Baby Driver & UK Film Funding
We were delighted to see our long-time collaborator, director Edgar Wright, who we’ve cast for and choreographed through our very own Litza Bixler, break Hollywood with his wonderful new film, Baby Driver. The film is a curious mix of classic heist with strong musical influences that’s absolutely riveting.
It’s never really a surprise that our best and favourite directors end up in Hollywood because that’s where they can receive the big budget treatment. And from there get worldwide distribution through the studio system, while attracting star names like Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx and John Hamm.
British directors are often accused of losing their way once they embrace Hollywood, but in Baby Driver, Wright has managed to imbue his very unique vision in the lead character Baby, played by Ansel Elgort, while also paying homage to Wild At Heart, Drive, Lala Land and Reservoir Dogs, to name a few.
So where are we in the UK with film funding? There are a few options, but they are all really more geared towards promoting young and new talent, rather than providing big budgets to already established film-makers.
These include the British Film Institute (BFI), the most influential and relevant for film in the UK today that distributes Lottery funds for film and has a wide range of support schemes for film funding. There is also Creative England, Creative Europe Desk UK, Creative Scotland, Ffilm Cymru Wales, Film London, Northern Ireland Screen and the Wellcome Trust.
Worthy and well-meaning as these organisations are their remits are limited commercially. That leaves other well-known funders like the BBC and Channel 4, who always have very full slates, alongside massive competition, although they do a lot of co-producing/financing these days.
That brings us to Crowdfunding, almost the miracle saviour of interesting and new independent film. The first and original, Indiegogo was founded in 2008 and launched at Sundance Film Festival. It is the leading global platform for crowdfunding, empowering anyone, anywhere, to raise money to bring film ideas to life. Indiegogo has helped facilitate over $1 billion of funding campaigns. God Help the Girl (Hannah Murray, Emily Browning) is a great UK example of a crowdfunded film for around £90,000 that more than recouped it’s costs and did well on the indie circuit.
Kickstarter has facilitated funding for a diverse array of projects, ranging from indie films, music and comics to journalism and video games. Every filmmaker on Kickstarter has complete creative control over their work- and the opportunity to share it with a vibrant community of backers. Other similar platforms include Juntobox, Junction and Seed & Spark.
And it’s not just small-time aspiring filmmakers using the Crowdfunded approach to green-light their projects. Charlie Kaufman, the critically adored American director recently produced Anomalisa, using $400,000 of crowdfunded donations, allowing him to circumvent the major studios and ‘preserve the story’s purity’. And Kaufman’s risk has paid off big time as the film received an Oscar nomination.
Great as these Crowdfunding initiatives are at breaking unknowns into public consciousness and occasionally the mainstream, you’ll have a hard time attracting star involvement and thereby bums on seats. Many Hollywood players like Robert De Niro have a ‘Pay or Play’ arrangement where they’ll only read and consider a screenplay only after a formal financial offer has been made.
Finance can also come from Hedge Fund backers, product placement and the tax efficient SEIS scheme. The Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) was introduced in 2012 by the UK Government. It was designed to boost economic growth in the UK by encouraging investment in small and start-up businesses, whilst offering tax-efficient benefits to individuals who invest.
As Mark Summers wisely says, referring to our current financial climate ‘film-makers need to take the traditional and rip it up– have a more common sense approach to the film business. It’s a business! And don’t let your ego run things, by insisting on directing for example. Flexibility is key.’