02 g322 section b film industry introduction 2013

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02 g322 section b film industry introduction 2013

  1. 1. AS Media Studies Study Notes Unit G322 Section BAudiences and InstitutionsThe Film Industry Part 2The Film Industry 19
  2. 2. The Film IndustryIntroductionSince the invention of cinema at the end of the 19th century, there have always been threemain areas concerned with getting films on screen and in front of audiences.For this exam you need to develop case studies on a particular studio or production companyor film. The institution must be part of the contemporary film industry and it must produceand/or distribute films to the UK. The focus will be on how this institution relates to: 1. Production: funding and making films. 2. Distribution: marketing films and getting them into cinemas and out on DVD as well as any spin offs/relatedmedia products. 3. Exhibition: people paying at the cinema, renting orbuying DVDs and downloading and purchasingrelated products.Production was, is and probablyalways will be the most written aboutand the most discussed of the three. It ishow films are created. It concerns stars,special effects, million dollar budgets,walkabouts at premieres and Oscars. Itsthe glamour and the glitz. ItsHollywood. Or Bollywood! However,without the other two equally importantlinks in the chain, we would never seethe films that are created.Distributionand Exhibition are virtually unknownworlds to the general cinema-goer – they may have heard the terms but know very littledetail about what constitutes a distributor or the difference between an art house cinema anda multiplex.This section will provide an overview of contemporary film production, distribution andconsumption in relation to UK audiences, case studies on specific films, and institutionalcase studies. Starting with…Film Distribution(find out more details here http://www.launchingfilms.tv/) Of all the world film markets the UK has the greatest concentration of ownership and the greatest degree of integration between film distributors and cinema exhibitors. (Encyclopaedia of Contemporary Culture)This describes everything that happens in between production (making the film) andexhibition (people watching the film in cinemas or on DVD, on television, via the internet oron a plane, or anywhere else). Far from being straightforward, distribution involves all of thedeals done to get films shown (many films never get seen) and, just as importantly,marketed. 20
  3. 3. This marketing involves paid forabove the line advertising, which will be funded as part ofthe project, such as trailers, posters, billboards and various spin-offs which are of mutualbenefit to the film and another commercial agency, for example a McDonaldsHappyMealwith a film theme. It also includes related merchandising andbelow the linepublicitywhich is not paid for, but again generates mutual interest. For example, an interview with astar in a newspaper or magazine and reviews (the former will generally be positive, but thelatter is, of course, the great unknown for film producers).It is crucial not to see film distribution as ahelpfulstage in the life of a film wherebydistributors treat all films equally and ensure fair play in getting films to the publicsattention. The key players, the big companies who control much of the industry, controldistribution of their own products, and of others. Effectively films are loaned out to cinemasfor a fixed period and release deals are done that secure access to a certain number of screensat a time.Q1. In the UK film market, an increase in the number of screens available to show filmshas not led to an increase in the number of films being shown. Why?Five Major Distributors dominate the UK Film IndustryUnited International Pictures, Warner Brothers, Buena Vista, Twentieth Century Fox andSony and each are affiliated with a major Hollywood studio. Roughly nine of every ten filmsseem in the UK are viewed through these distributors. UK Cinema Admission 1984-1999 1984 54 million 1985 72m (first UK multiplex opens) 1986 75.5m 1987 78.5m 1988 84 m 1989 94.5m 1990 97.4m 1991 100.3m 1992 103.7m 1993 114.4m 1994 123.5m 1995 114.6m 1996 123.8m 1997 139.3m 1998 135.5m 1999 139.8m Source: Film Distributors AssociationThough their parent companies are involved in producing only one third of the films releasedin this country they earn three quarters of the overall box office from a limited number of 21
