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Tag: Netflix

Reviews

Retro Review: The Witches

January 17, 2019
The Witches

This week, we’re hopping on our broomsticks and whizzing back in time (they’re special time-travelling broomsticks, you see) to 1990, when life was simpler and selfies hadn’t been formally acknowledged as a thing yet.

Let’s take a retrospective look at Roald Dahl’s The Witches.

Why now?

The Witches was made available on Netflix during the first week of 2019.

In a nutshell

A young boy and his grandmother, who has a rather in-depth knowledge of witches, travel to a seaside hotel for the summer, where they inadvertently encounter a convention of the cackly old crones presided over by the Grand High Witch herself. Cue plenty of classic nineties OTT acting, white mice, and absolutely terrifying Jim Henson makeup effects.

Who’s it for?

Children…and also, not for children at all, sometimes. The Witches is one of those anomalous films that’s aimed at kids but is at times disturbing enough to leave parents with a few bad dreams of their own. Much like Gremlims, for instance. I wouldn’t recommend letting very young children watch it.

Who’s in it?

Luke and his grandmother Helga are played by Jasen Fisher and Mai Zetterling respectively, while Anjelica Huston owns the role of the Grand High Witch. Rowan Atkinson, right at the beginning of his Mr Bean days, plays the hotel manager.

The good stuff

If you like a good dose of nineties nostalgia and don’t mind a few slightly cringe-worthy moments, you’ll like this. This is Roald Dahl story-telling at its best: funny, satirical, mesmerising in its simplicity and horrific in equal measure. It’s wonderfully over-the-top at times, and the makeup effects for the witches are unforgettable (no matter how hard you try). Huston is superb as the Grand High Witch, genuinely scary even without her grotesque prosthetics and mechanised claws, and Atkinson is, well, Mr Bean incarnate. It’s a fun, silly film to watch, with or without the kids.

The not so good stuff

Like many nineties or late eighties movies viewed from the vantage point of Generation Z, The Witches will have aged considerably in its look, pacing and cinematography. Contemporary viewers may find themselves rolling their eyes at points or wondering where the CGI dragons are, but if you go into it understanding the context of the time and the source material from which it’s drawn, you won’t be too disappointed. It’s hard to be too critical of anything inspired by Dahl, even if the man himself hated the film’s ending.

The bottom line

The Witches is an enjoyable watch, and worth it just to see Anjelica Huston in one of her most celebrated roles. It’s funny, weird, disturbing and scary, and came along at a time when computer-generated images weren’t quite there yet, so puppetry was used instead to great effect.

Flick it on some evening and lose yourself in Roald Dahl’s brilliance for ninety minutes.

Verdict: (4.5 / 5)

Reviews

Review: Bird Box

January 5, 2019

This week’s review sees us drifting downriver with a blindfolded Sandra Bullock and two scared kids as we take a look at another Netflix original: Bird Box.

Why now?

Bird Box began streaming (no pun intended) worldwide on 21 December 2018.

In a nutshell

The film starts off with Bullock’s character Malorie telling a young boy and girl that they’ll be taking a boat down river, and not to remove their blindfolds for the duration of the journey, otherwise they’ll die. Skip back five years and we see why, as supernatural entities begin appearing around the world, causing anyone who looks at them to immediately commit suicide.

Who’s it for?

Anyone over the age of 15, if the certification people are to be obeyed. There isn’t a whole lot of anything in this movie other than violent death scenes that would require a viewer to be a bit older, but it’s certainly not for children or those of a nervous disposition.

Who’s in it?

Bird Box has a nice little cast. Sandra Bullock is the protagonist supported by Trevante Rhodes, BD Wong, Tom Hollander, Jacki Weaver and John Malkovich, among others.

Bullock is, as you might expect, as strong as ever in the lead role – assured, funny, empathetic and believable playing Malorie, a character who’s well capable of preserving herself and others while remaining vulnerable enough in the midst of an apocalyptic situation for us to relate to her as a person (not that we’ve been in too many end-of-the-world scenarios, but you know what I mean).

Malkovich puts in a notable performance as Douglas (are we supposed to hate him or like him?) while Rhodes is a strong support for Bullock’s lead. Hollander is sufficiently creepy in his role, too.

The good stuff

I’ve recently acquired an inexplicable taste for horror movies, so I couldn’t resist flicking this one on as soon as I watched the trailer. And it didn’t disappoint – it is scary, and it is a relatively-fresh breath of air in its genre. And it’s another bull’s-eye for Netflix’s efforts in horror after the superb Annihilation.

