Here’s a few photos from last week’s Televisual Bulldog Awards, our annual awards for the best of British TV as voted for by the readers of Televisual.
Held at The Hospital Club, the Awards brought together programme makers behind some of the very best shows from 2010 such as Sherlock, The Inbetweeners, This is England ‘86, QI, The X Factor, Come Dine With Me, The Apprentice, Wonders of the Solar System, Glastonbury and Polar Bear: Spy on the Ice as well as Carnival Films which won indie of the year and Channel 4 which picked up channel of the year.
It’s normally the domain of film studios or ad production companies.
But now scenes like The Matrix’s iconic ‘bullet’ sequence, where Keanu Reeve's character is shot at and looks suspended in motion while the camera zooms around him, are being used by the corporate production and events businesses.
Communications agency Imagination has created a new Focus Cam innovation for its client Ford, which will be the centrepiece of Ford's UEFA Champions Festival stand in Hyde Park from tomorrow.
Fans visiting the stand will be able to stand in front of a long, curving digital camera rig, which is set up with 40 cameras and spans 120 degrees. They will be then asked to recreate some of the best moments in the UEFA Champions League (UCL) – be it a scissor kick, goal celebration, header, or even a fan celebration.
The moment will be captured by multi-angled photograph, with all the cameras taking a shot at the same time. The result is a continuous sequence which shows a fan caught in a moment of time from multiple angles, rather like The Matrix. You can see how it is done and the results in the film below.
It's believed it is the first time this technology has been used in a way the general public can interact with in the UK.
People can then see and share their image on Facebook, Twitter and email their video souvenir to friends, with the help of the hosts carrying on-stand iPads and online.
Timeslice Films supplied Imagination and Ford with the digital camera rig and solutions to create the Focus Cam images.
Ford’s UEFA Champions Festival presence is part of the UCL Champions Festival at Hyde Park, which is open to the public from May 21 to 28.
Just one film is flying the flag for the UK in official competition at the Cannes Film Festival (11-22 May), which starts today.
Lynne Ramsay’s We Need to Talk About Kevin, adapted from the best selling novel by Lionel Shriver, is competing for the Palme d’Or, the festival’s top prize.
Other possible British Cannes contenders – including Andrea Arnold’s adaptation of Wuthering Heights, Terence Davies’s screen adaptation of Terence Rattigan’s play, The Deep Blue Sea and Pawel Pawlikowski’s The Woman in the Fifth – didn’t make it. Either they weren’t ready in time, weren’t selected or decided on a different release strategy than premiering at Cannes.
Starring Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly and with a score by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, We Need to Talk About Kevin is the story of an American mother whose malevolent teenage boy goes on a killing spree at his high school.
Tipped as one of the most highly anticipated films to play at Cannes this year, it’s Ramsay’s first film in nearly a decade – even though the Scottish director has long been regarded as one of Britain’s top film talents.
She first came to attention when she won the 1996 Cannes Prix de Jury for her National Film and Television School graduation short film. Her debut feature Ratcatcher played in a sidebar competition at Cannes in 1999 and marked her out as an auteur director with a strong visual style, and was followed by Morvern Callar in 2002.
Stuck in development
Since then, nothing. Ramsay, it seems, famously fell victim to the bruising ways of the film industry. The story goes that she signed up to adapt Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones when it was at manuscript stage, only to be shoved aside when the novel became a runaway bestseller and Hollywood heavyweights began to show an interest. Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson eventually directed the poorly received adaptation.
But Ramsay moved on, partnering with BBC Films to adapt We Need to Talk About Kevin. That was in 2006 – meaning it’s taken five years to get from book to screen.
Why so long? The film’s protracted development and production saga reflects the dramatic changes that have swept over the film industry since then. Initially Ramsay, BBC Films and producer Jennifer Fox tried to set up We Need to Talk About Kevin as a mid-budget ($12m) American independent film with financial backing from the US.
But the US recession was just starting. Independent US distributors began struggling, the big studios closed their speciality divisions and equity funding dried up. “We had several attempts at funding the film which didn’t come to anything, but they did involve protracted negotiations and labour that just didn’t come right,” says head of BBC Films Christine Langan.
The project was also a difficult one for potential backers to make their mind up about. The book has a loyal following, but the subject matter is distressing. And Ramsay is a respected auteur film-maker, but hadn’t made a film for a long while.
“Along the way potential investors have been lured by the appeal of Lynne and they also love the material, but they were also nervous in a very insecure market with so much change happening all the time,” adds Langan.
