Monday, 24 January 2011

Gatekeepers

Does anybody ever get any love from their regional film agency?

In theory, your local regional film agency is the hub of all things movie-related in the environs. It’s the way the UK Film Council (God rest its soul) interacts with root-and-branch film-makers throughout the country. It’s how Lottery cash gets distributed to small productions, and how government convinces itself that it’s stimulating our dying film industry.

First up – the legal disclaimer. I should preface this, well, rant with the proviso that I don’t know nearly enough about everything that our local regional film agency is involved in. I am sure that they enable and facilitate many worthwhile local activities, and provide invaluable funding for grass-roots film-making.

I’m just saying that the bit we had to deal with left us thoroughly under-whelmed.

Imagine, if you will, that two first-timers are keen to make a zombie movie, and they want to know what to do next. Not unreasonable to think that it might prove useful to get some advice from the people in the know at their regional film agency. For example, it could be helpful to pick the brains of a local film producer – maybe someone that has worked within the genre – and maybe the regional agency might be able to help with this?

I could go on mentioning our “regional film agency”, but you all know we’re based in Hampshire. So can I just go ahead and say Screen South?

Anyway, here’s how it works.

First, a prospective film-maker needs to attend an Information Day. A register is taken; a number of people come and talk regional film; and then you can have a 1-1 meeting with a Screen South executive. So far, so good.

Here we’re told that the database of local feature producers is not something that just anyone can come and look at. I mean, every Tom, Jake and Andy has a good idea for a screenplay, and these are busy people. No, the way it works is for this kind of conversation to be conducted with a Screen South panel as part of a RIFE funding interview.

I had to look it up too. Regional Investment Fund for England, apparently; it funds production, development & training, exhibition, education and community.

Now if you’re thinking that this all seems strangely circuitous, in that we need to apply for funding that we don’t really need right now just for the sake of having an interview, then rest assured that this is how it seemed to us too. But, we don’t make the rules, and if that’s what’s got to happen so be it.

Ah. Actually, sorry – it’s not quite that simple.

No, in order to be eligible to apply for RIFE funding, we first need to have our screenplay assessed. So instead we need to apply for a bursary to employ a script reader to send us some coverage and provide feedback to Screen South. Right. Enough already – just show me the form, and please can we get on with this?

So, we applied for the Script Assessment Bursary, and Screen South sent our screenplay off to a reader.

And here is where the process hits the weakest link.

I should make it clear up-front that we were very grateful for the feedback that we received: some of it was very insightful, and it has proved extremely helpful in subsequent re-writes. But, it is safe to say that the reader isn’t a fan of the genre. I mean, really not a fan.

So, the message that gets sent back to Screen South is “no thanks”. And so we’re not eligible to apply for funding that we don’t really want, and so don’t get to attend a funding interview, and so don’t get to talk about what to do next.

And so we’re doing it on our own.

“Supporting film and media in the south east”. Miffed.

2 comments:

  1. I'm friends with a producer whom I think was part of the team behind the Swedish vamp movie "Frostbiten". http://www.frostbiten.se
    Let me know if that sounds like someone you want to have a chat with. He has worked on a lot of Wallanders so he might be able to offer some good pointers.
    Joakim

    ReplyDelete
  2. Joakim's entry above is much more constructive than the rant I was about to have about Screen South... I'll leave it at that, other than 'going round in circles much?'

    ReplyDelete