I enjoy movies where a group of random strangers are thrust together and have to collectively figure out how to survive. I wouldn’t do so well in that scenario myself, but it’s fun watching others have a go at it. The plot of the movie, which cuts back and forth between the river journey and how it all kicked off five years prior, is engaging enough to keep you hooked in without giving you too much of a chance to dig any deeper into potential plot-holes; the tension is pumped steadily into the house where much of the retrospective action takes place and when the scares do come, they’re worth the wait.

The filmmakers also employed a clever trick to maintain the suspense, one that directors have used countless times in the past to great effect – you don’t see the monsters for a very long time (or in this instance, technically not at all). Think of the shark in Jaws, the T-Rex in Jurassic Park, or Norma Bates in Psycho. The suggestion of horror in Bird Box is often greater than what’s actually seen, and that makes it all the more powerful.

The not so good stuff

As mentioned previously, Bird Box is a relatively-fresh idea, but it’s not totally original. M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening (which is a terrible movie) was centred on the same idea of people committing suicide under the influence of some invisible entity, so I felt like this one was a slight rip-off. Indeed, Josh Malerman, who wrote the novel on which the film is based, feared that his rough draft (written prior to The Happening) was too similar to Shyamalan’s idea and would be passed over. This is a much better take on the idea, though, so he needn’t worry.

My only other gripe was the ending, which was a bit of a come-down after all the tension leading up to it – it’s not the worst, but a little more closure would have helped.

The bottom line

Bird Box is another solid horror showing from Netflix, and well worth a watch. It’s plenty scary and intelligently executed by the filmmakers and cast. I enjoyed it a lot and will definitely give it a second viewing at some stage.

Verdict: (3.5 / 5)

Editorials

A Christmas Buyer’s Guide for Film Lovers

December 2, 2018

At the time of writing, Christmas is just over three weeks away. The streets are strewn with lights, classic Christmas songs are on the radio and everyone is struggling to find a gift for their loved ones. But fear not. If you are buying for a film lover, Big Picture Film Club has your back.

Today we are going to give five categorical recommendations of gifts that will please any film fan. Hopefully, this will give some of you an idea about what to get. So, let’s begin.

Collector’s edition DVD’S/Blu-rays

Nothing makes a film fan happier than owning the best editions of their favourite films. Regular DVD’s/Blu-rays are nice but there is a certain pleasure in unwrapping a collector’s edition with filmmaker commentary, documentaries, interviews, analyses, and a gorgeous transfer. Although collector editions are available from various sources, in the UK if you want the best, you can go to one of five companies:

  • Arrow Video – Specialises in cult releases (see also, Arrow Academy which specializes in critically acclaimed work and Arrow Films, which focuses on new releases)
  • The Criterion Collection – Specialises in releasing important films from world history
  • Eureka’s Masters of Cinema and Eureka Classics label – a UK counterpart to Criterion which puts out works of cultural importance and well-regarded niche films. If criterion doesn’t have your film, Eureka probably will.
  • BFI – They provide gorgeous transfers of historically significant work from Britain and around the world
  • Curzon Artificial Eye – Provides extra ladened releases of world cinema titles, new and old.

If your friend loves a film released by one of these companies, you owe it to them to get it. They are a little more expensive than other DVD/Blu-ray releases but for the quality of the content, it’s worth it.

(Also recommended 88 films, 101 films, Powerhouse Films, and Second Sight Entertainment)

Film Merchandise

This category really has the power to surprise and delight. Film fans adore minutia to brighten up their homes and there are so many options for what to buy.

You could get them a classic poster of their favourite film to give them something gorgeous to hang on their wall. You could buy them a Funko Pop of their favourite film characters to liven up their work desk. Or, why not buy them replicas of famous movie props. To allow the recipient to live out the fantasy of being a part of their favourite films.

Freddy Krueger replica glove (Amazon.co.uk)

These items vary drastically in price but no matter what you pick, your film loving friend will have a big grin on their face.

Subscription Viewing

There really is nothing better to get your friend to ensure that their movie viewing needs are cared for all year. But, what service should you get them? Well, what do they like?

