in any way.” With Italy using a zone system, diﬀerent regions can change restrictions quickly. “Wherever you're going, you need to make sure that you have a base camp, that is just yours. Of course, we did this before, but now it is imperative.” The ﬁrst remote shoot for Dolini was a single location spot with an international football star. “They really made a leap of faith here because they never tried this and in the end everything worked well.” Back at Cinecitta, the “the first important studio has prepared production that for a post-Covid-19 resumed after covid production landscape. was hbo max drama State owned since 2017, the studio has seen DOMINA. it was heavy investment help to meaningful because attract productions such the series had an as Six Underground, international cast Catch 22 and The and applied the new Young Pope. Although the pandemic safety protocol.” threatened this upwards trajectory, the recently revamped studio is gearing up for a production boom: “For the ﬁrst time in twenty years we are fully booked,” says Spagna. In addition to a water facility, further investment took place during the production pause. “Covid taught us that production is going to change,” says Spagna. “One of the biggest and promising trends is technology innovation and we understood this back in March, so we decided to convert one of our smaller stages into a 360-degree green screen production space.” The studio is also investing in real tracking systems that were ﬁrst used in games production as well as taking ﬁrst steps into introducing virtual production technology like The Volume at the studio. At La Bienniale di Venezia in September 2020 the studio presented “Cinecitta Reset” the success of Domina and the new stages. “It’s an exciting time for us, we have an opportunity to be part of the recovery plan for Rome and Italy,” Spagna says.
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fan favourite Less than a year ago, she also produced a multi-hidden camera Stella Artois Reunion Campaign during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic with Wieden+Kennedy Tokyo. South Korea’s Hallyu productions are now a hot commodity for global streamers too. In January 2021 Netﬂix announced the lease of two Korean production facilities where Korean stories will be made for the global platform, including the Korean adaptation of Spanish hit Casa de Papel.
south korea is a sought after location for epic shoots. its network of 10 regional ﬁlm oﬃces, national and regional incentives and skilled crews make it easy to ﬁlm in the country.
ollywood has increasingly utilised South Korea’s large modern infrastructure for high-impact action scenes. 2014’s Avengers: Age of Ultron used the 10 lane Mapo bridge for a chase sequence and marks the ﬁrst time the capital accommodated a major blockbuster. Since then South Korea has gained a reputation for facilitating large-scale shoots. Seoul was included in the line-up for Netﬂix’s global sci-ﬁ series Sense8 and Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther shot on Busan’s Diamond Bridge.
South Korea avoided a complete lockdown during the ﬁrst wave of Covid-19. Netﬂix originals, an Apple TV series and a French “netflix originals, feature ﬁlm all successfully shot in 2020. The advertising sector also an apple tv series carried on working. and a french feature film were Just some of the proJects to shoot in south korea during 2020.”
Jackie Kwak, an executive producer/owner at Loudpigs says, “Korea is now a very familiar international name, with more international stars from Korea, and a Korean consumer market that loves high-end international products. Now that eyes are on Korea more than ever, international companies are aiming to shoot here.” As a senior producer for Wieden+Kennedy NY Kwak has recently done a Global TVC, ﬁlming with the iconic pop band, BTS, for McDonald’s USA.
The 30% cash rebate on production expenditures for foreign feature, TV and documentaries can be combined with other cash incentives and in-kind support from regional ﬁlm commissions, so it is possible to keep costs down while working in South Korea. Seoul, Incheon and Busan are among the network of ten regional ﬁlm oﬃces, most of which provide ﬁnancial support to incoming productions. Seoul, for instance, has its own production cost support for up to 30% of the budget spent in the city for productions ﬁlming over four days in the capital.
Gamcheon Culture Village, Busan The Gamcheon neighbourhood of Busan is famous for its colourful houses nestled on twisting alleys that wind down to the port. The village has acquired the nickname of Korea’s Santorini and is a haven for the artistic community. The location has featured in K-Dramas as well as 2015 Taiwanese drama Marry Me, or Not? Originally built in the 1920’s by the city as a working class suburb to house dock workers, in 2009 Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism made the village a cultural hub. Local residents and artists helped with the public art renovations that transformed the village into the colourful neighbourhood of today.
Aiming for Net Zero
A post-pandemic production boom is forecast as Covid-19 restrictions start to ease – which will inevitably lead to more energy use as film, TV and commercials start travelling the world for shoots. With studios, streamers, broadcasters and advertisers setting out ambitious environmental goals, it makes the shift towards more sustainable practices even more urgent for producers.
ack in March, Netﬂix set out its plans for limiting the damage it does to the environment, saying that it wants to reach ‘net zero’ greenhouse gas emissions by the end of 2022. It’s an ambitious target and means that the streamer will have to quickly reduce some of its emissions and ﬁnd ways to oﬀset or capture the rest. By 2030, Netﬂix says it plans to cut emissions from its operations and electricity use by 45%.
