Categories
Branding Diversity Event Film Festival Italy SVOD

Italy is It

Italy has always been a country with a strong design tradition. In 1909, the poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti launched the Futurist movement, as this piece details. Futurism rejected the past and set out to celebrate a number of abstract concepts like speed, machinery, violence, youth and industry, as well as even more abstract ones like kinetic energy, duration and simultaneity. That art movement has influenced many designers since, and it seems that now the country of Italy itself is benefitting from the focus on branding and design.

Last month I went to the MIA market in Rome. That stands for Mercato Internazionale Audiovisivi, combining the Rome Film, Drama Series and Documentary markets, alongside the Rome Film Festival. MIA is a great name and very memorable – (even more so if you’re an ABBA fan). The brand gives a modern and coherent sense to a wide range of film and TV content. Looking at the MIA ‘eye’ image at the top of this page, I can see the heritage of the graphic design in work like this Futurist magazine cover from 1929

MIA is one of many recent initiatives promoting Italian media and culture abroad. The first London Eataly superstore opened during the pandemic by Liverpool St Station, and is hoping that the resumption of the economy and life in the city will also bring lots of people through the doors. There are Eatalys in several other cities around the world and all have the same model of a high class market, and several bars and restaurants

Eataly, Tokyo

I cringe a bit when I hear the name – the word Italy spoken in an Italian accent. But there’s no doubt it’s memorable.

My flight to Rome for MIA was on the last evening of the national airline, Alitalia, which shut down the next day, burdened by debt and years of mismanagement. The pandemic finished it off

With Alitalia no more, the government has started a new airline, taking over half the aircraft and staff from Alitalia – ITA.

The ‘tricolore’ of Alitalia/the Italian flag has been retained in the logo, with the blue that is associated with Italy through its sports teams (the national football team is called gli Azzurri, The Blues)added for the livery . People with a lot more knowledge of branding than me will be able to judge whether or not ITA is a memorable brand in the highly competitive travel business.

Hot on the heels of that launch came the announcement last week of a new CEO for ItsArt , an SVOD (subscription video-on-demand) service launched last year with performances, documentaries, films to ‘discover the beauty of the Italian cultural and artistic patrimony: theatre, music, cinema, dance and art in all its forms’.

(note the Twitter-referencing dot before the logo)

The new venture is 51% owned by the Italian state’s investment bank, and 49% by the SVOD service Chili. Guido Casali, who I first met when he was at Sky Arte, and then running the (somewhat similar) SVOD Nexo +, is the new CEO of ItsArt

Looks like a very comprehensive offering, which is also open to content from producers from outside Italy – ‘other perspectives are always interesting’, says Guido.

I remember an earlier initiative by RAI’s distribution arm to create ‘Italiana‘, a magazine series on everything Italian – defined as food, lifestyle, landscape and art. ‘Think Global, Live Italian’ was the tagline. The site has disappeared, and I’m not sure how many episodes of the series were ever produced.

Looking at what ItsArt shows and what that says about Italian culture is for another blog. But I do think Eataly/ITsArt/ITA have a lot in common – a consistent set of brands, all supported by the state. Rather like Korea tagging all of its content with a K – K-Pop, K-Drama, K-Film, IT has become the tag for Italy in the online age.

I wish ITsArt well in drawing in subscribers from beyond Italy of course, but it did get me thinking – is a national brand what complex and often transnational industries need? Food, art and opera can be identified as coming from the country, but what about media and ideas, which are often stronger from having outside influences? I can see that it’s something to draw visitors (and I imagine investment) to the country, but the creative spirit of a country is generally a jumble of experiences, cultures, and ever changing, and a single country brand may not properly express it.

Recently, the UK govt mulled the idea of putting an obligation on the BBC and all UK public service broadcasters to produce ‘distinctively British content‘. John Whittingdale, at the recent RTS conference noted that

“the sort of things we’ve all grown up with: Only Fools and Horses, Dad’s Army, Carry On, more recently, The Great British Bake Off and Line of Duty, and of course Coronation Street and Eastenders… reflect Britain and British values”.

Nobody I know particularly understands what that means and the examples given by the culture minister John Whittingdale were all seen as ‘old fashioned white British’. He was replaced as culture minister the next morning, along with his boss Oliver Dowden whose speech he read because he’d been replaced in the afternoon…but the policy is still alive.