  • Netflix – For a range of well-known classics, critically acclaimed modern and original films (£5.99-£9.99 monthly)
  • Amazon Prime – Provides modern favourites and many obscure older titles. Also includes prime next day delivery for those who frequently use Amazon (£79 a year or £7.99 monthly)
  • Shudder – A streaming service for horror fans. Stocked with well-known and obscure horror titles from around the world (£47.98 a year or £4.99 monthly).
  • Now TV with Sky Cinema subscription – Provides a range of classic and little-known Hollywood favourites (£55 a year)
  • Mubi and Mubi Go – For those with a taste for auteurs, independent and foreign language films. And Mubi Go allows the owner to attend one specially selected film screening a week at selected cinemas (£59.88 a year)

Or perhaps if your friend likes visiting the cinema, you could get them a subscription card for their favourite cinema chain. Cineworld has unlimited, Odeon has limitless and many cinemas have their own loyalty program. So, if your loved one likes visiting the cinema, this could help them keep up to date with new releases.

You won’t see your friend for a few weeks after they get their gift, but be assured, they are appreciative.

Home Cinema Equipment

What’s better than getting a good quality Blu-ray or DVD of your favourite film? Watching it on good home media equipment. Whether it be the latest 4K television that allows you to see a higher quality image or a home surround sound system to provide a more immersive sonic experience, it makes a nice little addition to any film watchers home.

Home Theatre System (Family Living Today)
Filming Equipment

Finally, every film fan likes watching films, but do they also want to make their own films? Well, this year why not give them a helping hand.

Firstly, find out what the person you are buying for is interested in. Do they make films solo or are they interested in one particular area of filmmaking? Once that question’s been answered, we can proceed.

If they want to make films themselves and you have a bit of extra cash, then you could buy them a nice DSLR camera. Which allows them to shoot their own stuff on the go and have a great input into how the image will look. If you don’t have enough cash for that, why not try a nice phone gimbal? To allow them to use their phones in a more cinematic way.

Do they want to be an editor? Why not buy them some editing software like Final Cut X or Premiere Pro? Hopeful directors can always use a viewfinder. For those interested in sound maybe a new microphone may be in order. And there is a myriad of other equipment available online to help start your friends on their journey towards becoming the next Spielberg. So, I encourage you to look around.

Conclusion

So, there are just a few suggestions of what to get your cinephile for Christmas. I hope this has at least given you some idea about what is available out there and wish you all the best of luck with your Christmas shopping. If you have any further ideas of what to buy, then please let us know in the comments and stay tuned for more festive articles coming soon.

Reviews

Review: Outlaw King

November 19, 2018
Warning – there are minor spoilers in this review but as it’s history I don’t think these will surprise anyone.

 

David Mckenzie’s new historical drama about how Robert the Bruce became King of Scotland

What’s Going On?

The film starts with Edward I, King of England, forgiving Scottish lords for rebelling against him. Edward I claimed the Scottish crown after they asked him to decide on should be king and he picked himself (he had no claim to the throne). Not surprisingly many Scottish lords rebelled but were soundly defeated by Edward I. Robert the Bruce, son of a Scottish lord, was one of the leading rebels but he too makes his peace with Edward, possibly only because his father is one of the strongest claimants and they think Edward will make him king. English rule on Scotland is hard with Edward I brutalising Scotland; at one point he refuses to accept surrender from one lord until he’s had a chance to try out his new catapult (this really happened). Eventually, the injustices prove too much to bear and Robert the Bruce rebels despite being hugely outnumbered.

Behind The Scenes

The film is directed by David Mackenzie, who I knew mainly from Hell Or High Water, which is perhaps best described as a modern western, a film I enjoyed a lot. This is a Netflix production and I would say does manage to feel like a “proper” film and not some made-for-tv second rate movie. Obviously, this is based on history and while taking some liberties does a good job of setting the scene and showing how utterly outmatched Robert the Bruce is.

In Front Of The Camera

The film stars Chris Pine as Robert the Bruce and he very much carries the film, it is his story from start to finish. Stephen Dillane is King Edward, probably best known as Stannis Baratheon in Game of Thrones, and it is in many ways a similar performance, certainly not a likeable man but extremely capable. Billy Howle gives a great performance as Prince Edward; an arrogant fool, constantly shoving his exalted status in other people’s face while having mountains of father issues to work through. Florence Pugh takes on the difficult role of Robert’s wife, an Englishwoman who is married to Robert (neither seemed to have much say in it) and displayed the strained circumstances and mixed loyalties she has when her husband rebels.

