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The end of quality with a slight wimper.BBC drama production


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#1 Freya Black

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Posted 30 March 2008 - 11:15 AM

One of the BBC bean counters suddenly realised they have a costume department.

"Hang on, we don't need a costume department to make games shows, news, reality tv shows or preety much any of the kind of things we do these days, What an archaic relic!"

http://news.bbc.co.u...ent/7321453.stm

...and so it ended, with a slight whimper.
Of course I'm sure many of you will be saying to yourselves that the BBC was long since gone.
All the same I feel this is a kind of milestone.

I feel sad because a while back it seemed like Greg Dyke might actually rescue things and be able to turn the BBC around but then the u.k. government did what it always does to the tv industry here ("death on the rocks" etc)

:(

Trying to look on the positive side, maybe the wig people will start making costumes and create their own little costume world.

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#2 Michael Lehnert

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Posted 30 March 2008 - 12:20 PM

Actually, I am glad to hear that Angel got the deal in the end to take the BBC Costume Repository (it wasn't a real department for some time now) over. I think it is in much better hands now which appreciate the goods and the quality more than any current BBC executive will do for the foreseeable future.

It could have been much worse and they could have just ditched everything into a scrapyard, as happened to some other BBC gear in the past.

So look on the bright side, Freya. Who knows how many pieces of costume art where lost forever when US studios killed of their in-house departments bit by bit through the 1950s - 70s?
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#3 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 30 March 2008 - 12:28 PM

Many of the US studios do have costume houses - Warner certainly does - even if their business practices are sometimes a bit odd.

What's saddest of all is that Angels has also become fairly rubbish since they were taken over by new management. It's no longer a family-run firm, and the new lot seem to have realised that the fancy dress retail department is a lot more profitable than the costume house.

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#4 Michael Lehnert

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Posted 30 March 2008 - 12:48 PM

It's no longer a family-run firm,...


Oh?!? REALLY :o ? When did that happen?



P.S.: For some reason, I don't get e-mail post notifiers to my mailbox anymore, despite all settings being alright. So I might not get back with replies as soon as I would wish to... :(
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#5 Freya Black

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Posted 30 March 2008 - 01:32 PM

Actually, I am glad to hear that Angel got the deal in the end to take the BBC Costume Repository (it wasn't a real department for some time now) over. I think it is in much better hands now which appreciate the goods and the quality more than any current BBC executive will do for the foreseeable future.

It could have been much worse and they could have just ditched everything into a scrapyard, as happened to some other BBC gear in the past.

So look on the bright side, Freya. Who knows how many pieces of costume art where lost forever when US studios killed of their in-house departments bit by bit through the 1950s - 70s?


It's just more that it seems like a final sad admission that it is over.
I think you are right tho and if they hadn't found the buyer it may well have all ended up in skips.

I'm mostly heartened by the little people buying the wigs. Maybe they will make something happen. It's good to create things with the leftovers. In fact that's preety much my life right now.

We will just have to wait and see.

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#6 Freya Black

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Posted 30 March 2008 - 01:38 PM

Many of the US studios do have costume houses - Warner certainly does - even if their business practices are sometimes a bit odd.

What's saddest of all is that Angels has also become fairly rubbish since they were taken over by new management. It's no longer a family-run firm, and the new lot seem to have realised that the fancy dress retail department is a lot more profitable than the costume house.

Phil


Are they 2 doors to the same building?
By which I mean can you rent the same stuff as fancy dress or as costume house?
Is Angels the only game in town now or are there other costume houses? Preferably somewhere very cheap!! ;)

BTW, sorry the title of this thread got mangled somehow.

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Freya

Edited by Freya Black, 30 March 2008 - 01:39 PM.

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#7 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 30 March 2008 - 02:26 PM

There are two buildings - the big warehouse in NW9 and the fancy dress place in Shaftesbury Avenue and no the stock is not the same.

Yes they are effectively the only game in town. The alternatives are mainly theatrical places, and while I've found them occasionally useful the detail is sometimes not enough for screen work.

What's worth remembering is that even at the height of their powers, Angels were fundamentally a historical costume house. Recently, they couldn't even supply me with current RAF uniform (they could do world war 2). Even their website claims that "we pride ourselves on meticulous historical accuracy, which is constantly cross-referenced with our unique library".

Obviously nobody will ever make a production in the UK requiring anything other than historical costume...

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#8 Freya Black

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Posted 30 March 2008 - 05:51 PM

There are two buildings - the big warehouse in NW9 and the fancy dress place in Shaftesbury Avenue and no the stock is not the same.

