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netribution > features > interview with name > page two

What's exciting you most about the British film industry at the moment?
Well I think the British film industry is a difficult one, isn't it. I mean I think it's either "whoopee -isn't everything great" or "wow, isn't everything terrible" I think there's a lot of films are being made in this country and some of them, albeit with American finance, are proving to be extraordinarily successful. Bridget Jones, I'm not saying it's my cup of tea but it's made £40m at the Box Office and Notting Hill - that kind of level of filmmaking. The films that Film Four as a company are making, I think, it's kind of interesting to see that you can be making mainstream comedies like Lucky Break or romantic comedies like Crush but also be through the FilmFour lab.

It's interesting to be doing really interesting experimental work with new talent that's being encouraged. This Filthy Earth is one example, The Warrior is another, most recently in the cinema circuits Late Night Shopping. It think it's pretty healthy really and I think the problem is more with exhibition, in a way, and getting these films out there.

I spent three weeks recently working with our film company, watching what they do on a daily basis and it's speaking with someone who's always been involved with film and television - it's an incredibly difficult job that they've got. The challenges, if you're not one of the big five studios, of getting your product out there, getting it on screen and getting it promoted.
Trailers, for instance are most vital, the most compelling reason why anyone would go see a movie is because they have seen the trailer. There's a great story told about Daniel one of the most successful distribution people in this country Having a trailer for High Fidelity which wasn't getting played in any of the cinemas, he went and asked them why and they said well no-one has ever heard of the film. That’s the Catch-22. Unless a film is a huge event before it's barely finished like Pearl Harbour, Planet of the Apes, I have nothing against those big movies but it's a real struggle.

I think the challenges in distribution is in finding ways of getting to the audience that you need to get to. There is a taste, and Billy Elliot proved this, for films that have more substance. And older people, there's an ageing population in this country and the challenge, I think, is to make and get out and distribute films that have a broader appeal than the teenagers that are so sought after.

Is FilmFour ever going have to be in the position where it needs to buy those bigger films to keep the subscribers?
It's like I say, you shouldn't ever say we'll never show that - I mean obviously there are films which you wouldn't aim to show but I think there are big budget films that are just as interesting as the low budget films. So what we do on the film channel is a mixture of more familiar stuff and less familiar stuff. We have never been shy of showing Scream or I Know What You Did Last Summer or Close Encounters of a Third Kind. I think it's all to do with quality, it doesn't matter where the film comes from, it's to do with having a certain quality.

Where do you see FilmFour in generally going in the future - will there going to be a FilmFour Lab channel, or a British channel?
I think one of the brilliant things about the whole digital technology revolution is that it's possible to have a multitude of channels without tremendous cost - therefore it’s about choice. It's an exact equivalent of the multiplex. But I think the challenge not having twenty film channels that are all showing stuff from a very narrow sector of the market - that you offer your FilmFour world, your FilmFour Extreme or your FilmFour Cool channel. You extend the choice to people and then I think people will respond to that and find what they want.

What about video on demand?
Well that's still a very grey area really and the technology doesn't quite exist and certainly in not enough homes to make it count but we know that pay per view which is sort of a version of that, is becoming very popular. There is no getting away from these new means of consumption and I think if you want to stay in this business you have to be aware of that and you have to respond to it.

Some people say that the danger of it is that people then set their own schedules and that they don't really need a channel to tell them what to watch.
I think there have been comments made like this for many years. Maybe some of the audience have drifted away from the terrestrial TV channel but for many millions of people there is still a reason to tune in the BBC1 or ITV or Channel 4 or whatever their favourite channel is.

There's something about compiling a schedule and putting into it things that will draw big audiences and then maybe some of those audiences will stay on for something that's a bit more of a risk. I don't think people are yet at the stage where they want to necessarily make every decision themselves.

If I was an indie producer, I've just shot my first reasonably low budget feature, and I want it shown on FilmFour, how do I get you or someone to see it?
Well you can send us a tape, people do that all the time of course. I mean most people try to their film distributed in the theatres before it goes to TV or the Internet. It's probably the case now, that you have to look at film distribution as not just about sitting in a cinema like this but actually it's maybe something that is more about how it gets into peoples homes. How do people consume it from the Internet. So there is a multitude of ways really. But at the moment it's as simple as sticking a tape into a bag and we'll always take a look at it….we can't promise to show it but we'll always take a look at it. (laughter)

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