The Elephant In The Cinema

Inevitably there are going to be comparisons with the hugely successful and Oscar-winning Braveheart. Three of the central characters also appear in that film and it is telling much of the same story but from a different perspective. Braveheart focused on William Wallace who is never actually seen in Outlaw King but his existence is referenced a lot. There are many similarities between the two portrayals of Edward I, both are old but fierce men, with Braveheart’s king being crueller and crazier, seemingly going out of his way to be evil. The big difference is with Prince Edward, in Braveheart a weak and ineffectual man whereas in Outlaw King he is a far more aggressive and warlike man but still was glaring deficits. This change seems to make Prince Edward a more compelling adversary to Robert.

Does It Work?

The film is certainly enjoyable and is a grimmer, less elegant portrayal than many similar films, it feels like 50% of the film is people fighting or walking through mud. Everything and everyone is dirty; even kings. Unavoidably it suffers from the problem that we know what is going to happen but it does as well as it can at maintaining the jeopardy. Certainly, some people will not know the ending or how it all happened. At times Robert is asked specifically how many soldiers he has and you could fit them all on one bus, hardly an army, and it is hard to conceive how he can possibly win. The real problem is one of scale. There is only one large scale battle in the film which is quite possibly the smallest battle in this whole war, with Robert having around 500 men. While this is historically accurate you can’t help but think they chose this battle over, say, the Battle of Bannockburn where Robert had at least ten times that number because the smaller battle would be cheaper. Considering Game of Thrones has battles that feel on a bigger scale this is a real failing with the film. Indeed the film ends with text explaining what happened next and it really feels like they have only told half of Robert’s story.

The viewer’s sympathies do lie with Robert but there is an incident early in the film which does muddy the water a lot. To the filmmaker’s credit, this is something that really happened and permanently tarnished Robert’s reputation and damaged his standing with a lot of people. An equivalent action today would probably be committing a war crime. Robert is portrayed as wanting to act not out of personal ambition but for the good of Scotland and it’s people. In part, though the film makes less of a case for Robert being the good guy but in clearly demonstrating that King Edward and Prince Edward are clearly the bad guys. A good point about the film is I don’t think every English person is shown as thoroughly evil (a problem I think Braveheart has), more than the people in charge have tried to steal Scotland and the foot soldiers are just caught up in it.

Overall I’d say if you like historical dramas you will enjoy this but it certainly isn’t the cultural touchstone something like Braveheart or Gladiator are but in Outlaw King’s defence the film is far more historically accurate than either of those. It’s a two-hour film that was always interesting and enjoyable and a lot of its faults come from comparing it to other films.

Verdict: (3 / 5)

Reviews

Review: Hold the Dark [spoiler free]

November 3, 2018

This week we’re journeying deep into the foreboding Alaskan wilderness in pursuit of Wolves with Netflix original Hold the Dark. It’s one you might have missed (as I almost did), so let’s see why it might be worth a look this Halloween week.

[insert mournful wolf howl here]

Why now?

Hold the Dark was released on 28 September and made it on to Netflix at the start of October.

In a nutshell

Wolf expert and writer Russell Core (Jeffrey Wright) is contacted by Medora Sloane (Riley Keough) after her 6-year-old son goes missing from their Alaskan village, Keelut. Medora wants Core to hunt down and kill the wolves responsible for taking and presumably eating her little boy, the same wolves that have killed other children in the area.

Meanwhile, Medora’s husband Vernon Sloane (Alexander Skarsgård) is fighting for the US military in Iraq, where he clearly thrives in a such a bloodthirsty environment. After suffering an injury, he is sent home.

Core very quickly begins to unravel a dark and disturbing mystery surrounding Medora and Vernon that escalates rapidly when Vernon arrives back in Alaska, leading to plenty of open human conflict and brooding wolfish violence.

Who’s it for?

This is a dark movie (literally and figuratively) with some genuinely disturbing visuals and bloody scenes. It varies between being very loud and so quiet you almost can’t make out the dialogue, so prepare to be patient and follow the narrative carefully. If you’re looking for something as action-packed as The Grey, for instance, you’re watching the wrong movie.

Who’s in it?

Jeffrey Wright takes the lead on this one, playing the pained and long-suffering Russell Core admirably. Wright’s gravelly voice and understated acting style will draw you in nicely, especially if you’ve seen him in Westworld recently. Medora and Vernon are played by Sloane Riley Keough and Alexander Skarsgård respectively, and they both do a fine job of giving you the creeps throughout. Skarsgård carries most of the threat throughout the movie, but Keough is central to the properly-disturbing moment early on in the film.

