Vanity Executive Producing Part 1 – North West Vision

Last year, 2008, Liverpool was European capital of culture. To coincide with this Liverpool resident and famous filmmaker, Alex Cox, proposed that 8 £100k micro-budget features be produced. Alex thought that one or two of the films might go on to some commercial success and thus demonstrate that such projects were worthwhile. But his scheme never got off the ground.

The local Regional Screen Agency, North West Vision had other ideas. They managed to pitch the idea of commissioning three £250k micro-budget to the Liverpool Culture Company, the UK Film Council and BBC Films. I was there when they presented their scheme to some of the region’s filmmakers in 2007. The idea was aimed at developing new feature filmmaking, that initially twelve proposals would be chosen – to be progressively whittled down to three, with feedback and mentoring thrown in. The one condition was that at least the producer, director, or writer had to come from Liverpool.

The result? Terence Davies’ personal documentary, Of Time and the City – a film with very little connection with the aims of the original brief and well capable of obtaining funding from outside of the scheme; still it did go on to get quite widespread exhibition and critical acclaim and North West Vision could bask in the rosy glow.

But then there was “Kicks” and “Salvage”. “Kicks” was an idea that a couple of Londoners had had kicking around for a long time. Despite the fact that they had explicitly stated that “eligibility for the scheme depended entirely upon the main applicant being Liverpool-based”, North West Vision, presumably bowing to pressure from the Film Council, brought in a Liverpudlian Leigh Campbell to give the story a local angle and greenlit the project.

But at least “Salvage” was made by a team from the Northwest.

OK, so “Of Time and the City” got the limelight. But the other two demonstrate that, other than having pre-sold the TV rights to the BBC as part of the scheme, NWV seems to have been at a complete loss as to how to get these films out there.  Searching Google suggest that both films did get shown in Liverpool during November,  but with none of the attending fanfare (or reviews) for Of Time and the City. I’m left with the feeling that they were shown once. But they are also scheduled to be screened at the Edinburgh Film Fest in June – by which time each £250,000 will have produced not one, but two screenings!  When it comes to vanity executive producing, is this a record?

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