Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


APPENDIX 35

Memorandum submitted by Sgrîn Film Marketing Strategy

INTRODUCTION

  Sgrîn is the national organisation responsible for the development of a cultural and industrial strategy for film, television and new media in Wales. It started its work in April 1997. Its brief includes the promotion of Welsh film in general and it is also responsible for the marketing of its own products, primarily co-production shorts.

CURRENT ACTIVITIES

  Current activities are financed by a mixture of core funding and project funding raised for that particular activity.

  Budgets for Sgrîn shorts schemes include an element for marketing, including the production of publicity material, launch events etc.

  Marketing activities are restricted by the size of the budget. The budget does not include sub-titling. Lack of subtitles is often a stumbling block when promoting films overseas.

  Projects promoting Welsh film generally are funded by raising sponsorship. This year's Wales in Cannes, for instance, was financed by the WDA, S4C, TAC (the Welsh independent producers' association) and the three Welsh film commissions.

1.  Sgrîn produce

  Sgrîn is currently responsible for the theatrical distribution of 12 short films and one feature. By the end of the year, the number of shorts will have grown to 25. Sgrîn is also responsible for overseas sales for 20 of the shorts. Four of the shorts and the feature were inherited from the previous body responsible for film and are not now actively promoted by Sgrîn although we receive the occasional request to screen them.

(a)  Distribution

  Each Sgrîn co-production scheme includes a distribution policy paper tailor-made to suit its needs. Briefly our policy is to co-operate fully with British Council Film Department activities in entering films for overseas film festivals. This means that the Sgrîn films that have been accepted for the Council's catalogue are invited to submit applications to festivals on the Council's list. Sgrîn will also submit any films not in the catalogue to those festivals.

  Where possible, films are premiered at the International Film Festival of Wales, and are also submitted to other UK festivals. In addition, a film-maker may request that we submit a film to a particular overseas festival not on the British Council list, and we are happy to do this if the budget allows, and to send to additional festivals that may invite a particular film.

  Sgrîn co-productions are also included in a special Wales Tour of shorts that follows on from the annual Sgrîn event held in January, Wales Cinema Day.

(b)  Sales

  Overseas sales of Sgrîn co-productions could add a significant sum to income as well as presenting our produce to a wider audience. We are very much aware that we must target key markets specialising in sales of short films and continually monitor markets and festivals to have an overview of development in the field.

  There is no provision at present for including expertise in overseas sales within Sgrîn and we have, therefore, engaged with the private sector to handle overseas sales of our films.

2.  Films from Wales

"Welsh Film"

  Sgrîn undertakes to promote Welsh film at overseas festivals and showcases. We have given ourselves a wide brief in this field as we regard the promotion of Welsh talent in all its forms as beneficial to the Welsh economy and cultural profile.

  We do not consider that a rigorous definition of "Welsh Film" would be possible, or indeed advantageous in our promotional work. We are, for example, happy to promote the activities of actors, directors and producers in films financed and produced elsewhere as encouragement to those starting out in their careers or considering a career in the industry. We should note, however, that Sgrîn has adopted a definition of "Welsh Film" for the purposes of funding productions.

  Welsh-language films are generally—almost exclusively—individually distributed and promoted by S4C, which is also responsible for their overseas sales. Sgrîn, however, works with S4C to include films in general overseas promotion.

  We are also anxious to promote Wales as a location. We are aware that Hollywood films shot on location in Wales, that may have no cultural significance for Wales, can boost the Welsh economy directly and provide employment and experience for our own film-making talent, an also encourage new interest in the industry.

  Other films may generally be perceived to be "Welsh" although they may have originated elsewhere. Including these in our promotion work adds to the general profile of Welsh film.

  The promotion of Welsh film is regarded as economically beneficial to Wales by the Welsh Development Agency, with whom Sgrîn works closely on many promotional projects.

Promotional projects

  Film from Wales is promoted in two current projects and on an ad hoc basis:

    —  Wales in Cannes—this is an opportunity to promote Welsh-interest projects directly and to raise the profile of Welsh film generally. It is also an opportunity to help our young entrepreneurial film-makers to pitch their projects. We are happy that our activities in Cannes over the last three years are having an accumulative effect in enhancing our profile and bringing our work to the attention of individuals and companies with a specific interest in closer co-operation with us. For Cannes 2000 we produced a 12-page brochure detailing recent Welsh film news;

    —  Hollywood and Wales—this is a new project for 2000, aimed mainly at furthering co-production projects, but with an undoubted promotional role in raising the profile of Wales as a film-making country. A Sgrin-organised event was held on 1 March in Los Angeles to coincide with the AFM, with the emphasis on encouraging Wales—US co-production and co-operation; and

    —  Showcases—from time to time, Sgrîn is approached by a particular festival or by a country's cultural organisation to advise on or to actually organise a programme of Welsh films. This year, British Council Wales came to us for help in organising the film element for a National Assembly of Wales initiative in Lyons. We are invited to supply or suggest speakers or panel members for the events, which provide additional opportunities for film promotion. At the moment, Sgrîn is involved in providing information and advice on Welsh films to the new Breton TV Channel, TV Breizh. Sgrîn is happy to respond to these requests where the budget or staff schedules allow.