The streamer calculated that its 2020 carbon footprint was 1.1 billion metric tons, equivalent to a city with about 150,000 homes. Roughly half of that footprint was generated by the physical production of Netﬂix-branded ﬁlms and series, while the remainder (45%) comes from its corporate operations like oﬃces and purchased goods. Cloud providers used to stream Netﬂix account for 5% of its footprint. (Importantly, Netﬂix doesn’t include emissions from internet transmission or electronic devices that viewers use to watch content, arguing that internet service providers and device manufacturers have operational control over the equipment.)
While impressive targets, Netﬂix has lagged its competition in setting out its commitments to tackling climate change. In January 2020 Microsoft promised to go carbon negative by 2030; later that year, Apple announced its own plans to become carbon neutral by the same date. Google said last year it has wiped out its entire carbon footprint by investing in "high-quality carbon oﬀsets". Google also aims to run all its data centres and oﬃces on carbon-free energy by 2030.
To meet its deadline next year, the company is primarily relying on oﬀsetting its emissions, a strategy with a chequered history. Many experts say it is more important to stop pumping out greenhouse gasses in the ﬁrst place.
To hit its targets, Netﬂix will need to ramp up eﬀorts to prevent pollution generated by producing and streaming its movies and TV shows.
The oﬀsetting investments that Netﬂix is making are focused on restoring ecosystems that can capture and store carbon. They include Lightning Creek
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TO HIT ITS TARGETS, NETFlIX WIll NEED TO
RAMP uP EFFORTS TO PREVENT POlluTION GENERATED By PRODuCING AND STREAMING ITS MOVIES AND TV SHOWS.
Ranch in Oregon, the US’s largest bunchgrass prairie, and Darkwoods Forest Carbon Project in British Columbia, a temperate rainforest. It is also investing in Kenya’s Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project to protect half a million acres of dryland forest. Meanwhile, Netﬂix’s tactics for reducing emissions, according to its ESG Report 2020, include hiring local crew to avoid travel and lodging, and providing “employee commuting options” such as shuttles and van pools, and oﬀering free charging stations and parking for electric vehicles. It also plans to use mobile battery units instead of diesel generators, and to opt into local renewable energy programmes to power oﬃces. This focus on reducing emissions from production has been a major focus by the wider TV, ﬁlm, and commercials industry over the past year, not just by Netﬂix. In the UK, for example, ITV announced plans in August to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2030, in the process becoming a zero waste and zero single use plastic business and running a 100% sustainable supply chain. ITV has been rolling out mandatory climate crisis training to its staﬀ since then, outlining practical measures they can take to make production greener – something that Kenton Allen, CEO of ITV-owned production company Big Talk – whose credits include feature Baby Driver through to comedy Friday Night Dinner – has taken part in. Allen says sustainability is now “front of mind” at ITV and for production companies like Big Talk. All ITV Studios productions – spanning 55 production companies in 12 countries – must now be albert certiﬁed. Indeed, sustainability is an emerging driver for USA, UK, and European ﬁlm productions. Key initiatives aiming to improve reporting and increase the adoption of sustainable practices include the US Green Production Guide, Interreg Europe's Green Screen initiative and its partnership projects such as Film London's The Grid Project, the UK’s albert carbon calculator and Green Rider initiative and Film Flanders’ Sustainable Filmmaking.
sustainable manner. KZNFC ﬁrstly commissioned WrapZERO to conduct a detailed study on the resource use and environmental impact of ﬁlm, TV and commercial productions in the province. This was followed by the creation of formal Guidelines for Sustainable Production, which references and is benchmarked against international best practice and tools advocated by for example the UK’s Albert+ and US’ Green Production Guide. Industry bodies such as albert, the BAFTA led consortium on sustainability for the screen industries, have also set out route maps in the past year for how the ﬁlm and TV industry can transition to net zero. Similarly, Ad Net Zero recently announced high proﬁle supporters such as Publicis, WPP, Dentsu, Unilever, Omnicom and Droga5 as part of its ambition to help the ad industry achieve net zero by 2030. Albert’s report, A Screen New Deal – A Route Map to Sustainable Production, showed that the average tentpole ﬁlm, with a budget of over USD70 million, generates 2,840 tonnes of CO2, the equivalent of 11 one-way trips from the Earth to the moon. The report found that transport has the largest impact in terms of carbon emissions, accounting for approximately 51% of total emissions for tentpole ﬁlms. Of this, 30% is associated with air travel and 70% with land transport.
“the average tentpole film generates 2,840 tonnes of co2, the equivalent of 11 one-way trips from the earth to the moon.”
