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UK delegation at Rome's MIA: ready to collaborate

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The 'Co-producing with the UK' panel at Rome's MIA

October 2018

Wendy Mitchell reports from the MIA Film and TV market in Rome, where the UK enjoyed a special spotlight in 2018.

Britain is still very much open for collaborations with Europe, even on the eve of Brexit. That was the message comig loud and clear from the UK Spotlight at Rome’s MIA market for the Film and TV industry.

Mercato Internazionale Audiovisual (MIA), which ran from 17-21 October, organised the UK Spotlight with the support of the British Council, British Film Institute (BFI) and British Embassy in Rome.

At the 'How To Co-Produce with the UK' Panel, Samantha Perahia, Head of Production UK for the British Film Commission, explained the range of offerings for productions in the UK: “The UK is well-known for its purpose-built studios around London - including Pinewood, Shepperton and Warner Bros. Studios' Leavesden - home to huge US studio franchises like Bond, Harry Potter, Wonder Woman and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. These studios are all expanding to accommodate further demand. However, the UK also features production hubs throughout its regions and nations, in and around Bristol, Manchester and Yorkshire, and in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, with developed crew bases and studio and build space ideal for major productions, indie features and TV drama.”

Producers Emily Morgan and Andrea Calderwood spoke about their co-production experience on films like I Am Not a Witch and Yuli. Natalie Coleman, Investment Manager at Head Gear Films, spoke about the private investment scene in the UK.

Veteran producers Paul Webster (below) and Damian Jones gave separate keynote addresses sharing their wealth of experience.

Webster firmly believes in the theatrical experience, and spoke of the pleasures of seeing his low-budget production Locke, starring Tom Hardy in the contained single set of a car interior, premiered on a big screen at the 2013 Venice Film Festival. “I know that I am more likely to encounter a film of mine being watched on a mobile phone by the man in front of me queuing for the loo on a plane than to have that experience again, but it is undeniably thrilling when a cinema presentation gives a film lift off, exposure, and it's launched out into the world.”

Webster, of Shoebox Films, also unveiled the first footage of his latest production, Radioactive, written by Jack Thorne, directed by Marjane Satrapi and telling the story of Marie Curie (played by Rosamund Pike). The StudioCanal/Amazon co-production is expected to be delivered in the first half of 2019. Webster was excited to work with an established film company like StudioCanal alongside a newer platform like Amazon: “We had the new world and the old world meshed, and it’s been a successful collaboration.”

Even with a fast-changing industry, he emphasised that film is “a remarkably durable medium, because it answers a kind of primal need from human beings to be told stories,” he said. “And the forms of storytelling have remained pretty constant for thousands of years.”

Damian Jones, of DJ Films, spoke about his current films such as Michael Winterbottom’s as-yet-untitled satire about a billionaire (played by Steve Coogan). He also has Monday written and directed by Agyris Papadimitropoulos now shooting in Greece, starring Sebastian Stan and Denise Gough. Jones is also executive producing Romola Garai’s directorial debut Outside.

He spoke about why he likes to be involved from the creative genesis of a project, sharing one example of how he worked for many years to get The Iron Lady off the ground with the right team. “When you’re a producer, having a seed of creative origins is really important, otherwise it’s a bit soul destroying when it feels like you’re organising other people or just facilitating. If you have that seed of an idea that’s how I like to work, and hopefully you see it turning into something beyond even what you imagined.”

A UK-led panel on diversity and inclusion welcomed speakers Jennifer Smith (Head of Inclusion at the BFI), producer Elizabeth Karlsen (Carol, Colette), Film London’s Nahrein Kemp (also creator of the Equal Access Network) and Curtis Brown agent Nish Panchal, whose clients include Riz Ahmed and Tinge Krishnan.

Smith explained the BFI’s Diversity Standards. “I think you always need a lever or mechanism to make behaviour change. We’ve got them across four areas, there are four pivotal pinch points about where you wanted to see the change: themes and narratives and what you see on screen; leadership behind the camera and who gets to tell their stories; entry routes into the industry; and distribution and exhibition.”

She’s encouraged that other organisations are adopting the Standards, such as BAFTA for its Best British Debut and Best British Film categories, Film4, BBC Films, and BIFA. More conversations are ongoing.

Smith added, ““Inclusion is an active term. You have to do something and you are a part of this. Somebody smarter than me said difference between diversity and inclusion is diversity is about counting the numbers, inclusion is about making the numbers count.”

Karlsen added, “It’s important to start from the bottom up. We need to start at a very young level with children in school to say no matter your gender or race, you can be a director, you’ve got a story to tell. Also it benefits the industry, there are so many films being made, there are so many platforms, no business wants the same old thing to be told again and again. It’s important to try to place some of these initiatives in the space of young people. Unless we start right at the bottom it’s going to be hard to shift things.”

In other MIA sessions, Walter Iuzzolino of Walter Presents gave a keynote; Michael Apted talked about his famous Up documentary series; and author Michael  Morpurgo discussed the forthcoming animated adaptation of Kensuke’s Kingdom.

Speaking on the UK TV Focus panel were Martin Haines of Kudos, Alex Marshall of Archery Pictures, David O’Donoghue of Carnival Films, Kate Crow of Scott Free, Steve November of Lionsgate and writer Daisy Goodwin.

New projects

In the new 'C EU Soon' showcase of films still in post-production, the UK was represented by horror/comedy Tales From The Lodge, directed by Abigail Blackmore and produced by Ed Barratt and Richard Wyle of Hook Pictures (Abi and Richard pictured below). Johnny Vegas and Mackenzie Crook are in the cast.

In the co-production market, Mandi Riggi pitched Mercy. In the drama series pitching forum, Studio Lambert pitched Channing Powell’s The Feed; Blackbox and Keshet pitched Roland Moore’s The Last Cop; Blackbox pitched Amanda Duke’s Murder In Time; Pantomimus Media pitched Roberto Ricci’s The Red Harlequin; and Bonafide pitched Super Cannes, adapted from the JG Ballard novel and to be directed by Saul Dibb.

Other UK attendees of MIA included Attica Dakhil and Katie Ellen of the BFI; Yana Georgieva of Bankside; Andy Whitaker and Ana Vicente of Dogwoof; Edward Parodi of Film Constellation; Tim Grohne of Carnaby; Paul Ridd of Picturehouse; producer Stephen Woolley of Number 9; and Tom Abell of Peccadillo Pictures.

The film-loving British Ambassador to Italy, Jill Morris, welcomed a group of UK and international industry experts to her residence Villa Wolkonsy for a reception. She said, “The UK has a lot to offer to producers in terms of soft money, tax relief and  incentives, while British fund representatives and UK independent producers - being real pioneers in championing diversity and inclusion in offices, stories and on screen - are able to share their successful experiences, forward-thinking and innovative approach on plots and working methods.

“There are plenty of nice stories to watch, listen to, learn and exchange. And I am sure that these MIA days in Rome will be a fantastic opportunity to increase meaningful collaborations, co-productions and partnerships in the foreseeable future.”