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Agent’s Assistant Or Waiter, Hmm?

June 18th, 2009

WaiterWages are always under discussion, we all want a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. DOP’s, carpenters, technicians, actors, show runners, all have unions to make sure they get a good deal.  There are many unrepresented employees in the movie and TV biz who get less good deals, the least mentioned of whom could be agent’s assistants.

While the big time agents make millions from their top line clients, their assistants are surprisingly badly paid.  The recent merger of two major agencies, William Morris and Endeavor, into the catchy WME – William Morris Endeavor, is likely to make things even worse.

Assistants working for WMA, were being paid $13.50 (£UK 8.32) an hour, but since the merger, it’s rumoured they may have their pay cut to something nearer to the wages of Endeavor assistants at $9.50 (£UK 5.86) an hour.  This is only 6p (10c)  more than the UK minimum wage at £UK 5.80 an hour.  The money you’d get as a waiter, or indeed, kitchen porter.

I guess an agency is a nicer environment, and the prospects are good. Do they get tips? I certainly hope so!

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And Now The Good News

June 18th, 2009

dollar-signsAmidst the general gloom that often pervades the films industry these days, comes predictions of good times ahead.   In a report to be published on Tuesday, consultancy Price Waterhouse Coopers, predict a worldwide growth in consumer spend on, ‘filmed entertainment’, that is cinema, home video and DVD rentals and purchases, and film downloads, from $83.9 billion in 2008 to $102 billion in 2013.

The biggest areas of increase will be in the Asia Pacific region, Latin America followed by North America.  The increase will be partly due to the growth of 3D, which costs more per ticket, and though this growth has been held-up by the slow uptake of digital cinema, there are around 50 movies set for 3D release over the next two years.

Of course the way consumers buy entertainment is changing, and though it’s likely the DVD market will drop, this will be replaced by the better quality Blu Ray along with video-on-demand and downloads which are more appealing to the younger, online audience.

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Living On A Film Set

June 17th, 2009

In a development on our recent report on Pinewood Studio’s plans to build standing sets on it’s back-lot, it’s now been revealed behind the facades of Venice canals and a Parisean square among others,  will be actual houses and flats to be sold to the general public.

pinewood-lot1The £200m development, set to provide over 600 jobs and to create the Screen Crafts Academy in association with Skillset is expected to take 10 years to build.  Residents would have a series of restrictions in their agreements requiring them to close windows and move cars for the film makers, equally, film makers would have to agree to not use explosives at night.

Up to 15% of the total budget will be spent on the actual sets, the rest being used to build the homes behind them, which has attracted a cynical response from one producer who said, “It’s a housing development; they’re going to make a ton of money. It’s going to be of little benefit to the film industry”.  Pinewood says it’s more for low budget films that can’t afford to travel abroad for locations.

Interestingly, the location for Channel Four’s soap Brookside – Brookside Close, was built as fully functioning houses especially for the series and was used as accommodation for production staff.

The new residents of Paris UK, really will be able to go behind the scenes, but
let’s hope they have thick curtains, as lighting a street scene at night,  can get very bright!

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What A Dish

June 17th, 2009

cinemabusinesscoukAs the digital distribution road-train forges ever onwards, Dolby have announced their satellite distribution service, cleverly named, Direct Distribution Services.  It will allow the distribution of movies, trailers and ads, direct to suitably equipped cinemas, throughout Europe, via satellite, without the need for transporting prints or hard drives.

Using Dolby’s Show Store and Show Player, content can be downloaded into the projection room, scheduled by the cinema manager and sent directly to the digital projector.

It can also be used for 3D movies and doesn’t require a silvered screen but uses a filter in front to the projector, while the audience wear lightweight Polaroid glasses.  So, multiplexes will be able to show 3D in any screen rather than having a dedicated 3D screen.

