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Response to Westminster Media Forum

53 ParlimentOn the 18th April 2012, the Westminster Media Forum held its Keynote seminar entitled The UK Film Industry. The event was chaired by the Rt Hon Kevin Barron MP, Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Film Industry Group and also Lord Evans of Temple Guiting, former Vice-Chairman of the British Film Institute.

The Seminar considered a number of issues, including the new movie market taking into account the move from 35mm film to digital, the overall state of the UK film industry and considering the development of UK FILM as a brand. Other matters considered included whether enough was being undertaken to secure the future of the British film industry through sufficient training and apprenticeship.

The speakers included Amanda Nevill, Chief Executive of the British Film institute (BFI), N K Powell Director of the National Film and Television School, Andrew Smith Group director Corporate Affairs at Pinewood Group and Michael Cowan Joint Managing Director of Spice Factory (UK) and Joint Chief Executive Officer of the Stealth Media Group.

BluePencil's editorial director Julian Wilkins, attended the Seminar and below are his submissions to the Westminster Film Forum subsequent to the Seminar. 'We are entering a brave new world as 35mm becomes defunct in the UK. Significant distribution costs savings should be achieved by adopting new technology. This should give greater opportunity for independent producers. Will this lead to greater revenues and what measures are required for the independent film (and documentary) makers to have access to outlets?

The range of potential jobs and skills has developed, but do we have a sufficiently deep pool of well trained recruits? Schools have to encourage a greater appreciation of opportunity and skills required, including the development of thorough apprenticeships and vocational courses. Should everyone require university level courses or instead more practical and vocational, learning on the job should not be stigmatised as an inferior route.


The educational infrastructure needs updating and Nik Powell eloquently explained the need to upgrade facilities to compete with modern institutions abroad.

Film schools should also provide business and legal training including IP. Using standard form contracts would assist making costs proportionate to the overall production expense.

Are we measuring public taste correctly? Is there a tendency to give more of the same as it has previously worked? If that attitude was universally adopted, we would use Walkmans not iPods, drive gas guzzlers not eco friendly cars. We need to encourage public taste to innovation and different genres. The audience should be respected, and probably best served by the industry not being subservient to conventional tastes and derivative formats; ultimately the audience will hate us for not being bold, and experimental.

How do we treat the low cost budget films as compared to the big budget movies?

Do we desire an indigenous studio system like Hollywood, or do we provide a quality film making service to the world without retaining all profit and IP making it analogous to the motor industry suggesting the UK is a hub for overseas manufacturers? Do we want the filmic equivalent of Volkswagen?

The UK car industry has a manufacturing capacity, highly trained work force and leaders in research and design with manufacturers locating their R&D operation in the UK. Essentially, this is the current film industry.

Alternatively, do we aspire to an indigenous Volkswagen? Arguably, BBC Films, Film 4, Sky (come on ITV) plus the Pinewood Studios initiatives are our Volkswagen. What needs to be done to expand the volume of films into which these companies invest?

The tax breaks encourage film production. Can more be done to ensure that the profit remains in the UK to ensure continuity of business? Relaxing the rules on co production and location will help, but too much tinkering could breach EU competition and US Anti Trust laws. Mainland Europe style quotas, for non mainsteam productions would help; commitment by cinema chains and broadcasters to provide greater choice and diversity would assist. Should incentives be developed for an internationally competitive distribution system?

Morgan cars has an international customer base, so why not the film equivalent? Morgan has a business model and infrastructure scaled to its size and makes profit. Michael Cowan illustrated good films can be made for little money and make profit; these films need the right type of backers and distributors who do not judge outcome by Avatar proportions.

The structuring of films should be considered. Why not cooperatives, Community Interest Companies, not for profit organisations, the so called John Lewis model and joint ventures with other industries? Why only one type of business model? Collaborations with local government, possibly the Localism legislation may give opportunity; VW is part owned by the equivalent of Buckinghamshire County Council.'

Julian Wilkins

Julian Wilkins is Editorial Director for Blue Pencil Media Limited. Julian has a LLB (Hons) in law and M.Phil in law as well as a Diploma in European law and was admitted as a solicitor in 1988; he practices in the area of media, entertainment, and intellectual property law as a consultant for Devereaux Solicitors in London. Julian is also a Notary Public and CEDR accredited commercial mediator. Julian has written for academic publications and contributed to an Exhibition Catalogue about 1960s photographer Philip Townsend. Julian is a member of the International Association of Entertainment Lawyers and also the British Institute of International and Comparative law. Julian is a finalist in The Media Lunch Club “Short Circuit” script competition to be held in November 2011. Julian’s comments “The rapidly changing world economy and technology is presenting incredible opportunities for the Creative Industries and Blue Pencil hopes to reflect and contribute to these changes.”

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