  4. 4. blockbusters. Although there’s an increasing amount of competition among exhibitors, themajors have increased their market share since 1985 through the opening of an increasingnumber of multiplexes. Unfortunately a rising number of screens does not mean a widervariety of films as long ‘holdovers’ of popular films are common, as are the same filmstarting at different times during the afternoon and evening.Looking at the UK cinema admissions for the last 20 years, there is certainly a correlationbetween the opening of the new multiplexes in 1985 and a massive return of people back tothe cinema. There was a steady rise of admissions until 1994.Q2. In your opinion what might account for the fact that cinema attendances havefluctuated between 139 million and 176 million between 1999 and 2008? Hint: Look atsome of the films that were released(You can find them here - http://boxofficemojo.com/intl/uk/yearly/ ) Source: CAA/Nielsen EDIDistributors also deal with exhibitors who are no longer (as used to be the case) owned bythe same Hollywood companies, but who do, for reasons of profit, prioritise Hollywoodfilms over others. Usually the blockbuster films we are familiar with are distributedviablanket or saturation release, so even if a small UK independent company manages toget its product into cinemas, it is usually competing for attention with one or more films thattake on the status of anevent. One of the outcomes of the distribution arrangement outlinedabove is that half of the films released in Britain do not reach the whole country. The British cinema market is the least hospitable in the world for British films as they are largely distributed by the subsidiaries of their US competitors. (Encyclopaedia of Contemporary Culture)Another major problem for independent distributors in the UK is the cost of launching a new 22
  5. 5. film – which is upwards of £1 million - so independent producers handling smaller budgetBritish or subtitled foreign films must pay prohibitively to launch them, and then face havingonly limited distribution outlets, run by their competitors to show them in.Q3. MATHS TEST! In 2011, UK film distributors invested £330 million inadvertising their new releases and on 35mm film prints. If around 450 new filmsreceive a theatrical release in the UK every year. How much, on average, dodistributors spend distributing a film in the UK?Q4. This spending stirred up enormous demand - 171.5 million cinema tickets werebought UK in 2011. This is great news for cinemas – what’s the downside of all thisexcitement generated and consumer demand for film PRODUCERS in the UK?(http://www.cinemauk.org.uk/facts-and-figures/admissions/monthly-uk-cinema-admissions-2004-2011/)Q5. In 2004 the average cost of releasing a US film domestically was $39m, inaddition to the average production cost of $63.8m, making an overall averageproduction/distribution cost per film of $102.8m. What effect might this have onHollywood production and distribution if these increases have continued? (source: FDA Yearbook).Why is digital distribution so important? It’s called the problemwith prints…Perhaps surprisingly, given we live in the digital age, one of the obvious problems smallercompanies face is a rather old fashioned one. Every film shown in a cinema is aseparateprint of the film, projected via a reel. The major companies can afford to producefar more prints than the smaller companies, knowing the expensive outlay of funds at thisstage will be worth it in relation to box office returns. A small company producing a lesscommercial product cannot afford to do that, so people who do want to seemorealternativefilms often have to wait until their local independent cinema has a print, andoften there is little choice over where and when to see it. The UK Film Council addressedthis problem via its Digital Screen Network(http://industry.bfi.org.uk/dsn) the deal was thatcinemas receiving financial support to equip themselves with digital facilities (thus avoidingthe issue of prints) were expected to show more films from independent distributors.A film has to make two-and-a-half times its production cost in order to gointo profit. A print of a film costs about a £1000 to make so, in order to open at 204cinemas, a total of £204,000 would have been spent on prints alone in order to do this. Adistributor would have to be certain of making a large profit in order to get back this type ofcost. If a distributor does not think there will be a large audience for a film they will notinvest in making a large number of prints as the box-office takings may well be low.Experience of similar films and their box-office takings for various locations are looked at todetermine the number of prints used. If a distributor has to make up new prints of the film, itis very costly. However, they may be able to obtain used prints from the US which havealready been shown in cinemas and are not as expensive. Print costs are taken intoconsideration when the distribution budget is being set for the film.Once all of these factorshave been assessed, the distributor can estimate the total distribution budget for a film andhow much they should spend on marketing it to a potential audience. 23
