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netribution > features > interview with mia bays > page two

How did the partnership with UIP come about?
We were original partnered with Rank but, as soon as the franchise came through they decided that they were not going to distribute any more, so it would have been a UK only company but we obviously had to seek out a top flight distributor that would have the distribution muscle that we would need. They were the best of our options even know we knew we'd take a lot of flak for it and continue to.

How do you deal with filmmakers that come to you?
We have quite specific guidelines of what we need to see, we will always need a full screenplay rathjer than just a treatment and we need an idea of the talent attached but we will read absolutely everything. Its difficult to deal with unsolicited scripts becuase we receive so many, its much easier if there is a recognised producer along with the filmmaker but we will often put individual filmmakers in touch with producers if the talent is worth it. Some companies are very dismissive of unsolicited scripts but you just can't be, its crazy. You've got to be polite and helpful to everyone that comes to you, might take a while getting back to them!

How long will the franchise last?
6 years. We are currently up for review after receiving it 2 and a half years ago and we're all up for review in August so we've got 3 years left and we hope we are going to be renewed, there's no guarantee but we've got a good chance. The thing is that we've proved ourselves commercially because the original criteria was that you good go beyond the 6 years of Arts Council money and to attract private financing to go beyond that. Now, with Whitecliff taking over the Virgin Cinemas shareholding we've proved that can fund ourselves comfortably. The other key reason we won it was that we promised to nurture young talent and we clearly have.

Where do you go to look for this talent?
You really have to keep your eye on film schools indeed one of our directors, Ann Skinner is the director of The London Film School. I try to go to all the graduation shows but we've also got a talent scout who's brief is to go out and watch as many shorts as possible, here and internationally. We look at what's being made on the advertising front, pop promos and to really get out there and keep in touch with what is going on, talking to the talent and the stars of tomorrow and the only way you are going to do that is by getting out there. The nice thing about The Film Consortium is that myself, the scout, the chief executive, the head of development, the head of production and everyone in marketing is always on the lookout for new talent and come back to a weekly meeting to pass stuff around and to see if anyone has seen any great shorts.

How about regionally?
Most of our movies have been regionally based. We've had a Scottish producion, the Sheffield based company that we are working with for the comedy, Large so one can never just look at London alone, you've got to cast the net as wide as possible. Its nice to ahve a profile that prompts people to contact us directly but you've got to pay attention and go to all the major and minor festivals.

Where does it go from there?
You make a contact with the people that screened it to make the filmmaker contact and if they've got an agent you go straight to them and then find out if they've got any projects in the pipeline. We haven't got a huge development budget so we can't spend loads of money on them as nice as that would be, we are much more producer lead in that we need some sort of draft screen play in place. The chances are though, if you spot a great short the filmmaker has often got at least one great screenplay sitting on a shelf and that's really how we've got a number of our features. Its great in that respect, we can go to the Short Film Bureau, graduation screenings like the Royal School of Art and get talking to people and lo and behold, you here a great pitch and think, that could work.

How can the Film Consortium help to correct the distribution problem in this country?
Well that's a tough one. There is a distribution problem in the UK, its getting better with a lot of well financed, hungry companies so I think that's actually righting itself. We have the benefit of being with the biggest European distributor so, in terms of profile it means that British films like ours are going through a system with a lot of muscle. Traditionally, British movies have been released by smaller distributors who don't have the financing might and therefore its hard to create an impact and harder to attract an audience. Whereas we have the backing of UIP who've got muscle and can create a profile that on our own we couldn't achieve. The more top ten grossing British movies coming thorough each year like East Is East and Lock Stock...the more feasible it is to go out there and make movies that make money.

In your view, how do you think the industry stands today?
I think its very healthy, the lottery funding has produced a huge amount of flak because, to be honest, there have been a considerable amount of turkeys produced unfortunately. I think that that has been due to the press being utterly unsupportive of our industry, British films have to fill much higher criteria and are entirely reliant on the critics unlike American films that, no matter how bad, will always have the power behind them to be screened. At least now we've got an industry that is ticking over quite nicely, we didn't 5 years ago, so Its incredibly important to get the press behind you and to educate British audiences and also to develop outside the metropolis. I think we are managing to do that through the smaller, edgy cinema chains that back shorts and are willing to take a punt on British music that they wouldn't normally. I also think that we have to slightly divorce ourselves from the social realism that British film is known for and not be afraid to be a little commercial.

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