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UK film industry nearing capacity?

October 14th, 2010

equipmentThere’s something of a movie buzz happening in the UK right now. Our world renowned studios are busy with their television commitments and a sudden influx of preparation and filming for the big screen is happening up-and-down the country. The new Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean 4, Captain America and Steven Spielberg’s production of War Horse, are all currently being filmed in the UK.

London and the UK boast some of the best filming locations and facilities in the world. Technicians are reasonably priced compared with the United States and such is the bustling atmosphere, there have been reports of a lack of filming equipment for workers. We have spoken with several cameramen and gaffers who have commented on the lack of available equipment.

On one side, there is a serious issue with the lack of filming equipment available – surely the rental industry must be booming – while another arguement lends itself to the UK filming industry standing in a very healthy position. If more and more productions continue to arrive on these shores then that’s wonderful news for recruitment and industry income. Whether it’s due to tax reasons or simply that the American film industry can atadpt to and adopt our diverse range of locations, it puts our studios and industry in a comfortable environment.

on-location-for-the-filmi-006The service and support offered is also an incentive, with the likes of the UK Film Council, The Office of the British Film Commissioner, The network of UK Screen Agencies and the UK Film Council – US, all lending their support to the creation of films produced and shot in the UK. However, with the government’s recent decision to axe the Film Council, what exactly does this mean for the industry and those professionals who make it all happen?

The news yesterday that Channel 4 has given an extra £5 million to Film Four is fantastic news for not only Film Four and the British movie-making industry, but it’s money that can be invested into producting and nurturing new talent. The investment increases Film Four’s budget by 50 percent, and is enough to produce at least another three or four films a year.


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Broadcasters Follow the Government Trend

June 25th, 2010

CutbacksWhen George Osbourne announced the budget on Wednesday, it was no great surprise that the term “pay freeze” was mentioned here and there. The two-year pay freeze for workers in the public sector mean that the broadcasters are going to find themselves under even greater scrutiny than they previously have been.

With the expenses fiasco at the BBC quietening, they now stroll into summer and Glastonbury, where in 2009 they were criticised for sending over 400 members of staff to the Somerset festival, almost as many as they flew out to film the 2008 Beijing Olympics. There were so many on the corporation’s payroll that it had to block book hotels within a 10-mile radius of the festival. The BBC sent just 32 more to cover the Olympics.

The Glastonbury festival – which has grown with the BBC into a glorious multi-platform thing – has small teams roaming the farm to report on all manner of cultural activities. The output dipping in-and-out of footie and tennis bouts across BBC Two, Three and Four, plus the red button and online.

Then there’s the recent ‘firm stance’ against their staff and the Christine Bleakley saga which has created numerous side stories in the press, “Should she stay or should she go…?” In the end it was decided that enough was enough and that the BBC would not continue their negotiations and so she’s off to…ITV of course! To rejoin her One Show laughter-buddy, Adrian Chiles, and recreate their paragon of sofa chemistry. And it only cost ITV and Peter Fincham (BBC1’s former controller) a mere £4 million. That’s roughly one-quarter of Frank Lampard.

One executive at ITV said, “”There was almost zero consultation with most staff. Even in meetings up to a week ago managers just told us Christine was the ‘elephant in the room’ and they wouldn’t be saying any more.”

David AbrahamChannel 4’s chief executive, David Abraham, is also creating a state of metamorphosis over at Horseferry Road with a 25% cut in senior management. The cull will cut a quarter of senior managers and calls for a “fundamental evolution” at the group. The new shape of C4 will see online commissioning and production combined with its TV equivalent to form a single division.

One industry expert said: “C4 needs to survive the downturn, and in the absence of a deal or the ability to buy its way out, it needs to focus on reorganisation and cutting costs.”

At least the broadcasters are moving with the times and echoing the chorus of the new sprity coalition government, but with industry jobs thin on the ground anyway, these recent cuts cause new and foreboding clouds that waver uncertainty over this already fragile industry.


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Heggessey Departs from Talkback Thames

June 11th, 2010
Lorraine Heggessey

Lorraine Heggessey, beginning of a new chapter after five years at Talkback Thames.

Shock waves rippled across the UK television industry with the news that Lorraine Heggessey would be leaving her post as chief executive of Talkback Thames; producer of Britain’s Got Talent, The X Factor, The Apprentice and The Bill.

Heggessey – an industry heavyweight – took over from Peter Fincham in 2005 and led Talkback Thames to huge successes through some of the nation’s biggest brand shows.

A spokeswoman for Talkback Thames said, “We can confirm that Lorraine Heggessey is stepping down as the chief executive of Talkback Thames. Sara Geater will now take over as interim chief executive for Talkback Thames reporting into Tony Cohen. No further comment at this time.”

Heggessey’s TV career began in 1979 as a BBC News trainee. Highlights include the Channel 4 show Hard News, editing science series QED, and a producer of Panorama. Her posts as Head of BBC Children’s and Director of BBC Factual and Learning lead her to become controller of BBC1, the first female in the role. As controller she helped the channel successfully revive Doctor Who as well as introducing Strictly Come Dancing. And it was her controversial move of the evening news bulletin to 10pm that paved the way for 9pm drama hits including Spooks, Cutting It and Hustle.

