I spent yesterday at a Regional Film Conference in Ipswich – full of keen young people. Run by Film Suffolk, started by an enthusiastic young Frenchman and Cad Taylor from Re-Create (incidentally Cad deserves to find success for herself – she is a great worker).
I was with the national winners of a horror short-film award (suited me!). Belly of the Wolf won three awards, matched against the world; best film, best director, best actor. That team contains the cream of East Anglian talent, but they all find it very difficult to fight the financiers. They have a new project and need a little money. They are not alone but we do so very little to encourage the talent we have in this country.
At the film conference we were presented with a venture capitalist – clearly only interested in money – demanding 50% cash upfront if they were to invest. They are the charlatans we now face, ready to exploit our talent just to make money. The upfront cash demand disgusts me – thousands are spent training these people, and for many it is the film-makers themselves who are now faced with life-long debts repaying student loans. These keen aspirants beg borrow and steal to buy equipment, and come up with the original ideas only to find the way blocked by a fat cat demanding they show more money (that they don’t have). It is disgusting!
We must support the talent we have in this country or it will end up stacking shelves in a supermarket.
Other speakers also opened my eyes to possibilities. Sarah’s family own Bentwaters Park. They have turned it into a fantastic location perfect for filmmakers. Khaki Devil hire First World War uniforms, obscure military props, and have a trench system, complete with No Man’s Land, and old barns for filming, all at Akenham.
In Norfolk and Suffolk we have NALEP, a local enterprise partnership whose Board of Directors come from local businesses (that’s big business or lawyers and accountants) and the chiefs of our councils. None of whom have much time, but they can attract large sums of cash (allegedly). The LEP could make a great difference but it needs to get its act together. Venture capitalists are hovering and alongside these leeches we have administrators who seem intent upon creating barriers, offering stupid deals, with hurdles that are difficult to jump, particularly if you just want to get on with the project.
What is going on? Government money is coming this way and disappearing into a hole controlled by shadowy figures, who appear to have no real interest other than feathering their own nests.
We need an open platform. We need to strip away barriers. Give people small amounts of cash, then encourage and support them, help them market their products. Why can’t we have an online ecommerce facility to encourage investors, to sell ideas and products? Why can’t we showcase our talent?
Instead we have a bizinfoportal (what a name) that offers links to training courses and meetings with consultants, most provided by folk who have little idea, or who have failed themselves. All boringly expensive.
Do I sound cross? I hope so. A 16 yr-old at the NALEP Skills Conference, a lovely girl called Grace, needs to be listened to. She told the delegates what was needed. They clapped, ate a sandwich, chatted to friends, and walked away.