By 2009 it was time to change tack. “In the end, we figured that the best way to go about it was to cut our cloth and make the film on as low a budget as we could possibly make it,” says Langan. This meant almost halving the original budget and switching the focus back to the UK in a bid to raise finance from European backers.
Luc Roeg’s film sales agency Independent was approached initially as a sales agent to raise finance, but said soon they would like to come on board as a producer of the film. Roeg recalls: “Once we got involved we sat down with the partners – the BBC, UKFC and Lynne – and said if we are going to get the film made, now is its moment, let’s really attack this from the ground up and make the most economically viable film.” Ramsay then rewrote the script to suit the pared down budget.
It was at this point that the film became less of an American movie, and more of a Lynne Ramsay auteur film. It also allowed the producers to begin tying down production and logistical elements more clearly. “It was a massively demanding task for Lynne,” says Langan. “One that many writer directors might have baulked at. But she completely rose to the challenge. The scripts that emerged from that moment were lean and wonderful – very typical of Lynne but also very true to the spirit of the novel.”
At this point, Tilda Swinton was attached to the lead role of Kevin’s mother. Swinton is described by Roeg as “a champion and driving force behind the film.” Langan adds: “You don’t just cast her and she turns up on the day – she was utterly passionate about this project, continually promoting it…it really galvanised the whole process.”
Roeg also began knitting together a complex patchwork of finance for the film. Asked to describe how the money came together, Roeg pauses and with a sharp intake of breath, says, “My goodness, it was a huge process…”
The film was structured so that it could qualify for the UK tax credit, which can be worth up to 20% of the qualifying production costs of the film. Its certification as a British film was helped by having a British director and lead actress and also arranging post production in the UK. The film was, however, set up to shoot in Connecticut in the US, also allowing it to take advantage of the state’s spend based tax credit. The UKFC (now the BFI) had already committed to invest in the film, alongside BBC Films. Post production partner LipSync Productions made an investment. Equity financier Piccadilly Pictures also came into the picture, and then Independent pre-sold rights for the UK to distributor Artificial Eye and a number of other smaller territories. A gap financier, Footprint Investments, also boarded the film.
Adding further complexity was the fact that it was a dual currency budget – in sterling and dollars – subject to fluctuations in exchange rate.
The casting also came together. Ramsay already had an ongoing dialogue with John C Reilly about playing the father, and this was soon formalised. Then the real energy went into casting Kevin. It was a painstaking exercise, with Ramsay spending time on the East and West Coast looking for four young actors, from baby up, to play Kevin, with Ezra Miller eventually signed to play the lead role.
The film was shot by Oscar nominated DoP Seamus McGarvey. It’s a complex piece, with narrative switching time frames. Emphasising that Ramsay is a very visual director, Langan says, “It’s about the landscape of a woman’s mind, her life and her relationship with her child. The film is an incredibly intimate exploration of what is going on in the mind of this mother. It’s very visceral, and you really experience her mood, her feelings and point of view. For any parent, there is an awful lot to identify with…”
The Cannes platform We Need to Talk About Kevin will be seen for the first time in public at Cannes, which is now the key launch pad for the film. Roeg says winning a place in competition at Cannes, “isn’t as straightforward as sending the film in and waiting for a response. There’s a process of discussion, lobbying and at certain times just being patient and tolerant.”
This was helped along by the film’s French distributor Diaphana, which bought We Need to Talk About Kevin at the European Film Market in Berlin in February, and acted as a ‘voice on the ground’ in France during the selection process.
Cannes also has a reputation of being very director focussed, of discovering new talent and then sticking with and championing them. It means a Cannes alumni like Ramsay will always be a strong contender. “But above all,” adds Roeg, “you have to deliver them a movie which they think is worthy and credible for the festival.”
The very fact of selection to Cannes competition is a significant boost to We Need to Talk About Kevin’s cinema potential around the world – it’s where the film will be introduced to the market and to international buyers. In particular, the producers will be hoping to make a key sale to a US distributor.
“It absolutely has an impact on the market and the movie’s life,” explains Roeg. “That’s because visibility for independent films is just so imperative. It’s a very crowded market, there are some wonderful films out there that don’t get the opportunity to be discovered, and this is a great way of beaming a spotlight on the movie.”
And this particular spotlight is one that Ramsay will share with world class directors such as Pedro Almodovar, Terrence Malick, Nanni Moretti and Lars von Trier.
It’s the ‘mother of all house moves’ and ‘single biggest staff relocation in the BBC’s history.’