Satellite operator, Arqiva, Dolby’s partner in the scheme, have teleports in 10 locations including London, Los Angeles, Washington, Paris, Milan and Rome and have already delivered 14 feature packages.  They’ve delivered 3D HD animations internationally for Dreamworks, along with live broadcasts to cinemas from New York’s Metropolitan Opera and London’s Royal Opera House.

As more theatre chains install digital cinema, the potential for simultaneous delivery of movies across the globe comes ever closer.

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Show Me The Money

June 12th, 2009

If you get to chat to a film producer, particularly in the UK, you’ll discover their two main whinges are, not being able to find money to make their films and the price of a latte.  Harvey WeinsteinIf you get to talk to Harvey Weinstein, you’ll discover his two main whinges are, not being able to find the money to show his films, and the price of lunch at Cipriani.  Similar problems, big guy Weinstein just has a little more class. But soon, his table may go to someone else.

It’s easy to forget that making the movie isn’t the end of it, it still has to be shown and that too costs $$m.  I’m sure you’ve heard about the marketing budgets for big movies being around the same as their production budgets, well the average summer movie costs around $36m to market worldwide with blockbusters like Angels and Demons costing around $70m. This is the P&A budget, for prints of the movie to go to the theatres and advertising.

It’s the distributors, like Universal and The Weinstein Company, who have to put up the P&A cash, which is fair enough as they stand to make the most money from ticket sales, they get half, approximately.  Producers don’t get the other half sadly, unless they’re a Bollywood producer who, as you’ll know from our recent reports, were on strike and holding back their films to get a better deal from distributors.  So distribution is where the money is, but it’s also where it goes.

Of course the downturn has hit the marketing budgets and studios are trying to cut back, honestly.  Universal are reducing the number of prints they make at $1500 a time, so they’ll be getting grubbier by the time they reach the minima’s, but they’re saving millions on a US nationwide, 4000 print release. They’re still spending up to $3m for a 30sec prime time tv spot to promote a blockbuster.  How can they afford it??!!

Which brings me, back to Harvey Weinstein.  He can’t.  Neither it appears can another indie distributor, Senator. Like producers, they have to get their money from somewhere, generally banks, and in the downturn…

inglorious-basterds-4jpg1Until a few days ago Harvey was looking forward to a great summer with Tarrantino’s, Brad Pitt starrer, Inglorious Basterds,  but it’s recently been revealed, he doesn’t have the $30m for the P&A.  He’s already postponed the release of some other films to, ‘..another date in the distant future’ to allow him to get Basterds out.  But what’ll happen if they don’t raise the cash?  Universal are distributing worldwide excluding US,  will they pick it up? Can a Brad Pitt/Tarrantino  movie, really be left on the shelf?  Will Harvey end up drinking latte?   Word is, by August, it may all be over for Harvey.  But it’s not just The Weinstein Company.

Samuel L JacksonSenator, is also unable to raise P&A funds for a number of films including Samuel L Jackson’s, Unthinkable, and in the last few days has scaled down it’s distribution business and let go the President of its distribution arm.  The fate of a number of films including Pierce Brosnan’s, The Greatest, remains to be seen…or not.

In the UK, there’s help for distributors from the UK Film Council. They contribute to the P&A of British and foreign films, as they’re keen to give audiences the opportunity to see films that may otherwise only have a small release.  Films they’ve supported include Mike Leigh’s, Happy Go Lucky, Scorsese’s Rolling Stones doc. Shine A Light, and German hit, The Lives Of Others.

Poster for the movie Looking For EricBut the one thing all distributors are eagerly awaiting, is the world domination of digital cinema. No prints.  No more transportation of large, heavy, $1500 rolls of film. Instead, films can be distributed on a $70 hard drive, on a disc, or by satellite or fibre optic to a projection box server, as is already being done by India’s Big Cinema group, when sending films from Mumbai to Chicago.  Indeed, of the eight new films being released in the UK today, June 12, six are being shown digitally in suitably equipped cinemas, including, Looking For Eric, The Hangover and Last House On The Left.