The good stuff

I chose to watch this movie on Halloween night because it looked scary (and I had Trick or Treaters to attend to all evening). I also really liked The Grey and thought this might be similar. There are wolves, yes, but the people in the film provide the real chills. Director Jeremy Saulnier is all about slow pacing and visuals that never allow you to settle – just when you think you’ve got a handle on what’s going on, the narrative takes a swing to the left and you’re back to square one.

But I liked that. I enjoy films that try something different, and I especially love when the setting itself becomes another character in the movie (think Fortitude before the second season pulled it off track). Alaska is made to feel like a dark and dangerous place with an ever-growing sense of isolation, in which every character on screen is either expendable or the one doing the expending.

The not so good stuff

I had just two main gripes with this film.

Firstly, some scenes feel as though they’re dragged out far too much – one of the few action-oriented parts of the movie goes on way too long and almost had me losing interest after a while. Other viewers may find the general length of the film to be an issue.

Secondly, there is one very important aspect to the storyline that went completely over my head, and I only realised what I’d missed after I read a synopsis of the movie. I don’t normally miss major plot points but this one was very subtle. It was definitely there, but you almost had to know where to look, which I didn’t. And it’s pretty key to tying the whole movie together, so if you miss it, the whole experience feels a little flat. The movie also ends very abruptly with no real payoff, so be prepared to be a little disappointed there.

The bottom line

Hold the Dark is a chilling movie that’s definitely worth a watch. It’s more of a commentary on the savagery of the human condition and will certainly leave you with a few things to think about afterwards. However, it sometimes gets bogged down in its own gloomy narrative and could have been more than it was in the end.

Still, give it a viewing and allow yourself to be immersed in the experience – you may not be too keen on visiting Alaska afterwards, though.

Verdict: (3 / 5)

Editorials

Time To Rethink The Box Office Film Charts?

August 8, 2018
Box Office - http://thetoweronline.com/

Last week news broke that the Andy Serkis directed Mowgli was acquired by Netflix and won’t see a large scale theatrical release and will be on the streaming platform in 2019 (not later this year as originally intended). This decision marks two important changes in the film industry: major film companies becoming more risk-averse with theatrical releases, and the ability for streaming services to now take on would-be “blockbuster” film releases.

Earlier this year Sci-Fi horror Annihilation suffered a similar fate, going directly to Netflix for its international release. And with 11 million viewers in its opening 3 days the Netflix original Bright, starring Will Smith, was a glimpse into what a big budget feature film can do while still being premiered on a streaming service. So, how does the rise in straight to Video-On-Demand platforms change how we should view the film charts? When can a VOD movie be considered a commercial success? And what does this mean for the film industry?

Where do they stand?

The basic cinema experience hasn’t changed in the last 100 years. Major film companies like Warner Bros & Paramount Pictures have primarily worked on the basis of a theatrical release of a film. This has meant we’ve had a fairly consistent measure of what the current popular films are as a measure of revenue generated at a cinema’s Box Office on any given week. For the UK cinema Box Office, this information has been collated by analytics company ComScore since 1991. Cinema admissions in the UK have remained fairly stagnant over the last 10 years, with most annual admissions in this timeframe being between 165 million – 170 million. Therefore the growth in domestic ticket revenue has been driven by higher ticket prices and premium cinematic formats such as IMAX & 3D cinema.

On the other hand, by the start of 2018 over 11 million households in the UK held a subscription to Netflix, Amazon or NOW TV, up 25% from the same period the year before. This represents just over 40% of UK households signing up for a Subscription Video-on-Demand service. More notably, streaming revenue is expected to overtake traditional Box Office revenue in the UK by 2020.

Gnarls Barkley (Danger Mouse & CeeLo Green)
Gnarls Barkley (Danger Mouse & Ceelo Green)

Although both industries have their differences, comparisons can be drawn from the music industry. A key watershed moment in the U.K music industry landscape was in 2004 when digital downloads were included in the charts, which saw Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” land the number 1 spot from digital downloads alone in 2006. 10 years after the introduction of digital downloads, the UK’s Official Charts Company incorporated streaming data into the charts for the first time in 2014. While the music industry has arguably had a tougher time monetizing its music and avoiding piracy, it has in recent years been more receptive in changing its measures of success to better reflect how people are consuming music. Although the Box Office remains the gold standard for measuring commercial success of a film, the growth of Netflix, Amazon Prime and others will surely begin to question how we measure success within the film industry.