So said BBC North director Peter Salmon today, as he unveiled the corporation’s new base at MediaCity in Salford Quays to the press.
The BBC Philharmonic Orchestra was the first big department to transfer, moving up to its new home – a purpose built sound studio - at MediaCity over the recent bank holiday weekend.
150 employees will move into the new offices this weekend, the first in a wave of 2,300 BBC production staff from departments such as sports, childrens, Radio 5 Live and BBC Breakfast who will relocate to MediaCity progressively over the next 36 weeks.
They will occupy three impressively kitted out buildings on the MediaCity site, which have been designed to encourage flexible, open working.
There are no fixed desks for staff nor are there private offices for senior executives. Instead the seating is flexible, with individuals hot-desking within their departments. There are break out areas with sofas or long benches for group meetings, and specifically designed pods where staff can make private mobile phone calls or conduct small meetings.
The pods were a particular talking point for many of the journalists touring the site. In some cases they resemble giant wheels with soft chairs inside – and have been dubbed ‘thought wheels’ by staff. Other pods, designed after an open competition won by students at Sheffield Hallam University, are high backed chairs that absorb sound to make mobile calls more private.
Helen Berresford of ID:SR, the interior design firm, said that the flexible seating arrangement meant that “more people could use less space” and that it reflected the trend of flexible, multiplatform working in contemporary workplaces.
Right next to the three BBC buildings is a pristine, state of the art new HD studio complex, which houses the largest purpose built single TV studio in the UK and six smaller studios as well as impressive audience facilities, star dressing rooms, editing suites and control rooms. It’s managed by SIS, and is open to productions from the BBC, ITV as well as independent producers. “We want to see ITV in here as much as the BBC,” said head of studios Andy Waters.
The studios are already in use: shows such as Question of Sport, Don’t Scare the Hare and Opinionated have already shot there, while Mastermind begins filming next week. Highlighting the scale of the studio set up, it will also be home to the next BBC Sports Personality of the Year show. Football Focus will be broadcast from the studios from August and Match of the Day from October.
ITV, meanwhile, will move into offices at MediaCity next year and is already building a new set for Coronation Street right next door.
Speaking at the press launch, director general Mark Thompson went out of his way to play down “the negativity” of media coverage about the reluctance of BBC staff to move to Salford.
Thompson said 55% of staff in departments set to move to MediaCity had volunteered to come, significantly higher than in most large office relocations.
He added that 2,500 BBC staff in departments not moving have asked to be considered for jobs at MediaCity, and that tens of thousands from outside the BBC had applied for jobs.
Thompson believes that the flexible set up of MediaCity will set a template for a new way of working at the BBC, which is less hierarchical and where staff can move more easily between departments. “I think 20 years from now the BBC will be run by people who cut their teeth at Salford,” he said.
Thompson also said a major terrestrial channel could move to MediaCity. “We’re looking at it,” he said, adding that there is additional space “if we chose to take it” at MediaCity and it “could be an opportunity to save money.”
The BBC argues that its move to MediaCity will bring four key benefits: economic – strengthening the media talent and production pool in the North; reputational – building up a closer relationship and approval with audiences in the area; creative – increasing quality by using the latest technology; value for money – making BBC North one of the most ‘efficient and cost effective centres.
BBC staff who are moving to MediaCity will enjoy a generous relocation allowance. Their removal services will be paid for and they will receive a taxable relocation payment of £5k.
Staff who are buying and selling a property will have their legal costs, stamp duty and estate agency fees paid, as well as a contribution of up to £3k toward fixtures and fittings.
Staff who rent will be eligible for a maximum monthly payment of £1,900 for up to two years (but not the relocation payment of £5k). The BBC said that the ‘people’ cost of its move – relocation, recruitment, training and redundancy – was £86.5m.
The total cost of the move to BBC North is £189.3m, according to the BBC.
The BBC is set to open its Salford base and C4 has pledged to engage more with out of London indies. So is it a good time to be a producer in the nations and regions or are broadcasters all talk and no action?Here's the views of three indie bosses based outside the M25.