As was pointed out, by this article by Marcus Ryder amongst others, the definition of Britishness depends on who’s making it. The minister didn’t mention any of the non-white shows that are big hits, and wondered if these would also be considered Distinctively British.

I’m sure that ItsArt will grow and in time represent the diversity of Italian art and culture, and it’ll be interesting to see how broad that definition is. Knowing Guido, he’ll programme it with a very eclectic sense of what culture and entertainment means, and I’m looking forward to the picture of Italy that emerges.

If you’ve got views on the ideas in this blog, or suggestions for other subjects, feel free to share them in the comments here, or on Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin – grazie!

Categories
Documentary Factual Television

Life, the universe, and everything

Back on this blog after an embarassingly enormous hiatus…

The 5-part documentary series ‘Universe’ with Professor Brian Cox, started its run last night on BBC2 in the UK, with an episode called The Sun: God Star. The whole series also landed on iPlayer. You can see a trailer of it here. I watched the film, and this review by Lucy Mangan in the Guardian caught my eye.

Here’s an extract:

“Stirring music accompanies every shot, swoops in to underline Cox’s latest evocation of the ancient past, relentlessly seeking to give voice to the ineffable. Why they are so scared of putting his actual knowledge on show, I do not know. You have what is surely the rarest of beasts – a personable physicist unfazed by the idea of making his subject accessible on camera – and keep trying to use him as a poet? Why?

This time round, we have reams of riffs on “the age of starlight”. “Everyone we love, everything we value, our supreme accomplishments as a civilisation were created and crafted by stars.” And Earth “is an arcadia where a star could breathe life into dust”. In an hour filled with drone footage of shorelines, endless CGI of cosmic webs and musical crescendos, it doesn’t leave a lot of time for the stuff that should actually be inspiring us with awe.”

Prof Brian Cox

I agree with a lot of what she writes. The graphic sequences are amazing, (from Lola Post), and it’s liberating to see wild and empty landscapes with Brian Cox in them after the pandemic lockdown. But is it really enough for such a vast theme?

In BBC terms, this series counts as a ‘landmark’. In the UK, we’ve long got used to such landmarks being shaped around the presenter, and in previous series Brian Cox has even been part of the title. This focus on a presenter as the only voice allowed to be heard is what gets me, making the film into a lecture with a slideshow – though a wildly expensive one.

All those other aspects of science documentary – debate, investigation, revelation, exploration, research, even education – and the people that bring those themes to life, have been sacrificed to the need for a steady flow of ‘wonder’. (It’s not confined to this series of course – most BBC ‘landmarks’ follow the same style)

Brian Cox is probably the best-known academic on science television, and has doubtless inspired a lot of people to be interested in science and the natural world through his documentaries. He even has research papers written about him as a presenter and science communicator. As Lucy Mangan notes in her review, he certainly knows his stuff, much more than he reveals in the doc.


But I realised that I might be judging his new series in the wrong way just as a science documentary for television. Seems to me that it’s precisely the beautiful images and soothing sounds that make it work for the wider market: beyond broadcast TV, maybe it’s made with the audience which shares videos of that wonder firmly front of mind.

Seeing Brian Cox filmed against the sun, perched on rocky ledges and amongst glaciers made me think of all those instagram pictures of travellers standing on the edges of lakes and canyons, the ubiquity of drone landscapes on YouTube, even those ASMR videos. So I took a closer look into the partners on the series.


It’s a coproduction by BBC Studios with the US public broadcaster PBS, where it goes out as NOVA – Universe Revealed on October 29th. But also a coproduction with Xigua Video in China, owned by Bytedance (which also owns TikTok)


Wiki tells me that the name “Xigua”, means “watermelon” and refers to the Chinese concept of “watermelon-eating crowd” (吃瓜群众), meaning “onlookers who just casually enjoy their melons and watch events unfold without wanting to get involved”.

The beautiful graphic sequences and stunning landscapes, the modern and identifiable music (the band Foals remixed their song Neptune as the title track), and the bite-sized poetic narration makes for some very ‘clippable’ sequences. Perfect for short-form viewing maybe? I’m not saying that Xigua drove the shape and style of the series. I’m sure the BBC Studios Science Unit and PBS feel that it’s a way to get science to appeal to broad audiences; and were merely aware of other markets that this style would appeal to.

