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netribution > features > interview with paul trijbits > page two

What are the barriers of entry for the Tier 1 shorts programme?
The only barriers there are at the moment are, no more than £10,000 and they have to be shot digitally. That's it.

Do you favour Mini DV over HD?
I don't care at all, absolutely don't care. We've interviewed people who have funded, shot and exhibited features for £10,000. It's so much more possible to get your film out there for less now. Mind you we've had problems that would contradict that. The first is that the cost of production has risen. When I did my first film the average cost of production was £1.8m and it's now around £3.5m or £4m - for a similar kind of film - so despite inflation it's pretty clear that the prices have risen.

How many applications have you had so far?
We've had about 150 , that vast majority of which we rejected. This is either because of the quality or
because of an oversized budget and then there's the stuff we really want to be involved with immediately, and then there's a third group of projects where more work needs doing to a project.

Within those few projects you do feel you want to be involved with, is there a consistency in terms of the experience of the director or the producer for example?

No not really. It's a mixture across the board of everything and anything. It really depends how unique the project is.

What's the major offender among all of the applications?
Is it the script, for example, that's the shortfall? Well what we are really after is a great script, I'd say the quality is not necessarily so bad but the amibition is poor. I've read a lot of American scripts, and although the story is often very dull the actual quality of the writing is usually higher. People are more capable of writing scripts over there. They have a history of good screenwriters for film that we don't have in the UK.
There really are a lot of derivative, really rather uninspiring stories out there that don't play in cinemas and are unlikely to play on television either.

How does it make you feel to receive and to have to read these scripts?

When it's derivative and poorly written and dull it's really depressing because someone has put a lot of effort into it.

You produced Hardware did you not?

Yes that was Richard Stanley's first film, it was a great cult success and then he went off to make Dust Devil. Some people are real fans of Dust Devil but there are more fans of Hardware. How did you meet him? I used to run a music video company and Richard was one of our video directors. When did you move over to film? Well pretty quickly actually, that was when I left film school. I did the usual running, location assisting, location managing and then started producing music videos and I suppose three years
later we made Hardware, which was our first film.

Was that straight from Westminster?
I spent a year, unofficially, at the National Film School producing someone's graduation film, which was a
momentous task and great fun. Would you have liked to have done the entire course? Probably because it is a fantastically well-equipped film school, it did teach people disciplines that they had already begun to learn. Westminster was more of an undergraduate, across the board base even though I ended up specialising, despite most peoples wishes, as a producer because that's what I enjoyed doing. Interestingly in Holland one tends to spend at least five years studying whereas here there is such a great divide between BA and MA, and the MA tends to be much less practical.

Does it make any difference whether an applicant has studied at film school?

It doesn't make any difference at all, an application can come from anywhere. But what we do see is the people that have gone through the better film schools, and I'm talking from the producers' point of view, they tend to be better trained and have a better understanding of what's required.

Can you think of some talent off the top of your head that represent British filmmaking at its best at the moment?
My directors of note and whose recent films continue to surprise me are the likes of Yasmin Dizdar, Shane Meadows and Mike Leigh.

What is your opinion of the way digital filmmaking is taking the industry?
It seems to have a vision of its own. My girlfriend produced The King is Alive and I went out on to the film's set in Namibia a couple of years ago, I was incredibly fortunate to see a film being made like that. The change in the filmmaking process is extraordinary and I'm sure that had it been made in the traditional sense it would have cost four or five times that amount. The freedom that it allowed was wonderful and the language of cinema seems to have changed and moved with this new, incredibly lightweight machinery.

I then came back and exec produced My Brother Tom, a digital film and I was also involved on another film called Harry On The Boat which was shot on DigiBeta, so I've had my fair share of experiences with digital. It really taught me a lot. The attitude of 'never mind about the script or the process, we'll just shoot it on DVD' - is the kind of attitude that doesn't reflect what it's all about. I think what's going to be interesting is whether digital video in particular - not talking about HD here - is going to quite stand up as a form in its own right.

My guess would be that in the next five to seven years large numbers of feature films will be generated not only digitally but on HD. We know that digital video and its results are fine but I think it works for a fairly limited kind of film, you can't just replace the 35mm camera and say that you can do it for less. The beauty of it is, in a country that has been quite rigid in its production process as DV technology is changing rapidly you can now go and shoot things differently with a smaller group of people, for a longer period and so on. As long as the films are interesting I think the audience will watch them regardless of what they've been shot on.

Do you think there's a need for an updated or a British version of Dogme?

No, but there are undoubtedly people who can apply the Dogme rules to shooting on film. The great example is Last Resort, shot on 35mm but also for very little money and perhaps it could have been made under Dogme rules. It was a very powerful story and a very fine film.

Is there also a danger that digital films will, in losing certain production values, attain a sort of TV look to them?

Well, I think it might lead to a huge surge of not particularly well-made films which have ditched the entire
process of development right through to post. You can't stop that and if people want to go out and shoot features for £10,000 for the sake of it then that's fantastic, but that's not really the business we are in.

Will you also be involved in pushing for film to be exhibited digitally?

A little bit but my job in the first instance is to run one of the Film Council's production funds, but digital exhibition is a very long term process. The entire conversion from analogue to digital will take a very
long time, it'll be very costly and in the first instance it will just be for the bigger films.

What would you pick out as the strengths of the UK film industry?

We have tenacity, a desire to succeed and obviously an in-built ability to survive under difficult and constantly changing circumstances. Most of all though, we have an emerging talent pool that wants to tell diverse stories to a wider audience than most British films currently do.

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