Yes they are effectively the only game in town. The alternatives are mainly theatrical places, and while I've found them occasionally useful the detail is sometimes not enough for screen work.

What's worth remembering is that even at the height of their powers, Angels were fundamentally a historical costume house. Recently, they couldn't even supply me with current RAF uniform (they could do world war 2). Even their website claims that "we pride ourselves on meticulous historical accuracy, which is constantly cross-referenced with our unique library".

Obviously nobody will ever make a production in the UK requiring anything other than historical costume...

P


Strange, you would think they would be able to pick up such stuff as Army surplus, and then if they keep it long enough it could become historical! ;)

To be fair tho, who's actually going to make a production in the u.k.?
Oh hang on, yeah the Americans might, I forgot! ;)

What are the theatrical places you talk of Phil? They might be good enough for some of the things I get up to. I'm assuming they would be substantially cheaper than Angels?

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#9 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 30 March 2008 - 06:18 PM

I wouldn't say substantially but they are cheaper.

The specific problem with military uniform is, as you suggest, Amereican dominance of the market. The US military is frequently depicted on screen and you can get more or less anything off the shelf (regardless of whether you actually have military support or not). The last time I can recall seeing an RAF officer in a major feature film was over ten years ago - Angels actually have the flight suit that appeared for nearly nine seconds in Independence Day.

I couldn't tell you where to go for theatrical stuff other than to check the usual directories and search online - it's all I'd do.

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#10 Paul Bruening

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Posted 31 March 2008 - 11:38 AM

I'm a complete outsider from BFE even here in America. I haven't kept up with what's happening across the big pond. How is production doing in Europe? I just assumed Europeans produced a dependable volume of feature product each year. Ya'll make it sound like only TV is getting made. Help me understand what's going on movie-wise over there. Who controls distribution and theaters there?
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#11 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 31 March 2008 - 02:03 PM

> I just assumed Europeans produced a dependable volume of feature product each year.

Ha-ha.

> Ya'll make it sound like only TV is getting made.

No, we make it sound like not even TV is getting made. For instance, there are currently no 35mm TV dramas being shot in the UK - and yes, I'm not exaggerating, I do literally mean not one. When Rowling wanted to sell the movie rights to Harry Potter, she looked for a UK film production company capable of making it in the way it clearly needed to be made.

But there isn't one.

Until Universal bought a 67% share in Working Title, we did at least have a source of... well... effectively the same Hugh Grant rom-com over and over again. Now we don't even have that. Pinewood and Shepperton together are probably about the size of Warner, at a vague guess, and there are perhaps half a dozen other much smaller studio facilities worthy of the name before you get down to people working in warehouses.

> Help me understand what's going on movie-wise over there.

Bond, right now. Otherwise nothing.

> Who controls distribution and theaters there?

Hollywood. Until 1985 the Eady Levy was in effect a tax on the UK box office of any film shown here, which was reinvested in UK production allowed us to have a film industry. It was abolished because its terms were, quite clearly, being abused, but the French have a vaguely similar system which does keep some people in work.

One of the principal problems we have is that UK audiences will watch American films without blinking, but Americans are much choosier about British product. US productions are not in the "world cinema" section of the DVD aisle - in fact they dominate it almost exclusively. I have shown American friends UK film magazines and they're generally shocked that it is extremely unusual to have a single homegrown film in the review or currently-showing section. The American dominance of the UK film industry is practically complete and it is a disturbing thing to behold if you aren't used to it.

It would always be difficult for us to compete because we have a target audience of sixty million and you have a target audience of three hundred million before you even consider overseas sales, but the extent to which we are - or to which we frankly have been - completely blown away is a surprise to a lot of people in the US. We no longer have a film industry in this country in the sense of producing houses - we have a film service industry which spends most of its time producing commercials and music videos and a Bond film every four years.

The situation is the same with TV, and although there are theoretically cultural restrictions on the amount of foreign TV that can be shown, US imports dominate the schedule. Traditionally, TV production in the UK has been 16mm and that is more to do with habit than anything else, and until HD broadcast came along I didn't have a problem with that, but the amount of what you would consider properly produced dramatic television is tiny - a dozen series, I suppose, and made in seasons too short to engender any US interest even if Americans would watch British TV, which they generally won't (other than costume drama).

Most telling of all, I think it's fair to say that the most conspicuous sign of success in the UK is simply to have left. The best and the brightest move to LA as soon as they can and the rest of us, the people without really in-depth specialist knowledge, including me, are trapped here like animals eking out a hand to mouth living on industrial promos and whatever other crumbs fall through the gaps of Toronto and Sydney. The result of this is that it's actually quite an unpleasant place to work, with crew on a production of any size extremely aware that they're one slip and a bit of bad luck from a long, long unemployment line. This makes people mercenary and willing to screw each other over, as in any circumstance where an essential commodity is in short supply.

