Film London MicrowaveMicrowave is Film London’s micro-budget feature film making scheme. It aims atcommissioning the next generation of film-making talent in the capital.Microwave launched in 2006, and is in partnership with BBC Films and supported by Skillset(an industry body which supports skills and training for people and businesses to ensure theUK creative industries maintain their world class profession), the BFI (British Film Institute)and the Mayor of London.This unique training-through-production scheme offers upcoming talent an avenue intofeature production.Microwave provides the following for film-makers: Production funding Bespoke training and mentoring Professional development Support from script to screenThe scheme: Microwave challenges film-makers to shoot a full length feature film for up to £120,000 including cash and in-kind support. The scheme provides an intensive approach to film-making, with an emphasis on tightly focused scripts, short production schedules and projects which have commercial potential. For successful teams, support commences with Microschool, an intensive four-day programme of seminars, workshops, screenings and script surgeries covering everything from development through to sales and distribution. Following Microschool, shortlisted teams will undertake a four-month period of project and professional development before the final selection of projects aregreenlit. Selected teams are then provided with unique professional mentoring from leading industry figures. Mentors and advisers have included directors AsifKapadia (The Warrior, Far North), Pete Travis (Vantage Point, Endgame), producer Paul Webster (Atonement, Eastern Promises) and script editor Kate Leys (Trainspotting, The Full Monty). Film London and its partners also offer a range of assistance including in-kind support from leading facilities and service companies as well as professional advice on shooting on location.
Completed projects have a theatrical window before being broadcast on the BBC. Microwave film-making teams are given professional and tailored marketing and sales advice with a view to giving them a head start in the international marketplace. So far, eight films have been completed through Film London Microwave: Shifty, Mum & Dad, Freestyle, The British Guide to Showing Off, Strawberry Fields, ill Manors and Borrowed Time. A further three films are currently in development and are hoped to premiere from 2013.Film London Microwave’s website enables upcoming and passionate film-makers with aninspiring guide on everything they need to know, including information on festivals,distribution and exhibition.They also provide information on film resources including distributor contacts, in aid ofselling and marketing/publicising a film, they also provide information on a sales agent’srole: Sales Agents are like wholesalers – they trade in the rights to your film and sell it internationally. This is where the value lies for the film-maker and financier.They give numerous tips on LOCATION selection including: Minimising locations – fewer locations will be cheaper and simpler If needing more than one location stick to the same area – building relationships with the local community and the Borough Film Service (33 boroughs of London e.g. Camden, Croydon) are key! Outer boroughs are advised, as they are generally less busy and often work out cheaper for production –(and there is only a micro-budget!) Filming on the streets - does not cost! Keeping disruption to a minimum – keeping cast and crew small and flexible. Film in private locations – try and get as many favours as you can from people you know but keep it professional and outline an agreement. Appointment of a location manager enables the security of cameras, equipment and actors, and the movement of these things, and ensuring everyone gets to the set on time, and dealing with noisy background sound (that could interrupt your recording sound). Locations must be well-prepared and organised in the planning stages. Researchingof locations is essential.The film making-process can be split into three main phases – development, pre-productionand production, and post-production:
Agreements are entered into by a producer during the film-making process.As a producer you have to anticipate how your film will be exhibited/delivered e.g.theatrically or straight to DVD. A common problem is that producers don’t adequatelybudget for their deliverables. Rights also have to be considered – if you don’t have the rightto use it don’t use it. One of the biggest issues facing film-makers in the future are the newforms of film distribution – on demand, downloads etc. Any producer that is going to beinvolved in the exploitation of a film needs to be aware of the current ways of thinking andwhere it’s going to lead to – methods of distribution. Decisions made are going to have animpact on what happens in the future.Crucial stages of budgeting: 1) Pre-Production Budget: Film-makers are advised to do a breakdown of a script for an estimate of workload and any costly elements. Film-makers are also advised to allocate appropriate estimates in the departments that need the cash.
Understanding the director’s vision as it will guide in where money should be spent. Film-makers also have to consider the format they want to shoot in and how this will impact costs (stock purchase, hiring of equipment etc.) Having discussions with Heads of Department on crew sizes and elements that require additional costs such as transport for cast and catering. Cash flow: Art departments will need cash flow to being buying props, clothing etc. The producer needs to set up a bank account and decide who will have access to this account. Setting up payroll systems for cast and crew Templates are usually created to document money spent. 2) Production Budget: Must be signed off by producer and submitted before principal photography begins. It is then ‘locked’. Cash flow: Updated every day with small cash floats and purchase orders A weekly cash float is submitted to financiers. 3) Post-Production Budget: May need adjusting to absorb any concerns that may occur in this stage; however a post-production supervisor takes over the role of concerns and budgets. Cash flow: Invoicing (money) will begin to flow into accounts, need signing off and allocating in cash flow spread sheets. Producers and financers should be updated on all costs.Line Producers are responsible for agreeing the film’s budget in collaboration with theproducer.On a micro-budget feature film, line producers are responsible for the distribution of pettycash floats, cast & crew contracts, completed purchase orders and cost control reportingback to the financiers.Good budgeting within Film London Microwave allows a realistic goal for everyone involvedin the film and also prepares a team for any difficulties that may arise, discussing them inadvance and already having solutions for potential problems.Stages of budgeting:Initial estimate (in collaboration with producer)
Official estimate (after discussions with HOD’s)Official proposal (once script is locked, location deals completed)Submission to financiers for feedbackBudget locked – prior to principal photography commencingShifty, a super 16 shoot, shot in 18 days over 3 consecutive weeks during August 2007 onthe council estates around Borehamwood. The team were based the production office atElstree Studios. They were a close knit family of approximately 30 core crew, 2 leads andfluctuating cast.Producers and line producers took into consideration the small budget, and worked hard tokeep within the budget and make the money go as far as it could. Producers shot on super16, when Microwave usually shoot on HD, so that they had to pledge and make it possiblenot to go over budget.The two main issues, from a production perspective, were always surrounding casttransport and catering:1. Cast TransportYou should get one industry taxi company to oversee all cast transfers with a dedicateddriver for your 1 or 2 main cast. We were fortunate that our two leads lived near oneanother and were collected in one car every morning. We had a dedicated driver on set forour leads and to help with errands. Strike a deal at the beginning of the transportationrelationship.2. CateringSource a local low end catering company who are keen to get feature experience. Don’tunder value catering – a crew marches on its stomach! And bad meals are a reoccurringnightmare if you get it wrong. Remember cast and crew aren’t doing micro-budget films forthe money – so treat them well.BBC FilmsBBC Films is the feature film-making arm of the BBC. It is firmly established atthe forefront of British independent film-making and co-producesapproximately eight films a year. Working in partnership with majorinternational and UK distributors, BBC Films aims to make strong British films
with range and ambition. They are committed to finding and developing newtalent, as well as collaborating with some of the foremost writers and directorsin the industry.Film festivals and film markets are the places where film-makers, distributors and sellersgather together in one place to see films and do business.Markets are purely about trade – they are where buyers meet sellers.Festivals introduce two more factors into the equation: the press and the public. They havealways been important platforms for discovering and increasing the profile of talent. Andincreasingly, they are a worldwide network where many films enjoy a series of theatricalscreenings.