Just as I was getting used to Brian Cox being Alone in the Universe, as it were, the last 5 minutes of the film goes to a caption ‘Exploring the Universe’, and features scientists explaining the NASA Parker mission referenced at the start of the film. It’s very odd, and rather different from the rest of the film – a throwback to those ‘Planet Earth (etc) Diaries’ 10 minute ‘making of’ segments that bumped up a 50 min BBC doc made for international sales, to a 59 min BBC broadcast slot. For me, it brought back a feeling of real science and technology – and the people behind it – which I’d been searching for in the rest of the film.

If you’ve seen Universe, feel free to share your thoughts!

Categories
Asia Film Festival Korea

Documentaries at the border – the DMZ Festival

Coming to Korea you’re in a divided country, still at war. The split in 1949 has never healed. In mid-August, North Korea planted landmines outside a South Korean guardhouse in the mis-named Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) and two soldiers lost limbs. For two weeks there were hostile exchanges, with troop buildups and S Korea broadcasting The Voice of Freedom radio station (including K-pop) on banks of loudspeakers.

 

On the weekend I took a train about an hour out of Seoul to  Paju for the DMZ Documentary Festival. Under the slogan ’Shoot the DMZ’ the festival says it ‘wanted documentaries to show the vision of peace and unification for the future beyond the divided reality which the DMZ symbolizes’.

Lots of films, mostly feature length, in smart cinemas in the Megabox chain, all about half an hour from the DMZ.  There was a very wide range of films in the programme.

I saw three films. Holy Working Day, a graduation film about young Koreans picking onions in Australia; an overlong film about a group of Korean yarn bombers called The Knitting Club (maybe I’m biased as I’m also involved in a film on yarn…); and the Australian-produced Aim High in Creation!, by director Anna Broinowski. The festival had invited Anna and many of the directors from abroad to do Q&As after the films, and it was easy to access them.

Anna’s film was a funny and well handled account of her quest to make a propaganda film in the North Korean tradition about fracking, or coal seam gas as the film calls it. She got access to the directors, actors and technicians of the N Korean film industry in Pyongyang, and structured the film around the teachings of Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il in his 1987 Manifesto ‘The Cinema and Directing’.

The film is on Netflix – she said that although many festivals had been wary of the film and didn’t get it, the hacking of Sony’s emails by North Korea around the dreadful film The Interview meant that Netflix jumped in and acquired it. Well worth seeing.

Other directors I got talking to were Brigitte Weich from Austria, who had made  films with the North Korean Women’s Football team – we talked about Dan Gordon & Nick Bonner’s film on the men’s team (The Game of Their Lives) which inspired her to do it. And Sung-Hyung Cho, now based in Germany whose film comparing the lives of two Korean women from either side of the border, Two Voices from Korea, I wish I’d had the chance to see.  Hana Kulhankova, who runs the One World Human Rights film festival every March in Prague was also there – she showed me the 2015 programme, a remarkable range of films and subjects from around the world.

 

On the Sunday I got to visit the DMZ itself, on a ‘familiarisation tour’ with people invited to the festivals, and a mix of clients of the bank which had sponsored the tour. I cycled with the Iranian economic attache, and saw the Israeli ambassador’s wife chatting to two Iranian filmmakers on the tour bus about how much she liked Persian cuisine. Putting some chinks in other borders. After the standard tour of the border installations, we went on a Peace Bicycle Tour along the fence marking the DMZ – a very unusual way of seeing it.  I’ve posted the pictures on Facebook.

 

Having been there I’d now like to try this excellent-looking VR experience from Inner space, soon to be released on Samsung Gear VR

Divided countries seem to be a feature of my life. My mother is East German, and my late father Punjabi. Both countries that were split, one along ideological lines, one on religious lines. The South Koreans I met thought there was no prospect of their country ever being reunited with the people of the North – not until Kim Jong-Un’s ‘dynasty’ died out. The sudden pulling down of the Iron Curtain in Europe in 1989 didn’t seem to provide them with any positive examples.

