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Survey of UK Low and Micro Budget production


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#1 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 18 December 2008 - 11:37 AM

The UK Film Council has done a survey on Low & Micro Budget production in the UK

http://www.ukfilmcou..._UK-17Jun08.pdf

It looks a worthwhile read for anyone considering this market sector.

One quote being "would you watch the film you're about to make?"
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#2 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 18 December 2008 - 05:06 PM

There was an article about this in BECTU's magazine this month.

It was right in the broad strokes - low budget films are often unsafe, uninsured, borderline illegal, and will never be seen by anyone. For the last eighteen months or so I've had something that people who don't know me say is good and worthy of production, but there's no way I'm going to do it until I have both a workable budget and some sort of distribution for it (these may commonly appear hand in hand). I like to think this is being grown-up about it.

However, the same article glibly reckoned that:

...today's generation of wannabe producers can rush into production without all the boring and inconvenient hassle of actually doing their job and raising a proper budget.


While I'm not doing that personally, the reason this happens is simple - there is absolutely not the remotest chance that most of what are eventually produced as microbudget will ever attract funding, and this is not solely due to quality. It's due to the fact that comfortably over ninety per cent of what's shown theatrically and released to DVD in this country is imported from the US, typically under very nearly illegal collusive agreements, bundling, and other sharp practice, as well as the application of effectively infinite promotional budgets. It is quite literally impossible to even think about competing with this until legislation is brought into control it. We're being absolutely steamrollered and there is nothing that anyone outside government can do about it. Oddly enough, the same issue of BECTU talks about OFCOM's soft-touch approach to regulation of broadcast media. While I think it's pretty much axiomatic now that their involvement (if any) in TV regulation has been a complete and unmitigated stem-to-stern disaster in more or less every conceivable way, it's worth mentioning that theatrical exhibition in the UK is completely unregulated.

The issue of microbudget production is one that's very real and that I would like to see addressed, but it's symptomatic of something even more problematic. We quite simply have no film industry and if you want to get something produced you have absolutely no other option.

Believe me, if there was even the tiniest possibility of would-be producers "doing their job" and raising a budget, believe me: it would be happening.

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#3 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 18 December 2008 - 06:28 PM

I know one of the film listed in the review - it had a budget of £1m with a first time director. I don't know how well the film itself did in the market, but the director went on to direct a much larger budget American feature shot in eastern Europe.

Anyone planning to produce a feature at this level in the UK really needs to at least consider a co-production involving various European counties. The only problem is you get those endless credits of producers and production companies. It's something that the smaller European countries have been managing to do with some success over the years, but it does involve doing some spade work making the contacts etc..
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#4 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 18 December 2008 - 06:32 PM

there is absolutely not the remotest chance that most of what are eventually produced as microbudget will ever attract funding


What sort of funding, Phil? Are you talking about arts council money? They have their own peculiar criteria for allocating funds, which have more to do with race and sexual orientation than the cinematic value of the project. If you're talking about private investors then they want a return on their investment, which unfortunately in a country where filmmaking is regarded as an expensive hobby rather than a business, is unlikely to happen. The third reason is that at least 90% of the scripts which end up as 'microbudget' films are so ridiculously derivative, and/or plain crap that they don't deserve funding in the first place.
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#5 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 18 December 2008 - 11:20 PM

I'm talking about funding intended to be an investment, that is, show business.

Because these films cannot be distributed it's not an investment therefore the money does not arise.

And you will get no argument from me that most of this stuff is crap, but that's not the problem - it's irrelevant how good it is; it won't get funded anyway. Quality is a barrier but not the operative one.

But that wasn't really my point; all I'm saying is that to accuse microbudget producers of laziness is unfair in the extreme; for whatever reason, there is no money to raise. I think the work practices of a lot of microbudget stuff are reprehensible but you can't hide behind your moral outrage from the real issue, which is simply that we have no film industry and if people want to do it, they will do it any way they can. It's not right, but there it is.

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#6 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 19 December 2008 - 05:06 AM

Micro budget features or extremely low budget features have always existed, even in the days of just shooting on film. With few exceptions most can only be regarded as practise pieces that will not get distribution, although some will get their makers on the first steps of the ladder. These film makers tend to use good marketing to get their film seen by key people.

Any UK Lottery agreements I've signed for film development or production related funding have always been loans, with the lottery being an investor rather than just giving a grant. Perhaps rather soft loans compared to a bank, but they're supposed to get paid from the film's profits.
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#7 Dave Green

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Posted 19 December 2008 - 01:38 PM

But that wasn't really my point; all I'm saying is that to accuse microbudget producers of laziness is unfair in the extreme;


To be fair, that's not quite what the article said. It is, however, true that most no-low budget producers are lazy, or more accurately, absolutely unprofessional in the extreme. All you have to do is look at the ads on Mandy, Talent Circle, UK Screen, Shooting People etc. to know that's undeniable.

Thankfully, there are those who approach the job properly, irrespective of experience or budget. It's no different to the music industry - for every musician who can actually play (rather than having real talent - just someone who can perform the basics competently), there are thousands who can't.

Film is no different ... although the rehearsal room isn't normally anywhere near as dangerous as a film set. Nor do bands generally employ people and then get them to break the law without even realising it - such as runners using their own car without realising that their normal insurance doesn't cover them for this. They are driving without insurance, and the law takes a very dim view of that sort of thing.
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