Managing director, Hanrahan Media (based in Stratford Upon Avon)
That the BBC trumpets its target of 50% out of London production is a testament to its continuing failure to be a truly national broadcaster. The demise of ITV regional programming provided the BBC with an open goal to support a diverse, national broadcasting community. The BBC has so far missed that goal. What commissioning editors and controllers on the 6th floor don’t realise is that this is an existential issue. Why have a society-supported, national broadcaster still 50% based in London when the nation needs growth in creative industries throughout the regions and nations? Why not split the BBC into regional-based, society-financed autonomous entities similar to the old ITV? As for Channel 4, I am really not certain that the majority of commissioning execs in Horseferry Road support the vision of Jay Hunt, Stuart Cosgrove and the commercially savvy and enterprising David Abraham. The management of C4 know that value-for-money, innovative creativity wont suddenly appear out of the rights-driven, multinational-owned superindies. New suppliers from throughout the UK will breathe new life into the channel and guarantee its position as a protected PSB-sector broadcaster. Channel 4 could equally be split up if it fails to wise up – and that’s something its management recognises.
Managing director, Nine Lives Media (based in Manchester)
Jay Hunt and David Abraham want Channel 4 to be far more accessible to out of London independents. They recognise this is vital to Channel 4 meeting its specific remit as a broadcaster. We are currently doing a lot of development for Channel 4 which we certainly hope will lead to new business. Until now, much of our development has been for other channels, in particular the BBC. I’ve been an exec producer based out of London for nine years now and I think the BBC’s commissioning team is currently more accessible than ever before. I also think this shows on screen and is another reason Jay is keen to ensure Channel 4 catches up.
Creative director, Raise the Roof Productions (based in Glasgow)
We started Raise the Roof last year and have had nothing but encouragement from C4, they’ve just commissioned our third series. We’re lucky to have talent attached but we’ve also been given a number of paid developments to expand our output. The execs based at BBC Scotland have, without exception, been supportive and proactive. Being able to build relationships with people who are based here and who genuinely care and have a vested interest is invaluable. Giving them their own development pot would be another step in the right direction.
It used to be so simple in the old days of television. A producer would develop an idea, pitch it to a broadcaster and, if they were lucky, walk away with a fully funded commission to make the programme.
But, ever since the terms of trade were agreed after 2003, broadcasters have been steadily reducing funding for shows and expecting producers to raise the shortfall themselves. It’s a trend that accelerated dramatically during the recent recession when broadcaster revenues plunged.
Drama, kids and high-end factual producers, in particular, have had to become experts in stitching together financing from multiple sources to raise the required budget for a programme.
“The aggregate amount paid by broadcasters has gone down and the cost of production has gone up,” says Simon Vyvyan, CEO of business affairs consultancy Industry Media Ltd. “That disparity is getting worse and getting harder and harder to fill each year.”
Arturi Films’ David Pearson, producer of acclaimed documentary Mugabe and the White African, adds: “Increasingly there are going to be weird and wonderful combinations of finance…for indie films in particular you have to look at every finance option and some you haven’t thought of.”
Of course many shows are still fully funded by UK broadcasters, particularly those with a strongly British focus. And for most producers, UK broadcaster funding is the mainstay of their business. “Pretty much 95% of what Keo does for TV is paid for by the broadcaster,” says Simon Huntley, finance director at Keo Films, which makes River Cottage.
The trend, however, is very much towards producers having to raise additional finance – anything from 60% to 5% - to meet broadcaster shortfalls.
Pact’s most recent industry census bears this out. Its Financial Census and Survey 2010 found that 85% of producers think that gap financing – the gap between what a production costs and what a commissioning broadcaster will pay – will continue to increase, putting further pressure on profit margins and the need for other sources of revenue. With that in mind, here’s a run down of the 10 most popular ways to plug this financing gap.
1. Distribution Advance
The relationship between producers and distributors has become increasingly close and collaborative in recent years, reflecting the vital role that distributors play in funding shows.
Distributors can provide an advance based on a forecast for international sales revenue for a show. It could be anywhere between 5% up to (rarely) 30% of a show’s budget.
In return for an advance, the distributor gains the right to distribute the show internationally. It will hope to recoup its entire advance based on sales, and then take a percentage of revenue from sales around the world.
A distribution advance is often the quickest and most straightforward way to plug a deficit for a show. “It happens on virtually every drama project now,” says Industry Media’s Vyvyan. “Now in the indie sector you can’t make a programme unless you get a distribution advance. Out of nearly 30 programmes we have done in the last two years, I’d say the vast majority have received a distribution advance into the production budget.”
“It’s best to speak to a distributor earlier rather than later,” adds TVF International director Leila Monks, who describes distribution outfits like TVF as “producers’ eyes and ears into the international market.” Going to a distributor early means they can often help develop ideas so that they are best suited to sell to international markets. Indeed, many distributors say that the development process itself is having to react to the structural issue of broadcasters reducing their budget.