Still from the movie BrunoWhich brings me to Bruno, Sasha Baron Cohen’s follow-up to the 2006, mega-grossing, Borat.  Bruno opens on July 10 in the US but Universal have been remarkably low key on its marketing.  Preferring YouTube, virals and box office posters to the usual $$m campaign expected for a summer comedy. Is this a money saving plan, or a cunning strategy to create a mystique and a buzz which the target market will seek out.

Whichever, it’s cheap!

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Bollywood Shuns Oz

June 10th, 2009

The Australian film industry makes most of its money from foreign productions filling its east coat studios owned by Fox and Warners.  Its wild and varied locations are also a draw for film makers including, until now, many from India’s Bollywood.

australia_0605jpgRecent spates of racial attacks on Indian students in Sydney and Melbourne, in what’s become known as, ‘curry bashing’ and where one party-goer was stabbed with a screwdriver, have angered Bollywood producers who will now be taking their Rupees elsewhere.

Producers are shocked, though mixed, as to whether they’d still shoot in Oz although most would not, as the lack of action by the Australian government has also angered them.

One producer, Sujoy Ghosh said,  “Yup I’d shoot. And maybe carry a couple of hockey sticks to beat those racists”.

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It’s Cheap!

June 10th, 2009

It’s not often you find something that’s great value for money, well here’s something that is.  Training courses for industry professionals can be subsidised by Skillset and any approved course will be considered.

red CameraOne that may be of particular interest to those exploring the Red Camera is being run over the next few months in Derby. It’s a three day course which covers the camera, a DI station, managing data, and editing on FCP.  So the entire process from end to end.

Check it out now to avoid disappointment, as subsidised places are limited.

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It’s Over!

June 10th, 2009

No not the SAG negotiations, but the Bollywood producer’s strike.  Much reported by us over the last two months, the strike by Bollywood bollywood-2producers, during which they refused to release their films to the cinemas until a fair deal could be struck on the spilt of revenues has been settled.  It cost the industry over three billion Rupees.

The deal agreed means a diminishing scale of revenue goes to the producer over the first four weeks of release. It’s complicated, as these things are, but on average the producer gets 50% of the takings on week one, dropping to 30% on week four.

So, once again the streets of Indian cities will be flooded with queues outside the multiplexes, brushing aside the tumbleweed of the last two months.

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Pact Roadshows

June 10th, 2009

john-mcvayUK trade association for indie producers, PACT is running a series of free roadshows across the UK from June 19 to July 15.  The events will be presented by PACT CEO John McVay along with other experts, and will aim to reveal where the industry is heading in these tough times when PACT is aware producers are feeling the pinch.

The events will give guests the opportunity to put questions to the experts on business and other issues to help them through the downturn.

Details and booking available here.

You don’t have to be a member to go and drinks and networking will follow.

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Early Bath For Setanta

June 9th, 2009

footballIt looks like cable sports channel Setanta may collapse by the end of the week and the plug will be pulled.  To maintain its primary business of broadcasting Premier League football, the channel has to come up with another £30m rights payment by Monday, which is for the screening of past matches, not forthcoming matches.  The channel has already failed to make a final payment of £3m to the Scottish Premier League leaving the SPL in a very difficult financial position.

Setanta is based in Ireland and has about one million subscribers, it was set up in 1990 to broadcast Irish sporting events to ex-pats, it now operates 12 channels in 24 countries including North America, Australia and Canada.  As well as football, it screens rugby, boxing and the PGA Golf tour.  Its most recent accounts showed losses of 173 million Euros.

The situation highlights the exorbitant fees broadcasters like Setanta and BSkyB have to pay for such prime sports fare, and without Setanta it could mean BSkyB would become the dominant broadcaster of sports they’ve clamoured to be. However OfCom is concerned it may give BSkyB too much power and may force them to sell-on some of its rights to competitors.

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