  6. 6. The Special Relationship with Hollywood The United Kingdom is the biggest producer of international films in terms of worldwide appeal and another market where a film hitting $100 million isnt unheard of, although $30 million is more common.Not only do they produce a lot of their own films, the U.K. also tends to be the international market that is most receptive to Hollywood films, especially comedies. (Source: http://www.the-numbers.com/glossary.php )UK cinema has always enjoyed an ambiguous relationship with America. On theone hand,UK cinema has a tremendous advantage over other European national film for the simplereason that America is huge and Americans speak English. Couple this with the fact thatmany people across the world speak English as a second language, and there is potentially ahuge audience for British films as a result of this linguistic access. But the flipside of thiscoin is obvious. American films have the same advantage and the American studios haveenormous capital at their disposal. They produce more films, those films are moreexpensively created and they can afford to take more risks, knowing that one success willpay for nine failures at the box office. So while British film producers periodicallyexperience boom periods and have the possibility of attracting a large global audience, inBritain we are generally consuming an ever more American diet of film. And because of thepopularity of Hollywood films in the UK, the distribution of films into our cinemas andDVDs into our shops is dominated by US companies, who are clearly going to put theirmoney and resources into pushing their own products first.Why is Hollywood so important? Look at the numbers…In 2011 there were 1.3 billion admissions to North American cinemas, generating grossBox office receipts of $10.2 billion. The UK is the fourth largest audience for Americanfilms after Japan, China and France with $1.7 billion worth of admissions.Chinese box office grew by 35% in 2011 to become the 2nd largest International marketbehind Japan, experiencing by far the largest growth in major markets.Though films are still made now for a core ‘youth’ audience (14 - 24 y.o males) whosedecisions over which films to see are driven by the star names attached to them their 24
  7. 7. attendance declined in the last year down from 7.4 million in 2010 to 6.6 million in 2011.The numbers of the 25-39 y.o. attending cinemas spiked from 7.7 to 9.7 million.A handful of leading actors effectively control what films are made by the studios.Q6.Why are more ‘middle aged’ people going to the cinema in 2011? Who, in youropinion, are the current most bankable leading actors for the ‘youth’ market in theUK?(Going here may give you some help: http://star-currency.forbes.com/celebrity-list/england )The Current Hollywood ClimateSince the success of Titanic (1997)and,15 years later, Avatar (2010), the studios have tendedto focus even more on what they perceive to be the taste of an ever-younger audience. Thekey demographic now seems to be the 14 to 24 year olds. Younger audiences are not toobothered about the intrinsic quality of the film, how it is lit or edited for example. Theyre notthe least bit interested in qualities of what used to be called the ‘well-made’ film. They arealmost entirely concerned with star names, style and genre. Most alarmingly for the studiostheyve proven to be surprisingly discriminating in detecting attempts to pander to what areperceived to be their lowest-common-denominator tastes. And the high-profile failures ofseveral summer sequel movies (previously thought to be bullet-proof) have made the studiobosses even more nervous.Older audiences do not ‘open’ a movie because theyll wait till the queues subside beforetheyll go to see a film. Theyre not the ones who will patiently stand in line to swell thenumbers on the all-important opening weekend. Given an increasingly crowded marketplacethe opening weekend becomes the crucial indicator for distributors of all widely releasedfilms. Fall at the fence of that opening weekend and youre rapidly trampled under the feet ofthe incoming batch of movies!A second major shift in recent years has been the growth of the international distributionmarket, which now accounts for around 60% of a Hollywood films theatrical revenues.Foreign sales are almost entirely name driven and the perception of what makes a ‘name’ inthe foreign markets is very different from the US. Several stars who are now considered hardto market in America can still open a film internationally and generate buoyant sales in thevideo market.Partly as a result of these factors, it is increasingly difficult to get well-written, thoughtfulmid-value films (i.e. in the $25 - $50 million budget range!) made in Hollywood. There isa seemingly endless market for movies made around or below the $12m mark for the teenand art-house circuits. The prevailing wisdom is that its hard to lose money at this level.Studios would prefer to spend $80m+ on high profile, high-concept ‘tent pole’ pictures withbankable stars and a large visual effects budget. And a very short list of actors noweffectively determines which films get made.Q7. Go to the site: http://boxofficemojo.com/yearly/chart/?yr=2011&p=.htmand findout the top 10 films in the US last year. Then click on each film to find out the totalbudget. How many made two-and-a-half times their budget? They’re the only ones whomade the studios a profit… 25