PLANNED ACTIVITIES

1.  Sgrîn shorts

Markets

  Sgrîn is anxious to maximise the exposure of its short films in the market. Sgrîn is considering the possibility of undertaking this work in-house, and perhaps expanding activity to include taking on other independent shorts from Wales.

  We are also considering the possibility of having a presence at the Clermont Ferrand Short Film Festival in February 2001, following the advice of the British Council Film Department. The visit would enable us to assess the potential for our films. This would be a new activity, for which there is no budget planning at present.

Website

  Sgrîn's new web-site is launched on 5 June. The site includes details of our shorts including contact details for sales. We would, however, like to maximise the potential for making use of the web by expanding our shorts section to include a more detailed catalogue and to include shorts by other Welsh independents. We are in discussion with the British Council Film Department about becoming involved also in their planned shorts web-site.

  Plans for the future include a possible dedicated site for Films from Wales, in collaboration with the Wales Film and TV Archive. Any new web-site activities require additional funding.

2.  Films from Wales

Responding to developments

  There are a number of Welsh-interest feature projects in the market, in development or in production. In Cannes, we counted a minimum of 18 such projects. A number of the features will be released shortly and may provide an ideal opportunity to hold a promotional event.

  We are aware, for instance, that one, two, three or more Welsh-interest features may be screened at the Toronto Film Festival in September. We are considering the possibility of holding a promotional event at the Festival to draw attention to film-making in Wales.

  Two films from Wales have been nominated for an Oscar in recent years, Sgrîn would like to be in a position to support any future campaign when the next Oscar nomination comes to Wales.

  We have no overview at present of the geographical distribution of "take up" for Welsh films. Sgrîn would like to explore this field in the future. We know that Japan has welcomed features such as Twin Town and Un Nos Ola Leuad and requested a programme of Welsh animation—recognised to be of high quality throughout the world. We would like to consider targeting Australia and the Far East in particular.

  Building on its strategic plan, Sgrîn will be taking advantage of further opportunities that may arise in the future, and will be monitoring the progress of Welsh-interest films. Our approach to the question of general film promotion must be flexible; funding constraints can limit long-term planning. The ideal solution would be to be able to access a film promotion fund so that we can respond as and when the need arises.

Film Markets

  Sgrîn plans to attend Cannes and the American Film Market again in 2001. We would like to see an expansion of the British Pavilion in Cannes—which has proved to be a good base for our presence to date—to provide more "brandable" space for participants. Plans for the American Film Market are under discussion but will include a Hollywood-Wales event as in 2000.

The Web

  Future plans include a website catalogue of recent and current Welsh films. (See section above.)

Showcases

  Sgrîn will be working in close co-operation with the National Assembly for Wales, the British Council Film department, British Council Wales and Wales Arts International to consider the opportunities for showcasing Welsh films. Discussions will include taking advantage of any planned cultural exchanges and considering the question of targeting particular countries. A new request has been received to organise a showcase in Milan in November 2000.

CONCLUSIONS AND PROPOSALS

  Sgrîn has played a key part in raising the profile of Welsh Film. Its work has been applauded by the National Assembly. It is difficult to quantify the economic and cultural benefit of its promotional work in the first three years of its existence, but it's clear that momentum achieved so far must be maintained and that there is a great potential for the expansion of activities.

  1.  Sgrîn would welcome the chance to access funding to take advantage of opportunities to promote Welsh film in overseas festivals as they arise and to organise showcases at overseas markets. More particularly, we propose to target the Toronto Film Festival this year.

  2.  Sgrîn would welcome an initiative to monitor the effectiveness and development of overseas film markets.

  3.  Sgrîn would welcome the opportunity to act on behalf of other independent film-makers in Wales in the promotion of their films. An increase in our workload is inevitable as the catalogue of Sgrîn-produced films grows, and Sgrîn would welcome the opportunity to expand its marketing department to include a staff member with responsibility for the distribution and sales of short films. Sgrîn would welcome training initiatives in the field.

  4.  Sgrîn wishes to expand its activities in targeting the Cannes Film Festival and the American Film Market. Sgrîn would wish to see an expansion of the British pavilion in Cannes to include a more easily branded area for our activities. This would give us the opportunity to promote all relevant aspects of the work of Sgrîn and its sponsors and the film commissions in Wales.

  5.  We propose to organise a presence a the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival in February. We would welcome the chance to co-operate with the British Council film Department to have a representative present at the Festival to get an overview of the potential for our short films, in addition to the work of a sales agent acting on our behalf.

  6.  Sgrîn proposes to publish a comprehensive catalogue of its films both on the web and in folder format as a marketing tool to target overseas buyers at markets abroad and in the UK. Sgrîn will also collaborate fully with the British Council Film department in its plans to establish a dedicated website for marketing films.

  7.  We would like to research the significance, if any, of an analysis of the geographical variation of uptake of films from Wales. Initially we would explore the advantages of extending our targeting to Australia and the Far East.

  8.  Sgrîn would welcome the opportunity to provide sub-titles for overseas showcases and other screenings as the need arises.

Loned Meredith

13 February 2001





 
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