NWV and Vanity Executive Producing – the background

In 2006 North West Vision published a report, commissioned by them from Derek Murray of Inspiral Films, titled “Defying Gravity”. Its aims were summed up in the introduction as follows:

“The main focus of the report is on indigenous NW feature film production

companies, that is companies and individuals based in the NW.

   The stated aim of the report is to inform the delivery of North West Vision’s services to the sector and to stimulate a debate amongst producers, sector agencies and policymakers about the issues that need to be confronted in order to develop a viable and sustainable sector.”

Just so that you don’t think that I have some personal chip on my shoulder and my own axe to grind the report found that the region’s producers thought that NWV should be supporting what was actually happening,  that its support was very weak, and for anyone based outside Liverpool, virtually non-existent. In fact many were positively antagonistic: 

“There was some noticeable antagonism towards NWV that seemed to be rooted in a

perception that at times the agency had tied to control producers by stifling debate. There was also a fairly widespread view that NWV had not actually been leading the sector but had in effect undermined it. Consequently, many people had just got on with things without them, as was the case with micro-budget films. A few producers had no interest in NWV as they felt NWV had none in them. The majority felt the agency’s culture was top down, lacked transparency and needed to change.

   There was also widespread criticism of NWV’s presence at the Cannes Film Festival. A

common perception was that this was treated as an annual “jolly”, served little useful purpose in supporting NW film production and that the money could be better spent on funding films.” 

And it wasn’t just ‘jollies’ that were complained about. NWV has maintains several offices across the region and employs quite a few staff – some of which have very attractive remuneration packages – and that much of this money could be much better spent.

“Another frequently stated view was that too great a proportion of the available resources were spent on administering the distribution of funding. Most producers were critical of the amount of paperwork involved in making applications for funds. Many stated a desire to see administrative procedures and staffing levels cut to a minimum with the resulting savings put into film production.

  The research revealed a high level of frustration amongst producers that they could not get adequate day-to-day help from NWV due to the overall lack of industry experience within the agency. Although there were exceptions to this view, this feeling was general and widespread. One producer described it as being “like going to a hospital without any doctors only administrators”.”

All report summed up perceptions of NWV as it being typified by:

“• Poor communications with creative talent.

• A tendency to buy into success late on without adding any value.

• A tendency to promote the agency rather than the talent.

• An overall lack of coherent strategy.

• A top down approach that did not empower people.”

And it went on to raise a number of questions as to how a viable filmmaking culture could be established in the North West. These ranged from measures, such as quotas, which would result in more of the funding currently monopolised by London going to the regions; to better provision of completion funding; to question about how to improve the marketing and distribution of  micro-budget films.

 So far NWV’s response appears to have been the setting up of a micro-budget scheme, linked to Liverpool – 2008’s European capital of culture, which I’ve dealt with elsewhere, a ‘distribution seminar’ of zero relevance to the region, and a complete failure to respond to calls from the region’s current crop of no-budget filmmakers for NWV vision to be involved in the marketing and distribution of these films.

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