  8. 8. In the current recessionary environment, and especially after a treacherous and disappointingsummer season, there is a danger that the studios will become ever more reluctant to takedecisions on which projects to greenlight. As the cost of making movies spirals so does thecost of marketing and distributing them. The average cost of a Hollywood movie nowstands at a staggering $60m - before marketing! Add a minimum requirement of $30m toopen the movie and you can begin to understand the studios desperation about bringing costsunder control. Big stars and big directors mean gross point participants that further erode theprofitability of a big film. More and more were seeing studios co-financingfilms in an attempt to minimise their downsides. Ultimately, the studios could becomesimply distribution and marketing entities, acquiring product from outside and from theirsubsidiary production arms.Hollywood in the 1990s- The story of Mr. Jones -So how does contemporary Hollywoodwork? The story of the production of oneparticular film provides an answer. TheBritish director Mike Figgis (pictured right)had just finished directing the Americanstudio backed, critically acclaimed, andhighly successful Internal Affairs (1990). Hehad, as a consequence, been given the greenlight to direct a relatively personal project,Mr. Jones (1993), the story of a manic-depressive to star Richard Gere. However,very soon the control of the shoot and the type of film Figgis wanted to make were contested.As soon as shooting began Figgis was repeatedly visited and phoned on the set by a team ofproducers who were financing the film. They set about trying to reshape the film because, onseeing the rushes, they found it too dark, and potentially, therefore, a box office disaster.(Figgis has commented that every response to the film at this stage was made solely inrelation to the likely bottom dollar success of the movie.) When Ray Stark says jump, you jump. Mike Figgis, Director (Moving Pictures, 1994)The recommendations the producers made included asking Figgis to give the film morelight by having some of the shoot relocate to the beach (even though the central characterwas supposedly locked in a secure hospital!). The contest over the film continued up to thefinal cut, when the first full screening took place in the presence of the Executive Producer,Ray Stark, an old Hollywood mogul. After viewing it Stark called the film a `goddamn pieceof shit and went about wrestling control from Figgis. The film was re-edited by anotherdirector, and when finally released sank without trace. Figgis has continued to treat studioswith caution, with the finance for his films (Oscar winning) Leaving Las Vegas (1995) andthe digitally shot Timecode (2000) raised independently.The story, if taken as an indicator of contemporary production more generally, indicates: 1. Producers are still some of the most powerful people in the film production process. 2. Producers have a narrative formula, a notion of a successful (standardised) template for a successful picture that they expect directors to work to. 3. Art, authorship and creativity are eroded by the business side of the industry. 26
  9. 9. High Concept Cinema If a person can tell me the idea in 25 words or lessits going to make a pretty good movie. I like ideas, especially movie ideas, that you can hold in your hand. (Steven Spielberg, 1985)The specifics of the Figgis case can be applied more widely to Hollywood cinema today.This increasing trend to approve projects with a particular narrative structure and filmic lookrelates to a desire to reduce much of mainstream, commercial cinema to profitable, in boxoffice terms, High Concept ideas. One critic defines High Concept cinema as a cinemareliant upon the pre-selling to producers of a relatively standardised package of key filmingredients, and to the related trend for mass saturated marketing of High Concept filmswhen they are released. Wyatt argues that High Concept cinema can simply be defined as thelook, the hook, and the book of a film.The look - High production values, fast (music video style) editing, with a concentration onvisuals, on consumerist items, on the look and style of the iconic, beautiful characters, andmise-en-scene. Star vehicle projects, laden with spectacle and action - a modern return to acinema of attractions or the over-reliance on visualisation at the expense ofnarrativedevelopment.The hook - Simplified and simplisticnarrative pattern (capable of beingrelayed in less than 15 sentences).Love interest. Universal values ofgood and evil pitched against oneother. Star-genre-director vehicle.Music by famous composer andinternational pop band. Merchandisingpossibilities.The book - Popular best selling fictionthe source of the script/film.An early, high-octane example of High Concept cinema would be Top Gun (1986); a star-genre-director vehicle (for the pouting, muscular, all-American Tom Cruise, the action filmgenre, and Tony Scott, the action director). Top Gun is a film over determined with visualsand visual effect (notably the aerial dog-fight scenes) and punctuated with long shots oficonic images (including the chrome reflecting motorcycle); a film with a tub-thumpingpopular soundtrack and a narrative pattern that could be retold in less than 15 sentences; afilm based on a magazine article and produced by the pre-eminent architects of HighConcept cinema during the 1980s, Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer. Simpson … was a vulgarian with an instinct for what sells movies to the archetypal teenage boy in Des Moines — more gorgeous scantily clad women, more explosions and more smartass one-liners. Nick James (2000)Simpson and Bruckheimer are credited with heralding in the High Concept event film inHollywood, changing the nature of how films were produced by developing the practice thata three-act script was the benchmark for box-office success. This shifted power away fromthe director to the producers and, to some degree, screenwriter. 27