Until recently the UK could boast of excellent, hardworking crews (who were generally far less militant than their IA-affiliated colleagues 'cross the ocean) and a pool of excellent facilities - at least, that was the union line. We speak English and have a lot in common with Americans, so we were at least a decent service depot. These things exist, though, on a "use it or lose it" basis, and I know of very few UK crew, on what would be considered big union productions in the US, who do not do other work on the side. Our best, most experienced people are relics of better times, now visibly ageing and I don't get the impression they're really being replaced by people of equal calibre.

This situation will not be solved without action by central government. The film industry of any country is a valuable cultural asset and we are currently being mown down by the US in like manner to an elephant stepping on an ant. I am, as far as is reasonable, a libertarian, but I don't think it could possibly be more obvious that robust regulation of the industry is decades overdue.

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#12 Warwick Hempleman

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Posted 02 April 2008 - 06:26 AM

I can sadly second much of what Phil says as applicable to Continental production & distribution. Germany in particular had a boom in screens and cinemas, followed by an implosion. The whole thing is nearly identical to what happened in the US in the early 90s.

In terms of production, there's more 35 being shot now than there was say 15 or 20 years. Domestic TV drama production remains primarily 16, and with the weak dollar, US imports dominate the airwaves. That said, they generally also look a lot better than the local product.

The global market for Continental (i.e., non-English Language) work is even tinier than that for UK product.

Edited by Warwick Hempleman, 02 April 2008 - 06:27 AM.

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#13 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 02 April 2008 - 09:15 AM

I was quite shocked that Der Rote Baron was shot in English. Amazing really. If anything should have opened people up to putting up with subtitles...

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#14 Paul Bruening

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Posted 02 April 2008 - 12:00 PM

Hello good Europeans,

Please forgive my ignorance when I ask these questions. What in hell is going on with your markets? When I say markets I mean your consumers. When I say your consumers I mean your people. How can they not hunger for indigenous product? When I say indigenous product I mean movies made in their country. When I say movies made in their country I mean stuff about them and not about a bunch of shallow Americans.

Could ya'll go all French new wave and make movies in your back yard with stolen equipment and the like? Or is it that your own people won't sit at your table no matter what you cooked?

I confess, I just don't understand how they can't positively hunger for cinematic expressions that are a reflection of their own lives and beings.
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#15 Will Earl

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Posted 02 April 2008 - 02:50 PM

The same goes for many other countries out there where you'd expect there to be a film industry capable of producing more local films (or even more high quality television) each year. Being over here in the UK at the moment I'm really surprised that there isn't more locally produced features here, it's not much more than what we produce back home in NZ each year, although to be fair, the films produced here do seem to have slightly larger budgets overall and the UK does produce more local telly.

Aside from Bond, Greenzone and Three and Out I haven't really heard of any other UK features going on here at the moment. There are plenty of films being made over here in the UK, but only really if your doing work on any one of the numerous US features in production at the moment.

I have no real answers as to why there aren't more 'native' films being made in places like the UK or Canada (or any other place that isn't the US).
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#16 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 02 April 2008 - 03:57 PM

Several things conspire to create this situation.

First is the lack of regulation. As you rightly point out, if a foreign studio system did this in the US, the public would cry bloody murder and it would be regulated. This is related to the second reason, which is that there is a higher level of overt patriotism in the US than there is in most European countries. Sometimes, US flagwaving can be brash and unseemly, as it is currently being in the middle east, which puts a lot of other people off that particular sort of thinking, but the point remains that Americans often like to fly the flag in a way that people here do not.

Thirdly, the US studios, having established a near monopoly, are exploiting it, in two main ways. Advertising, like everything else in the UK, is very, very, very expensive, and it's simple to use financial muscle - which they have in spades - to comprehensively outpromote everyone else; thus the message is "You will watch National Treasure: Book of Secrets. You will watch National Treasure: Book of Secrets. You will watch..."

Also, and this is the bit that really cheeses people off, the big US producers use a system of packaging - that is, if you want to exhibit extremely desirable movie A on your 500-screen theatre chain, you must also agree to show mediocre movies B and C (which is of course why hopeless junk like National Treasure: Book of Secrets even exists as a film). Oddly enough this is not a million miles from the system of production under the Eady Levy (you must distribute mediocre content), but while these other factors can be somewhat justified as chance sociology and understandable business economics, this sort of behaviour stinks. It's downright underhanded, anticompetitive, and should be illegal.

