LONDON — Television, movies and the other screen industries are in a state of flux, delegates at the Focus Media Summit heard at the Business Design Center in London, but the key is to keep audiences at the center of decision-making and put the spotlight on producing memorable, quality content.
Iain Smith, executive producer on “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “24: Live Another Day,” and chairman of the British Film Commission, said at the event Tuesday that for film, despite the proliferation of the means of delivery, it remains true that “quality is critical.” With films like “Mad Max” the investment in terms of money and technology had been matched by an investment of “really brilliant talent working well.”
“What is significant about ‘Mad Max’ is that not only has it been picked up by people who would never normally see a movie like that but it has been applauded big time by the critics. So you have a summer opener of an action movie being applauded by critics,” he said. “That crossover is an indication of where everyone’s got to go,” he said. “The films that are succeeding are the ones that reduce ego, reduce the privilege of being the high priesthood of moviemaking, and become hard-working, talent-based professionals telling stories.”
Olivier Kaempfer, a producer with Parkville Pictures, said that filmmakers had to pay more attention to what the audience wanted, and that the internet had made the audience more prone to calling out “bullsh*t.” He added that filmmakers were reluctant to abandon the 90-minute format and experiment with shorter-form content, even though audiences were demanding more of such content.
Sara Geater, chief operating officer at TV production and distribution group All3Media, highlighted the fact that although there was more TV content being produced there were also many more outlets than before. For long-form content, and in particular drama, there are 435 outlets in the U.K. now, compared with five when she started her career.
Many of these outlets are calling for more original content. “There is more and more original programming coming up — particularly within drama — because it defines a channel,” she said. “And if you get some really good drama on (your channel) then everyone remembers where it is.”
She added that a huge issue was how content is financed. She said that 85% of original TV production in the U.K. is financed by linear channels, but their viewing figures are declining. This has led to more TV drama to be financed in the same way that independent films are financed, with money being brought in on a global basis from a variety of sources, and that is influencing the type of drama that is being produced — more higher-end drama that is designed to appeal to an international audience.
Tom Knox, president of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, and chairman of advertising agency DLKW Lowe, said that despite the growth in digital media, linear TV is still a force to be reckoned with, especially among older audiences. This has been reflected in the strong revenue for TV advertising, which grew 7% in the U.K. this year, he said.
Although the use of second screens is on the rise, it is not necessarily complementary to TV viewing as it can be as much as a distraction as a means of engaging with television content, Jason Mander, director of research and insight at GlobalWebIndex, said.