Mains electricity and gas use is the second largest contributor, responsible for almost 34% of total emissions and the remaining 15% is from the wide industry use of diesel generators. The convenience and ﬂexibility of diesel generators have caused their unquestioned popularity in the industry, and there is still a reluctance to adopt innovative battery-based solutions that are already available in the market. The report set out ﬁve key areas of “opportunity for transformation” – production materials, energy and water use, studio buildings and facilities, studio sites and locations, and production planning - and puts forward suggestions within each area for how to implement change.
Elsewhere, South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission (KZNFC) has taken action to equip local content creators and service providers with knowledge and tools to practice their business in a 149
BACK TO CONTENTS For example, the report cites online sharing platforms that can let productions exchange or store materials for reuse, such as CAMA, Dresd, Buurman, Set Exchange, Materials for the Arts, Earth Angel, Globechain, Set-a-side and The Costume Directory. It also proﬁles Sky’s Harlequin 1 as a sustainable broadcasting studio and data-centre building, which uses ‘passive design’ to help reduce energy use. For example, it has state-of-the-art naturally ventilated studios, oﬃces, and free-cooled data rooms. Mechanical systems use heat from studio lights to heat the recording studios. All the post-production and technical spaces are located in the core of the building, while oﬃce spaces are distributed around the perimeter of the building. This strategic positioning exposes oﬃce areas to natural daylight and fresh air. transport has the largest impact in terms of carbon emissions, accounting for 51% of total emissions for tentpole films.
Among other suggestions, the report recommends digital tools to help productions plan more eﬀectively and reduce paper waste, such as StudioBinder, Yamdu, Celtx, Storyboard That and Movie Magic Scheduling. Digital previsualisation (pre-vis) also allows directors and producers to test shots ahead of production planning, reducing unnecessary set construction or procurement. For example, The Third Floor is a US based studio which specialises in previz, while ﬁrms such as Framestore, Halon, and MPC also oﬀer similar services. Elsewhere, advances in VFX, CGI and remote collaboration services are shifting larger proportions of production to virtual environments and these have the potential to reduce carbon emissions and waste – but also have implications for the overall energy demand. Virtual production, as used on The Mandalorian, has the potential to improve environmental sustainability by reducing set building and travel [see our virtual production feature, page 94]. For ﬁlm, TV and commercials, travel consistently emerges as the most signiﬁcant source of carbon emissions. Research by albert, for example, showed that one hour of TV production contributes 9.2 tonnes of C02, a 10% fall from 2017. The reduction in carbon emissions is partly a result of changes happening outside of the production industry – with more wind power being generated and less coal being burnt, electricity across the UK is greener, automatically reducing the impact of energy consumption on sets or in studios. However, carbon emissions from travel and transport have risen consistently between 2017 and 2019, says albert. Could Covid-19 change the industry’s addiction to travel? The third series of Bad Wolf ’s A Discovery of Witches was due to shoot in Italy, South of France, the East coast of America and New Orleans between September 2020 and February 2021. But, due to Covid-19 restrictions, the whole series shot
ClIMATE CHANGE 150
in Wales, where Bad Wolf runs its own studio operation, Wolf Studios. Bad Wolf is now hiring local crews in each country to ﬁlm environment shots, and to stitch them into the series with visual eﬀects. This could certainly be a way forward for some productions, but most think on location shoots will quickly resume once Covid-19 travel restrictions are eased. “People will travel to where they need to shoot,” says Kenton Allen. “I don’t think that will change.” Much of the business around production itself is likely to involve less travel thanks to Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Allen says he would usually ﬂy from London to Los Angeles six times a year for meetings or pitches. “I think that can be cut right back.” Zoom pitches, he says, work well. “I’m doing it this week – we’re pitching eight networks on Zoom. And I think everybody prefers it – and it’s incredibly stressful driving all over Hollywood in that appalling traﬃc.” This comment is echoed by Ed Guiney, the CEO of Normal People, Room and The Favourite producer Element Pictures, which is based in Dublin and London. He “the business around also says he is likely to be more selective about production itself is travelling in future. likely to involve less travel thanks to
Even though travel for zoom and microsoft speciﬁc meetings may teams.” reduce, Guiney thinks that some festivals and markets may become even more important so that people can meet others in person in a shorter period of time. “People will really want to go there, see each other, watch things together and have those experiences that we have all missed out on.” The pandemic does, however, seem to have reset thinking about the natural world, with lockdowns allowing people to appreciate their environment more as their lives slowed down and they travelled less. There seemed to grow a greater respect and awareness for nature, and a demand for a healthier and more sustainable post-pandemic way of living. This has ﬁltered through to businesses as well. Recent research by the Carbon Trust shows that over 70% of companies expect environmental management and sustainability initiatives to become more important as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. For the ﬁlm, TV and commercials industries, there is an undoubted desire to do the right thing and to produce in a more sustainable way. The big challenge is that the industries are projected to enjoy a post-pandemic production boom as Covid-19 restrictions start to ease – which will inevitably lead to more energy use. It makes the shift towards more sustainable practices even more urgent.