And at the end of the day, US movies do well worldwide because they're often very well done, at least to the extent of being technically slick and easy to promote. There's no doubt that the sort of well-financed feature filmmaking that's done in LA is not often done better, anywhere else in the world. This is a virtuous circle because you have crews who work twenty days a month on full budget feature production or TV series, with the unsprirising side effect that some of them are kind of getting used to it by now. This is the most cancerous side-effect of the UK problem, because the crews do not get the same level of experience. Right now, we can, if we choose to spend the money, produce features to that level, as can probably a dozen other spots around the world, but this is not an ability which is being actively maintained.

At this point it's worth comparing the situation in France, because there, the law requires that a certain proportion of features be indigenous. And oddly enough, most French moviegoers would rather watch American stuff because it's often better done. It has more money spent on it and, if you're an undiscerning popcorn-chewer, is often better at just taking you out of the headache of life for a couple of hours, so the laws wind them up inordinately.

I could as well ask you why US audiences won't watch foreign film, as much as you ask me why UK audiences will put up with our current situation. At this point the major US studios don't even factor foreign box-office into their budget calculations - they'll make their money back at home, anything else is gravy.

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#17 Freya Black

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Posted 02 April 2008 - 04:20 PM

One of our most talented and well known film directors over here, just shot his latest feature on a Sony V1 and worked hard to raise a budget of £100,000. He had the good sense to shoot it in the U.S. of course so that he might get some kind of market for it. Preety together guy.

Many of the others hardly make films any more.

Edited by Freya Black, 02 April 2008 - 04:20 PM.

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#18 Freya Black

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Posted 02 April 2008 - 04:37 PM

I'm a complete outsider from BFE even here in America. I haven't kept up with what's happening across the big pond. How is production doing in Europe? I just assumed Europeans produced a dependable volume of feature product each year. Ya'll make it sound like only TV is getting made. Help me understand what's going on movie-wise over there. Who controls distribution and theaters there?


Your posting made me giggle as the point of this thread was more about how TV isn't getting made any more. We used to have a TV industry that produced amazingly high quality programs on tiny budgets. They used to say it was the best television in the world. Even the little commercial channels used to produce some amazing stuff. There is a little TV station near me with cabinets in the entrance foyer stuffed with awards and trophies etc. It's only when you get a little closer and you see all the dates on them... Kind of like a little graveyard in a way.

TV in this country was killed off by various government interventions, usually over news reporting that the goverment didn't like. See Margret Thatcher and "Death on the Rocks" or more recently, Tony Blair and the whole "dirty dossier" buisness that lost Greg Dyke his job. Sometimes it was other kinds of political posturing such as the stuff which did away with ATV and ITC entertainments (makers of the Muppet Show, Captain Scarlet etc) Letting Rupert Murdoch control everything didn't help either, but then he owns most of the Newspapers here and it is thought his influence can swing elections. Lots of really wilful destructive stuff.

The TV industry was what we had here, the proper movie industry was long gone. Now the TV industry is gone too preety much.

love

Freya
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#19 Freya Black

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Posted 02 April 2008 - 04:46 PM

Hello good Europeans,

Could ya'll go all French new wave and make movies in your back yard with stolen equipment and the like? Or is it that your own people won't sit at your table no matter what you cooked?


This is preety much what we do now. More sort of Ed Wood than French New Wave and more "thrown out crap" than stolen but that's basically the idea.

I confess, I just don't understand how they can't positively hunger for cinematic expressions that are a reflection of their own lives and beings.


Many people do which is why there is some resentment here for crap Hollywood movies but many people just love those crap Hollywood movies too, so they can hunger all they want as they can't have it, not when there is U.S. subsidesed content flooding the markets.

love

Freya
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#20 Dave Green

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Posted 03 April 2008 - 10:32 AM

At this point it's worth comparing the situation in France, because there, the law requires that a certain proportion of features be indigenous. And oddly enough, most French moviegoers would rather watch American stuff because it's often better done.


Although they generally won't admit it, the French also love the US and embrace anything that comes from there, which includes their films. But if you compare their films to those made in the UK, then it's incredibly depressing. Can you name five excellent UK films made in the last ten years? I'm damned if I can. Can you do the same for French films? Now that's easy in comparison.

The French may go in larger numbers to US films, however they still go in decent numbers to see French films, too, because their home-grown features are generally worth watching.

Edited by Dave Green, 03 April 2008 - 10:33 AM.

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