 

The DMZ Festival absolutely had its heart in the mission to bring a spirit of change to this border area where it often felt that change was impossible.
Categories
Asia ideas Independent Production SBS Television

How Seoul’s Digital Media City matches up to Salford’s MediaCityUK

Korea has created a Digital Media City (DMC) on the outskirts of Seoul and houses nearly all its broadcasters there. Like MediaCity UK in Salford. But way bigger.

 

This is the enormous HQ for MBC, one of the three Korean public channels. Check out its OTT ‘window on  the world’ promotional video on the link above.

 

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These outfits have big in-house production staff, and layers of management that would make even the BBC blush.

 

On Friday I went to CJ E&M, which is a huge conglomerate that runs several stations, and has a mission to ‘create a new global pop culture‘. Ambitious people. I met Hwang Jin Woo, head of Formats – who I’d first met doing a talk to Korean broadcast execs three years ago, and his colleague Sun Jin Sung.

 

We talked about the big shows they do – Korean versions of the entertainment shows we all know – and the drama and features shows that are the staples of their channels. Hwang is in charge of developing formats, and adapting foreign ones.

 

He also showed me the Digital centre. This is meant to be like Maker Studios, to encourage digital creatives to experiment.  It was empty at 11am, he said that was because creatives got up late – it would be fully booked from the afternoon till into the night. There was a green screen motion capture room, and other sets to do programmes.

 

 

And this digital content is the growth area, as every Korean young and old seems to gaze at their large screen smartphones most of the time.

 

In the afternoon I went to see the national broadcaster KBS, meeting Kate Hyein Cho, who I’d seen at Asian Side of the Doc, and her boss Irene Kim. Their large building is right next to the national assembly – no chance of them moving away from government to go to the DMC. A pretty conventional public broadcaster, growing old with its audience. Posters around the building encouraged staff to come up with ideas for the 20-49 age group – the assumption was the their audience would be much older.

 

 

On Monday I’m seeing EBS, the Educational Broadcaster. They’re also moving to the DMC in 3 years time.

 

Salford Media City is built on the same model as the DMC of a ‘creative cluster’ of broadcasters, producers and studios, and was being developed at the same time in the mid-2000s. When I saw the impressive blocks over the water at Salford Quays, I remember thinking that it had been conceived in a pre-mobile, pre-Youtube age (I mean the early 2000’s, younger readers) – when progress meant big buildings full of people. Now creativity is often talked about on a smaller scale – but with bigger reach.  It’s now more about multi-purpose spaces, places that make you want to hang out and have ideas with others, places that are connected.

 

MediaCity_at_night

 

In Korea, with most production in-house, I guess the model of state subsidy for large organisations to pay expensive rents in steel and glass corporate palaces still works.  This was an urban plan all about consolidating the big state-supported production models. There is a similar state planning model for publishing – Paju Book City, close to the North Korean border, is the home to all of Korea’s publishers.

 

Salford has BBC North, ITV with Coronation St, Salford University and good & busy production companies Shine North run by Alex Connock, and drama producer Red. But maybe not as many small emerging companies as they’d like (with the honourable exception of the ones based in The Greenhouse).

 

I’m not saying this is down to the producers being resistant – in the UK, with commissioning centralised in London, the third leg of the ‘production company-freelancer-commissioner’ stool is missing and there’s no particular reason for production companies to be next to the BBC in Salford unless they make Childrens programmes.

 

Alex has written a lot about the effect of a creative cluster in the North of England – see his recent piece on the role of the BBC as a ‘creative kickstarter’ and what sort of investment the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ needs. Salford will grow – but with TV production contracting, the growth will probably come from telecoms, and content work for brands, direct-to-consumer, short-form, foreign clients, rather than British TV commissioning.

 

In DMC, the huge staff bases shunted out to work in MBC, CJ E&M, SBS (the Korean not the Aussie one!) and shortly EBS meant there were plenty of people around. The shops and cafes attracted people on the weekend, unlike Salford Media City. The transport links are good and there’s a proper station there (well, 10 minutes walk away) rather than a tram stop.

 

 

The problem of the DMC is that the ‘software’ in this model, the Korean broadcasters, don’t have a commissioning structure, and have very little idea of how to work with independents. They produce in house, pay peanuts for the occasional indie documentary, and take all the rights. Unless that changes, it’s hard to see how it would become a true creative cluster.