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Co-operation has proved key to the success of the production sector in the Nordic countries. Regional film commissioners work together to promote the destination to international shoots, while co-production has been a longstanding method of funding high-end, locally produced fiction.
n the post-war era the countries that make up the Nordic region – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Greenland and the Faroe Islands – have become increasingly collaborative on a political, economic and cultural level. Almost 70 years ago, in 1952, the Nordic Council of Ministers (NCM) was formed as a body for inter-parliamentary co-operation. The Nordisk Film & TV Fond was created in 1990 by the NCM to strengthen the Nordic audiovisual industry through top-ﬁnancing co-productions. In 2021 this vision remains, and the council is currently focused on turning the region into “the most sustainable and integrated region in the world” by 2030. This cross-border collaborative spirit has also manifested itself in how the region’s audio-visual sector functions. The Nordic Film Commissions network has been promoting the region as a whole to international producers since 2009, while bodies like the Nordisk Film & TV Fond, whose role CEO Liselott Forsman deﬁnes as providing “long-term
collaboration, bridge building, and co-production funding,” on a regional level has helped foster a raft of successful local productions which travel well internationally. The idea of the Nordic Film Commissions was born in 2008 when Norway Film Commissioner Truls Kontny and Southern Sweden Film Commissioner Mikael Svensson met in New Zealand. “We thought it would be wise to cooperate because it is so expensive to go out into the world alone and have a presence at Cannes and other trade shows,” explains Kontny. The idea was popular and in 2009 Scandanavian Locations launched with commissioners from Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway as members. The addition of Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands since 2019 prompted a name change to Nordic Film Commissions. “Now it is a true Nordic cooperation, it covers the whole Nordic area” says Kontny. For over ten years the group has been promoting under A Nordic Film Commission banner at festivals and shows in Berlin, Mumbai, Los Angeles,
BACK TO CONTENTS Cannes and FOCUS London. Kontny adds: “Recently we have been able to collaborate more because we have more faith in each other. If two or three of our members are somewhere they can create an event under the Nordic Film Commissions brand.” In one sense the members are competing to attract productions, but the network provides beneﬁts to incoming projects as well as its members. “The ﬁrst aim is to try to put a spotlight on the Nordic Region and to do that we have to stand together,” says Kontny.
We thought it Would be Wise to cooperate because it is so expensive to go out into the World alone and have a presence at cannes and other trade shoWs.
Members can help incoming productions by recommending other locations that may be more suitable for the desired production. “It is deﬁnitely a strength that we already we know each other and we know who to ask,” says Kirsikka Paakinen, ﬁlm commissioner at Finland’s House of Lapland, one of the network’s long time members. “If we don’t have a certain kind of location we know that someone else from our network has.” “There is always friendly competition for projects, but as a region we can say that we have had most of the big Hollywood productions. Also, Norway, Sweden and Denmark are more or less a common work market for crews,” says Kontny. These productions include Mission Impossible, James Bond and Game of Thrones. As a former president of the European Film Commissions Network, Kontny believes that networks are helpful to Film Commissioners. “The work can be pretty lonely and having a network means you can learn from the experience of other colleagues.” The Covid-19 situation is one example where this played out according to Paakinen. “We discussed the situation during our meetings, to ﬁnd out what kind of solutions people had because everything was changing very quickly.” A low population density and high standard of healthcare helped the region to stand out during the early days of the pandemic in 2020 with productions heading to Iceland in early summer. “I think that goes for all the Nordic countries, that we could kind of compete in a new way,” says Paakinen. One example is XYZ London’s Dual, directed by Riley Stearns, which shot in 2020 and became the ﬁrst Hollywood production to shoot entirely in Finland. On a regional level, the Nordisk Film & TV Fond helps to ﬁnance ﬁlms, series, documentaries, dubbing, distribution and industry initiatives that develop cultural and industry bridges across the Nordics. “Today international co-producing and talents moving between ﬁlm and series are seen as a natural means to create high-end dramas. The Nordic region was exceptionally early in crossing such borders,” explains Forsman. “An important part of the Nordic model has always been co-producing unique and local stories, thus avoiding the notorious Eurosoap tendency of ﬁnancing
ruling the storytelling. These are now core values in the global market: we have all heard that the most local is the most global.” “The model works extremely well as the series travel well from a cultural and language point of view,” says Stefan Baron, CEO of Yellow Bird, the production company behind the global hits Wallander and the Millennium ﬁlms, and upcoming Nordisk Film Fund supported Snow Angels. There are also creative advantages to cross-border collaboration he says: “To be able to work with commissioners, authors, directors and HODs from diﬀerent countries with diﬀerent perspectives in developing projects can enhance both the storytelling and production method. It’s also great fun which adds energy.” Over 2020 the fund has supported many high-end series that take a look at Nordic societies including Finnish Transport, Swedish Snow Angels, Norwegian Fury and Countrymen, Icelandic “international Blackport and Danishco-producing and Faroese Trom as well as talents moving period productions like between film and Danish series Leonora series are seen as a and the SwedishNorwegian-Danish ﬁlm natural means to The Emigrants. create high-end
