Europe is getting serious about film business training. Richard Brass looks at the upturn in formalised training across the continent, and speaks to graduates from some of the key courses.
In most companies, the thought of letting anyone without training loose on the financial, accounting, marketing, legal and sales operations would send a shudder through the boardroom.
Mavericks still pop up now and then, but the majority of business professionals spend time in an extensive network of academies, emerging with the requisite recognised qualifications.
But in the film industry it has always been a different story. Writers, directors, actors and technicians have been offered an increasing range of formalised training over the years, but at the business end training has usually meant picking things up on the job.
However, in the last few years formalised business training for the film industry has started to take off across Europe. As well as elements of business content becoming more common on undergraduate film courses, postgraduate courses specialising in business are increasingly common: for example, the first MBA course for film is about to begin in the UK.
These developments could mark the start of a dramatic expansion of specialised film business training that many believe is long overdue, particularly in view of the changes in the industry in recent years.
Funding bodies throughout Europe are becoming more focused on business training, particularly in the UK. The UK Film Council (Ukfc) and sector skills council Skillset are rolling out a package of training measures worth around $99.6m (£50m) over five years, and business skills are taking their share.
The Film Business Academy at Cass Business School in London will this month begin its first MBA course, providing around 20 established professionals with a chance to spend two years studying issues specific to the film business, on a part-time basis.
The academy was established two years ago as the UK's first dedicated film business training centre. It is one of seven institutions making up the UK's Screen Academy Network, backed by Skillset and the Ukfc.
Academy director Terry Ilott believes closer attention to developing commercial skills is a crucial element in boosting the success of the UK film industry.
'In the UK we have all the constituent parts of the film value chain to a world-class level, except for two - entrepreneurship and capital,' he says. 'The business ambition is missing in the UK, and there is absolutely no reason at all why film in the UK shouldn't be as successful as television, for example.
'Unless you have people driven by the idea they need to make money, what you get is people driven by the idea they want to make movies. People who want to make movies constantly take their eye off the ball on making money.'
As well as the MBA, the Film Business Academy last year began offering a one-year MSc in management covering film business, which will be producing its first graduates at the end of July. The academy may be the first institution to offer such an intensive programme of business-based training for film, but there are a number of shorter and more diffuse courses around Europe that have drawn increasing interest.
The Film Business School at Ronda in southern Spain offers a six-month course for junior producers wanting to understand how to manage projects. The UK's Inside Pictures course offers a year-long look at the film value chain, with four weeks of core training sessions spaced over the year.
Screen Academy Wales runs an MA in film producing and business management, and Bournemouth Media School offers an MA in broadcasting and film management. In Paris, Ateliers du Cinema Europeen (ACE) offers a year-long course of seminars and workshops for experienced producers.
Then there is an annual three-day film-finance forum and a six-monthly film marketing workshop run by Strategics Entertainment Industry Training in Luxembourg, and European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs (Eave) runs workshops every year aimed at producer training, project development and network creation.
Sophie Bourdon, director of ACE, says the increasing complexity of financial issues in film is changing the calibre of the applicants, bringing in producers with track records of 10 or 15 films, compared with five years ago, when most applicants had produced only one to five films.
'Because the market has been changing so much and so quickly, producers have to make contact with new people,' she says. 'Also the sources of funding are more and more complex. You have so many different sources of funding today, so more and more producers are interested in an organisation like us.'
Stewart Till, chairman of the UK Film Council and deputy chair of Skillset, says these challenges are changing the way the industry looks at formal business training.
'Until recently, people naively thought the film business was all about just making films,' he says.
'I think there's a realisation in the last 10 years that there are two parts of the equation. There's production and there's distribution and marketing, and you can't survive without both.
'The business side of the film business is remarkably sophisticated, dealing with million dollars of films and acquisition and distribution and marketing. I think there's been a recognition that you really want top professionals doing that.'