 

Digital Media City didn’t feel much like the digital future to me, unless that future is entirely corporate. There wasn’t even free public wifi that I could find. The idea that to make content all you need is a small camera, laptop editing, lots of coffee and wifi, and some likeminded young people, still seemed a long way away.
Categories
Uncategorised

Choose Life. Choose Content. Choose my film.

I’ve been thinking about choices. And elections. And choosing what to watch. Life is full of choices as Ewan McGregor says

I went to Vienna a couple of weeks back to see the big Eurovision pop choice circus in action (sorry I’ve been a bit slow in updating my blog).  Armenian, Rumanian, Swedish, Latvian Polish, Spanish  or, er Australian Europop? Which one to choose from this lot?

This was a new experience for me, to see it in person rather than on the TV. I went for the first semi-final in the Stadthalle, with Jordan Guiao, @MaestroJ , SBS’s social media manager. Phone voting narrowed the field down from 16 to 10; including votes from the early-risers in Australia, who had to vote at 6am. The jury voting still feels a bit of an anachronism, with the jury members a secret in most countries. Not sure why they can’t be made public. I couldn’t tell if tactical voting played a part; I got the feeling that Sweden has found the right formula, and the presence of so many Swedes on the songwriting credits of the acts in the final seemed to bear this out. Here’s a good article giving you the lowdown on those successful Swedes. One thing I’d like to know what difference the Eurovision exposure does for an act’s sales – apart from the winner, I get the feeling that not much happens from one year to the next.
Sweden was considered the favourite before it started. Eurovision came ten days after the UK election – where most people got it wrong and the Conservatives ended up with a (slim) majority. By the time of Eurovision in 2016, we’ll know the timetable for the UK’s referendum on membership of the European Union, known as the ‘in-out’ referendum. Not as much fun as this probably

I’ve just come to the UK from Copenhagen, where a general election has been called for June 18th – giving barely three weeks campaigning time. Overnight, posters of the candidates filled every lamppost and fence in Copenhagen.
DSC_5267
The politicians are a good looking (if very undiverse) bunch and they seemed to have all had their headshot taken by the same photographer. It has the disadvantage of making it look about the personalities rather than the policies. Elsewhere, the Turkish general election looks like bringing about a coalition government, which is good news. A friend of mine Basak is making a documentary over the election period, travelling by train West to East across Turkey – a fascinating time to taking the temperature of the nation.
Today I’ve come to Sheffield for Doc Fest. It’s been on since the 5th June, but there’s still masses to see,  and endless new possibilities because of the crowd it attracts. Looking forward to connecting up with people from all over the world, and welcoming incoming festival director Liz McIntyre to her new manor.

There’s so much choice – films, debates, panels, masterclasses, parties. Plus you’re not allowed to multi-task in a cinema, meaning you have to choose and plan your days carefully.  On the last day they give out awards, efficiently and charmingly hosted by Jeremy Hardy. I was a jury member the year before last, I don’t envy the job of this year’s juries. The awards I like best is the one voted for by the audience, who hand in little voting slips after every screening, and the Youth Jury – they’re the people we’re trying to entice to watch docs after all.
As everybody tells us, viewers/users/consumers (choose your favourite description) in the younger age range are simply deciding not to watch TV anymore – choosing individual programmes to download, or just doing something more interesting instead. It makes the title, poster, log line and first two minutes of a TV programme or film more important than ever, and your eventual choice something of a lottery. But the amazing thing about online is that the films are there if you know what to look for. Newsweek did this good list of this year’s must-see documentaries.
As in an election, choice has to be a good thing, but an awful lot of ‘content’ is going to be hidden and unloved if the curation and hosting by broadcasters is replaced by an algorithm. Which brings me to the future of my ex-employer the BBC. I’ll be following the debate on the future of the BBC which has kicked off in earnest following the UK election and the appointment of a new culture secretary John Whittingdale. He knows Auntie better than anybody at Westminster. Broadcast magazine has started a campaign of ‘qualified support’, and as you’re probably not a subscriber, the BBC’s in-house mag Ariel has done a swift summary here. There are legitimate questions to be asked about the future of public service broadcasting and the license fee, and I hope that the audience knows what it’s got and what its worth before it allows the BBC to be decimated for the sake of 49 pence a day. Lots for me to learn from for the future of SBS, which is going through its own period of reassessment as the cuts begin to bite.
But Content is King, as we all know; and public broadcasters should know about that, right? Let’s hope so.
Categories
BBC Event ideas Multimedia Television

Peoples Broadcasting in the age of the internet

When the British electorate voted for a Conservative government, to replace the previous Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition, there were a few predictions of doom for the funding of pubic services in the UK.