dramas. the nordic
“Our cultures are quite region was distinctive, but we do exceptionally share some working early in crossing principles,” says Forsman. such borders.” “In the Nordics we traditionally appreciate clear, transparent and ﬂexible systems. We share dilemmas and solutions with each other. In short, we keep up industry dialogues on many levels.” One recent example of this is research into the eﬀects of the pandemic on the industry. “The study, done by the Norwegian BI university, looked especially into how the mitigating measures had worked in our diﬀerent countries. It is always useful to share best practices and to learn from less successful examples together,” she says. Another example is the Audiovisual Collaboration 2021, a year long project that will run alongside the NCM chair in Finland that aims to build dialogue between professionals and government decision makers. For regional commissions the success has seen the Nordic region build a reputation on the international stage. Kontny notes: “Since we started to cooperate together we have succeeded in putting the Nordics on the map.” Shared values help in this endeavour: “We are informal and that is one of our advantages. We are not bureaucratic: we can always ﬁx and deal and make things happen and we are easy going. This attitude has coloured what we have done internationally as well. For example, our pavilion in Cannes market has developed over the past 11 years so that not only can international ﬁlmmakers ﬁnd the information they need, but it has an informal feel and a lot of people feel welcome there. The logo ‘come visit us at home’ deﬁnes this: it should be a home away from home for everybody.”
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interview gina withd jackson erspici games industry pioneer, Gina Jackson OBE began in the early 1990s working for companies including Ocean Software, Nokia, Eidos and Sony. Passionate about education and diversity in the games industry, she served as CEO of Women in Games. She went on to set up the NextGen Skills Academy, an organisation bringing industry and education together in games, animation and VFX. More recently she has worked as head of games at Imaginarium Studios, and as development director at Sold Out. She is currently a trustee for the mental health charity Safe in our World focusing on gamers and those working in the sector. She is also a trustee of GamesAid, sits on the board at NextGen Skills Academy, and is Visiting Professor in Games Industry and Business at the Norwich University of the Arts and is an advisor to several games developers. She was made an OBE for her services to education and diversity in the video games industry in the 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honours.
Why is there an issue with mental health in the games industry? There are issues around mental health in every sector. For games, it has to do with how the industry works. Everything is driven by passion, and often developers don’t really think about their work processes and structure, and this has an impact on their mental health. There’s almost a belief that, if they close their eyes and cross their ﬁngers, they can make things happen. But that’s not the case. Nobody is going to come out the other end feeling great if they work like that.
Is this something unique to the games industry? It's the same in any passion industry. We're a massively hit driven business, so there’s a push from organisations for people to work longer hours, just to polish a game a little bit more to make it a success. But people are also choosing to work long hours themselves. We have a lot of people with imposter syndrome within the games industry. People can't quite believe they've got the job of their dreams, so to maintain it, they feel like they have to do a few extra hours a day. I worked with a developer recently who ended up in hospital with a burst ulcer. We would tell him that we didn’t want him to work such long hours, and we changed his schedule, but he still fell into the old patterns. He’s a grown up, he runs his own company. But it's really hard to change this mindset. MakErs
What needs to happen to avoid this type of burnout and illness?
about anything. Lots of young people are very happy to talk about their mental health. Creating a commonality around games for people to be able to talk about their mental health and share their stories of mental health is something very powerful. MakErs
How has it been for the games industry during the pandemic? The UK games industry generated a record GBP7 billion last year, a 30% increase from 2019. It’s a huge number. In fact, we’re the most successful of all the screen sectors. Yet we're always seen as the black sheep of the family. We don't have our equivalent of the BFI. We don't have our production guilds. We don't receive any lottery funding. We've only recently got tax relief, but we're not very good at taking government support. So, we have just got on with it. It's a real problem for our industry, but I actually think it’s a bigger problem for government. MakErs
Why is that? A lot of it comes down to balance, and being able to take a step back. Often, that comes with age and experience and the conﬁdence in knowing the job you're doing. It’s also about taking advice. Often, it's free; in games, the support network is huge. Everyone wants everyone else to succeed. People are willing to share a huge amount of experience and knowledge. It's just whether you're able and willing to ask. Again, we come back to imposter syndrome, which makes asking for help really hard.
We’re not an industry that government necessarily wants to associate with. But we are an economic powerhouse in the UK. If government help us to grow more quickly and more sustainably, we can do great things. If not, people working in the industry will just move to other countries. In the early 2000s, people just moved to Canada because they supported the industry there. MakErs
Do you see much crossover between games and the ﬁlm / TV industries?
