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UK Film Centre on £10m question

Speakers at roundtable including the BFI’s Ben Roberts and StudioCanal’s Danny Perkins.

Ben Roberts, director of BFI Lottery Film Fund, asked speakers at Monday’s ‘The Magic £10m: the key to producing a £10m-plus feature film’ panel at the UK Film Centre – what kind of package must be put together for a £10m film in order to secure financing and ensure a healthy box office return?

After a culmination of answers from the board, a bottom line was agreed – it’s a tougher market than it was five years ago, and that a strong package specifically pertaining to the attachment of a well-known director, a solid script and a competitive budget was essential.

Financier Claudia Blumhuber, managing partner at Silver Reel, reiterated: “It’s definitely a difficult market for film. TV is now booming - cast are happy to be in TV whereas five years ago that was not necessarily the case. 

“DVD is in decline and more territories are suppressed at the moment. But there are windows opening – we are starting to see revenue with VOD.”

She summarised by saying, regardless of the current market, the main requirements for financiers were a competitive budget, a good script, a reputable director, relatively known cast and potentially several pre-sales.

But Simon Oakes from Hammer Films warned that pre-sales can sometimes be a risk, using The Woman in Black as an example where pre-sales were avoided when possible.

“Foreign sales models are creaky at the moment – instead of relying on pre-sales, we focus on equity, which is important for producers,” outlined Oakes.

“We also focus on working with multi-territory partners like StudioCanal and eOne who have UK territories, where we can then take risks against the UK and where we don’t have to take an MG.”

In reference to The Woman in Black, which took £22m in the UK box office and was funded by BFI support, GAP funding and some pre-sales: “We were lucky to have a film that had a 25-year-running theatre production, a wonderful writer like Jane Goldman and an extraordinary actor like Daniel Radcliffe.”

StudioCanal UK’s CEO Danny Perkins enforced that a strong director and script were key in creating an appealing package. He cited key examples such as Rush, that had an overall £50m budget, and whose star-powered director Ron Howard helped push the film to a successful UK box-office run.

He also mentioned current pre-sales title Macbeth where the prestige of working with The Snowtown Murders director Justin Kerzel helped solidify a robust cast including Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard.

From a sales agents perspective, Andy Mayson, CEO of UK production and distribution at Altitude, said: “Depending what your budget is, you have to look at the market.

“Is your figure relative to the market? Does your figure value your project? Who is the end user? How can we get these people to buy ticket sales and DVDs. We try and get into the heads of the distributors.”  

When comparing bigger and smaller budgets, Blumhuber deemed “a larger budget makes your film more secure, particularly if you have pre-sales, because buyers make will make a bigger commitment and hopefully in return a bigger profit, thus making it easier for them to later pay off their deposits. Smaller sized budget films are harder to monetise. Because of that, we rarely look at small films these days.”

Breaking into the US market was also discussed. Oakes warned against selling US rights as they did with the The Woman in Black, instead suggesting to create an auction. “In the US, it is very attractive in a market where there are a number of strong buyers.”

He finalised by saying: “Ultimately, if the package is right, then there is always a market for a good film.“

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