For the BBC, the result confirmed that their role, size and funding will be firmly in the sights of the new administration – though I imagine that would also have been the case with a Labour-led coalition. The BBC is saying it will do its own proposals on its role ‘in the internet age’, as it quaintly calls it.

Yesterday I went for the day to Digital Shoreditch, a week long series of talks, meetings, panels about this ‘internet age’. TV seemed very out of place in this online world of apps, services, sites. Friday was the ‘Live’ day, about content and there was a huge range of talks – I think I went to about a dozen in all.

The BBC’s Will Saunders showed a great clip from a year ago about the new short-form video world we were entering, made for a BBC seminar.

If that short-form is too long for you, there’s always Vine – which isn’t meant for oldies like me, I know, but is still a real mystery. One of the top Viners on this US-dominated platform is Brent Rivera. He has good hair at least.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyuFa4Ecf0Q

Will also  talked about BBC Taster, a site for users to test and rate online content – a taste of things to come?

and also showed a quick run through of the first 90 years of the BBC in its Where Next? campaign from last year. Good question.

The BBC absolutely needs to think about its role as a public service media provider (rather than broadcaster) – and in truth is probably doing more of this thinking, experimenting and planning than other PSBs. And of course that future is online, with content open for viewers/users to interact with – and make themselves. I think if we called it Peoples Broadcasting rather than Public, it might seem less forbidding.

The evening finished with a few beers and music.

The BBC might think God only knows what we’d do without it – but in a world where everybody is making their own choices online, and the license fee is ‘under review’, it’s soon going to be easy enough to opt out. I reckon it’s in all our interests to think about what to do with it.

Comments, ideas, questions all welcome, you could even send me a video…

Categories
BBC Documentary History Television

Voting for Little Britain or the wider world

The UK General Election is tomorrow, May 7th.

One of the issues in the Conservative manifesto is the pledge to hold a referendum about whether the UK stays in the European Union.

But it’s barely featured in this election campaign. The London correspondent of German paper Die Welt has noticed this, but I haven’t seen much else.

I went to the BBC yesterday and they were finishing a giant map of the UK in the courtyard. You can’t really see the rest of the world as you’re hemmed in by the walls of the courtyard…I guess we’re too attached to little Britain

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There are lots of domestic issues in this election – much the same as every election – but it’s a globalised world and Britain needs to recognise the opportunities of that. Australia has the same challenges of course.

The following day, Friday May 8th is Victory in Europe  Day – the day to commemorate the coming together of Europe after the war. So the election result will be announced on that morning. I’m not talking about commemorating war, but recognising the peace, and the Europe that was constructed out of the ruins of that war.

On the evening of May 7th, BBC is showing its commemorative season about the end of the war, starting with a series by Steve Humphries of Testimony Films, called  The Greatest Generation. About the people who built the welfare state and the society we now benefit from in Britain. Some very stirring stories here, and a trailer below.

Steve’s also co-written a book he gave me when I saw him a couple of weeks ago in Bristol.

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It’s a good reminder of what we might just have said farewell to if we vote in the current government again, like  Ken Loach’s  The Spirit of 45 documentary from 2013

Just in case you were wondering which way I’m going to vote, here’s Cassettboy‘s party political broadcast not on behalf of the Conservative Party

Elections are where public broadcasters really have a role to play. The BBC’s  audience barely remembers this Greatest Generation – BBC2 channel head Kim Shillinglaw pointed out that as the average age of BBC2 audience  is in their 50’s, they grew up on punk rock. Bit of a stretch to say that all of that audience wants programmes with attitude, but I know what she’s getting at.

Speaking of attitude, ‘young person’s channel’ E4 is cleverly switching off for the day tomorrow to encourage people to go out to vote. Darren’s the man in control of the switch.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pahIcUi0kns

So if you’re in the UK tomorrow and registered, don’t spend your day trying to watch E4 – please go out and vote.

See you on the other side.