A measure of success

As part of the eligibility criteria for feature-length films, both BAFTA (British Academy of Film & Television Awards) & Oscars require films to have a commercial theatrical release, with films that have had their first exhibition on streaming platforms ineligible for consideration. Smaller, more niche film awards like the Streamys & The Webbys have emerged in an attempt to fill this void. This resistance of the ‘old guard’ to acknowledge new media is nothing new in arts and entertainment. The recent banning of Netflix at the Cannes Film Festival is further proof of this. Despite opposition, The Venice Film Festival is bucking the trend and will screen 6 Netflix films this year. Whilst it’s a risky move for the festival, ultimately it is one that would see it on the right side of history in years to come.

In a world shifting towards Netflix & Amazon, great talents within the filmmaking industry are still not properly being acknowledged for their work on those platforms. A large part of this issue is what our measure of a successful film is in this day and age, an intermediate solution might a secondary industry-recognised film chart based on streaming. Or maybe we should look into adopting a version of the music industry model?

In the immediate future expect the Box Office chart based on cinematic ticket sales to remain. However, in an industry where money talks this discussion will continue, particularly as the revenue and influence of subscription streaming platforms continue to grow. If the music industry has successfully amalgamated digital, streaming and physical retail sales into a chart to accurately reflect the most commercially successful films of the moment, surely the movie industry can too?

Editorials

Will Virtual Reality (VR) Films Ever Takeoff?

March 23, 2018

Much has been said about how Video-On-Demand services like Netflix have changed the movie industry over the last years, with Netflix and Amazon Prime being key plays leading the charge. Cheaper technology has also allowed for a lower barrier entry for filmmakers – even Steven Soderbergh’s new film, Unsane, was shot on an iPhone! Although the technology is still maturing, tech companies are investing heavily in Virtual Reality (VR), will this be the next area the film industry can capitalise on?

VR in Games

VR currently has a 90% public awareness, according to YouGov. Further indicators of early mass adoption of VR can be seen in the gaming industry. VR Systems saw a 23.5% year-on-year rise in 2017, cracking the £100m barrier for the first time. Currently, 6% of the British population own virtual reality headwear; At the equivalent time after widespread release, wearables had 4% penetration and tablets had 3%. The gaming industry has led the charge in this area with PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift & HTC Vive making up the vast majority of sales and with more game developers working on games specifically for VR growth in VR games looks to be strong moving forward.

The major film studios have been a lot slower to adopt VR as a way to exhibit films. However, VR  is used as a medium to create immersive experiences based on a film title, rather than actually making a movie to be watched via VR. In this instance, particularly with horror films like The Conjuring 2, a VR based experience acts as a great promotional tool to complement a wider marketing roll-out.

Should We Expect a Breakout of VR Films?

A current problem is that currently there simply aren’t that many platforms designed for VR films – particularly feature-length ones. Currently Video-on-Demand powerhouses Netflix & Amazon Prime do not support VR, however tech giants Facebook & YouTube have enabled 360 VR videos to be uploaded onto their platforms. This makes the two social media platforms a key testing ground for wider adoption of films in VR.

Many more experimental independent filmmakers have begun to explore VR as a method of producing short films. The Invisible Man (shown below) is an example of how the medium can be utilised to produce a compelling film.

 Moving Forward

Since its inception over 100 years ago how we experience film has remained largely unchanged, however, what we have seen through television/VoD services, as well as 3D cinema is complementary user experiences running parallel to traditional cinema. At least in the immediate future what seems most probably is that VR will simply add another dimension to the ways we can experience the “moving picture”. With new technology, new ways to creatively exhibit films will surely soon follow.

Interviews

Goldfinch Entertainment’s Sarah Poole Discusses Private Film Funding

March 20, 2018
Goldfinch Studios

Funding is a continuous challenge for programme and filmmakers at any stage in their career. Emerging filmmakers within the U.K may apply for funding from Arts Council or BFI (or one of its subsidiary organisations), this source of funding is designed to help cultivate talent throughout the early stages of their career.