  10. 10. Q8.Jerry Bruckheimer is still producing films today – find some of the recent filmshe’s produced and look at the trailers. Is he still a ‘high concept’ producer? MichaelBay has taken over his mantle as the go-to man for the ‘event’ movie. Watch some ofthe trailers for his recent films – does he deserve his reputation for films that are highon effects and low on narrative?Case Study - Sony SynergyThe definition of High Concept cinema drawsattention to another trend in Hollywoodcinema, and one that actually encompassesmuch of the modern mass media: the trend ofsynergy, a new form of vertical andhorizontal integration, and convergence.Synergy can be defined as a strategy ofactively forging connections between directlyrelated areas of entertainment. Synergy cantake two interrelated forms. 1. Cross institutional synergy. This involves the development of a connection between two or more media institutions to aid the development, production, distribution and marketing/merchandising of across a range of media.For example, Skyfall (2012) is the latest James Bond film and is co- produced by Eon Productions and distributed by MGM and Sony. 2. Hardware and software convergence. Media institutions are not only increasingly global but also multimedia. Media institutions increasingly control or manufacture not only the technology that something is watched, or listened to on, or downloaded from, but they produce the talent, the products that are then played on these technologies. Media institutions have begun to converge technology, entertainment and reception in new ways.In this synergetic age, then, film and cinema becomes just one interconnected branch of amultimedia institutions output. Film production and distribution are constantly linked to howthey connect with (selling) the institutions other software and hardware. If we take the SonyCorporation as an example we find that Sony owns and forges links together between itsvarious media production centres:This integration is supported by the technology that Sony manufactures: Computer chips, CDand DVD processing; radio, hi-fi, mini-disc, CD and Walkman production, film cameras,film stock and film lenses, televisions, video players, DVD players; all Sony products thatyou can buy online or in branded Sony Design Centre shops.So tonight I could watch aSony produced film like The Amazing Spiderman (2011) using my Sony DVD player on my32-inch Sony, Digital Television or watch it on my Sony Xperia Tablet. Later I could listento the Sony produced soundtrack by James Horner released on Sony Classical, on my Sony 28
  11. 11. hi-fi. And just before I go to sleep I could probably play the Sony produced game on mySony Playstation 3...The growth of synergetic media institutions has accelerated over the last few years, with themajor players trying to extend into telecom industries and the Internet revolution. The worldhas got smaller as these multimedia institutions have got bigger.A major studio spends to stimulate all of the revenue streams, from merchandising tovideo to theme parks. Look at animated features like Shrek (produced byDreamWorks). It will gross $300 million world-wide, but when you look at all revenuestreams, that number more than doubles. (Bart, 1999)Synergy – a Summary Increasingly, media corporations are now in effect able to give publicity to, advertise and promote films made by their film production arm via their own newspapers, magazines, radio stations, TV stations, satellite or cable channels, or through the Internet. Important financial spin-offs from films are also contained in-house: film-related books can be published by a company that is part of the media corporations stable of companies, TV or satellite rights can be sold to a company within the same group, soundtrack CDs can be put out by another company within the group. In these sorts of ways the business energy of any single company is magnified, even multiplied, and synergy is created.Less than 20% of total film revenue now comes from the domestic box-office. So, although agood first weekend is crucial in giving a film that vital initial impetus, there is now a wholerange of ways of subsequently recouping the financial outlay involved in making films 29