Fremantle Media Enterprises’ chief operating officer Dan Allen says the onus is now on the producer, working with the distributor, to make projects more attractive at development stage to international buyers. “If producers are getting less from broadcasters for shows, either they have to make them for less or distributors have to increase their distribution advances. But that can be difficult because the pricing for acquisitions is not necessarily undergoing any fundamental increases. So you have to do something in development which makes the content more in demand internationally.”
2. Co-production / pre-sales
Increasingly, producers are topping up their budgets by co-financing their shows with other international broadcasters, through pre-sales or co-production deals.
Factual producers like Windfall Films, which makes big budget specialist factual shows such as Monster Moves, has a long history of stitching together finance from broadcasters around the world. UK budgets have fallen so much that Windfall says it is now having to find an increasing number of international partners. For its latest run of Monster Moves, it’s worked closely with distributor Cineflix to raise financing, pre-selling the series. “Between us we have ended up bringing seven different parties to the table,” says Windfall’s head of production Kristina Obradovic. They include Channel 5 and History Channel UK, Discovery EMEA, Germany’s Kabel1, Australia’s SBS and France’s Direct8.
On the plus side, pre-sales usually mean less editorial involvement from the acquiring broadcasters. The downside, says Windfall company director Carlo Massarella, is that pre-selling to so many key countries just to raise the budget means that Windfall can recoup very little by way of back-end distribution.
Co-production deals tend to be more complex agreements, with the UK producer often having to make the narrative more appropriate to the co-pro partner, or including local characters and locations. Often, the co-pro partner will expect a share of the back-end too.
“You have to put yourselves in the shoes of the commissioning broadcaster of the other territories. Why in a million years would they think your subject would appeal to their local public,” points out BBC Worldwide executive producer for international drama Ben Donald.
Again, distributors play an important part in helping match up producers with their international broadcaster contacts. “You have to be able to go to them at the right time with the right project,” says Donald. “You have to know your broadcaster profiles and the subject areas they like, and what slots they have available.”
Kids producers have long been experts at scouring the world to raise money from international co-production partners, as UK broadcasters rarely fully fund kids programmes.
Billy Macqueen, joint md of kids producer Darrall Macqueen, funded the company’s latest series, Pet Squad, with March Entertainment in Canada and Inspedia from Malaysia. The show airs on CBBC later this year. “It’s key in these kind of co-pros that you share a sense of humour and creative sensibilities,” says Macqueen. “And that you share the equity position right the way through.” Crucially, he thinks, producers should limit the number of production partner to three or a maximum of four. Any higher becomes very difficult to juggle – and expensive. “Per partner you have to spend an extra £30k for things such as legal fees,” he says.
3. DVD Advances
The format might be on the wane but DVD advances can also be a useful addition to a budget. Comedy, drama and high-end factual are the most likely genres to attract DVD advances. A DVD advance can be particularly important part of the budget for comedy and drama shows which don’t travel well out of the UK, and find it hard to secure international funding.
4. Post production deal
Post production houses are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their dealings with producers. “They are more prevalent in feature films than drama, but there are a number of successful TV dramas where post houses have not only offered their post production services but have also invested quite a large sum of money, which is recouped alongside other investors,” says Industry Media director James Penny.
Lipsync, for example, has a strong reputation for its involvement in film projects, and successfully invested in BBC1 drama Zen.
Molinare has also built up an impressive reputation for its feature documentary work and film credits. “Post production houses are an option, but they will never give you so much money that your project will live or die by their investment,” adds Penny. “The pieces of the funding jigsaw get smaller and smaller each year, and the trick is to find as many as you can to stitch together – and post houses simply provide another small piece of that jigsaw.”
5. Regional and national funding agencies
Many high profile dramas, such as This Is England ’86 and Red Riding, have received financial backing from the UK’s regional and national screen agencies in recent years. BBC Worldwide’s Ben Donald describes screen agency funding as “one of the essential but later bits” of the funding jigsaw. “A regional fund in the UK could be a nice fillip but it is not going to make a major dent in your budget,” he says.
The poor state of the UK’s finances mean that many agencies no longer have the ability to fund to the extent they did in the past. The key is to know which of the regional and national screen agencies are currently investing.
Northern Ireland Screen, for example, is still very active, putting money into TV and film projects. And Northern Film and Media runs a £2.4m creative co-investment content fund supported by venture capital from NorthStar Equity Investors. “The fact that you are dealing with venture capitalists brings a certain level of bureaucracy and pain but nonetheless the few productions which have taken advantage of it have found it helpful,” says Industry Media's Penny.