We're using games as a platform to talk about mental health. We have a Discord server, where people who have games as a passion can come in and talk
Not really. I went to work for Andy Serkis’ Imaginarium to be head of games because I'm so curious about this idea of a crossover between two really creative sectors. I was there for three years, and the biggest thing I learned is
What are you doing in terms of the mental health of gamers?
that ﬁlm catering is awesome. I don't think ﬁlm people see or hold any value in games people, but they are beginning to see it in games technology. They want to do it all themselves with their people. And we're not their people. And they're not our people. I tried really hard. But no, I've never managed to make any headway in bringing people over. MakErs
Are similar conversations about diversity being held within games as with the ﬁlm and TV industries? We've been having diversity conversations for 10 to15 years. The big topic used to be that girls don't play games, so we don't need women in the games industry. We’ve gone way beyond that now. We have our own LGBT groups and people of colour in play groups, and now more inclusion groups are looking at intersectionality. It's a massive issue for the games industry on screen and behind the screen. We've probably gone about it in a slightly diﬀerent way to ﬁlm and TV because we don't have the power of public funding to be able to help change things. Five years ago, companies wouldn't have had any quandary about putting up an all-white male board on their website. Now more people are cringing at that kind of thinking. MakErs
What about the state of training – are enough people coming through with the skills that are needed? There's still a problem with the talent pipeline. If you're running an education institution, games is a great way to get bums on seats. But are the students getting the right education? Not always. We have big gaps. Our biggest challenge is getting more industry people into education and helping students pick the right courses and institutions.
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Blockchain will build trust in the industry blockchain can create transparent money and data floWs for all invested parties in a tv and film production, accurately collecting and disbursing entitlements and sharing data. it can also help allay fears about ‘smart accounting,’ says filmchain co-founder maria tanjala.
or decades, ﬁlm and TV have been perceived as opaque. Producers starting out are warned about “smart accounting”. Everyone involved in the creation and distribution of screen content is on a constant quest for hints that can win their trust.
Revealing box oﬃce numbers was a bold move. How many people watched it? How did a foreign ﬁlm ﬁll seats on the other side of the world?
It can only be hugely productive for parties who started on a journey together, who are linked by a project and contracts, to transparently communicate with each other. Often, the infrastructure is lacking. Film companies are stretched to perform accounting and reporting obligations on manual, error-prone legacy systems. The ‘know-how’ can disappear with a resignation, a hack, a computer crash.
Undoubtedly, industry players are driven by passion. The only way to justify the 14 hour days, or remortgaging a house is the belief in that project. It is especially soul-crushing to be left in the dark thereafter. Chasing ﬁnancial information via emails and calls can crack the fragile bond.
That’s why reliable systems and veriﬁcation mechanisms must replace the suboptimal current processes. The lack of transparent communication continues to hurt relationships. Mismatched funds and delays have put companies out of business. There is no reason why an entitlement should take months, if not years, to get to the right owners.
As a former producer, and current co-founder at FilmChain, I can assert that today’s creators, investors and talent, want to be in the know. They want access to two crucial assets: their money and their data.
Today, everything we order is instantaneous, we live in a one-click world. The ﬁlm and TV industries are overdue to follow this shift and take the leap into real-time payments and information on-demand. At FilmChain, our mission is to create transparent money and data ﬂows, from viewers to creators using blockchain and cloud-based technologies. Accurately collecting, then disbursing entitlements and sharing data, empowers each party and weaves a long thread of trust. Blockchain, one of the most secure, fastest and trustworthy technologies for recording data, can have an incredible impact on solving the trust issue. Smart contracts are used to automatically execute the complex payment algorithms and the data is made available for veriﬁcation. More than ever before, creators, producers and their partners want to know their projects’ journey. They know that tracking views is palpable and possible. And they will not settle for anything less. The age of being in the know is here.
Maria Tanjala is the co-founder of FilmChain, a UK-based platform for the collection and allocation of revenues in the film and TV industries worldwide. The platform leverages a private Ethereum blockchain ledger to maintain transaction information, execute fast payments and accommodate complex recoupment schedules with hundreds of beneficiaries. FilmChain was the winner of the EQUALS Money Award at the makers & shakers Awards.
The Power of Podcasts
Image: Gangs of London © Sky UK Limited.