  12. 12. Summary - Recent Changes to HollywoodThe studios have to be able to move with the times and respond quickly to changingcircumstances. Major recent changes in their operating environment have included: 1. The change in the audience demographic towards people aged between 14 and 24; films put into distribution and their marketing campaigns now reflect this; 2. The increase in marketing spend needed to open a movie. Their average spend on prints and advertising is now running up as high at $50 million , 80% of which is then spent in the four weeks leading up to and including the opening week of release; 3. The pressures of working in the multiplex environment where, if a film doesnt perform well in its opening weekend, it will be shifted to a smaller screen for the rest of its run; 4. The development of smaller ‘indiewood’ operations (see later) within the studios to cater for non-mainstream (i.e. not 14-24!) tastes.; 5. The huge success of DVD and increasingly Blu-Ray has enabled the studios to open up their libraries of old titles again; 6. The growth of the international market to the extent that it is now bigger than the US, which has encouraged the studios to focus on those elements of their films which will play well overseas; 7. The move to more ‘Day and Date’ releases internationally so that overseas audiences do not have to wait to see films that have already opened in the US, reducing the danger of pirated copies of films entering these markets; 8. The need to combat piracy which is growing very fast in almost every country by devising alternative methods of bringing films to the paying public.Future Trends?Despite the growth in the DVD market and the improvement in the hardware for watchingfilms in the home, going to the cinema to see new films will remain an important activity,especially with the growth of IMAX and 3D films (see below). Digital cinema will become areality and when it does, cinemas will be put to more imaginative use, showing sporting andother important local or national events and making better use of time slots which have nottraditionally been popular with moviegoers. 30
  13. 13. Case Study - The growth of ‘Indiewood’Working Title Films and HollywoodWe’ll look at Working Title films in more detail later but, until then here’s anintroduction…Working Title began in the early 1980s when money for film production wastight. They were able to produce My Beautiful Launderette (1985) with the full financialbacking of Channel Four, but usually had to put funding packages together from a variety ofsources, including television companies and US independent distributors. Altogether, theyput together about 20 films in this way, though they did not make any money from them andnever had the cash flow to develop the best possible films from the scripts that they had.They realised in the early nineties that they had to be linked more closely to sales anddistribution and needed readier access to development and production funds.They found all of these elements in their partnership withPolygramwhich began in 1992. Asone of Polygram’s labels, they were able to spend more money - and time - developingprojects and to increase the ratio of projects in development which went into production toabout 1 in 10. As a result of this relationship, they were able to give the appropriate time andmoney to the development of Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) within a well-financedstudio atmosphere but without the additional interference that might have come from beingdirectly tied to one of the Hollywood studios. The success of Four Weddings helped set themup for further successes both within Polygram and after the sale of Polygram to Universal in1998.Background - Hollywood in the early Noughties The 1990s and early 2000s saw the creation of independent or specialist- oriented divisions by all the major studios, either through the takeover of existing entities or the creation of their own operations from scratch, or a combination of the two. Sony Pictures Classics was created in 1992. 20th Century Fox established Fox Searchlight in 1994. Paramount Classics was launched in 1998.Universal established relationships with a number of independent labels during the late1990s and early 2000s, eventually settling on its own Focus Features label in 2002.Universal also absorbed the British major independent Working Title, as part of itsacquisition of PolyGram from the Dutch corporation Philips in 1998.The end of Working Titles independent status is dated to this buy-out in 1998 which had asignificant impact on it, creating a reliance on success in the American market that shifted itsoutput towards an emphasis on less radical material like Notting Hill (1999), Bridget JonessDiary (2001) and Love Actually (2003). It has maintained some commitment to lower-budget and/or more challenging productions, however, its post-Universal production slateincluding examples such as United 93 (2006) alongside Shaun of the Dead (2004). 31