 

Categories
Distribution Event Factual Financing ideas SBS Television

MIP-TV: Yes We Cannes!

Long gap since my last post, apologies. But last week I went to the annual MIP-TV market in Cannes which gave me plenty to think (and write) about.

Four days of meetings equated a big batch of ideas – though the word product seems more appropriate in such a marketplace.

Fewer people were wandering the Palais this year – cuts are biting, and there’s less face to face in the business anyway these days. The cost of attending a market like this for producers and distributors is large, and the pressure is on from day one.
With four of us from SBS all doing separate meetings, we covered a lot of companies. Telling distributors and producers what we needed,  running through their ‘slates’, working off this MIP 2015 SBS Acquisitions Needs brochure.
My main impressions?
You meet who you know already. There should be a ‘lucky dip’ function on the website to put you together with people you’ve never met before.
30 minutes is not long enough for most meetings, given that I usually got there late and kept getting lost in the Riviera part of the market.
There’s no time to digest all the news and industry insight that floods the market – here are just a few of the magazines I picked up before leaving. In there are lots of programmes that I should be watching.
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Caffe Roma, the central cafe for meetings with those who haven’t registered for the market itself – serves terrible tea.
What were the Aussies up to?
The SBS stand was opposite the Screen Australia stand for the Aussie producers, who made merry at a drink on the Tuesday.

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David from Devised TV, Lara & Charlotte from SBS Sales, Claudia from Taglicht

It was good to see so many producers making the long trip to Cannes. Here’s a Screen Australia showreel of Australian projects brought to the market

At 22 minutes long, it’s a great way to get a fix of Australian TV. Spoiler alert: Doesn’t include all the terrible reality shows on Australian TV though.
I got to know a few films  through this showreel. The Secret River, being shown on ABC  looks amazing. Here’s more about The Secret River and the Seven series Gallipoli
And Blown Away (at 2:21) – a very intriguing part-animated doc on Cyclone Tracy which happened 40 years ago. There’s more about the film, shown in late December on ABC1 and co-produced by Rachel Clements, here
The other clips on the reel:
  • Deadline Gallipoli (3:17)
  • Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (4:22) – which I’d love to see bought in the UK
  • Pitch Battle (5:38) – about the Palestinian football team
  • Restaurant Australia (7:22)
  • Sammy J and Randy in Ricketts Lane (9:37)
  • Status: Vacant (11:15)
  • Struggle Street (13:05) – coming to SBS in May
  • Tattoo Tales (14:57)
  • That Sugar Film (16:36) – a kaleidoscopic look at a key health issue.
  • Winter (18:47)
  • Heart and Soul (19:35) – this looks like a good tale of girls making music and growing up
  • Hipsters (22:09) – already screened on SBS2
What were the others up to?
Vice was the star of the show after its meteoric rise. I went for a session in the impressive Grand Auditorium led by Eddy Moretti, the creative director of the trend-setting Vice, launching a new service ‘for and by women’ called Broadly. Though my neighbour, Ene Rasmussen from the Denmark MEDIA Desk, wondered why there weren’t more women and stories aimed at them in the main service.

Eddiy Moretti, Creative Director Vice

Vice is a brilliantly focussed and sure-footed media company and its ideas demand attention. Some ideas at MIP though seem there to test us. The delegate bag was sponsored by DogTV (TV for dogs, in case you were wondering). The Telegraph in the UK has written about the formats on offer, and it’s not too impressed.
One of the other SBSs around the world, in Korea, has the slogan ‘See The Bright Tomorrow’.  Which is a nice thought, even though it doesn’t exactly work as a slogan.
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Party central
MIP wouldn’t be MIP without a bit of socialising, and nothing beats a beachside party at Cannes.  This one on Monday night was from distributor DRG.

If you were at MIP, let me know how you found it. At the Nordic party, I met a gentleman from Finland who reminded me that it’s only 170 shopping days left till MIPCOM…

Kris Kringle (as the Americand call him) and Krishan

Categories
Documentary Event History ideas Television

From Hamlet to Richard III – history brought to life

I took part in a live-action role play a couple of weeks ago, called Inside Hamlet at Kronborg castle in Denmark. It was set in the 1930s, giving a whole new spin to Shakespeare’s tale. I learnt a massive amount about what history means by acting it out (as a Lutheran exorcist priest).

