Digital opportunities and multiplatform innovation are so at the heart of Film4’s future plans that they are banishing the Film4.0 label.
The new digital arm had been set up two years ago under head Anna Higgs and has worked on projects like Ken Loach’s Spirit of ’45 and Ben Wheatley’s A Field In England.
Today at the start of Film4’s Innovation Summit at the channel’s Horseferry Road headquarters, Higgs revealed that Film4.0 had been so successful that it wasn’t going to be a silo anymore, rather it will be embedded in everything Film4 does.
“Now we need to ensure that we’re not limiting ourselves with a separation,” she said. “We are also removing that £1m budget ringfence (for Film4.0).”
Film4 will still make sure to commission two to three holistic film and digital projects per year.
Higgs noted: “There is a real desire from filmmakers to explore this space…It does take a lot of time, and sometimes really considerable resources, to support this work.”
“Holistic commissioning in film and digital together gives strong results,” she said. “Film and digital are equally important parts.”
Working on digital initiatives from inception stage is crucial, she added. “This sort of project needs to be identified as soon as possible, otherwise it’s just a bolt on.”
Forthcoming Film4 projects that will employ digital innovations include Frank and The Duke of Burgundy.
Case study: A Field in England
The Innovation Summit also included a case study of the Film4 wholly financed A Field In England, which was released in a groundbreaking multi-platform day and date launch on July 5 on the Film4 free-to-air TV channel, VOD, DVD/Blu-ray and cinemas.
Higgs was proud the release didn’t “cannibalize” its cinema audience. “People that were buying it on DVD and Blu-ray were still going to cinemas,” she said.
“Cinema is hugely, hugely special, it’s still a very unique experience and to see the audiences proving the case that they saw it for free on telly and then still went to the cinema.”
A digital masterclass on the film’s website was also a huge selling point – 38% of people who viewed the masterclass bought a ticket or DVD or watched the film on DVD.”
Producer Andy Starke of Rook Films said that this model worked for this £300,000 film, but wouldn’t have worked on a £3m-budgeted film.
Starke also said: “You want people to see the film…It was an opportunity to get together with a bunch of people and be right in the middle of the process…not to just hand it over.
“It’s a pretty batshit crazy movie and you want to get it out there…If you don’t try new stuff then we’ll be stuck with Iron Man 7 forever.”
Sue Bruce-Smith of Film4 also noted how important the right partners had been for the project – including Lottery funding from the BFI and working with distributor/exhibitor Picturehouse.
Higgs also noted that this project wouldn’t have been the same had they not been able to draw on Channel 4’s audience analytics and knowledge.
She added of Film4’s overall work: “Something being innovative is not enough on its own anymore. These projects that we do need to impact on audiences.”