  14. 14. Case Study –Lost in Translation (2003)The complete set of studio- owned independentsections was completed in 2003 with the creationof Warner Independent Pictures by WarnerBros (though this subsequently closed in 2008)and the launch of DreamWorkscartoon subsidiaryGo Fish. The territory occupied by theseoperations, along with Miramax, became knownas Indiewood, often used as a disparaginglabel by those for whom studio involvement was abetrayal of the true spirit of independence, butcharacteristic of a hybrid brand of cinema inwhich markers of indie-style distinction are oftencombined with relatively more marketabledimensions than might be found at theradical/alternative end of the commerciallydistributed independent spectrum.The term Indiewood began to be coined in thelate 1990s to describe the territory in which theline between the indie and studio sectors wasbecoming blurred, especially much of the outputof Miramax and the other studio indie/specialistdivisions. If the form of indie cinema that came to prominence through commercialdistribution in the 1980s and 1990s often mixed distinctive or alternative qualities with moreconventional/mainstream features, Indiewood has been taken to signify a hybrid that tends tolean more towards mainstream Hollywood than edgy Art House. It suggests the exclusion ofthe more challenging or radical end of the indie spectrum in favour of commercially saferfilms with greater potential for crossover from niche to larger audiences.Much of the responsibility for the creation of this phenomenon can be attributed to thespecific strategies adopted by Miramax, particularly its award-garnering prestigeproductions like The English Patient (1997), but ‘Indiewood’ qualities can also beidentified in a range of features produced by its rivals. A notable example is Lost inTranslation (2003), written and directed by Sofia Coppola and released by UniversalsFocus Features in the US and Momentum in the UK, it earned positive reviews andnumerous awards, including the Best Original Screenplay Oscar and Independent SpiritAwards (the indie equivalent of the Academy Awards) for Best Film, Director, Screenplayand Male Lead.Lost in Translation positions itself clearly in the ‘quality, specialist arena at the level of itsoverall tone, mood and the absence of any strong narrative drive. The story of twoindividuals, Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) and Bob Harris (Bill Murray), who find solace ineach others company during enforced periods of residence in a luxury Tokyo hotel, the filmis primarily a mood piece, a wry and quite touching observation of fleeting moments ofhuman connection amid the various alienating aspects of each characters life: he an actorbeing overpaid to endorse a Japanese whisky, she the philosophy-graduate wife of aphotographer with whom she seems to have little in common. The film faintly begins to 32
  15. 15. sketch the possibility of romance between the two, but pulls back from anything like aconsummation, leaving the pair heading their separate ways although only after an inaudible(thus ambiguous) final exchange that leaves a partially open-ended impression. At the same time, Lost in Translation also displays more conventional dynamics. The impression of two lost souls finding one another is a familiar theme, even if not fully developed. Much of the humour offered by the film is reliant on somewhat stereotypical meetings of East and West, and the star presence of Bill Murray is central to the selling of the film. Lost in Translation is also keen to include its own diegetic markers of distinction, to underline the position it seeks to take up in the wider cultural field, primarily through the negative reference point provided by a minor character, Kelly (Anna Faris left) a Hollywood actress presented as a crass and superficial figure who represents the cinematic polar opposite to that with which Coppolas film wishes tobe associated.By 2002, the largest remaining players outside the studios were Artisan Entertainment andLions Gate. Each qualified as a major independent or mini-major studio through the scale ofits involvement in film production and distribution along with other interests such astelevision and DVD. Artisan made its name through its high-profile release of The BlairWitch Project (1999) and established a reputation as a suitable home for unconventionalindie features such as Darren Aronofskys Requiem for a Dream (2000). Lions Gateachieved its initial mark in similar territory, early releases including Buffalo 66 (1998) andAmerican Psycho (2000). Each grew through a careful strategy of diversification, animportant aspect of which was the purchase of back catalogues to provide the kind ofstability achieved by the studios. The eventual outcome was the takeover of Artisan byLions Gate in 2003, creating a single entity the scale of which meant that it was more likelyto survive in a marketplace still dominated by the majors.Q9.Look up the companies: a) Fox Searchlight; http://www.foxsearchlight.com/ b) Paramount Vantage; http://www.paramount.com/film-group/paramount-vantage c) Sony Pictures Classics; http://www.sonyclassics.com/index.php d) Focus Features. http://focusfeatures.com/Find some recent ‘Indiewood’ type films - ones associated with a certain ‘Art house’feel yet connected to a big Hollywood studio – that these companies have produced.Who are their films aimed at?Q10. Write a short essay answering the following questions:a) To what extent does Hollywood dominate the UK film landscape?b) How has it managed to retain its stranglehold?Make sure you provide examples both from these pages and of your own.This is a good place to go to find out about film distribution:http://www.launchingfilms.com/research-databank/current-top-15-films 33
  16. 16. Q11. How many of the current top 15 films on release in the UK are actuallydistributed by UK companies? 34

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