 

And this evening I’m watching #RichardReburied on Channel 4, a live programme following the return of the bones of Richard III to his reburial next week in Leicester Cathedral. History made live. What I really like about this coverage is that it’s run as a news event – presented by Jon Snow, with expert scientists, academics,  novelists and descendants of Richard III (including an Australian called Wendy Duldig who came over for the event and is Richard’s 14th cousin)

Channel 4 got a very good audience for the original film – The King in the Car Park – three years ago.

But it’s been a great programming idea to make his reburial  into a new TV event. Well done to John Hay, the commissioner of the live event, & Darlow Smithson Productions, who also produced the original doc. For making us realise that the identity of a 500 year old king matters. 

History has significance – both for  our understanding of what happened then, and for what might happen. And in an election year in the UK, that’s very important.

Channel 4 (them again) did a terrific season of programmes on immigration, including Love Productions’ Immigration Street – reduced to a single documentary after certain parts of the community decided they didn’t want it made – and other programmes. One of them was a doc made by Malcolm Brinkworth of Touch Films about an election in 1964 – which took place on the immigration faultline. Immigration will be one of the key issues of the UK General Election.

History is a big part of SBS programming, but making it relevant and watchable is what matters to the audience. I must say that I haven’t been watching many of the films about the First World War. And in Australia, the Gallipoli drama series on Channel 9 hasn’t been getting the audiences the programme merited. This extended trailer shows that it’s a really sensitive and moving piece of work – well worth 3 minutes of your time.

 

History, and the lessons of the past, are so crucial to understand today. I for one am really proud of the television that brings it to life for us.

Any comments, questions, responses, ideas – all really welcome

Categories
Diversity ideas SBS Television

Diversity is not an option, it’s the mainstream


Last week I went to a diversity debate in Malmo called Eye to Eye – Reflecting Childrens Reality. On the panel was a commissioner from the Swedish Film Institute, the head of the Kids Film Fest BUFF, and an animation producer from Norway, to discuss diversity in films for children and young people. Moderated by Cecilie Stranger-Thorsen, who invited me along to give my views.

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Cecilie Stranger-Thorsen and Baker Karim of the SFI

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Frank Mosvold and Baker Karim

Lots of good intentions were expressed on the panel, but the discussion was frustrating. There doesn’t seem to be much appetite for radical change. The impression I got was that the director’s ‘artistic vision’ took priority over questions about on-screen representation – or who was making the films in the first place.  It felt rather out of touch with a rapidly changing world.
I told the panel about the past year in British TV and film, in which all the major players have presented plans and funded initiatives to change the industry. I know Brits like their action plans, but they do point the way and I hope other countries can pick up some of the good ideas. Actor Lenny Henry is credited with getting the ball rolling with a speech he gave at BAFTA a year ago.
Lenny Henry
It’ll be interesting to see what happens across Scandinavia. The Danish Film Institute have recently announced a commitment to diversity, and launched it with a study and workshops on casting. I really hope that there is the leadership from the top that this plan needs. The committee including Marie Olesen alongside Mette-Ann Schepelern from the Danish Director’s Association are working on charter for ethnic and cultural diversity in Danish film and I’m looking forward to how much of a push this gets.
It was Pat Younge who told me about the DFI initiative. From his work running BBC Productions, he knows what you need to do to change attitudes and practises. He says diversity is how modern, mainstream audiences view the world, and it’s good to see he’s just started a new indie called Sugar Films, with Lucy Pilkington and Narinder Minhas.  To create content for audiences like these passengers coming off a Virgin train – I really like this ad.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Nak8cpFJsY

But coming up with the programmes to get to these modern mainstream audiences needs work.There’s been a new push in the US with plenty of new shows in sitcom and drama. But I’ve recently been looking for multicultural formats, and in truth have been struggling to find specific examples in factual and entertainment – it’s all in who is put in the shows. I’ve just been watching First Dates on Channel 4 which is completely diverse and all the better for it.
I’m interested in how Desi Rascals worked on Sky recently – it’s been commissioned for a second series so that’s a good sign. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NMhJcW4GmM

The SBS charter talks about ‘celebrating and reflecting Australia’s diverse communities’ and we’re open to ideas. Wonder if I’ll find anything at MIP TV in April? Anybody spotted anything so far?