A report in Broadcast stated, “It was known that the Talkback boss fought hard to save The Bill, and if owners Freemantle are making her the scapegoat for its loss, it is more than a little harsh.” ITV’s decision to cancel the long-running police series (26 years old) had a huge impact on the company, to which Talkback owned the rights.

Sara Geater, the company’s chief operating officer, is to take over as interim chief executive. Like Heggessey, Geater will report to Tony Cohen, chief executive of Fremantle Media, the production, distribution and rights arm of RTL, which is Talkback Thames’s parent company.

The next few months will be telling for Talkback. Replacing Heggessey will demand a new media-minded leader with a host of creative ideas to fill the void of the axed shows. With the industry coming through one of the slowest periods for commissioning, there is real emphasis on finding new creative talent. A new and successful long-running series is just what ITV – and perhaps more importantly – Talkback Thames, need.


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Wossy’s Gone: Are multi-million pound TV contracts a thing of the past?

January 8th, 2010
Jonathan Ross: a colourful personality.

Jonathan Ross: a colourful personality.

So, Jonathan Ross is set to leave the BBC. We’ll miss him. Despite his loquacious manner and entertaining wit, his last four years at the Beeb have been notable for the array of infantile pranks and borderline crude interviews. As The Daily Mail comments, “in his manner of leaving at least, he has finally attained a degree of dignity.” Ross’s announcement that he had decided not to renegotiate his contract with the BBC was uncharacteristically measured and composed.

In truth, although the BBC will probably claim to be sad to lose their highest-earning star, there are likely to be “a few executives not too bothered about losing a man whose waywardness and multi-million-pound contract had become an embarrassment.”

Days before the confirmation of his departure, sources reported that Ross was concerned by the prospect of having his yearly pay slashed by £3million. True or not, he was the BBC’s highest earner and many at the BBC were said to have cheered on hearing the news of his decision not to renew his contract. Perhaps there is now a new pot of money available to fund new talent, dramas, comedies and documentaries?

Outside his London home, Ross told reporters he “would have liked” to stay at the BBC. He continued, “It has been a great 13 years at the BBC. I think it’s not a bad time for me to move on. It’s possibly not a bad time for them either.”

Though £18 million, three-year contracts for TV personalities are now firmly in the past, what we got from Ross was brash with a cutting humour and a wonderful talent. But is that deserving of the taxpayer’s money and £18 million? There is an argument to spend the money on discovering new talent, yet, does money equal talent? Is there even a necessity for talent on television? Reality TV leads the way in the ratings and Z list celebrities (if we can still call them that) actually make their living from such reality dramas. If Ross was host for Channel 4’s Big Brother and then moved on, would the show still draw in the millions, watching, gasping and cringing? Presumably, yes?

Life after Ross then is likely to be business as usual, musical chairs as Norton, Kermode and even Evans step forward to host the chat shows, radio programmes and film reviews. And perhaps Ross will still grace the screens to present the odd BAFTA or even Children in Need? Whether the BBC will see fit to grant a similar sized contract in this age of austerity is doubtful.


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Red noses and red faces

March 16th, 2009

So I’ve been wearing my Red Nose all week, the one with the teeth, (Ouch!) celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal of course, has been wearing his red face somewhat longer. 

Heston Blumenthal's new series, Victorian FeastsChef/owner of the three Michelin starred, Fat Duck in Bray, Heston Blumenthal is the new celebrity chef on the butcher’s block.   Somewhat posher than Jamie Oliver, and in the league of Gordon Ramsay, but charming with it, his style of cooking might be described as, extreme molecular gastronomy.  His excellent series, ‘Big Chef, Little Chef’, saw him trying to beef-up the fortunes of one restaurant in the service area chain,  followed rapidly by the current curiosity, Heston’s Victorian Feast – Channel 4 – where he tries to recreate Victorian dishes with some of the most gross ingredients and secretly watches the surprise on his guests’ faces as they tuck-in.

Now when you watch cooking shows, do you really think the chef is really rustling-up a delish dish in just half an hour?  Sorry to disappoint but….take a look at this video. There’s not only a camera crew in his kitchen filming his every move, in fact it’s not even a kitchen but a set,  and getting food to look that good, needs a lot of people. Food stylists, home economics people, set dressers, prop people, other chefs, researchers, the list goes on.

But are cooking programmes still popular, computer says yes. We lap it up, from Come Dine With Me,  to the rumoured, Cooking With Coolio, they’re queuing at the broadcaster’s checkouts.  Production companies too have discovered rich and piquant pickings in the genre with Optomen leading the way as discoverer of Jamie Oliver, and producer of shows featuring Gordon Ramsay, Heston Blumenthal and others. They are the cream.  And of course Fresh One, Jamie Oliver’s own production company.

red-noseI was watching the nine celebrities climb Kilimanjaro for Comic Relief and I was thinking, how did they do that? A couple of self-shooting directors with Z7’s, probably a lot of radio mics so maybe a sound recordist and assistant?  Well, I found out.  There were over 100 people on that mountain, including the celebrities.  33 climbers, two doctors, two runners, 100 porters and half a ton of broadcasting equipment,  Planned over seven months, a series of camps including medical facilities, were set-up to allow crews to leapfrog and follow the ascent of the celebs. Every day a runner had to run down the mountain with tapes for the two editing suites to cut in to the documentary. A production to rival Harry Potter’s 2nd unit in scale, Z7’s what was I thinking?!

Feed the world, feed the ITV 600.


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