6. Deficit /gap finance
Specialist financiers such as Ingenious Media or Octopus Investments can also provide funding to plug programme budgets. Ingenious, in particular, has been around for many years and is very supportive of the TV industry.
Nevertheless, funding from specialist media financiers can be expensive and complex. “If you speak to enough producers you will get the general impression that they find it slightly painful but nonetheless many people turn to companies like Ingenious because not only do they invest up to 5% of budget, but they also cash flow things,” says Industry Media’s Penny.
7. Overseas shooting
There’s an ever changing and ever increasing number of countries that will provide subsidies in a bid to attract international TV and film productions that will spend money in their territories, from Malta, South Africa through to Austria. “Each has its own strings and conditions,” says BBC Worldwide’s Ben Donald.
TV dramas are increasingly following the route trodden by film productions in a bid to unlock financing from around the globe. Producers can take advantage of formal co-production treaties with countries such as Canada. For filmmakers, the key attraction of a treaty co-production is that it qualifies as a national production in the partner nation. That means it can then access benefits that are available to the local film and television industry in the other country. Benefits may include government subsidies, tax concessions and inclusion in domestic television broadcast quotas. The latter is particularly valuable in Canada.
There are many countries where there is no formal co-production treaty but where UK producers can get a rebate on the cost of shooting in the country. Hungary, for example, is currently very popular with filmmakers because it offers a 20% tax rebate on local production spend. Donald says: “The choice of location often depends what you are looking for on screen. South Africa is very interesting because of the range of countryside out there which can double for various places.”
8. Advertiser funding
Ad funded programming (AFP) has been around since the 1930s when brands such as Proctor and Gamble and Colgate Palmolive funded daytime dramas in the US – and the soap opera was born. Until recently, however, examples of AFP were relatively scarce on British television. In particular, it was mistrusted by commissioning editors who disliked the idea of advertisers being closely involved in programme-making.
The recession, however, means that broadcasters and producers are having to compromise and are increasingly turning to advertisers to fund their programmes. This year, ad-funded programming has received a significant boost by the relaxation of the rules surrounding product placement. Now that brands can include their products in shows, many think that advertisers will look at ad funded programming more seriously.
ITV recently announced the first product placement deal with Nestle on This Morning, while C4’s first product placement deal is for a fashion show backed by New Look and made by indie producer Twofour. Few, however, think that AFP will lead to a major funding bonanza for producers – but say that it will bring some extra cash to the sector. “I think AFP will become slightly more significant if you are an independent producer,” says Simon Wells, head of ad-funding agency Drum Screen. “I think it will plug some of the gaps. It won’t be the saviour of the industry though.” Wells recently produced The Angina Monologues, a British Heart Foundation backed event starring Victoria Wood that has played in cinemas and aired on Sky.
9. Foundations / private financiers / self funding
Many projects, particularly feature documentaries, rely on money from wealthy individuals or from foundations.
Often, wealthy individuals will invest in projects where they know one of the creative principals, or they believe in a film’s creative potential or think the subject matter is important.
Producers will sometimes put their own money into a project. Keo Films, for example, put in 20% of the budget of acclaimed documentary series Welcome to Lagos in return for a more favourable rights position.
Foundations such as Channel 4’s Britdoc Foundation will also invest in documentary projects, while The Wellcome Trust have backed docs including the award-winning The English Surgeon. Foundations in the US, such as the Sundance Documentary Fund, the Ford Foundation and ITVS will also back international feature docs.
Rachel Wexler, producer at doc indie Bungalow Town, which has just made BBC4’s Outside the Court by Marc Isaacs and feature doc Guilty Pleasures, says: “When we consider a project, we will always think in a very specific and bespoke way about what funding routes will be right for that project. I think it helps if you’ve done proper research and know the funders’ needs before wasting everyone’s time by submitting something really inappropriate. Like sending a film about hard hitting social issues to an arts programmer.” Arturi Films' David Pearson says that relationships are important in trying to attract private money to projects. “Private financiers can be a great help – but I won’t be providing a contact list for them... Rich aunts could be key, but I don’t have any!”
10. Plate spinning
Last, but certainly not least, it’s crucial that producers can not only raise money but can also pull the various sources of finance together at the same time so that a show can be made. “It often comes down to cash flow,” advises Industry Media’s Vyvyan. “It’s more to do with constant plate spinning to make sure that you can make the money come in when you need it. It’s all very well finding the money, but the important thing is stitching it together…”