More established production companies will partner with a film studio to release their project, who will provide investment for the project and act as executive producers ensuring that the key business elements of the film’s delivery and distribution are taken care of. To help demystify this process we spoke with Sarah Poole, Producer & Investor Manager, at Goldfinch Studios to discuss how private film funding works and what you will need to have in place.

Big Picture Film Club: Can you briefly describe your role as a Producer & Investor Manager?

Sarah Poole: My current role is diverse and varies from day to day. On the producer side of my role, I liaise with prospective and current clients in regards to their projects. This takes many forms, from setting up SEIS (Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme) / EIS investment vehicles, creation of a bespoke Investment document, dealing with HMRC / Companies House on their behalf (the boring admin side of things *groan*), attending screenings & events and keeping in regular contact on the progress of their projects to report back to our investors.

On the investor side of the role, I liaise with our pool of high net worth investors and our Fund Managers in order to deploy SEIS / EIS funds to our producer clients. This involves a lot of paperwork and compliance work.

I also currently run the company’s social media accounts.

BPFC: At what stage in development do you begin to work with production companies?

SP: Our Goldfinch Studios brand encompasses a whole host of companies providing a “one-stop shop” for services at all stages of the lifespan of a film or TV project. At development stage, Goldfinch Entertainment can help set up an SEIS / EIS slate to provide monies for the development of projects. Recently we launched our Goldfinch First Flights initiative which works with emerging talent. We also have Goldfinch Media Labs (Brand placement) and Goldfinch Music (for all the music needs of the Film / TV / video game).

We also can help with sales and distribution of completed films / TV Shows and not forgetting we have our production facilities and VFX specialists in York! Our involvement with projects doesn’t end with the investment, we also act as executive producers and advise on distribution, playing a key role from script to screen and after.

BPFC: What criteria do you use to decide which films/Shows you will take on for investment?

SP: We focus on identifying the most commercially and financially viable projects in order to generate attractive returns for our investors. Our strict assessment process involves us analysing information provided about the project, such as reading the script and looking at the finance plan / budget to make sure that there is a high probability sufficient sales revenue will be achieved. We get around 30 submissions per week so we are kept extremely busy!

BPFC: Goldfinch Studios works closely with private investors to fund projects, how do you attract first-time investors and maintain good relationships with existing ones?

SP: We are very fortunate in that we have managed to maintain a loyal investor pool who continue to invest with us. These clients are mainly introduced to us through clients, contacts and word of mouth. With 18 years’ experience in a client facing businesses, I pride myself in making sure that clients on both sides of the fence are provided with a top-notch service 24/7 if necessary. Luckily I love my job!

BPFC: Both the increase in streaming services and the decrease in mid-level budget films making its way to the big screen have changed the movie industry in recent years – how have those changes in the industry and audience affected how Goldfinch Studios works with its projects?

SP: Our assessment process has remained the same, making sure we only take on the most commercial projects and due to the industry changes, we now have to establish that there is a market for the project and take into account the most suitable route to screen which is increasingly not spending big bucks on a theatrical release. As an avid user of Netflix, I find it very hard to criticise the massive impact they are having on the industry. The sheer amount of original content they are churning out is jaw-dropping and their offering is becoming broader & broader over so many genres of film / TV for the audience it can only be a good thing.

BPFC: Before a filmmaker or production company seeks private investment for their project what are the key things they should have in place?

SP: To be able to assess the commerciality of a project, we need as much information as possible in order to see the whole picture as it stands.

The minimum information we would need is a finance plan / budget, marketing pack / treatment overview, details of the team involved and a script.

BPFC: Can you tell us a bit about some of the upcoming projects from Goldfinch Studios this year?

SP: We have two projects entering principal photography in the next month which we are very excited about.

‘Waiting For Anya’ which is based on the book by War Horse author Michael Morpurgo. The cast includes Stranger Things star Noah Schnapp, Hollywood legend Anjelica Huston and iconic French actor Jean Reno! The shoot starts in France very soon!

Production starts soon at our studio facilities in York for ‘Transience’, a sci-fi from writer / director Carl Strathie which follows a family who is terrorised by otherworldly beings! His most recent film ‘Solis’ starring Steven Ogg (Westworld, The Walking Dead) was also filmed at our Studios in York and is nearing completion so watch out for news of a release!

We have a lot going on behind the scenes at Goldfinch Studios so keep your eyes peeled for news of our exciting new productions and partnerships which are soon to be revealed!

To find out more about Goldfinch Studios visit their website www.goldfinchstudios.co.uk