Just like the screen industry, good stories told well are key to the rising success of podcasts. The medium is increasingly capturing the attention of audiences, brands and Hollywood and its capacity to grow shows no signs of slowing.
udience appetite for podcasts has been growing consistently since the mid-noughties when the medium started to become more mainstream. In 2005 The Oxford Dictionary ﬁrst included the term and President Bush started to make his weekly address available as a podcast. At that point only 11% of the US population had ever listened to one, but the podcast market is seeing a boom with Deloitte predicted the global market 30% year-on-year revenue in 2020. Even a few years ago, producing podcasts was a very niche activity. In 2017, Hannah Maguire and Suruthi Bala launched Red Handed, a weekly true crime podcast that was crowned Spotify’s most popular podcast of that genre in the UK in 2020. “I didn't know anybody who was listening to podcasts until I met Suruthi at a party. When we started Red Handed we knew absolutely nothing about podcasting,” says Maguire. Initially, the pair’s shows were recorded in Maguire’s under stairs cupboard. “What I love about podcasts is that anyone can do it. As a creative, making your
own work is invaluable. You don't have to wait for someone to audition you or give you a grant or do any of those things. If you're willing to put in the work it, you can make podcasting happen entirely on your own, you don't need anyone's permission.” The DIY nature of podcasts means that production is accessible to anyone with the initiative to create something, and many have done just this. Apple Podcasts has one of the largest catalogues and currently features over one million shows in over hundred languages and 175 countries and regions. In the US around 155 million people, or 55% of the population has now listened to a podcast, with over 104 million listening monthly. Across the world, a Reuters Institute Digital News Report found that South Korea, Spain, Ireland and Sweden have some of the highest audiences for regular listeners. And podcasts are growing: Edison’s Inﬁnite Dial Research on Digital Media found that monthly podcast listeners in the US have been growing 16%
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Image: Giri/Haji © BBC Pictures.
WE'VE HAD ENORMOuS SuCCESS WITH PATREON,
A SuBSCRIPTION MODEl THAT AllOWS lISTENERS TO ACCESS BONuS CONTENT AND EXTRAS.
year-on-year and active podcast listeners are increasing engagement, with time spent having increased by nearly a third since 2015 to an average of six and a half hours per week. Amid this rising consumption, consolidation of the sector has been taking place. In 2019 Spotify acquired Podcast producer Gimlet and Anchor as well as Megaphone, a podcast ad-insertion tech company, establishing itself as a major player in the podcasting world. The audio streamer started signing exclusive deals with creators such as a reported USD100 million deal with creator Joe Rogan to move over ten years of his content to the platform. Michelle Obama and Kim Kardashian West are among other high proﬁle names to have signed deals with Spotify. Of course, these types of deals are out of the ordinary, particularly for the smaller, niche DIY producers, but the characteristic of podcasts means that money can be made beyond inbuilt adverts. Podcasts skew towards younger audiences, and research shows that they earn more than the average person. The focus on speciﬁc content or perspectives and high interaction with listener communities means that audience engagement and trust is high. For brands, advertising on podcasts is a powerful way to promote and reach often niche demographics. Podcast networks work to sign independent shows and attract advertisers, increasing the proﬁtability of shows while the invention of dynamic ad insertion means that even old episodes can be monetised with current ads. However, this has not always been the case, particularly for a popular genre such as true crime. “Advertisers ﬁnd it quite a scary thing. When we started four years ago, big media houses were much less likely to make true crime shows because they don't sell very well to advertisers. That meant a lot of homegrown people just started making their own shows,” says Maguire. But captive audiences are willing to pay for additional content from their favourite shows, providing a diversiﬁed income stream, not purely reliant on advertisers. While Red Handed started as a side hustle for Maguire and Bala, it is now their full-time jobs and the podcast employs two producers and an intern. “This means we can delegate more which gives us more time to make more stuﬀ and more money in other places,” says Maguire. “The way our income streams work is we have ads and sponsorship on the show itself that our
network bring in, and then we've had enormous success of Patreon, a paid-for subscription model that allows listeners to access bonus content and extras.” Patreon was founded in 2013 by two YouTubers who were looking for a way to monetise their YouTube videos. The platform is a widely adopted by creators as a way to receive income directly “active podcast from subscribed fans, in listeners are exchange for access to increasing their bonus content. “Similar engagement, with to podcasting, Patreon time spent makes you the captain listening having of your own fate. It increased by nearly allows you to completely control how much work a third since 2015 you're doing. Before to an average of Covid-19 we also did six and a half live shows and during hours per week.” the pandemic we've grown so much, I think our ability to sell big rooms now will be triple what it was.” The pair have also just written their ﬁrst book. The true crime genre is also one of the most popular for being adapted into TV and ﬁlm, with examples including Amazon’s Lore, Bravo’s Dirty John, HBO’s Serial and FX’s Crimetown. The adaptation of podcasts into screen content has led to top producers such as Gimlet Media launching TV and ﬁlm arms to satisfy demand. Adaptations tend to centre on narrative podcasts, which due to the nature of the format tend to be intimate, character driven and fastpaced with twists, and come with an in-built fanbase. Some screen producers are also investing in the medium such as independent studio Sister Pictures, whose recent output includes Chernobyl, Gangs of London, The Spilt and Giri/Haji. Sister recently invested in Podcast Studio Campside. The studio, founded by long-form journalists, focuses on narrative non-ﬁction storytelling and projects are identiﬁed as part of a ﬁrst look agreement. The success of the medium however, comes back to its intimate and home-grown nature origins. With so much competition in the market, the podcasts need to resonate with listeners. “The best thing that you can do, especially in podcasting is try and create and shape, a really strong connection and relationship with your listeners. The best way to do that is by delivering the absolute best content that you can, consistently, and then everything else will just sort of fall into place,” says Bala.
