Former agent draws on media career in push to become Labour MP; calls for Cornwall production hub.
Former agent Michael Foster is drawing on the skills he learnt from decades in the film and media industries in his pursuit to become a Labour MP.
Industry veteran Foster, who still works closely with the likes of UK presenter Chris Evans, Sacha Baron Cohen and Anne Robinson, is standing for election in the Cornwall constituency of Camborne and Redruth, which is currently a Conservative seat.
“I’ve always been involved in social enterprise and I’ve worked with charities for a long time,” Foster told Screen about his decision to enter politics.
“Camborne and Redruth is the third poorest constituency in the country,” he continued. “The average wage here is £14,000. Poverty is very apparent. And it’s being controlled by complacent people.”
Foster, who sold his stakes in talent and rights business The Rights House and literary agency PFD in 2013, moved to Cornwall ten years ago. He was elected a Labour candidate in early 2014, having been a party member since the 1970’s.
According to Foster, his media background has been key in informing his political drive:
“My media background has taught me how to deliver and how to marshal resources. The big thing you learn from the media industry is that you can’t fail on delivery. When you’re making a film or TV project you’ve got a date by which you have to deliver.”
Foster’s media knowledge also informs his ambition to develop Cornwall into a hub for film and TV production:
“The region has long filming days because the light is so good but there has never been a centre for filming here, despite it being the backdrop to a number of screen and literary properties from Daphne DuMaurier to Poldark and Doc Martin. Currently industry come to the county, film and then leave. There’s no skilling up of local people.”
“Generating jobs is a top priority in Cornwall. I have proposed to the brilliant media university at Falmouth that they build a studio hub which might mean that Poldark shoots entirely in Cornwall rather than predominantly in Bristol,” he continued. “That would mean local employment for carpenters, electricians and other craftspeople. The minute you create a hub like that more freelancers will also come to live here.”
Foster said he will push for a local tax incentive for the county:
“Dad’s Army is shooting in Yorkshire when of course it should be shooting on the south coast. We would like to offer a subsidy for shooting in Cornwall”.
In recent years the former ICM executive has been a vocal advocate of greater diversity in the media industries. In 2012 he founded charity Creative Access, which looks to place young people from ethnic minority backgrounds in paid media internships.
But he believes the film industry in particular still has a long way to go: “Where there is quite a bit to do in TV, publishing and music, diversity in film production and development is virtually non-existent. Film must act to catch up.”
He suggested that the BFI’s 3 Ticks initiative “needs to go wider and faster”.
“The intent is correct but the delivery mechanisms are insufficient and too slow,” he said.
As for his chances in the May election, Foster is characteristically confident:
“We started 16 points behind the Tories, we are now 3 points behind, according to our local polls. This seat has traditionally voted liberal. It will be close but I will win.”