Thursday, 29 April 2010

My week in London

On Tuesday I attended the Foreign Language Film Conference in London, organised by Media Desk UK, at the lovely Cine Lumiere, housed inside the Institut Francais in South Kensington. It was a day of panel discussions with a list of specialised cinema luminaries, exhibitors, distributors, policy makers and experts.

The topic of debate was: how can we increase the market share for foreign language films? And although that was the overriding subject, it quickly turned to the new emerging technologies, the internet, piracy, different platforms, and how to capture that audience. It seems that is the ONLY topic on people's mind these days: how do we deal with the new game? What are the rules? Or is the lack of rules the new paradigm?

Peter Buckingham, from the UK Film Council, as always, was good value, and had very interesting and controversial things to say - if only the policies of the body he represents were in line with his clearly ahead-of-its-time thinking. For example, the website, which has been touted as a huge, innovative platform, but is instead a clunky, user-unfriendly site which really doesn't replace IMDB. What about financial incentives for small distributors to venture into multi-platform releases? Compensate their lack of TV sales with a cash cushion which will accelerate the transition to the brave new world of no 'windows'. So much to discuss, so little time. There should be a week-long conference like this every year.

On Wednesday I attended a very different affair: the Disney Trade Show, where the studio showcases its upcoming slate to cinema owners/operators, and they showed us PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME. From the earnest chin-stroking at the Lumiere the day before to the fast-talking 'product' rollout at the Odeon West End. The presenters insisted on calling all their films 'product' and used the term 'so hot right now', much to the horror of any arthouse cinema managers in the room. The thing about Disney is that they really don't try to hide what they're all about: making obscene amounts of cash. Their main saving grace is that they have the Pixar studio 'product' to distribute, but their emphasis on merchandise and marketing leaves not such a nice taste in one's mouth.

Mike Newell introduced the screening of PERSIA, and much to the surprise of everyone there, he seemed like an old chap someone had picked up at the pub and asked if they'd like to speak to some 'youngsters'. The $150 million turkey then proceeded to die on screen, right there, in front of us. A full review of the film will be in the next Splendor podcast.

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