Image: Chernobyl © Sky UK Ltd & HBO.
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Dubbing & subtitling he streaming revolution has had a transformative eﬀect on the dubbing and subtitling industry, with demand for ‘localisation’ growing as content increasingly travels the globe.
With the world becoming increasingly interconnected, the global language services market has seen rapid growth. Over the last ten years the market reportedly doubled in size, reaching US USD49.6 billion in 2019. Of this, dubbing and subtitling movies and TV is a small, but fast-growing subset. MakErs
What’s going on in the market? The rise of the streamers has proved transformative for dubbing and subtitling start-ups through to global players such as Iyuno, Deluxe and Zoo Digital. These larger localisation companies have grown fast in tandem with the streamers, sparking the interest of investors and private equity money. MakErs
Tell us about some of the big deals. Iyuno, backed by VC giant SoftBank Ventures as well as private equity ﬁrms Shamrock Capital and Altor, has emerged a key consolidator, announcing in January the acquisition of one of its largest rivals, SDI Media. The deal followed hard on the heels of its 2019 merger with leading localisation ﬁrm BTI Studios. In April, the newly named Iyuno-SDI Group secured another USD160 million investment from SoftBank. lOCAlISATION SuBTITlING
Elsewhere, London-based media localizer VSI Group announced in February that it had acquired Brazilian dubbing, subtitling, and media localisation studio Vox Mundi. The deal came 18 months after VSI bought Argentinian localisation company Civisa Media. MakErs
Why so much focus on the localisation sector? It’s always been rather under the radar. The big three streamers – Netﬂix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney Plus – are jostling for customers with other well-funded SVOD services like Apple TV Plus, HBO Max, Peacock, Paramount Plus, Hulu and Discovery Plus. That’s not to mention advertiser-funded video on demand (AVOD) players like Fox’s Tubi and ViacomCBS’s Pluto, or the hundreds of local streaming platforms now available such as the UK’s All4 and BBC iPlayer through to France’s Salto or Germany’s Joyn. They are spending heavily on high quality content. The global nature of many of the platforms means the content has to be dubbed and subtitled into dozens of languages for local audiences. MakErs
Is it all about translating US shows into local languages? No, it’s not just a one-way ﬂow. As part of a strategy to build roots in key territories, the streamers have invested heavily in local production and acquisition. Netﬂix has enjoyed success by funding local shows such as
France’s Lupin and Spain’s La Casa de Papel, then rolling them out globally. Disney recently said that it was ramping up local-language productions in Europe to help fuel Disney Plus, with 50 original shows expected by 2024 from countries such as France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. Around the world audiences have grown increasingly open to diverse, foreign language content, as shown by the triumph of South Korean ﬁlm Parasite at last year’s Oscars. German content is travelling to Turkey, for example, while Spanish content is travelling to the UK. MakErs
Is it just the big, global localisation houses who are beneﬁting? Business seems to be growing for many ﬁrms in this space. Istanbul-based localizer Studio DSE, for example, started working with Netﬂix when the streamer launched in Turkey in 2016. Since then, the company has grown from 12 to nearly 50 people as it has responded to growing demand, not just from Netﬂix but also other international clients. The company is also investing in new facilities too: it is soon to open a new HQ with six studios, adding to its current three studios.
Dubbing always used to be a bit dodgy. Is it getting any better? Another by-product of the streamer boom is an increased focus on quality in localisation. As direct to consumer brands, streamers such as Netﬂix, Disney Plus and Amazon Prime are acutely aware that their success is dependent on the quality of the productions they oﬀer to paying subscribers. Naturally, this extends to localisation: a convincing dub or accurate subtitling is an integral part of the user experience for a streamer’s many international subscribers. Titles also stay on a service for an extended period and are available on demand – so mistakes are easily spotted and scrutinised, in contrast to linear channels where clumsy translation or dubbing would tend to ﬂy by with the airing of the programme. The prevalence of social media also means that mistakes are now easily shared, damaging consumer perception of the streamer brand. For some streamers, good dubbing now means a focus on culturally relevant, authentic voice casting. Many localisation houses have invested in technology to improve their service, employing machine translation software to speed up processes cloud-based software to streamline the production and management of workﬂows.